Biden’s Conversational Tone In National Address Reaches Out To Americans

Former President Gerald Ford came to mind Wednesday night as I watched President Joe Biden address a joint session of Congress. Following the tumultuous years of Watergate, and the continual stonewalling by President Richard Nixon, there was a sense in the nation that Ford was precisely the type of grounded adult who was best suited for the needs of the time.

After the self-created, and never-ceasing chaos of Donald Trump, there was also a need for change. The nation simply demanded reasoned and mature leadership be returned to the Oval Office. In a national address to a joint session of Congress Biden provided more evidence that he is delivering on his campaign promise to bring the nation back to a place where the shouting and bombast are replaced with listening and working.

There is no doubt that Biden has a full agenda ahead of him as he made clear in the televised speech. The $6.1 trillion worth of programming and investments that he is promoting is a most daunting task. But when the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan, and the American Family Plan are examined two things clearly emerge. First, they are, as polling demonstrates, what the nation supports. Secondly, the issues outlined in the plans reflect the needs that have too long existed but never found a resolution.

The nation knows that power grids are failing too often, bridges are crumbling, schools need updating, and the lives of ordinary Americans need to be lifted up and made better. From tackling pre-school kindergarten to get our youth better prepared to learn, provide an infusion of cash for Pell Grants which would allow two free years of technical school, bolster Black colleges, and provide a national paid family and medical leave program there is an energetic agenda waiting for action.

As Biden reminded voters, time and again during the campaign, the role of governing is about getting things done for the people.

None of these programs are wild-eyed or out of step in this nation, but rather building upon the foundations that have already been established. As with medical leave or repairing bridges the topics are not new, but only need a determined Congress to act on them.

Troubling for Republicans is the fact much of what has been proposed, be it the programs or the means to pay for them, has strong support from the nation. Placing a higher taxing requirement for the wealthy in the nation so to support society’s needs is not out of the mainstream. In fact, that sentiment is smack dab in the middle of the mindset of the voters.

Biden has a much better chance to prevail with large portions of his plans than his detractors realize due to the fact he finds himself in the Oval Office following his predecessor’s most bizarre term. A bombastic and ego-driven character has been replaced with a president who plans to govern. The citizenry is watching and wanting the trains to operate on time, for the congress to do more than just shout to their side of the aisle.

Biden’s personality and good reputation are why I thought of Ford while watching the address. Ford had a measured and folksy style when speaking and Biden used calm and conversational qualities as he spoke to the nation. We all gravitate towards men and women who are essentially good people who strive to do the work of government. As such Biden has more goodwill among the citizenry for action that is designed to benefit the nation as a whole. That is a major reason he will have a strong hand going forward with his agenda.

Stability and reason are again in control from the White House. That was well reflected as Biden addressed the nation. Those traits will serve him, and the nation well, as we move forward.

Mifflin Street Party Still Too Costly For Madison Residents, Must End

The Mifflin Street Party in Madison has always been a beer-soaked and too often dangerous event. We still have memories from 2011 where the annual event resulted in two stabbings, three sexual assaults, and three police officers being injured. This year, in addition to the usual concerns there was also a pandemic that needed to be front and center for the city.

But as the Wisconsin State Journal photo from Andy Manis shows from last Saturday the only ones who seemed to be wary of the COVID virus were the medical professionals who urged caution. There is not a single mask to be seen among the drinking crowd. Or are to assume the party revelers had their two vaccination shots?

The drinking party that has been a yearly spectacle for this city, and a continuing embarrassment, must come to an end.  Clearly, there is no other reason for the crowd to assemble than to booze it up, create refuse, fill detox centers, needlessly cause city resources to be used, and create bedlam.

The event started in 1969 as a way to protest the Vietnam War, but today the crowds that descend on Mifflin Street could not explain the reason the event started, or what great social reason draws them together now.  If they did try to give words to the reason they attended it would only come out embarrassingly slurred.

Madison needs to come to grips with the fact the ONLY reason the Mifflin Street Party takes place is so a large and often unruly group can abuse alcohol.  It seems the organizers have no desire to see the event be anything other than what we witnessed this past weekend. 

In years past we have heard the president of Madison’s police union questioning why city officials allow the party to go on at all. With more damage this past weekend to personal property that question must again be pressed. In one case a car’s windshield was smashed by a young man kicking it, along with the roof and hood being dented from drunk people standing on it. 

This type of behavior has been going on far too long. Promises had been made by Mayor Paul Soglin and others to shut the embarrassing party down.  This party is an annual stain not only on the city but also on the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  This party is not the image the UW wants to be associated with, and I can clearly state it is not one the citizenry of Madison wants to be attached to either. 

Someone has to police the event.  Equally important someone has to pay for the policing. That is where the taxpayers come into the picture, and there are many who are not pleased. But lucky for the taxpayers of Madison, as we still get to pay the bill for the poor decisions made by those who were elected to be our leaders.

Most city residents are not opposed to college students and young adults having a fun time.  But the block party over and over has demonstrated to be nothing more than a reason to drink to vomiting excess.  The consequences of this party are that drinking is the prime event, violence occurs, and taxpayers get soaked.

And this we get to see a virus spread, too!

Enough already!

Federal Tax Increases Are Justified In 2021, History Tells Us Why

With the death of Walter Mondale last week we were reminded of the honest, and required dialogue, that our leaders should have with the citizenry. In 1984, the Democratic presidential nominee told the nation that if he were elected there would be a tax increase. While some saw that honesty with the nation as a political blunder I saw it as needed candor about the necessity for more tax revenues.

Over the decades I have continuously rejected the notion that there is never to be any new tax hikes or ways to reap revenue. That is just a most absurd and untenable position from which to govern.  For far too long there has been a line of rhetoric that cutting government is the only way to move either the nation (or a state) forward.  We have seen the limits, and pure folly of such a political argument when following policy needs on the national level.

Since becoming an adult I have felt it not only an obligation but a responsibility to pay taxes. I have argued that the nation should raise taxes to pay for our wars, and also advocated on the local level for a wheel tax. Though I have been disheartened Congress has not in recent years adhered to the actions from the war of 1812, and up through the Vietnam War where special taxes were levied, I was pleased when Madison enacted a wheel tax.

This spring the nation is embarking upon another major discussion about new taxes that are needed to pay for national programming. The rhetorical volume is sure to increase following President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress and his proposal for trillions in spending for infrastructure needs and family support bills.

Biden laid out his plans repeatedly during the long presidential campaign. At the center of the revenue plan is an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, implement a minimum corporate tax, nearly double taxes on investment gains for the wealthiest, and the tweaking of inheritance laws.

The announced plans for corporate taxes would cover the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan dealing with transport, broadband, drinking water, ports, and electricity grids. Capital gains and other proposals will create the needed revenue streams for family infrastructure which deals with early education and home care. The estimated price tag for that portion of the larger plan could reach over $1.5 trillion. 

We could cut and paste the same tired rhetoric from conservative Republicans when it comes to government spending or the needs of the citizens. Saying no and doing even less is simply what they have come to stand for over the years. That same lingo is what they will offer going forward. All the GOP can offer is claiming that any new government action is socialism. The current batch of angry white males in the party could never even pretend at fostering policy ideas akin to how former congressman Jack Kemp once labored! 

For the rest of us, however, there is history that we can look back on as a way to gauge our path forward.

Aggressive federal power has always been an active ingredient for progress. President George Washington had an industrial policy so to build and enhance a much-needed manufacturing economy. No prudish Federalist, but rather a determined nationalist.

Sidney Blumenthal writes in his volumes about the strong feelings Abraham Lincoln had for federal dollars on behalf of infrastructure projects, and a deep understanding as to why increased spending on public education was a necessity.

The list could go on and on about the leaders who knew the power of government, and the wise use of harnessing it for the greater good. As one reads about President Teddy Roosevelt or later President Franklin Roosevelt the battles were not about big government or small. That is due to the way they acted as leaders. As with the others through our nation’s narrative, they grasped the fact that government is the means of getting big things done for the people that matter.

The conservatives will snark endlessly this year about taxes but the rest of us have history on our side.

On April 8, 1789–three weeks before George Washington will be sworn into office for the first time–James Madison stood up in the House of Representatives and introduced a tax bill.  It was the first bill ever introduced under the new form of government outlined in the U.S. Constitution. 

The very first order of business in the very first session of Congress was a bill to make sure that the economy was placed in a more sure-footed path, and that manufacturing would be promoted.  The means to do that were duties, and tariffs on a whole range of products from rum, beer, molasses, sugar cocoa, and coffee. 

There was a clear sense of the need for revenue, and while there was a lively debate about the taxes, the bill passed.

That must be the same frame of mind and outcome in 2021.

And so it goes.

Take The Second Shot Of The Vaccine And Grow The Hell Up!

Why I am concerned for my country…reason 732.

“More than 5 million people have skipped their second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, The New York Times reports.

“The reasons vary for why people are missing their second shots. In interviews, some said they feared the side effects, which can include flu-like symptoms. Others said they felt that they were sufficiently protected with a single shot.”

Oh, you poor darlings. A day of muscle aches and a low-grade fever. Pick up a book and spend the day reading and eating Cheesy Poofs! Or just watch a repeat of a game from years ago on a cable sports channel. But do not complain that you ache for a day! GROW THE HELL UP!

IF we are to get the nation percolating again, and IF we are to get folks such as those who live in this home out spending money again, it will require greater assurance that consumers are not walking into a contamination minefield. We can not complain about businesses not having their bottom lines in the black or how entertainment venues are still in the dark if the chuckleheads in the nation simply refuse to have any sense of responsibility for themselves or the greater needs of the community.

The reasons why this is concerning are abundantly obvious. There are many studies to show that the trials for the vaccines, along with real-world immunization campaigns, point to the peril of people skipping their second doses. Compared with the two-dose regimen, a single shot from Pfizer or Moderna triggers a weaker immune response and may leave recipients more susceptible to dangerous virus variants.

With the increase in variants and the knowledge that the virus continues to adapt and spread means, we need a nation that is smarter than the virus is tenacious.

Bit Of Washington D.C. On Madison Isthmus

There were several very special things we brought back from our spring trip to Washington, D.C four years ago. One of them bloomed this morning.

At the Iwo Jima Memorial, two workers were taking apart a flower bed that had hundreds of tulip blooms just weeks before. The pile of bulbs was quite large and after we passed them I turned and went back with a question for one of the workers.

“What are you going to do with those bulbs?”

“Not really sure,” was his reply.

“Might I have one?” I inquired.

“Take as many as you want,” he added with a gesture of his hand over the pile in front of him.

My Midwestern sensibilities did not allow me to place handfuls into my shoulder bag as I had space–but I did take two and they are planted in a special place on our lawn.

Biden Allows For Honest Historical Introspection On Armenian Genocide

It is a news story that deserves international attention.

Today President Biden recognized the mass killings of Armenians more than a century ago with the only word that applies. The only word that has the gravitas and the full meaning of what happened during the Ottoman Era years of horrific atrocities.

Genocide.

Let me place this barbaric series of events in the framework of history. The deaths of the Armenians were the first genocide of the 20th century. It needs to be reckoned with.

Why this does matter is two-fold. First, it clearly demonstrates moral clarity is being returned to our policy goals regarding international affairs. We can not simply mouth lofty works of our idealistic notions unless we are prepared to not only state them but have them also anchored with meaning.

Determining that a genocide was committed and stating it as such is most meaningful when pronounced by the President of the United States. Turkey may continue to deflect, deny, and disavow but the world works on facts and there is no way to discredit the record that exists about the mass killings.

This leads to the second reason this matters. The truth needs to be publicly stated even if it ruffles the current leadership in Turkey. If one can not be honest with a nation that resides within our orbit of friends, even though that nation at times acts recklessly on the world stage, then perhaps we need to redefine what constitutes a friendly partner. What can not be bargained away is honesty about historical events.

I simply reject the cowardly way, from both Democrats and Republicans, when failing to define what happened at the start of the 20th century regarding Armenians. It is way too high a price to pay to toss honesty aside just to have some assurance that Turkey would not endanger its cooperation in regional conflicts or diplomacy. How has that played out over the past 15 years when no utterance of the word genocide was used by Washington?

The killings of Armenians occurred at the end of World War I during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey. Worried that the Christian Armenian population would align with Russia, a primary enemy of the Ottoman Turks, officials ordered mass deportations in what many historians consider the first genocide of the 20th century: Nearly 1.5 million Armenians were killed, some in massacres by soldiers and the police, others in forced exoduses to the Syrian desert that left them starved to death.

What Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would desire, so to save his nation from international embarrassment, does not meet the needs of the call of history to precisely state what happened.

Genocide.

Words matter and that is why today is so very important. Especially those used by our president.

It was troubling how the lack of the most honest word about the deaths of Armenians allowed for the misrepresentation of facts to stand over the decades. The damage this causes our nation when words are not used so to erase facts, or to create a new version of events far removed from what actually occurred, must never be allowed to stand.  

Today President Biden addressed the call of history. He stated the mass slaughter of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks more than a century ago as a “genocide”.

Because that is what happened.

Vicki McKenna And Maxine Waters

This has been a week where lessons have been demonstrated as to why self-regulating First Amendment rights are necessary. In this politically fraught nation, the lessons came from both ends of the spectrum. In each case, a poor decision was made. Whereas, neither Vicki McKenna nor Maxine Waters would ever think they had anything in common, after this week they can no longer make such a claim.

At the start of the week, we heard about Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat who represents southern Los Angeles, making comments to protesters in Brooklyn Center as the jury was about to hear closing statements in the highly charged murder trial for Derek Chauvin.

“I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty,” Rep. Waters said. “And if we don’t, we cannot go away. We’ve got to stay on the street. We get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

There is more than ample evidence to prove that police reform in this nation is required and that Black Americans have received a disproportionate share of the abuses from unprofessional officers. But Waters is an elected official who took an oath to uphold our laws and support our democratic institutions, such as the judiciary. The jury process is central to the framework of that system. To make inflammatory statements at that moment of national tension and to in any way aim the comments at a jury for a specific outcome is not acceptable.

Period.

This week Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson was interviewed on Vicki McKenna’s radio show. True to form, Johnson, aimed the conversation for the most ridiculous in the listening audience.

Johnson stated he sees “no reason to be pushing vaccines on people,” arguing their distribution should be “limited” to those most vulnerable to coronavirus, and asking, “if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?”

I heard the interview online–certainly not as a listener to conservative talk radio–and was taken aback when McKenna did not interrupt Johnson and explain “herd immunity” is necessary to end the COVID-19 pandemic, As such, it is absolutely necessary that higher numbers of people get vaccinated. Such vaccinations are not to be determined if one does, or not, consider themselves “vulnerable.” 

One can make a most compelling argument about the low level of intelligence that is housed inside of Ron Johnson. While Vicki McKenna is a harsh conservative I think she is intelligent but knows how to make money by pedaling her rhetoric for conservatives.

McKenna made a huge mistake by not interjecting facts and needed direction for her listeners, which polls and data prove are the ones most susceptible to being fearful and leery of getting the vaccine. In not using her smokey voice–as a former broadcaster my sense is her voice has been roughened from tobacco–she misused the First Amendment by allowing false and dangerous words from Johnson to go unchallenged.

Period.

This week two separate stories, and two politically divergent women, have proved why it is important to know how to use the freedom of the First Amendment when speaking to the public. Judgment is essential when we express ourselves. McKenna and Waters, in equal measure, have shown us what happens when that is lacking.

And so it goes.

Society Changing Due To COVID, Working At Home Is Very Popular

Over the past year, many ideas have been bounced about as to how our lives will change as a result of the pandemic. The ‘need’ to shake hands has always confounded me and perhaps that will be the first social ritual that will fall to the side of the road. If so, I will be the first in line to kick dirt over the custom. Heck, I will even bring a shovel and make sure it is truly buried.

Then let us end the blowing out of candles on the birthday cake. That custom, too, has always left me cold.

But the idea of how workplaces are changing and evolving is the one that has most caught my attention over the past months. Friends who work in office jobs either for large financial companies or within the government have alerted me that they like the ease of working at home. It removes the drudgery of driving to and from work, along with the bulk of the office politics that often is just plain stressful. In addition, I am hearing that the productivity rate of working from home has many bosses pleased.

So that is why the following adds to my pile of evidence that another change, due to the raging virus, is how many people will work in the future.

With the end of COVID-19 finally in sight, employers are probably counting the days until their offices reopen. However, a new survey finds they shouldn’t expect their workers to come flowing through the door — even after the pandemic. In fact, 58 percent of remote workers now say they would look for a new job if they can’t keep working from home.

The FlexJobs survey of over 2,100 people worldwide, who either worked remotely during COVID or are still working from home, reveals the growing popularity of never setting foot in an office again. Just 11 percent said not being allowed to work at home anymore wouldn’t bother them.

The poll, completed in early April, also finds 65 percent want to keep working remotely full-time even after COVID ends. One in three would prefer a hybrid arrangement involving some office work and some days at home. A mere two percent say they are looking forward to working in an office full-time again.

This growing trend among the stay-at-home workers will add another layer of separation among demographics in the nation, as reported by Pew Research. This will be yet another split among those with higher education and those who did not see any reason to attain it.

To be sure, not all employed adults have the option of working from home, even during a pandemic. In fact, a majority of workers say their job responsibilities cannot be done from home. There’s a clear class divide between workers who can and cannot telework. Fully 62% of workers with a bachelor’s degree or more education say their work can be done from home. This compares with only 23% of those without a four-year college degree. Similarly, while a majority of upper-income workers can do their work from home, most lower- and middle-income workers cannot.

What I can say is that the work world will be changing, and in large profound ways, even if in the same breath it is not clear what all those changes will actually look like. The 9-5 grind is so outdated and not where the lives and lifestyles are for a large and more youthful segment of the nation. What was already percolating among many in the nation with their work lives has been thrust forward with speed due to the pandemic. This has provided the first test of a new way to working where tasks performed remotely have been largely reported not to have resulted in a significant drop in productivity or quality.

That result is good news to those who are not willing to go back to the cubicles and endless office meetings with the ones who never know when to end with the sticky notes offering ‘suggestions’.

This is offshoot of the pandemic that will be worthy of our attention as the months play out and the economy bounces back.