Do you find that your turkey time tends to turn into an awkward stilted conversation of the weather or, even worse, how poorly your local football team is doing? No need to worry, the following are a few conversation starters that can be used in any tight situation.
First, Alternet offers Five Ways to Deal with Your Conservative Relatives. From “Keeping the infighting on the right” to “Talk about TSA gropings,” you’ve got sure fire ways to defuse any potential awkwardness at the dinner table.
Brush up on Obama conspiracy theories. There’s a good chance you’ll need to defend the president against some of the more outrageous claims being circulated by Fox News–especially the claim that he hasn’t done anything useful for the country. Now, if your relatives are of the “Obama is a Marxist, Satanist, Islamic fundamentalist who wants to put our children in re-education camps” persuasion, you should probably just invest in a hip flask or three and plan on getting out of there ASAP. But assuming you’re dining with nominally reasonable human beings, you should brush up on what the heck Obama has done so far. Conveniently, you can gather some key facts and stats at the Web site What the Heck Has Obama Done So Far (or its raunchier cousin, if that’s more your style). “Yes, cousin Billy, Obama does support our troops; he’s helped provide crucial services like transportation for families of fallen soldiers to Dover air base and counseling for veterans,” you might say. And don’t forget to remember credible sources in case they don’t believe you.
Slate also has ways to prep for any potential political arguments, providing a Cliff Notes primer of top debates with both the for and against positions. Like this one, on the Bush Tax cuts.
Extending the Bush tax cuts
Extend all of them forever: If Democrats allow taxes to increase, we’re going to have our next Thanksgiving at Burger King. The fluttering recovery would plummet into a freefall. You can’t just extend the tax rates for “middle income” families as President Obama would like because that’s unfair. Plus, raising the upper rate would unfairly hit small-business owners, and small business accounts for 70 percent of the net new jobs in an economy. Having Lower marginal rates means people have more money they can invest, which boosts growth, which shrinks deficits. It’s win-win-win!
Don’t extend any of them at all: Let’s remember why we are in this fix: Republicans couldn’t win the tax-cut debate on the merits of the magical no-deficits argument 10 years ago, so they had to use a gimmick to pass the cuts temporarily, assuming that no one would have the guts to let them expire. Let’s have the guts and stop these kinds of gimmicks. A balanced budget is important, because deficits lead to higher interest rates, which will kill growth as borrowing becomes more expensive. Ending the Bush tax cuts would bring in $3.3 trillion. As for job creation and economic stimulus, CBO says extending the tax cuts would not give you much bang for the buck. We could spend some of the money saved from letting the tax cuts expire on true job-creating stimulus (which voters say they want more than tax cuts anyway). Money could better be used on aid for the states, extending unemployment insurance benefits, or creating tax credits that favor job creation.
Meanwhile, I wish that we could stop having this debate and start a real one over tax simplification, with lower rates and fewer loopholes.
Extend them temporarily: Higher taxes would kill consumer spending and probably the recovery. Raising the top rates might not kill the recovery, but that’s not a certainty—and it certainly wouldn’t help improve things. Plus, it is politically impossible with moderate Democrats voting against only a partial extension. So, let the tax cuts stay, permanently, for everyone making under $250,000 and extend them temporarily for those in the highest bracket. Let’s remember that lowering the rates for those making less than $250,000 benefits everyone, including the wealthy. And let’s not buy into the small-business myth: Fewer than 2 percent of small businesses pay the higher rate for those making more than $250,000 (or $170,000 for individuals).
Meanwhile, I wish that we could stop having this debate and start a real one over tax simplification, with lower rates and fewer loopholes. To make this happen we should follow Kent Conrad’s proposal for tying any extension of the tax cuts to fundamental reform. If reform isn’t passed in 18 months, rates start to inch up or revert to the Clinton-era levels. When politicians can’t find courage to act, they should write it into law.
Ok, but what if that super-tough abortion topic comes up? NARAL has you covered there.
Given this particular political season, your relatives might have some questions about John Boehner, the incoming speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Uncle Marv might try to tell you that Boehner isn’t focused on attacking choice. That’s when you can jump in with the facts about Boehner’s anti-choice agenda.
Since entering the House in 1991, Boehner has cast 142 votes on abortion and other reproductive-rights issues. All 142 were anti-choice! While Boehner’s bad record on choice is miles long, most people just don’t know that much about him yet. Now’s the time to let your friends and family know about how the new Congress will attack a woman’s right choose.
Still not sure what to say? Maybe it’s time to stop all political talk, and just ask your family to pass you the stuffing.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
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