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Michael Barone - Republicans must show support for Hispanic dreams

Rarely does a political party issue a document so scathingly critical of itself and its most recent presidential nominee as the report of the five-member Growth and Opportunity Project of the Republican National Committee. It refers to Mitt Romney on occasion as "our presidential nominee" and notes disapprovingly of his reference, in the debate about immigration, to "self-deportation." And while the report states modestly, "We are not a policy committee," it does call for a policy — "comprehensive immigration reform" — that many, perhaps most, Republican members of Congress oppose.
I think there's some risk here for the Republican National Committee. But there also may be some reward for Republicans generally.
The risk is of turning off officeholders and voters Republicans need to win elections and prevail on issues. The reward is Republicans might be able to win some elections they'd otherwise lose.
"If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e., self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence," the report says. "It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our advice."
To this they contrast George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaign refrain: "Family values don't stop at the Rio Grande, and a hungry mother is going to feed her child."
Let me put it another way. To win someone's vote, you need to be friendly to them and those they identify with.
My observation in travel over the years is that Hispanics are treated very differently by Anglos in Texas than in California.
In Texas, white Anglos see people with Hispanic features as fellow Texans. They smile and say howdy. They know, because they have to take Texas history in high school, that Hispanics have been living in Texas for more than 200 years and that some fought for Texas independence against Mexico.
In California, white Anglos, liberal or conservative, treat people with Hispanic features as landscape workers or parking valet attendants. They look past them without speaking or hand them their car keys.
George W. Bush's words about family values were very Texan, down to the reference to the Rio Grande. That enabled him to win about 40 percent of Hispanic votes in 2004 (examination of county returns suggests that the exit poll number of 44 percent is a little high).
As for Romney, when he said "self-deportation," he was actually describing something real. The folks at the Pew Hispanic Center have concluded, I think with some reluctance, that net migration from Mexico to the United States fell to around zero in the recession year 2007. There may have been more reverse migration than inward migration since then. But "self-deportation" and "reverse migration" are cold, abstract terms. Politicians (and pundits) need to look beneath unfeeling statistics for the effect on the lives of actual human beings.
And when you look at the RealtyTrac numbers of foreclosures in the peak years of 2007 and 2010, you find that a majority were in four states — California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida.
When you look at the counties with high foreclosure rates, you're looking at the Central Valley, the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles, metro Las Vegas and metro Phoenix.
You're looking at tens of thousands of Hispanic homebuyers who were granted mortgages with little or no money down and that proved to be far beyond their capacity to service when housing crashed and the construction industry shut down. Many such mortgages were issued because of government policy favoring minority homeownership and because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed this policy hard.
This was bad public policy that shattered people's dreams. Homebuyers had assumed they would amass wealth through supposedly inevitable housing price gains. Instead, many — and others who witnessed this tragedy — gave up on the United States and moved back to Mexico.
Republicans can perhaps gain entree with Hispanic voters by supporting comprehensive immigration reform. At the very least, they need to avoid approaching this issue with the angry hostility you hear from too many callers on talk radio. But they also need to show an understanding of the realities these people are facing. They need to show the how their policies can help them achieve their dreams.
The Republican National Committee report is not a bad start.
(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Mark Fernald - Right-sizing the federal government

Washington is trapped in an endless fiscal debate. Republicans argue that the federal government is too big. Democrats argue that revenues are too low. The fight is over money, but the larger debate is over the size and scope of the government.
Before we line up on one side or the other, we should look at recent history.
Over the past 40 years, federal spending has averaged a little over 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). When the economy has been strong, federal spending as a percentage of GDP has dipped below 20 percnet. When the economy has been weaker, that figure has been several points higher.
During the same 40 years, federal revenues have averaged about 18 percent of GDP. As a result, the federal government was in deficit for all but three of those years.
This fluctuation is to be expected. When times are tough, spending increases for safety net programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment benefits. The opposite happens when the economy booms, such as in the 1990s.
During the Clinton budget years (1994-2001), federal outlays as a percentage of GDP declined from 21 percent to 18.2 percent. During the following eight Bush budget years (2002-2009), that percentage rose from 19.1 percent to 25.2 percent, as the Great Recession, and spending for two wars and Medicare drug coverage, all had an effect. (The Obama stimulus increased spending by 1.5 percent of GDP.)
During the three Obama budget years that have been completed (2010-2012), spending as a percentage of GDP has been 24.1 percent, 24.1 percent, and 22.9 percent, while revenues as a percentage of GDP have been 15.1 percent, 15.4 percent and 15.8 percent. (estimate).
As the economy improves, the gap between spending and revenues will narrow, but there will continue to be a significant gap.
Social Security and Medicare are not part of our current deficit problem. Revenues for those programs are about equal to spending. As the retirement of the baby boomers continues, expenses will rise faster than revenues, and those programs will have to use their surpluses to maintain benefits. Medicare is projected to exhaust its reserves and be unable to pay all its bills in 2024 while Social Security is projected to exhaust its reserves and be unable to pay full benefits in 2033.
By 2040, Medicare costs are projected to increase from 3.7 percent of GDP to 6 percent of GDP. Social Security will increase from 4.9 percent of GDP to 6.4 percent of GDP in 2035.
If we are to keep our promises to our seniors, the size of the federal budget, relative to GDP, will have to increase by several percentage points.
Republicans have other ideas. In 2011, every Republican in the Senate voted for a constitutional amendment that would mandate a balanced budget, and that would limit federal spending to 18 percent of GDP. If implemented, this amendment would require huge cuts in Social Security and Medicare, or huge cuts in everything else, or a cut of 17 percent across the board. Such a cut would be seven times as large as the sequester.
The 2012 Republican Party platform also calls for a constitutional amendment limiting federal spending to a fixed percentage of GDP.
The goal of the Republican Party is to reduce the size of the federal government to a size we have not seen since before the days of Medicare, Medicaid, the EPA, food stamps, Head Start, and student loans. Do we really want to go back to those days?
There are alternatives. Cuts can be made to eliminate federal subsides for agribusiness, ethanol, and fossil fuels. The defense budget can be cut by eliminating weapons the Pentagon does not want, and by bringing homes troops that are stationed in countries that no longer need our military assistance.
On the revenue side, we could eliminate special tax rates for hedge fund managers and investment income, enact a financial transaction tax (which will raise revenue and cut down on speculation in the stock market), and limit or eliminate deductions for luxuries, such as the mortgage interest deduction on second homes and mansions.
These changes would reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
Changes are also needed for Social Security and Medicare so that they can be self-sustaining programs in the long term. A balanced approach of revenue increases and benefits adjustments makes sense to many — unless you are a Republican sworn to oppose all tax increases, which then leaves only benefit cuts.
It's budget season in Washington. The media will focus on the clash between the parties. You should look for the alternate visions of the parties.
Democrats want to gradually decrease spending, and increase revenue, so that the two balance somewhere near 21 percnet of GDP. Republicans want to radically change the scope and mission of the federal government, reducing it to a size not seen in a couple generations.
You get to weigh in again on election day, 2014.
(Attorney Mark Fernald lives in Sharon. He was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2002. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . This column, with supporting footnotes, can be found at www.markfernald.com.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Pat Buchanan - Was Iraq worth it?

Ten years ago today, U.S. air, sea and land forces attacked Iraq. And the great goals of Operation Iraqi Freedom? Destroy the chemical and biological weapons Saddam Hussein had amassed to use on us or transfer to al-Qaida for use against the U.S. homeland. Exact retribution for Saddam's complicity in 9/11 after we learned his agents had met secretly in Prague with Mohamed Atta. Create a flourishing democracy in Baghdad that would serve as a catalyst for a miraculous transformation of the Middle East from a land of despots into a region of democracies that looked West.
Not all agreed on the wisdom of this war. Gen. Bill Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, thought George W. Bush & Co. had lost their minds: "The Iraq War may turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in American history."
Yet, a few weeks of "shock and awe," and U.S. forces had taken Baghdad and dethroned Saddam, who had fled but was soon found in a rat hole and prosecuted and hanged, as were his associates, "the deck of cards," some of whom met the same fate.
And so, 'twas a famous victory. Mission accomplished!
Soon, however, America found herself in a new, unanticipated war, and by 2006, we were, astonishingly, on the precipice of defeat, caught in a Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict produced by our having disbanded the Iraqi army and presided over the empowerment of the first Shia regime in the nation's history.
Only a "surge" of U.S. troops led by Gen. David Petraeus rescued the United States from a strategic debacle to rival the fall of Saigon.
But the surge could not rescue the Republican Party, which had lusted for this war, from repudiation by a nation that believed itself to have been misled, deceived and lied into war. In 2006, the party lost both houses of Congress, and the Pentagon architect of the war, Don Rumsfeld, was cashiered by the commander in chief.
Two years later, disillusionment with Iraq would contribute to the rout of Republican uber-hawk John McCain by a freshman senator from Illinois who had opposed the war.
So, how now does the ledger read, 10 years on? What is history's present verdict on what history has come to call Bush's war?
Of the three goals of the war, none was achieved. No weapon of mass destruction was found.
While Saddam and his sons paid for their sins, they had had nothing at all to do with 9/11. Nothing. That had all been mendacious propaganda.
Where there had been no al-Qaida in Iraq while Saddam ruled, al-Qaida is crawling all over Iraq now. Where Iraq had been an Arab Sunni bulwark confronting Iran in 2003, a decade later, Iraq is tilting away from the Sunni camp toward the Shia crescent of Iran and Hezbollah.
What was the cost in blood and treasure of our Mesopotamian misadventure? Four thousand five hundred U.S. dead, 35,000 wounded and this summary of war costs from Friday's Wall Street Journal:
"The decade-long (Iraq) effort cost $1.7 trillion, according to a study ... by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Fighting over the past 10 years has killed 134,000 Iraqi civilians ... . Meanwhile, the nearly $500 billion in unpaid benefits to U.S. veterans of the Iraq war could balloon to $6 trillion" over the next 40 years.
Iraq made a major contribution to the bankrupting of America.
As for those 134,000 Iraqi civilian dead, that translates into 500,000 Iraqi widows and orphans. What must they think of us?
According to the latest Gallup poll, by 2-to-1, Iraqis believe they are more secure — now that the Americans are gone from their country.
Left behind, however, is our once-sterling reputation. Never before has America been held in lower esteem by the Arab peoples or the Islamic world. As for the reputation of the U.S. military, how many years will it be before our armed forces are no longer automatically associated with such terms as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, renditions and waterboarding?
As for the Chaldean and Assyrian Christian communities of Iraq who looked to America, they have been ravaged and abandoned, with many having fled their ancient homes forever.
We are not known as a reflective people. But a question has to weigh upon us. If Saddam had no WMD, had no role in 9/11, did not attack us, did not threaten us, and did not want war with us, was our unprovoked attack on that country a truly just and moral war?
What makes the question more than academic is that the tub-thumpers for war on Iraq a decade ago are now clamoring for war on Iran. Goal: Strip Iran of weapons of mass destruction all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies say Iran does not have and has no program to build.
This generation is eyewitness to how a Great Power declines and falls. And to borrow from old King Pyrrhus, one more such victory as Iraq, and we are undone.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Alan Robichaud - Opening a window to Lakes Region manufacturing might

A glimpse of the global marketplace was on display this past week when Belknap EDC sponsored several tours of local manufacturers who process and ship their products around the world. Being a nearly life-long resident of the Lakes Region and never having set foot inside some of the host manufacturers, I am probably more the norm of a typical resident who wonders,"what do they do inside those walls?"
I must say that I was totally surprised and impressed with much of what I saw and heard from those conducting tours of our manufacturing plants. First, to note that each of those companies I visited produce top quality components that are used all around the world, including some out of this world such as in the space lab and shuttles, was impressive. These precision products require high scrutiny in the manufacturing process and to my second point, the continuous quality improvement techniques used to harness their corners of the world's competitive market was astounding. In all cases, our hosts spoke with great pride in their work, in their people, and in their products. They were sensitive to quality on all levels including protecting the environment, not only here in our own back yard but wherever their companies exist throughout the world.
Belknap EDC along with Granite United Way, Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Huot Technical Center, Lakes Region Community College, Meredith Career Partnership, and others have been working collectively with local businesses to expand the career exploration and internship possibilities for local students through an initiative we call 200 X 2020. We hope to engage a minimum of 200 businesses in the fully array of cradle to career opportunities for students by 2020 so that we can assure a vibrant economy through a highly skilled workforce in a revived manufacturing climate right here in the Lakes Region.
While several local students participated in the plant tours, seeking an advantage in planning their higher education and career opportunities, not nearly enough benefitted from this wonderful experience to see the future in the making. Manufacturing is making a rebound in the U.S. and right here at home. Our companies universally stated their need for skilled employees. Students hearing their presentations know very clearly the academic and behavioral experiences needed to compete in the advanced manufacturing arena. Over and over we heard minimal requirements including middle math, blueprint literacy, computer skills, communications, critical thinking, problem solving and positive attitudes being essential entry level basics and everything on up. Our youth don't have to leave the area to find highly skilled, excellent paying jobs with benefits and clean working conditions but they do have to be ready to compete in an ever-increasingly competitive environment.
If you missed the manufacturing open houses this year, be the first to attend next time they are offered. Parents and teachers: be sure to give your students access to this inspiring experience. It will be one of the best opportunities you have to expose them to their future workforce opportunities in the exciting field of advanced manufacturing. It will help them select prerequisite academic courses while still in high school and it will certainly point them to and prepare them for appropriate higher education programs.
I want to sincerely thank Belknap EDC and all the manufacturers who opened their facilities to this year's Open House Tour and urge you to consider doing more of this in the future. It was eye-opening and impressive. It is incumbent on us all to support this industry for there to be hope for the future growth and development of our local economy. Advanced manufacturing is vibrant and on the cutting edge of tomorrow's technology. Let's make sure that its future is ours as well!
(Alan Robichaud is community development director for Granite United Way.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 12:20

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Froma Harrop - Better life is measured by more than money

Many speak of Gen X and Gen Y as "lost generations" destined to "not live as well" as their parents. A new Urban Institute study finds that young people up to the age of 40 haven't accumulated as much wealth as their parents did at their age. They face a bleak economic future, breaking a pattern of generational advancement.
The numbers may be right, but is the worry warranted? Time always will tell, but let's say this: Lots of shaky assumptions go into predicting how well today's young will live, starting with defining what it means to live well. It may be that today's young people end up living better, way better, than their parents — and by several measures, not just money.
The Urban Institute report focuses on one yardstick: wealth. It states that because investing and savings generate more wealth over the years, losing a decade of accumulation is especially serious.
Several financial setbacks certainly hit young adults hard. Many bought their first homes right before real estate values collapsed. They may now owe more on their houses than the properties are worth: Their mortgages are "underwater." They may be weighed down with student debt and frustrated by stagnant wages, a phenomenon predating the Great Recession.
Financially stressed young workers have been likened to their grandparents or great-grandparents, whose expectations fell and optimism dimmed in the Great Depression. That is not an entirely bad thing. The young people scarred by the economic calamity of the 1930s developed habits of thrift and caution that served them quite well in the post-World War II recovery — unlike much of the baby boom generation.
Middle-aged people traditionally save money and reduce debt for their later years. Many boomers, raised in the age of plenty, did not.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research reported in 2009 that 30 percent of homeowners aged 45 to 54 were underwater on their mortgages. They had feasted off rising home prices. Today's struggling young people will probably be more careful.
Also, many will have more time to make up for their youthful financial mistakes. Medical progress points to longer and healthier lives, at least for those who take care of themselves. This, like cleaner air, is one of the many marks of living well that don't easily translate into dollars.
Today, a low-income 55-year-old suffering serious heart disease has a better medical prognosis than did a multimillionaire of the same age and condition in 1960. Who would you say has/had the better life?
Chances are, younger Americans will also be working longer, enjoying perhaps 10 more years of wealth accumulation. (Full-time mothers concerned about losing economic ground in their child-rearing years should think about that.)
But is working longer a step backward? Not necessarily. That would depend on what kind of work you do and the career path you follow.
The common career pattern is illogical. Workers typically advance to the highest level of responsibility as they approach retirementage. Why can't the line be shaped like a pyramid, rather than the vapor trail of a jet taking off? One could rise in the early years, eventually hit the "top," then decelerate in terms of stress, hours and pay.
Many of today's Americans aged 65 and far older would jump at the chance to keep working, just not as hard. Some are even starting small businesses rather than face 25 years of enforced boredom and inadequate income.
Given the choice between more years and more money, most elderly people would choose the years. And years are what the young people have. Pessimism is clearly wasted on the young.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 09:47

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