Friday, August 7, 2009


Congress moves into it's August recess this week with the last piece of business

in the Senate being two-fold, voting on the nomination of Sonya Sotomayor for the Supreme

Court and voting for two billion additional dollars for the "cash for clunkers" program. The

first is a foregone conclusion; the second should be.

Sotomayor will get at least 65 votes, as at least five Republicans will vote for her.

In her nomination hearings she said all the right things and didn't commit any blunders.

The hearings were a farce, of course, because she was coached on how not to answer; and

Senators were more interested in scoring points than they were in really exploring her

judicial record. With six Catholics on the Court now, it would have been informative for

some Senator to explore her relationship with the Catholic Church. Does she agree with

the Church that abortion is a grave evil? Does she agree with the Church that birth control

is immoral? Does she believe that homosexuality is intrinsically evil; and does she believe

that marriage should be just between a man and a woman? Other questions could have been

asked about stem cell research and cloning. These are not trivial issues and they can say

a lot about her own values. Does she believe in heaven and hell? Would she put her soul

in eternal danger and go against the Church?

None of those questions were asked nor were lots of others that should have been.

In fact, there are a chorus of voices calling on the Senate to end these hearings and just vote

on the nominee up or down after he or she is nominated. It's a Kabuki dance now with

everyone playing their roles and there is no benefit for the American people at all.

As for the second item, the "cash for clunkers" program is a huge success. The

one billion dollars appropriated was thought to be enough to take the program through

November, and instead it didn't last a week. Ford is reporting a sales increase for July

that is better than one year ago. The clunkers program put them over the top. Old gas

guzzlers are being traded in for more fuel efficient cars. Ford reported the the Explorer

was the most frequently traded-in model, and the compact Ford Focus was the most

popular new purchase. Think about all those Explorers and Expeditions off the road and

replaced by the Focus. Not only is this selling new cars and reducing inventory, it will

result in less gasoline being used and slightly less dependence on foreign oil. It is an

extraordinary phenomenon to observe. The Senate is asked to add two billion dollars more

this week to extend the program. If they fail, they should not return to Washington after

the recess. This is one idea that is innovative and successful and deserves to be continued.

Think about the impact of one million Explorers, Expeditions, Navigators, and other gas

guzzlers off the road replaced by the Focus, Prius, Corolla, and other compacts. It boosts

the economy, reduces fuel demand, and decreases the pollution as new cars are more

efficient than clunkers.

Now since we have seen this simple idea work so well, let me propose a couple

more simple ideas that would also work as well. First, eliminate the age requirement to

receive Medicare. By eliminating one line of text in the law, all Americans, all of them,

would immediately have health coverage. Employers would no longer have to pay to cover

employees. The savings could be passed along in the form of higher wages which would

stimulate the economy, increase tax revenues, improve the fiscal health of state and local

governments, and guarantee health coverage to 100% of all Americans. No new bureaucracy

would be needed. President Obama's priority of reducing healthcare costs would be realized

because Medicare has very low overhead, and a low percentage of annual cost increases.

With it's buying power, Medicare would force big Pharma to reduce the price of prescription

drugs. Second, how about forgiving all student loans for anyone in college or who graduated?

The average American college student is graduating with loan debts of $25,000 to $50,000,

and some much higher; and the percentage is growing. They are graduating with the

equivalent of a first mortgage hanging over them before they can even get a job (if they can

find one). Many of these loans were taken out by their parents. Forgive those too! It would

be better than a tax cut. It would increase disposable income and increase consumer

spending at a time when the economy needs it. It would reward those who borrowed for

education; and it would return more to the treasury than it cost in the long run. (If we can

bail out AIG, Goldman Sachs, et al. to the tune of almost one trillion dollars, why not bail

out American families and students?) Finally, I propose a "cash for domiciles" program.

Anyone who has lived in their home for the last five years, have made consistent mortgage

payments, and agrees to live in the home for another five years at least, has the mortgage

reduced so that it requires no more than 20% of gross income to make the mortgage

payment. This is so simple, and would do more for the economy than ten stimulus plans.

It would end most foreclosures. It would stop huge numbers of foreclosed properties from

being dumped on the market, forcing prices down. It would preserve neighborhoods. It

would increase property tax revenue for local government. It would encourage people

to fix up their homes; and this increased spending in a variety of industries from appliances

to furniture to solar panels would benefit state and federal governments.

Taken together, my three simple proposals would guarantee healthcare coverage

for all at less cost, college graduates and their parents would benefit with more money in

their pockets than any tax cut could give them, and people would be able to stay in their

homes, thereby increasing tax revenues and bolstering the economy. Unemployment will

drop as more people are needed to work in the healthcare industry, construction industry,

manufacturing and other service industries. Consumer spending would increase; and since

2/3 of the economy is generated by consumer spending, the nation as a whole would begin

to recover.

As Congress goes on it's recess, ask yourself why these simple ideas can't pass or

even be proposed. Ask yourself why "cash for clunkers" works so well. Ask yourself what

it is about this country that makes it easier to spend billions on wars and bailing out Wall

Street, while Main Street is left to fend for itself. Ask why we still have hearings for our

Supreme Court nominees, when they are an insult to any rational person seeking true

knowledge of a nominee's positions on the issues.

If you have any answers, please let me know. Maybe it is time for recess to be

over, and for someone to get to work providing simple solutions to simple problems.

What do you think? Please send your comments and rebuttals to

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