Tag Archives: GOP Congress

Austin needs a new interstate highway


SAN MARCOS, Texas — The drive from north of Dallas to just south of the state’s capital city went virtually without a hitch.

Until we got to Austin.

We spent four glorious days in Allen with our granddaughter Emma, her parents and her brothers. Then we headed south for some more Christmas vacation time. In the next day or so we’ll gather with our nieces, one of our niece’s husband, our two great-nieces and my wife’s brother.

Then we’ll head home.

I intend fully to avoid Austin on the way home. Coming through the city this afternoon was no picnic.

Don’t misunderstand: We had no mishaps. We didn’t come to a complete stop at any point on our journey through what’s known in Texas as “The People’s Republic of Austin”; hey, this last Lone Star bastion of liberal politics needs a term of endearment.

But it was around 2 p.m. as we entered the city. It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The traffic isn’t supposed to be this clogged; aren’t many millions of Americans supposed to be taking some time off — at home?

I’ve concluded that Austin needs another interstate highway, an east-west thoroughfare to take some of the stress off that demolition derby track aka Interstate 35.

I read somewhere not long ago that Austin (population that exceeds 800,000 residents) is the largest city in America with just a single interstate highway coarsing through it. I-35 runs north-and-south through the city. There ain’t one that runs perpendicular through Austin, which as most of us know is going through some serious growing pains. Everyone seems to want to live there.

Even though Austin is enduring this growth spurt and with traffic bound to get only worse as more people migrate there, the city is faced with this political reality: It is a Democratic bastion in a heavily Republican state; what’s more, Congress is controlled by Republicans, which would seem to make it problematic if the city hopes to acquire federal highway money to route an interstate highway spur through Austin.

Infrastructure improvements — you know, highways and other things like that — used to be above and beyond politics.

That was then, which of course bears little resemblance to the here and now.


What’s happened to the budget deficit?


Remember the federal budget deficit?

Do you also remember how Republicans used to rail against it and how Democrats used to ignore it? Republicans said the deficit would keep growing and would bankrupt the nation. Democrats insisted that the government needed to “invest” public money on public projects.

Flash back to the 1980 presidential campaign.

  • GOP nominee Ronald Reagan’s campaign ran TV ads that parodied House Speaker Tip O’Neill and the Democrats in Congress as wasteful spenders. President Carter oversaw a deficit that “ballooned” to about $40 billion.

Reagan won the election in a landslide.

What happened then? President Reagan fought for tax cuts and exploded defense spending. The result: the federal deficit effectively tripled.

Let’s move ahead to the 1992 election.

  • Democratic nominee Bill Clinton ran against President George H.W. Bush, proclaiming “It’s the economy, stupid.” The nation was struggling through a recession. Clinton won the election. Then the Republicans took control of Congress after the 1994 mid-term election.

What happened after that? The Democratic president, working with the Republican-led Congress, balanced the budget. Clinton left the White House in 2001 and the budget was running a hefty surplus.

  • Republican George W. Bush was elected in 2000. Then came the 9/11 terrorist attacks. President Bush pushed through more tax cuts, but then took the nation to war against terror groups overseas. The result of that effort? The deficit returned and exceeded $1 trillion annually.

But the argument evolved into something else. It didn’t matter that the deficit was exploding, the president and his allies contended, because it constituted a minuscule portion of the Gross Domestic Product. Didn’t the vice president at the time say, “Deficits don’t matter”?

Well, I guess they did.

  • OK, now we come to the 2008 election. The economy has tanked. Financial institutions are going under. The housing market has crashed. So has the auto industry. The deficit was exploding.

Democrat Barack Obama won the election. He got Congress to kick in billions of dollars to jump-start the economy and bail out some of the leading industries.

What happened then? The economy began to recover. The jobless rate, which zoomed to 10 percent, began inching its way back down. Today it stands at 5.1 percent.

Oh, the deficit? It’s been cut by two-thirds.

It’s still too great. It’s a long way from the surplus delivered by President Clinton and his friends in the GOP-controlled Congress.

However, the traditional argument delivered by Republicans that deficits are bad and that Democrats are to blame for spending us into oblivion no longer is relevant.

Just think: The presidential campaign that’s unfolding before us has been called one that defies all conventional wisdom.

I believe the history of the federal budget deficit suggests conventional wisdom got tossed aside long ago.


Obama rising; GOP standing firm

Do you kind of get a sense that a huge political struggle is going to become the hallmark of Barack Obama’s final two presidential years?

The president’s poll numbers are up significantly in recent weeks. Congressional Republicans — feeling pretty flush themselves with their takeover of the Senate after the 2014 mid term election — are going to dig in their heels.


Get ready for the fight.

So many fronts. So many battles. So many hassles.

Ah, politics. Ain’t it noble?

Polling suggests Obama is scoring better with some key demographic groups. Hispanics and young voters are approving of the president once again. Hispanics particularly are buoyed by the president’s executive action on immigration.

But as GOP strategists are quick to point out, as noted in The Hill article attached, the president’s base is holding firm right along with the impenetrable ceiling that keeps him from soaring even higher. That ceiling is put there by stubborn Republican resistance to almost every initiative he proposes.

That’s where the GOP thinks it will win the day.

Well, what happens then will be — dare I say it — more gridlock and more “do-nothingness.”

Obama is planning to reveal a $4 trillion budget that will seek tax breaks for middle- and low-income Americans while asking wealthier Americans to pay more. There will be other areas of the budget that are certain to draw a sharp line between the White House and Congress.

The president believes the wind is behind him. Then again, Republicans believe they have the advantage.

All that talk about “working together” is likely to give way — rapidly — to more of what we’ve witnessed for the past, oh, six years.

Get ready for a rough ride, my fellow Americans.


Obama lays out his vision; GOP won't like it


This will surprise no one, I’m sure. I liked President Obama’s State of the Union speech.

The only problem with the speech, though, is that while he spoke of working with Republicans who control Congress and while he expressed a desire to find common ground, he staked out one key position that is sure to rankle the loyal opposition.

The president wants tax breaks for the middle class and wants to tax the wealthy more to pay for them.

Given that I am not rich and that ours is a middle-class household, how in the world can I not like what the president said tonight?

I won’t critique Obama’s speech point by point, but I’ll note that he threw down the gauntlet to Republicans. He’s feeling heady these days. His poll numbers are up. The economy is gaining enormous strength. He spoke on behalf of middle-class Americans and forced the Republicans to sit on their hands on national TV while their Democratic “friends” stood and cheered.

It’s the optics, man. They look good for one side of the aisle — and it’s not the Republican side.

It is difficult to imagine how Republicans are going handle their differences with the president. They don’t want to tax the wealthy any more. However, where else can Congress find the money to pay for those middle-class tax breaks?

Free community college for those who qualify? The response to that idea also split the chamber and likely split the parties.

The president’s tone was conciliatory — at times. The underlying theme throughout, though, suggests that talk of bipartisanship won’t bring the other side along.

I’d be standing and cheering if I had been in the room tonight. I’ll presume you knew that already.

Since I wasn’t in the room and since I’m just one American living out here in Flyover Country, I’ll just applaud from my home and hope — although I suspect it’ll be futile — that Democrats and Republicans can come together to help the vast middle class that deserves some reward for all the hard work it has done to bring the country back from the brink.