Archive for February, 2016

alabama constitution

The state of Alabama recently passed a bill which in my mind is the worst kind of state legislation, the kind that tells city/local governments what they can or can’t do.  In this case, the law they passed says that cities/municipalities in Alabama can not set its own minimum wage.  This was in direct response to the city of Birmingham passing an increase of its minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

This is just frustrating to me as a Birmingham resident.  First, the city of Birmingham continues to struggle economically, with over 30% of its population living below the poverty line.  The city leadership has been pretty useless when it comes to actually doing something about this.  And then when they finally actually try to do something, ANYTHING, to affect change, the state steps in and says no?  Geez louise, the city is “do-nothing” enough even without the state squashing one of the few actions the city actually managed to pass.

Seconds, as a voter who supports this increase, what am I supposed to do?  Obviously the elected leaders of the city supported this.  Additionally, the state representatives from the city ALSO supported this.  The state representatives that killed this all represent OTHER communities.  I can’t cast a vote against them (and convince my fellow members of the community to do the same).  I suppose I could call these others, but they really have no reason to listen to me.  After all, they don’t represent me in the first place!

Of course, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  The state’s very constitution was created to consolidate power with state legislators at the capital of Montgomery (and to help ensure that “power” remained with well-to-do whites).  Almost any local legislation has to go through Montgomery first, often requiring a state constitution amendment to so (for example, there is a state constitutional amendment up for vote Tuesday that would allow Shelby County to allow alcohol sales on Sundays).  This has led to the creation of a ridiculous constitution document that now has nearly 900 amendments.  It has also led to ridiculous situations where local provisions have been approved by the impacted voters, but overruled by other statewide voters.

Still, Alabama is not the only state that does this sort of thing.  For instance, the state of Tennessee passed a law forbidding cities/local governments from being able to ban guns from its own public parks.  The Missouri state government says that cities can’t ban plastic bags or set minimum benefit requirements.  In Nebraska, the attorney general said that its cities can’t pass ordinances designed to protect the LGBT community.

One of the ideas that proponents of small federal government often push is the idea that local governments can be “laboratories of democracy”,  where ideas can be tested without having a larger impact on the larger population.  And what better laboratory could there be than at the city level?  If it works, great, maybe others will adopt the same ideas.  If not, then we the local citizens can push for change and hold our representatives responsible and meanwhile no one else would have really been affected by the failed policy at all.  Yet it seems when the ideas go against the political beliefs of those in charge at higher levels of government, all of a sudden the idea of “big brother” stepping isn’t a violation of small government principles after all.

Let Birmingham (let us!) give its minimum wage increase a shot.


Admit it, you've never seen them both at the same place, have you?!!

Admit it, you’ve never seen them both at the same place, have you?!!

While I have trouble understanding the appeal of Donald Trump, I have less trouble when it comes to Ted Cruz, who has just established his bona fides as a top GOP presidential candidate by winning the Iowa Caucus. I see him as a really, really conservative that sees politics as a war between viewpoints and wants to apply tactics as such (compromise = losing, there are only wins and loses). If the country burns for a while as a result, well that’s just collateral damage for the “right side” winning. I can only imagine he is a dream candidate for the Sean Hannity/Rush Limbaugh’s and many of their listeners, who take that same view of politics.

That said, I think in any other year, one without a celebrity billionaire egomaniac which the press can’t quit obsessing about, Ted Cruz would be viewed as the extreme non-mainstream candidate. Here’s my rationale:

  • It seems like nobody who gets to know him actually likes him, not even people on his own side.  Bob Dole surely doesn’t.  People from George W. Bush’s presidential campaign didn’t.  John Boehner?  Nope.  People at Princeton where he went to school?  Not so much.  As President, it’s going to be hard to get around working with people, and while maybe it’s not a requirement, it may be easier if everyone doesn’t see you as an a-hole (then again, if you take the view that politics is war, then maybe you could see someone being YOUR a-hole as a plus).
  • His tactics are slimy. In Iowa, first his team sent out mail flyers to voters falsely stating that they were required to show up for the caucus, else it would negatively impact their imaginary voter participation grade. Then, his team took a CNN report that Ben Carson was flying back to Florida and used that to falsely tell Carson supporters that Ben had dropped out of the race so you better support Ted.  (Once again though, it you think politics is war, then this is just ‘ends justify the means’ kind of stuff.)
  • Ted Cruz and lies have a special relationship.  Check out Politifact for yourself, but by my count, out of all the Ted Cruz statements they have scored, roughly 70% have been scored as mostly false, false, or “pants on fire”.
  • Ted Cruz believes in conspiracy theories. Whether it’s Agenda 21 (including the abolishment of golf), communists at Harvard Law School, the supposed threat from Sharia Law, checking in to make sure the U.S. military wasn’t invading Texas, state nullification of federal law…..if there is a weird right-wing theory, Ted Cruz probably subscribes to it.
  • Ted Cruz is a big believer in using government shutdowns as a “negotiation” tactic.  I have no doubt that as President, he would continue to use this tactic, and it would potentially be a much more potent here.  After all, he’s only one out of hundred in the Senate, but as President, all continuing resolutions and debt ceiling bills would come to him.  I could imagine where we could get to a point that the continuity of government could become dependent on Congressional veto overrides.

Personally, I think anyone elected President, while certainly having a vision for the country, still has to act in the best interests of the country as a whole and every citizen, even those he/she disagrees with.  I don’t think it’s the place for a demagogue who views politics as a war to be won by any political means necessary.