Tag Archives: Obama

Geek Politics

First Healthcare, Now Twitter. Well Played, Obama.

Proving once again the irresistible allure of Barack Obama, Twitter has announced they will scrap the 140-character tweet limit for the President’s upcoming Twitter town hall.

Now let’s see if he can use that mojo to raise a more important limit: the debt ceiling.

Props: Death + Taxes

Featured Headline Politics

The Truth About Taxes in America

Taxes are a contentious thing in America, seemingly more so than in any other western country. Despite the advice of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who famously described them as the cost of civilization, Americans detest all forms of taxation – especially on income. And the idea that President Obama has raised income taxes seems to be well-entrenched on the right. After all, it fits nicely with the their understanding of Obama as a socialist (a conclusion reached long ago in Tea Party circles).

It’s a testament to the epistemic closure of the current political climate that this notion has gone unchallenged for so long. Because the truth is that Obama has in fact lowered income taxes. According to an article published yesterday on the New York Times website, since 2008, Democrats have cut taxes “by up to $400 a year for individuals and $800 for married couples.”

But no one seems to have noticed:

In a New York Times/CBS News Poll last month, fewer than one in 10 respondents knew that the Obama administration had lowered taxes for most Americans. Half of those polled said they thought that their taxes had stayed the same, a third thought that their taxes had gone up, and about a tenth said they did not know. As Thom Tillis, a Republican state representative, put it as the dinner wound down here, “This was the tax cut that fell in the woods — nobody heard it.

The article offers several reasons for why Americans may be unaware of the cuts, including rising state taxes.

And yet the Obama administration remains unfazed by the confusion. In fact, it may have designed the cuts specifically to go unnoticed (!):

Faced with evidence that people were more likely to save than spend the tax rebate checks they received during the Bush administration, the Obama administration decided to take a different tack: it arranged for less tax money to be withheld from people’s paychecks.They reasoned that people would be more likely to spend a small, recurring extra bit of money that they might not even notice, and that the quicker the money was spent, the faster it would cycle through the economy.

(Ignoring economics for a second, it’s remarkable to consider that an American president would forgo an opportunity for political gain in order to implement the correct fiscal policy.)

It’s also worth considering that income taxes remain low by historical standards. Taxes for the top income bracket are the lowest they’ve been since 1990, and are nearly three times lower than 1953 (the supposed halcyon days of unfettered capitalism and American values that Tea Partiers yearn for). Moreover, income taxes in the U.S. are lower than in most other developed economies, including Germany and the United Kingdom.

Considering this, it seems ridiculous that pundits and politicians are able to claim in all seriousness that the U.S. is slipping towards socialism. The truth is that America remains a decidedly capitalist place.

(Photo by voteprime)

Cool

Lin-Man at the White House

This isn’t the first or the last time we’ve posted about Lin-Man (a.k.a. Lin-Manuel Miranda).  This guy is both a disgustingly talented freestyler and a Tony-award winning actor.  Hell, this guy was even on House.

He was invited to perform at the first-ever White House Poetry Jam and absolutely killed the spot.  You can see President Obama loving every minute of the performance.  And what was this performance?  A rap about Alexander Hamilton.

Informed, talented, and dope.  Lin-Manuel in a nutshell.

Awareness Featured Politics

The House passed a health care bill. Now what?

ObamacareOn November 8, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, by a razor-thin 220-215 margin.  It sounds good, but what does it actually mean?  Has free, universal health-care finally arrived in the States?  Have Obama and his cabal of socialist advisers pulled the wool over the eyes of an unsuspecting public and converted America into a full-fledged worker’s paradise?  Well, not really.  In fact, despite what you may have heard from any number of teabaggers (whose scare tactics seem increasingly desperate), comprehensive health care reform is hardly guaranteed.

It’s understandable that people are confused.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of objective, non-jargony information available on the internet, especially about a topic as complex as health care reform.

Of course, here at 4080 we’re all about that sort of thing, so here’s our attempt at a quick and dirty guide to the current state of the “Obamacare” agenda:

The Affordable Health Care for America Act

The bill passed by the House on Sunday has several key components:

  1. It would establish a Health Insurance Exchange.  A one stop shop for the uninsured, the Exchange would allow consumers to compare and purchase insurance from a diverse menu of health insurance options, including private plans, health co-ops and a new, public health insurance option.  Its proponents claim that by facilitating open competition, the Exchange would drive down prices and improve care.  Americans who are happy with their existing insurance may keep it.
  2. It would prevent insurers from increasing premiums or denying care based on “pre-existing” conditions.
  3. It would require every American to get insurance, either through their employer or own their own through the Exchange.  The federal government would provide “affordability credits” to make premiums affordable.
  4. Employers who choose not to insure their employees would have to pay a fee of eight percent of payroll.

For more information about the specifics of the bill, check out the House Committee on Education and Labor website.

You win some, you lose some

Democrats had to make some major compromises to push H.R. 3962 through the House, the most significant of which related to abortion funding.  As The Globe and Mail reports, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a fervent defender of abortion rights, yielded to conservative Democrats and included a provision in the bill to prohibit publicly subsidized health insurance from covering abortions.”

The Democrats also worked hard to attract the support of moderate Republicans in an effort to make the bill seem like a bi-partisan initiative.  One Republican, Anh Cao of Louisiana (Update: on an interesting but likely unrelated note, Talking Points Memo points out that Cao is one of the only Republicans to have actually experienced a communist regime), did end up voting for it, but calling H.R. 3962 ‘bi-partisan’ because a single Republican supported it is like calling the L.A. Lakers ‘world’ champions because they play in a league with one Canadian team.

Next up, the Senate

The U.S. Congress is a bicameral legislature, meaning that a bill must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate for it to become law.  So now H.R. 3962 heads to the Senate, where Democrats and their friends hold 60 of the 100 seats.  But a number of Democratic and Democratic-leaning Independent Senators have already indicated that they won’t support it.  For these moderates and conservatives, H.R. 3962 and its public option are simply unacceptable.  Joe Lieberman, for example, thinks that it will create a level of “debt [that will] break America and send us into a recession that’s worse than the one we’re fighting our way out of today.”

The filibuster threat

If Obama and his lieutenant in the Senate, Harry Reid, can’t muster 60 votes, the bill will likely succumb to a Republican filibuster. A filibuster is a technique in which one party extends debate on a bill indefinitely, preventing the Senate from voting on it.  A filibuster can only be ended with the support of 60 Senators.

Reaching the magic number

In the bill’s current form, securing the support of 60 Senators will be challenging, if not impossible.  It looks like progressive Democrats may have to bite the bullet and drop the public health insurance option.  While this might seem like a defeat to some, the bill would still represent the most significant reform of the American health insurance industry in several decades.

Clearly, the health care reform debate is far from over.  In the coming weeks, the Senate will debate the bill’s cost and implications, and Obama will likely continue expending valuable political capital to drum up the necessary support.  Whatever its outcome, the health care debate will likely be remembered as one of the defining characteristics of Obama’s first (and perhaps only) term.

Politics

Officials foil ‘plot’ to kill Obama

In what is basically breaking news, law enforcement officials in the US have “broken” a plot to kill Barack Obama.

The plot itself does lack some credibility, but I’m happy that the security officials took it so seriously.  In essence, this is what transpired:

Two neonazi skinhead douchebags (one of them pictured on the left) met on the internet, decided they needed to kill some people.  These idiots hatched a plan to murder 102 people by attacking a primarily black school.  Then, they would drive at Obama really fast and try shooting at him from the windows of their car.  Oh, and the whole time they’d be dressed in white suits with white tophats.

It sounds like something out of a movie, right?  Wrong.   This was actually their plan.  In fact, they were aware of its flaws and intended on dying during the ‘mission.’  This was, in essentially, a suicide mission.  The worry is that this really does highlight the underlying racial tension that is present during this electoral campaign.

Personally, I think that these two idiots are not representative of anyone.  They’re extremists, plain and simple, and deserve punishment.

[Source: The Guardian]

Politics

Powell backs Obama

Colin Powell gave a resounding endorsement to Barack Obama recently, and this is a pretty huge development.

He is one of the mot eloquent statesmen to come out of the Republican party in the last few years, and one of the few from the Bush administration that is still looked on with serious amounts of respect.  There was some controversy over  his speeches to the UN about going to war in Iraq.  He essentially fed everyone misinformation about Iraqi WMDs, but in his defence he himself was likely misled.

There is quite a lot of thought that having such a major military figure and a former Secretary of State (and a Republican, no less) wil dramatically help Obama’s numbers in the next little while.  Watch the endorsement:

Now there is a bit of an uproar.  There are plenty of right wing commentators who are claiming it’s all about race, that Powell’s only endorsing Obama because they’re both black.  Frankly, I think that’s absurd and offensive.  You can attack Powell for being an opportunist, or being a bandwagon jumper, but I think it’s quite wrong to denigrate the decision of a respected politician in this manner.

Let us know what you thinkk.

[Source: BBC]

Featured

Alfred E Smith dinner was a Presidential roast

This was a refreshing change from the increasingly dark and mean presidential campaign.  John McCain and Barack Obama managed to sit down together at the 63rd annual Alfred E. Smith foundation dinner.  It’s become somewhat of a tradition for the presidential contenders to appear at this white-tie event to raise money for the charitable foundation, and actually seems to lighten the mood.

The candidates basically roast each other, and spare no expense mocking themselves either.  You can check out all the videos below.

Quite honestly, I think that McCain was a better tonight, but Obama definitely scored some big points with a few of his jokes.  Both quickly addressed the ‘That one’ comment from the debate (Obama explains that his name is actually swahili for ‘that one’.  McCain says it’s a nickname, and Obama’s nickname for him was ‘George Bush’).  Perhaps my favourite moment from Obama’s side was his mockery at his own perceived arrogance.  When asked for his greatest strength, he said his humility, and for his greateset weakness he said he was a little too awesome.  Also, keep an eye out for the middle name jokes and Obama’s wicked jab at Giuliani.   I’ll stop spoiling things now, and let you enjoy it.

McCain’s Speeches
Part1

Part 2

Obama
Part1

Part 2

Politics

Presidential Debate #2 overview

The “town hall” style meeting held instead of an actual debate was more of an annoyance than anything else.  Just now, when both candidates are sharpening their attacks and all that, we’re forced to settle for no real discusson or debate.  Instead, Tom Brokaw asks them questions he’s selected from submissions (and the audience gets to ask), and would then gently chastize each candidate for consistently going longer than the one minute they were each assigned to answer the questions.

For the majority of the time both candidates would deftly side-step the question and then simply talk about whatever they wanted. It was frustrating, and I was dissapointed that this is how it ended up. Still, I hope some people managed to get answers to their questions.

For those of you who’ve missed it, C-Span has the entire thing for you, and you can watch it below. Not exactly as riveting as most of the others I’ve seen, but not a bad way to spend an hour.

Watch this pile of terrible horse puckey if you are bored. Let us know in the comments.

Music Politics

Hip hop and Politics at the DNC

Those of you following the Democratic National Convention in Denver may have noticed a couple of interesting guests lately.

Kanye’s probably the biggest name to grace the stage, at least in terms of commercial success.  But Wyclef and Pharrell are expected to make appearances as well.

It should prove to be interesting, to have hip hop artists alongside a lot of the other musicians who’ve been backing Obama.  The Black Eyed Peas are also making an appearance, but there’s no real surprise there after will.i.am’s Yes we can music videos.

We’ve been doing a lot to cover the tremendous influence music and hip hop has been having on this election.  You’ve seen everything from bands refusing to have their songs used as campaign songs, to Obama brushing the dirt off his shoulder.

[Source: Vibe]

Featured Politics

Obama picked Biden

Despite our earlier conjecture,  Obama went ahead and announced his choice for his running mate as Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware).

Not a bad choice, I guess, especially when you look at him on paper.  He’s got extremely strong foreign policy experience and is well recognized for it.  He chairs the Senate foreign relations committee and has been in the senate for more than 30 years.

That’s a huge amount of “experience” to add to the ticket, especially since that is the biggest weakness in Obama-land right now.  We’re all aware of how much concern there is that he’s young and inexperienced, so putting an old hand on the ticket may do the job.  Plus, Biden’s respected by the so-called Reagan democrats and by many of the same blue collar voters that went with Hillary.  Hopefully this will tempt some of them back into the fold.

Biden actually went to Georgia after the Russian invasion to try and coordinate relief efforts.  That’s a pretty bold move and one that seemed to sit well with a lot of foreign leaders.  Sepia Mutiny, a big South Asian blog, had another interesting point to make: Pakistan.

In their analysis, they note that Pakistan (and the tribal area that borders Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda has apparently moved) is likely to be the major new concern for the next president.  Iraq will obviously still be a big concern, as well Iran/N.Korea, but Pakistan carries a special kind of weight.

In any case, Sepia Mutiny noted that during the Pakistan election crisis last year, both Musharraf and the late Benazir Bhutto called Biden to discuss the issue before they called Pres. Bush.  That seems to show they recognize Biden’s expertise and weight in the foreign policy arena.  Having that kind of foreign affairs street cred will be a big bonus, and I predict the Dems will play on that heavily during the campaign.  I’m anticipating a “let’s fix America’s image” approach to the advertising, but we’ll have to wait and see.

There are some faults, too.  Biden’s made his mistakes, including a oft-quoted gaffe stating “…In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking,” More importantly, he also openly criticized Obama and his lack of experience during the Democratic primary.  In fact, that was the focus of McCain’s first attack ad against the ticket.

All in all, not a bad choice.  It’ll be interesting to see how the former Hillary supporters will respond to her being excluded from the ticket.

[Sources: CBC, Sepia Mutiny, ABC]