Saturday, October 28, 2006

What this is all about

As this experience winds down for Teri and I (with the outcome still to be decided), I've been at it long enough to share my answers to the two most common questions I've been asked. Neither has anything to do with the important issues this nation faces. The first question is, "Why did you do this"? The second is, "Do you really think you have a chance of winning"?

Let's start with the first question.

Doug Wright asked me the "why did you do this?" question on the air in October. The answer was only partly joking: "If you can name a good psychiatrist, maybe between the two of us we can discover the answer to that". I have never done anything this difficult. I am a shy person at heart, and the type of activities we've been involved in - calling people begging for money, canvassing (To my new friend Julie Rose; I hated tracting just as much as you did), going on radio and television to debate ideas with a remarkably knowledgeable and articulate Congressman - these are not the type of activities I would choose for light recreation. In addition to the time and financial commitment, the stress level is something no one can understand unless they've experienced it.

Why, indeed.

I guess it boils down to my love of teaching - when the subject matter is one I'm passionate about. When I claim that "most Utahns are Democrats but just don't know it yet", I'm not talking about the caricature of us that exists even among ourselves. The average Utahn is not a Sean Hannity-worshipping, liberal hating, supply-side ideologue that believes Republican litany like they believe in the Scriptures. No, the average Utahn is a father or mother with kids, soccer games, piano and dance lessons, bills to be paid, and volunteer responsibilities that keeps them pretty busy. They are good citizens and believe in America. Most of them vote. But the propaganda out there is so deafening that it's hard for them to get past the stereotypes of what Utah Democrats are.

So many of these good, honest people go into the voting booth thinking that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for baby killers, loose morals, the destruction of marriage, the abandoning of America to terrorists, and a general outbreak of Iron Poor Blood. It takes a great deal of time and effort to break through this propaganda, and many of these good citizens don't have much time. Someone needs to speak the truth, even if it can be barely heard amid the cacophony of the Right. As difficult as this adventure has been, it's been an honor to speak for the many wonderful Utah Democrats I've been privileged to meet the last year.

That takes me to the answer to the second question: Do you have a chance of winning? The answer to that is easy. Even though it's a week until the election, I can say with certainty: I've already won.

When my new (and future lifelong) friend Wayne Holland asked me to do this, the request was specific. He asked me to be one of your messengers. I have worked my hardest to do that. Subsequent events have shown that we have succeeded far beyond my wildest dreams. We have dozens of stories of people who have read our humble little booklet and have responded with enthusiasm. The responses vary, but the general tone has been: Wow. No one has ever explained it this way before. That's really me. I'm going to vote for Democrats this year.

From a more personal note, it has been very humbling for me, the new guy in the party, to have so many of you, who have endured campaign season after campaign season with only the occasional electoral success, express your heartfelt friendship and appreciation for my humble efforts. You are the true heroes. I'm amazed at your continued optimism and enthusiasm. I'm amazed at your work ethic. You are some of Utah's most patriotic citizens. The phrase "you're a Great American" makes me gag when I hear it on KSL between 1 and 4 pm on weekdays, but the phrase applies to the wonderful rank and file Democrats I've had the privilege to meet the last nine months. Thanks so much for your kindness and friendship.

So in the final analysis, what is it that makes us all Democrats? The "15 Democrats Rule" is still true; if you have 15 Democrats in a room, you'll have 15 different opinions on any subject. Maybe the best litmus test is the following quote from Garrison Keillor:

"You don't encourage invention and ambition by giving a quarter-million dollar tax cut to a $15 million a year man. Give the bus driver's bright child a chance to get a great education. That's an investment."

If your focus is on the bus driver's child and not on the tax cut, you're a Democrat.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Is the deficit going down?

One statistic Republicans are touting these days is the FY 2006 deficit of 248 billion dollars - down from 318 billion in FY 2005. President Bush is claiming his promise to cut the deficit in half has been reached three years early. Here's proof, say the Republicans, that their fuzzy math really works, that you can spend like drunken sailors while giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy, and somehow the budget will magically balance itself.

Is this really true?

First, we need to look closer at this $248 billion number. During the same period, the national debt increased from $7.9 trillion to $8.5 trillion. This is an increase of around $600 billion - a record increase, not an decrease. Confused? Shouldn't the FY2006 deficit equal the increase in the national debt? There's an easy answer to this quandry. The fact is the $248 billion number is bogus. It leaves out significant portions of the debt that the nation incurred last year. It's a statistic only Washington politicians or Enron accountants could love.

Congressman Bishop, in several of our debates, has said that the Republican leadership is more fiscally responsible than the Blue Dog Democrats. Congressman Jim Cooper, a respected conservative Democrat from Tennessee, has some authority on settling this question. He's one of a handful of members of Congress who supported every one of Congressman Jeff Flake's anti-pork amendments, and was responsible for the mass distribution of the 2005 Financial Report of the United States, an official White House annual report prepared by the Treasury Department (which the White House doesn't want you to read).

Congressman Cooper has suggested a neat test on how committed a politician is to real fiscal sanity. If your local politician frequently uses the bogus $248 billion number in speeches, he's in favor of the status quo, and wants to hide the true magnitude of the problem from the American people. If they talk about the actual increase in the national debt, (or even better, the accrual accounting numbers from the above mentioned Financial Report, which show an even worse picture), then they favor real change and are trying to tell Americans the truth.

Congressman Bishop and President Bush are bragging about the $248 billion number. If you look on the Blue Dog website, you'll see the National Debt Clock, which tracks the national debt - rather than the bogus statistic.

The fact is that President Bush, Congressman Bishop and the Republican leadership are trying to hide the truth from the American people for political gain. It's the height of irresponsibility to not tell the truth about something as critical as America's looming fiscal crisis.

After listing the frightening facts about the true nature of our unfunded obligations, including the fact that the nation's top auditor, Comptroller General David M. Walker, couldn't even offer an opinion on the state of the nation's finances because the Government's books are so messed up, Congressman Cooper wrote the following:

"Economists politely call many of these trends 'unsustainable'. I call them the road to ruin. And this information is not a partisan attack; this comes from an official document of the U.S. Government issued by the Bush Administration itself."

So tell me again, Congressman Bishop: Who are the real fiscal conservatives?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How is the economy treating the middle class?

I was preparing to do a blog about the economic status of the middle class this week. The intent was to show how the benefits of economic growth the last six years have not helped anyone below millionaire status. But, lo and behold, Lou Dobbs did it for me. I can't say it any better than he does, so I'm including a link to his October 4th commentary for your convenience.

We'll talk to you next week!


Lou Dobbs: Are you a casualty of the class war?