Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La)

The Senator thinks its running backwards!

The Senator thinks it’s running backwards!

On the Shreveport Time website, Andre Dean Benton reports…

“I attended the Bossier City VFW Post 5951 discussion of Veterans’ issues with Senator Mary Landrieu last week at 1315 North Gate Road, where she responded to a wide range of issues facing our American veterans from her talking points as well as from questions fielded from the audience. An older veteran stood up toward the middle of the meeting and expressed to her his deep sadness and concern with the massive and constantly growing American debt ($16.9 trillion today and $5.6 trillion in 2000) and the crippling cost to taxpayers to pay for the staggering interest on that debt….

I was stunned to then hear my Louisiana senator defend the massive U.S. debt saying: “That is not true, sir! We do not have an increasing national debt! For the past six to seven years we have been continuously driving that debt down and reducing it and it is NOT increasing.” She then went on to explain the federal costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as “non-negotiable mandates by law that cannot be changed” and explained that only a small portion of the federal budget was in discretionary spending, where she was working with others in the Senate to further reduce our nation’s debt….

“No one on her staff corrected her or offered a polite “update” for the audience, and the elderly gentleman speaking the question was a little rattled by her vigorous contradiction of his stated facts that he just mumbled something across the table from me about “Congress constantly raising the debt ceiling …” and then was respectfully silent. As he was asking and our senator was responding, I was Googling the US Treasury’s official home page on my iPhone and staring at the government published facts on the history and facts about the U.S. debt: Continue reading

“There Is No Debt Crisis” ? Boy, That’s A Load Off My Mind!

"So far, so good!"

“So far, so good!”

The confluence of head-exploding statements and news keeps coming, with the worst being the recent unconscionable announcements out of the mouths of the President and some of his political adversaries that “there is no debt crisis.”

This is exactly like the old joke about the man falling from a 40 story window, being asked by someone on the tenth floor, shouting through a window as he passes, “How are you doing?” “So far, so good!” he answers. Yet these ridiculous, idiotic or intentionally dishonest statements by President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and others are being cited by the news media as reassuring! No, there’s no debt crisis, if you regard that falling optimist as not being in a smashing-to-pulp-on-the-sidewalk-crisis. The debt increased by a trillion dollars last year, and looks as if it will increase by close to a trillion more by October, 2013. The government has no leadership on the issue, and the various sides appear incapable of forging a solution, with the current Administration actually going out of its way to try to make less than 2% in budget cuts under the absurd sequester hurt as much as possible, to convince a math-deficient public that cutting the size of government is not only impossible but undesirable. This scenario doesn’t demonstrate that there’s a debt crisis? Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: America’s Leaders…Or, If You Prefer, “Happy New Year! We’re Doomed!”


UPDATE: 1/1/ 13  At the last possible moment —indeed, after the official deadline had past— a bi-partisan deal temporarily averting the worst effects of the fiscal cliff was achieved. The details of the compromise are here. But nothing I see in it would cause me to change any of the conclusions I reach below. It seems that the fiscal can was kicked down the road once again, for our craven leaders avoided doing their jobs:  dealing with the debt ceiling, reigning inexcessive government spending, and fixing a dysfunctional budget process. As the Washington Post stated on its front page today:

“The “fiscal cliff” was designed by Washington for Washington — it was intended to set up a scenario so severe that the president and Congress would, at last, have to take on the nation’s major tax and spending problems. Instead, lawmakers again found a way to sidestep many of the prickliest issues and in the process set up other, potentially more severe, showdowns in the new year.”

Additional taxes go into effect (supposedly an additional 600 billion over the next decade—a drop in the bucket), but no serious cuts in spending will be made, and the net effect is simply to delay considering responsible fiscal reforms until the next crisis. Our weak and feckless national leaders were minimally effective to the extent that they managed to avoid the worst possible result, looking as bad as possible in the process, waiting until the clock had run out. Do you find that encouraging, impressive and promising? I don’t.

It is disgusting.


The failure of America’s elected leaders to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” an artificial deadline that they set for themselves the last time they proved incapable of being fiscally and legislatively responsible, is frightening and dismaying proof of their utter incompetence, irresponsibility and cowardice.

While the worst condemnation ought to fall on the President, as he is in the highest office and thus bears the most responsibility when the government fails, the easiest way to spot partisan and biased individuals from now on will be to note those who claim that one party or one branch of government is more blameworthy than the other. I don’t want to hear it. All sides and interests had a duty to the nation, and they all failed us.

Recall that all of this begins and ends with the imperative of reducing the deficit in future years and beginning to pay  down the unsustainable debt. Neither party, nor President Obama, nor the Senate (which has not passed a budget in years), nor the Republican-controlled Congress, have been honest or realistic about the crucial and pressing need to reduce spending significantly (which requires reforming so-called entitlements, as well as other painful cuts) and to increase revenue through increased tax rates and reduced tax deductions. By their irresponsible and utterly stupid bungling of this escalating crisis, they have embarrassed the nation, weakened its defense, undermined its economy, risked the welfare of hard-working and vulnerable citizens, endangered the world and placed the future of the nation in peril.

It is unforgivable. Sharing the shame in this display of complete leadership incompetence are such culprits as the national media, which allowed both parties to avoid the topic of how sequestration would be averted through the entire election cycle; government watchdog groups, which made nary a peep as two years passed with the “cliff” looming, and  Congress wasted its time passing show-bills to thrill its most radical constituency, while the President campaigned and fiddled; and the unengaged, naive and polarized public, who have sent the message that there will be no consequences of a jointly-managed fiasco that threatens to crush generations to come…their children. A great job all ’round, Americans.

We enter 2013 with the permanent decline of the great American experiment evolving from a possibility to a probability, because, arguably for the first time in its history, the United States wasn’t lucky. This time, when the nation needed visionary, talented, courageous and bold leaders to address an epic crisis, there was nobody there but cowards, hacks, pygmies, narcissists, petty partisans and amateurs.

Happy New Year.



Graphic: According to Jewels

Our Incompetent Broadcast News Media: A Frustrating Morning With Soledad O’Brien

Soledad O’Brien, paving the road to Athens

This morning, on CNN, I managed not to change the channel as I usually do when Soledad O’Brien is on the screen. It was a mistake. The long-time CNN anchor is as low as newscasting can sink short of MSNBC when it comes to smugly-biased commentary, and unlike some of MSNBC’s lefty warriors, O’Brien is just not very bright. This doesn’t keep her from visibly wincing, rolling her eyes or winking at the supposedly simpatico viewer when she thinks her opinion is superior to someone she is interviewing, as unprofessional a habit as I have ever seen. She has a job because, I suppose, she is pleasant to look at and exudes confidence, though it is confidence unsupported by any actual skill, insight or knowledge. Continue reading

Unemployment Check Ethics: “The Ethicist” Gets It Right

I regularly check the competition, and “The Ethicist,” Ariel Kaminer, has been solid lately. This past week, she avoided falling into a trap that I am certain her predecessor, Randy Cohen, would have charged into.

The questioner asked Kaminer whether it was unethical “for a relatively wealthy person” to receive unemployment checks, even if he or she met  the requirements. Moreover, “Is the answer different in times like the present, when government resources are extremely strained?” Continue reading

Hole-in-the-Roof Ethics: If Obama Asks For Massive Infrastructure Renewal, the GOP Must Support It.

Seldom is a solution to a problem so obvious, and so conducive to bi-partisanship. It is a solution to two problems, really: America’s dangerously rotting infrastructure, and the nation’s dismal unemployment rate. Spend the money, trillions if necessary, to repair and replace existing roads, railway beds, waterways, sewer systems, airports and bridges.  It still won’t get us where we need to be, but we’ll be much better off than if we let the current deterioration continue, and we’ll save money in the long run, too—real savings, not phony health care reform savings that evaporate once reality kicks in.

There is no justification not to do this, nor is there any legitimate excuse for any elected official not to vote for it. (And no, not wanting to give the President a victory is not legitimate…or ethical, or patriotic.) Repairing the infrastructure isn’t “discretionary spending,” it is essential, unavoidable and cost-effective spending, unless it is diverted into new boondoggles and pork. No new structures, unless they replace unrepairable old ones. No light rail systems or bullet trains; what is needed is basic maintenance and repair….everywhere. It is already late, but “better late than never” has seldom been as appropriate. Continue reading

Richard Cohen, National Interests, and the Ethical Duties of the US to the World

There used to be no columnist who infuriated me more consistently than Richard Cohen. Those were the hazy, golden days before I discovered E.J. Dionne, Paul Krugman and Harold Mayerson, however, whose rigid ideology virtually precludes objective analysis. Cohen isn’t biased, he’s just wrong more often than not. But he is also capable of bursts of moral and ethical clarity. Today was an example, as he took on the isolationist voices on the left and the right that make up a large component, if not the majority, of our elected leadership today.

Cohen begins by recounting a section from  Erik Larson ‘s book,“In the Garden of the Beasts,” about how the American foreign policy establishment in the Thirties resisted efforts by William Dodd, then ambassador to Germany, to protest the Hitler government’s increasing persecution of Jews. Humanity, and the U.S., paid a steep price for its inward-turning perspective after World War I, as we abdicated our traditional role as defender of liberty, freedom, democracy and human rights on the world stage. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: The Senate and House Leadership

The names are in.

As part of the pathetic, cynical and inadequate budget deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, Republicans and Democrats were called upon to assemble a bi-partisan “super committee” of twelve House members and Senators, chosen by the respective leaders from both parties, to come up with a way to close the deficit. Now that the S&P ratings downgrade has embarrassed the nation, destabilized foreign markets and sent an unambiguous message that the United States has to get serious about balancing the books and fast, have our political leaders responded to the challenge by choosing elected representatives of states and districts who have track records of collaboration, political courage, truthtelling and placing the best interests of the nation over narrow electoral fundraising and ideological objectives?


What, are you surprised? The leaders of the House and Senate have met our lowest expectations, and have chosen a hyper-partisan group to make up the super committee, guaranteeing that it will be super-contentious and super-ineffective. The degree to which this represents an abdication of their duties of leadership and responsible government is impossible to exaggerate. Continue reading

The Unethical Deficit Debate, a Cause for Despair

Our future, thanks to Washington, D.C.

If the bi-partisan dishonesty and unethical conduct surrounding the budget showdown last week didn’t cause you to despair, then you weren’t paying attention:

  • At a time when the federal deficit threatens the long-term (and not all that long, either) solvency of the U.S., risking quality of life, world leadership and security while placing us under the thumb of China, a Machiavellian adversary, both parties—and the President— opted for ideological point-scoring and demagoguery rather than serious explication of the issues.  Irresponsible cowards.
  • The government was brought to the brink of a shutdown over a pathetic, meaningless, 39 billion dollars of cuts that Democrats called “draconian” and Republicans and Obama trumpeted as the “largest budget cuts in U.S. history”. They were draconian only if you think like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who argued that Republicans were heartless to put “cowboy poetry” on the cutting block, and if, as is increasingly looking to be the case,  the Democrats are willing to let the country stay on the road to bankruptcy as long as it also leads them to power. The cuts were the “largest” only in their inflated figures: the budget was cut close to 50% after World War II. Liars and frauds.
  • Even if it were truly”the largest,” the heralded 39 billion dollars cut represented an infinitesimal dent in the overall budget and will have no appreciable effect on the deficit at all. It took a near shutdown to accomplish that. Easy Quiz: what are the chances of our current leaders displaying the political courage to make the substantial, genuine, painful cuts that all serious analysts agree are imperative to stave off financial ruin? Liars and cowards.
  • After all of the drama, after all the condemnation and hype, after “draconian” and “largest ever,” and after the President joined the charade, the no-nonsense Congressional Budget Office announced that by its calculations, the so-called cut was mostly fiction. It boiled down to only $352 million, less than 1% of a 39 billion that was inadequate to begin with. Incompetents.
  • The Democrats chuckled into their sleeves; the Republicans cried that they had been deceived, as if legislators don’t have the resources to find out what the money in the budget they are charged with approving actually pays for. Liars, incompetents and fools.

For me, the low point was President Obama’s speech at George Washington University, announcing his engagement—finally!—in the deficit-cutting debate while resorting that old Democrat stand-by, class warfare; blaming the Bush tax cuts, irresponsible but only one of many contributors to the deficit crisis; and  pledging to cut expenses by ending waste, fraud and abuse while simultaneously stating that the deficit couldn’t be cut by addressing waste, fraud and abuse.  It wasn’t any of those cynical moments that caused me to lose hope, however. It was the President’s insistence that the deficit cutting measures must not interfere with his highest priorities…such as building “new roads.” Continue reading

Unethical Website of the Month: Facebook Event—“If Boehner shuts down the government I am taking my trash to his house”

Hypothesis: If you can't persuade your adversary he is wrong, dump this on his lawn.

Two guys who shouldn’t be allowed out of the house, or near a laptop, without adult supervision have launched an unethical Facebook event, entitled “If Boehner shuts down the government I am taking my trash to his house.” See, if the federal government shuts down, one of the District’s services that will stop is trash pickup. Clever boys.

The organizers of the event are Jonah Goodman, who is listed in the Democratic National Committee network and Nolan Treadway, the political and logistics director for the liberal group Netroots Nation, lead off their “event” announcement saying that… Continue reading