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Tag Archives: Barack Obama

An Opening for Republicans? Obama’s “Deficit Neutral” Health Care Reform Will Cost Twice As Much, Just As We Figured It Would

Back in 2009, when President Obama took advantage of Democrat control of the House and Senate and pushed through so-called healthcare reform, he assured the American people that the plan would be paid for and wouldn’t add to future deficits.  There were many people, especially those like myself who are familiar with health care costs and how health insurance works, were quite skeptical.  The plan did nothing to address rising healthcare costs.  Instead, it was nothing more than the opportunity Democrats had been waiting for get health insurers to change their rules for coverage and to get government-subsidized health insurance in the hands of Americans.  But to quote a popular line from “Thomas and Friends,” one of my toddler’s favorite shows, “then there was trouble.”

First, the administration can’t even get their act together regarding the mandate in the plan.  The White House said it isn’t a tax, but someone from within the administration testified on Capital Hill that it is.  Then, the CLASS act, which was a plan to tackle long term care, came under fire.  And for good reason–one of the accounting gimmicks used to make CLASS work was to make people pay premiums for the plan for years before the plan actually came into play.  Congress voted to remove it from Obamacare.

But the ultimate slight-of-hand used in getting the bill passed was to convince people the reform act would not add to future deficits, and in turn, to the national debt.  President Obama assured us that the plan would cost about $900 billion, and that the cost would be offset by money taken from Medicare savings and from revenue grabbed from insurers, medical device makers, etc.  Like Theo Huxtable in the episode of “The Cosby Show” when Bill tried to tell him it’s expensive to live on his own, President Obama deflected criticism by saying “noooo problem!”  What wasn’t apparent to average americans is that the cost projection used included years during which the plan would barely be implemented.

Now, the CBO has released projections on how much Obamacare will actually cost over the next 10 years, when fully in place.  The cost?  $1.76 trillion over the next decade.  And that number is expected to increase to $2 trillion next year.

On the one hand, the CBO also predicts that the government will increase revenue from taxes and penalties over those years so that *may* offset the additional costs.  But most people realize that while cost estimates typically run lower than actual, revenue estimates also tend to run lower, because as new taxes kick in, people tend to change their habits, which leads to lower revenues taken in by the government.  People will find ways to avoid paying additional taxes.

What we have here is another government implented program that is going to run over budget and need bailing out at some point in the future.  Maybe around that time people will finally realize that government can’t be trusted to be good stewards of our money.

Related link:
Obamacare to cost $1.76 trillion over 10 years

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Limbaugh, Fluke, and the So-called “War on Women”

If you’ve aren’t up to speed on the whole contraception bru-ha thats’ been going on, here it is in a nutshell:

A few weeks ago, President Obama essentially stated that church-affiliated institutions would have to provide access to contraception coverage for their employees.  Religious institutions, lead by the Catholic church, immediately cried foul, saying they should continue to have an exemption based on moral grounds, i.e. the church does not believe in contraception.  After a huge stick erupted, Obama issued a compromise:  that insurance companies would not only be required to provide contraception directly to the employees of such institutions, which would circumvent the the employer, but that insurers would provide the contraception for free, as part of “preventive” coverage.  Conservatives say Obama is spearheading a “war on religion.”

Soon after, there was a hearing in the US House of Representatives about the issue.  Democrats criticized Republicans because the entire panel for the morning hearing was made up of men (there was an afternoon hearing with 2 women on the panel).  Dems had attempted to have a woman, Sandra Fluke, testify, but Republicans stated she was not added to the list in time.  Democrats say this is further proof that Republicans are at war with women.

A few days later, Fluke testifies at a Democrat-sponsored hearing.  The 3rd year law student at Georgetown Law spoke of how the fact that the school does not provide contraception coverage as part of its health plan made things difficult for female students, and that the contraception mandate should stay.  Jumping on this, radio talking head Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut,” basically saying she implied she and other students want to be paid to have sex since they demand free contraception.  Under fire, Limbaugh has apologized.

Now, my thoughts, in no particular order…

Is there a war on women?  Personally, I don’t think there is.  However, Republicans aren’t doing themselves any favors.  Whether it’s the Georgia House passing a bill to lower the “deadline” for getting an abortion from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, or Virginia attempting to pass legislation requiring any woman wanting an abortion to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound first (referred to as a “mechanical rape” by one radio talk show host), one could say that conservative lawmakers, who are mostly male, do seem to have women’s reproductive parts in the crosshairs.  But its nothing new.  Things like this happen every year.  In this case, however, it’s an election year.  Gotta rev up the base!  Let’s see how independent voters respond.  After all, those are the voters that will determine the winners.

Sandra Fluke.  Who and why the uproar?  As mentioned before, Sandra Fluke is a law student who testified before the House.  She is also an activist who has advocated against child trafficking and for wider contraception coverage for women.  Fluke not getting to testify in that morning hearing actually worked to Democrats’ advantage; their later “hearing” where she spoke was not a hearing, and Fluke was not required to be under oath.  Plus, the public was introduced to the third year law student, not the experienced activist–very important for PR reasons.  Her main point of argument was that the policy dictating that students at religious institutions that do not want to provide contraception coverage be given direct access via insurance companies be upheld.  The impression given was, she came to Georgetown and didn’t realize contraception wasn’t covered.  However, in a previous interview, she acknowledged she knew before enrolling that it wasn’t covered but that she was “not willing to compromise the quality of my education in exchange for my health care.”  So, she knew what she was getting into ahead of time.

Medically necessary vs choice.  During her testimony, Fluke spoke of a student who had polycystic ovary disease.  Because she could not afford the cost of birth control out of pocket, and because the college didn’t cover it, she eventually had to have an ovary removed.  Fluke stated that in reply to Catholic supporters who asked what she expected when she enrolled at the institution, she answered that “we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success.” I’m not sure where the unequal treatment is here.  Comparing contraception coverage to coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs is a false equivalence–one prevents pregnancy, while one doesn’t.  I would say that birth control pills used to cover a medical condition should be covered.  But how exactly does not having coverage for contraception impede academic success?  There are other forms of contraception available that are affordable on a college student budget.  And ultimately, though it sounds old school, if one can’t afford the ramifications of having sex, wouldn’t the ultimate answer be “don’t have sex?”

Rush Limbaugh and double standards.  Long story short, Rush Limbaugh issued an apology for calling Fluke a “slut” and making other disparaging comments.  It was an opening Democrats took full advantage of, taking his comments and implying that as the de facto leader of the GOP, his comments represented how the GOP felt about women.  They also stated he only apologized because he was losing sponsors–probably a true statement.  The problem is, there seems to be a double standard.  As outlined in a piece by Kirsten Powers, a number of left-leaning talking heads have made similar statements. Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Keith Olbermann, and especially Bill Maher have all gone off on women at one point or another, and didn’t get the wrath of the left dropped on them. Supposedly, the difference is the amount of influence Limbaugh has with the GOP, and that he is on the “public airwaves.” But bad statements are bad statements. Excusing your side while going after the other is simply political expediency.

I finish by pointing out two things.  First, credit to the President for using the situation as a way to score some bonus points.  He called Fluke to give her encouragement and see if she was ok.  How touching.  Second, a “right” is not a “right” if you are taking someone else’s stuff.  Free birth control isn’t a right, because someone else has to pay for it.

 

About Granting “exceptions” and Free Contraception

I saw a piece regarding President Obama and the uproar caused by saying church-sponsored institutions have to provide contraception to employees.  Today, he reversed course and said that insurance companies would be forced to provide it for free to the employees of such institutions.    What’s funny is, it still means the institutions will pay for it, because typically a company will pay for part of the benefits package provided to their employees.  So, they will still pay.  Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch!

While reading said piece, I found something in the comments section that I found to be very interesting, and spot-on:

There is a deep and very troubling issue being missed in not only this debate, but permeating the entire Obama administration. See today and also  recall yesterday  just how often the word “exception” is now used in edicts from Obama and his administration. In manufacturing, banking, education, health care by-passed senate confirmations and now religion, we get word from Obama that “we have granted an exception”. Granting  exceptions requires one be in absolute authority over those seeking relief from an onerous government imposed obligation. We are no longer being governed with our consent, but are in fact ruled by edict through Obama’s consent. Obama has not yet superseded  that authority which the Declaration of Independence plainly says  our individual rights come from and Obama must be told that in plain and simple words.

It makes me wonder if folks realize that–if you have to grant exceptions to a rule, then maybe, your rule should be changed?

I also wondered about “free” contraception.  Why should contraception be free?  Or Viagra?  Why should the government be involved in it?  Maybe there is a good reason, but its not coming to me right now.

Tone Down the Rhetoric? Biden Says Pass Obama Jobs Bill or Rapes Will Increase

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I remember not too long ago that there were calls to tone down the political rhetoric in the wake of the Gabby Jeffords shooting.  Anyone else remember this?

Obviously the message was lost.  Recently, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implied abortion funding legislation passed by Republicans would result in women dying on hospital floors with doctors not allowed to save them–because somehow, the legislation in question would prevent them from doing so.  Common sense tells us that that assertion is wrong and way over the top.  But lets move on.

Lately, Vice President Joe Biden has been out pushing for passage of President Obama’s jobs bill.  Evidently, it was not enough for him to simply say the bill is needed to create jobs.  Instead, the VP decided to take a different tack.  He decided the best method is to pull out one of the things that terrifies women most–rape. His assertion? That without passage of the bill, the number of police on America’s streets will decrease, and rapes and murders will increase. He first stated this at a rally in Flint, Michigan and even cited statistics. He then said it again a week later at a fireman’s rally in DC.

But there is a minor problem.  As I like to say, don’t let facts get in the way of a good argument.

In general, there are statistics out that show that in many places, even with fewer officers on the beat, crime rates have still gone down.  Specifically, the Fact Checker at the Washington Post obtained numbers for crime in Flint, where Biden first made his assertion, and showed that Biden overstated the number of rapes by a lot. On top of that, the Chief of Police in Flint has previously stated there was no real correlation to the size of the force and the amount of crime:

As the Flint Journal reported in May: “Officials said the fact that 46 police officers were laid off last year had little to do with the escalating crime. Most of the crimes were between people that knew each other. ‘No matter how many officers we have, we can’t stop disputes between two people in their own homes,’ Lock said.”

Lock made a similar assertion in September, 2010, when FBI statistics were released showing violent crime in Flint had decreased in 2009. The Flint Journal reported: “A smaller police force doesn’t automatically mean more crime, said Flint police chief Alven Lock. ‘There’s been years when we had 300 officers and we still had more homicides,’ he said, referring to 1986, when he was in the homicide division and homicides hit an all-time high of 61.”

I’m willing to bet that many other members of law enforcement say the same thing. Of course, that doesn’t make for a good political soundbite when one is trying to paint a picture of the opposing party as being ok with an increase in crime.

When Repubs do it? “They’re Bad!” When Dems do it? *crickets*

As it has been stated before, the President is taking every possible opportunity to tell the public that Republicans are preventing Americans from getting jobs by not passing his jobs bill.  This, despite the fact that his own party members blocked the bill last week, and despite calls from Republicans to negotiate a more bipartisan approach.

This week we have more of the same.  Democrats have decided to attempt to pass the bill piecemeal in the Senate.  As expected, the Dems first attempt to pass a bill for teachers and first responders failed.  Republicans all voted against the bill, which would be paid for via a 0.5% surtax on millionaires.  There were also two Democrats and Independent Joe Liebermann who voted no.

As expected, the President released a statement condemning the vote and saying its “unacceptable” that Senate Republicans “have chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again.”

However, Republicans brought to the floor a bill that would eliminate a 3 percent withholding tax on federal contractors.  Ironically, the idea came from Obama‘s own plan.  Ten Democrats voted for the bill along with the Republicans, but it was still three votes short.  So here we had a jobs bill, defeated through the efforts of Senate Dems who voted against the bill.

And just like when Dem Senator Harry Reid blocked a vote on the bill, there was no statement from the President.  No condemnation for not passing the bill.  Nothing but…crickets.

President Obama has not shied away from giving his own party a tongue lashing in the past.  But now?  Nothing.

It must be election season.

Obama’s Proposal Stuck in Democrat-led Senate, but it’s Still Republicans’ Fault

On  Tuesday, the Senate held a vote on whether to bring forward President Obama’s jobs bill for discussion.  Mind you, this was not a vote on the bill itself.  Just a vote to bring it forward to debate, discuss, slice, and dice.  The vote was 50 in favor, 49 against, with 60 votes needed to move forward.  The President, of course, issued a statement blaming Senate Republicans for the lack of votes:

President Obama blasted Senate Republicans for blocking his jobs bill Tuesday night, saying the American people “won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

The president said in a statement that his administration will work with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to get votes on the individual components of the bill “as soon as possible.”

Yes, with the same Senator Reid who himself blocked a vote on the bill just last week.

But there are two things that the President so conveniently forgot to mention.  First, in the 50-49 vote there were actually two Democrat senators that voted along with the Republicans.  But the second thing he omitted is far more important–some of the Dems who voted in favor of bringing the bill to the floor for discussion would not vote for the bill itself:

The only Democrats to vote against the measure were Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), but a number of other centrists in the party indicated they would vote against the package even though they supported launching a debate on the measure.

Let’s see how long before the President admits that his own party is as much to blame and takes them to task for it.

Reid Goes Nuclear, Blocks Vote on Jobs Bill, President Blames House Republicans??

We all remember the speech.  “Pass this jobs bill right away!”  We all heard that phrase many times during the President’s prime time speech on jobs.  Yet, after a month, there had been no bill brought to the floor of either chamber of Congress.

When I wrote about how Dems weren’t even trying to place the bill in the House, I recall someone saying that there was no point, because Republicans wouldn’t vote for it and it would lose.  My view was (and is) that you at least have to try.

According to President Obama, Republicans are blocking his bill in the house, so he took the time to call out Eric Cantor during a stop in Texas:

President Barack Obama got tough on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday, calling him out by name for saying he will block a vote on the president’s $447 billion plan to create jobs and boost the economy.

“Yesterday, the Republican majority leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now, he won’t even let the jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives. That’s what he said,” Obama told a crowd in Mesquite, Texas. “Won’t even let it be debated. … Do they not have the time? They just had a week off. Is it inconvenient?”

Now, if thats true, then the President is right for calling him out.  But, Cantor retorted with a good point about support, or lack of, for the bill from the President’s own party:

Cantor said Monday that the president’s jobs bill is dead on arrival in the House and won’t be brought to a vote. “This all-or-nothing approach is unreasonable,” he said. “I would say from a practical side … he’s got problems on his own side of the aisle with provisions in the bill that Democratic members disagree with. There are many issues that I’ve listed here that we can work together on. So instead of continuing to maintain this sort of campaign posture, let’s do something to work together.”

Somehow, the President conveniently left out that many in his own party don’t support his bill as written.  But pointing that out wouldn’t score political points, now would it?

Then, the Obama campaign sends out an email pointing out that Cantor and Co. were blocking the bill. Because of course, the best way to raise money is to call out the other guys, right?

There was only one problem.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who happens to be a Democrat, went “nuclear” in order to block a vote on the very jobs bill that President Obama yelled at Republicans for blocking.  In other words, to prevent a vote, Reid changed the rules of the Senate:

Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.

Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.

The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.

For those who forgot, the last time there was discussion of the “nuclear option,” it was because Democrats were stalling to block Bush judicial nominees, and Republicans were threatening to do what Reid did yesterday.   Of course, back then, Dems were howling that it wouldn’t be right for Republicans to change how things had been done in the Senate for many many years just to get their way, and in the end there was a bipartisan compromise to get past the gridlock.  Yet, Reid jumped in yesterday and opened Pandora’s Box.

Reid claims his move was to prevent the Republicans from offering endless amendments to the bill up for vote, and that Republicans were just trying to “embarrass the President” since they know the bill wouldn’t pass as written–due to lack of support from Senate Democrats.

So, the question is, will the President call out his own party?  Will his campaign send out an email talking about how Reid and friends are blocking the jobs bill and should explain themselves?

Don’t hold your breath.

A Few Things to Make You Say “Hmmmmmmm…”

Each of these could be a blog piece by itself (and probably will be eventually).  But for now, here are some things to make you say “hmmmmmm,” or scratch your head, or go buy a stiff drink…

THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT GOOD AT PICKING WINNERS (part 1):  The government has ordered the phasing out of the trusty incandescent light bulb, which means we all have to go out and get the curly-looking compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.  Sure they are more energy efficient.  But they also have a small amount of mercury in them.  Broken one lately?  Have you seen the steps involved to clean up after one breaks? But that’s not the worst part. Because of the government mandated change, GE has closed all of their incandescent light bulb plants in the US. At a time when unemployment is already high, that’s more jobs lost.

THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT GOOD AT PICKING WINNERS (part 2): The search for alternative fuels is very worthwhile. Except when the government is subsidizing it. Let’s talk ethanol. First, the government subsidizes ethanol production with taxpayer dollars. Second, there is a tariff placed on the importation of Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, as a way of protecting US production (it would be cheaper otherwise). The result? Not only are food prices (especially corn) higher because farmers are spending more time growing corn for ethanol, but the end product has been found to damage small engines over time. Oh, and then the government tells us ethanol is cheaper per gallon. Right.

HE’S TALKING ABOUT THE TEA PARTY, RIGHT?: Here is a recent quote from Senator John Kerry:

“And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely. The media in America has a bigger responsibility than it’s exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual.”

“It doesn’t deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do. And the problem is everything is put into this tit-for-tat equal battle and America is losing any sense of what’s real, of who’s accountable, of who is not accountable, of who’s real, who isn’t, who’s serious, who isn’t?”

Let me guess. The press should ignore the Tea Party, their supporters, and maybe even the GOP because they lie, right? Got it. By the way, Senator, would you apply that standard to your own party? Because I’m sure we’d see a lot less of some of your pals.

SPEAKING OF LYING…: This one came to my attention earlier today. Senator Harry Reid said earlier this month that there were 8 million jobs lost during the Bush years. Unfortunately, it is an easily provable lie:

As always, we looked at jobs numbers compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government’s official source of employment data.

During Bush’s eight years in office — January 2001 to January 2009 — the nation actually gained a net 1.09 million jobs. (Because there were gains in government jobs, the private sector actually lost 653,000 jobs during that period.)

This isn’t remotely close to what Reid claimed. Reid’s office didn’t respond to our request for information, but we think we know what he was referring to.

From the economy’s peak to its low point, the nation lost 8.75 million jobs. Here’s the problem: The peak for jobs came in January 2008, while the low point for jobs came in February 2010.

This means the starting point for Reid’s measure came seven years into Bush’s eight-year tenure, and the low point occurred about a year into Barack Obama’s tenure.

‘Nuff said.

ON TAXING THE RICH:  According to the IRS, there are over 8,200 income earners that earn more than $10 million per year.  Their combined income is $240 billion/year.  If you taxed them at 100%, it would be enough money to pay for government spending for a whopping 22 days.

Finally, I leave you with this thought, which most definitely will take on a life of its on another day in another post…

PARTISAN VOTERS HAVE NO CLUE WHAT AN INDEPENDENT VOTER IS: We get accused of straddling the fence, or of taking no stance. Even worse, we get attacked by both sides if we actually accept a view held by one party over another. But it’s simple. We look at the views and candidates available and choose what we like, regardless of what side it represents, and it could vary from week to week, from party to party, or from election to election. I’ve learned that instead of constantly fighting accusations that I’m not independent, I will simply stop feeding the trolls and continue business as usual.

Party on, dudes!

Do Politicians Understand What “Stimulus” Means? I Think Not.

Is it so difficult that the idea behind a “stimulus” package, or “stimulus” spending, or “stimulus” funding would be to stimulate the economy via job creation?  Somehow, politicians aren’t getting this.  The suggestions made by them aren’t ones that include a job multiplying effect.  In other words, for stimulus to be effective, it has to go towards something that creates a job, which directly creates a need for additional jobs, and so on.

Earlier this week, during a press conference, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked how extending unemployment benefits creates jobs.  His reply?

“There are few other ways that can directly put money into the economy than applying unemployment insurance,” Carney said.

Carney answers the question: “It is one of the most direct ways to infuse money directly into the economy because people who are unemployed and obviously aren’t running a paycheck are going to spend the money that they get. They’re not going to save it, they’re going to spend it. And with unemployment insurance, that way, the money goes directly back into the economy, dollar for dollar virtually.”

This is similar to a comment made by former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

Economists will tell you this money is spent quickly. It injects demand into the economy, and is job creating. It creates jobs faster than almost any other initiative you can name because, again, it is money that is needed for families to survive, and it is spent. So it has a double benefit. It helps those who have lost their jobs, but it also is a job creator.

Back when Pelosi made the comment, as you can see from the feedback on the Media Matters page, they were more than happy to show how economists backed up what she said, while right-leaning critics were going nuts and criticizing her.

Regardless of the economists that affirmed her statement (and even the CBO), we can now agree that the assertion was wrong.

Maybe I’m out in left field here, but I am willing to wager that the majority of people who are collecting unemployment benefits are spending the money on necessities–food, power, gas, phone, ect.  While the money is technically going into the economy, its not going in for things that will create more jobs.  Listening to Carney, Pelosi, and those who agree with them, it’s as if the unemployment benefits are disposable income.  Paying the bills is not a job multiplier.

Likewise, the expressed opinion of the Left is that the stimulus was a success.  Even a CBO report says that it had some success. From Factcheck.org:

As we have written before, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report in August that said the stimulus bill has “[l]owered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points” and “[i]ncreased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.”

Simply put, more people would be unemployed if not for the stimulus bill. The exact number of jobs created and saved is difficult to estimate, but nonpartisan economists say there’s no doubt that the number is positive.

But the key words are “created and saved.” Many of the jobs that received stimulus money were to maintain exisiting positions, not create new ones. Much of the money went to states to help prevent them from firing government workers. Not to mention, as the President himself said not too long ago, some of the shovel-ready jobs were “not so shovel-ready.” (Sidenote: he chuckled after cracking this joke. Looking at the cost of the stimulus, and how those shovel-ready projects were talked about ad nauseum to get the bill passed, its not very funny.) Again, in the end, for the section of the stimulus intended to create jobs and stimulate the economy, based on the unemployment rate since then, there was no multiplier effect.

So, with calls coming for another stimulus, we should be afraid.  Be very afraid.

The President and the False Blame Game

This article was brought to my attention by a friend of mine (shoutout to Kovarik Glasco, fellow Georgia Tech grad and fellow fan of the “Song of Ice and Fire” series).

There is a narrative that President Obama and many on the left engage in when discussing the economy.  Even two-plus years into the new presidency, the “blame Bush” technique is still used.  In this narrative, the picture painted shows runaway spending and runaway deficits during the Bush years.  And the main point he uses is that the year he entered office he inherited a deficit of nearly $1 trillion.

But in an article found on the Huffington Post, Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, shows how this narrative just isn’t true:

This is simply not true. In its budget projections from January 2008, the last set before the impact of the collapse of the housing bubble was clear, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected a deficit of just $198 billion for 2009. This is less than one-fifth of the “on track to top $1 trillion” figure that President Obama gave in his speech. This is a serious error. One trillion is a much bigger number than $198 billion.

This difference is central to the budget debate. People can argue that the $198 billion deficit projected for 2008 was too large. But it would be absurd to claim it was out of control or represented any remotely serious threat to the nation’s solvency. In fact, over the five years 2003-2007 the country’s debt to GDP ratio was virtually unchanged, meaning that the country could run deficits of the same size (relative to the economy) literally forever.

This changed with the recession caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. It was the recession, and the response to it, that pushed the deficit in 2009 from the $198 billion projected by CBO to the over $1 trillion noted by President Obama in his speech.

Further, Dick Morris explains where the President is getting his numbers from:

In 2008, George W. Bush ran a deficit of $485 billion. By the time the fiscal year started, on Oct. 1, 2008, it had gone up by another $100 billion due to increased recession-related spending and depressed revenues. So it was about $600 billion at the start of the fiscal crisis. That was the real Bush deficit.

But when the fiscal crisis hit, Bush had to pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in the final months of his presidency, which cost $700 billion. Under the federal budget rules, a loan and a grant are treated the same. So the $700 billion pushed the deficit — officially — up to $1.3 trillion. But not really. The $700 billion was a short-term loan. $500 billion of it has already been repaid.

So what was the real deficit Obama inherited? The $600 billion deficit Bush was running plus the $200 billion of TARP money that probably won’t be repaid (mainly AIG and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). That totals $800 billion. That was the real deficit Obama inherited.

Then … he added $300 billion in his stimulus package, bringing the deficit to $1.1 trillion. This $300 billion was, of course, totally qualitatively different from the TARP money in that it was spending, not lending. It would never be paid back. Once it was out the door, it was gone. Other spending and falling revenues due to the recession pushed the final numbers for Obama’s 2009 deficit up to $1.4 trillion.

One important note that both writers mentioned: the important thing being missed is JOBS. Job creation will create income earners, which will boost the economy and help revenues. This is what the debate in Washington should be all about.

Random Thoughts: Obama/Boehner Disrupting Prime Time, “Fair Share,” Political Garbage Speak, ect

Just some random thoughts:

Why did the President and the Speaker waste our prime time last night?  President Obama took his time to get in front of the mic and say the same things he has said in his press conferences the past few weeks.  He threw in some statements about negotiations, made some nice statements about Speaker Boehner, and made sure to trot out his tried-and-true, base-energizing catchphrases:  “corporate jet owners;” “millionaires and billionaires;” “breaks we don’t need” (paraphrased).  You pushed back the start of our 8 pm shows for this??  Even worse, I listened to Chris Matthews afterwards and heaven forbid, he said something I agree with; he said usually, Presidents only request prime time to make an announcement or to make news.  This speech was neither and shouldn’t have been done in prime time.  Write it down somewhere–I agreed with Chris Matthews!  Then, House Speaker Boehner jumps up with the canned response.  There are really only two things I pulled out of his speech:  1)he had a couple of zingers at Obama’s expense that were funny, and 2)Republicans are now going to position the President’s stance as wanting a “blank check” since he did not support their Cut, Cap, and Balance bill.  The election may be next year, but the game is already afoot.

Speaking of corporate jets:  First, if the tax break in question was eliminated, it would save a whopping $3 billion.  Over ten years.  Yes, ten.  Trillions in deficits and we’re talking $3 billion.  Second, Obama is responsible for the very tax break he criticizes.  See the stimulus bill for more details.  Third, he has people thinking these “corporate jet owners” are just average wealthy individuals with money to burn.  For the most part, based on the tax break, the owners of corporate jets tend to be…wait for it…CORPORATIONS!!  Way to muddy the issue for duh masses, Mr. President.

Did he really mention Reagan?:  Obama referred to Ronald Reagan in his speech in order to take a swipe at Republicans.  Reagan’s quote somewhat supported what the Left has been saying.  The irony is, I noticed Obama didn’t quote HIMSELF from 2006, when he was talking about how raising the ceiling was a failure in leadership.  Or what about Harry Reid, who  fought against a debt-celing increase that same year and asked  “How can (Repubicans) explain that they think it’s fair to force our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren tofinance this debt through higher taxes?”  Now THOSE are quotes that should’ve gotten some airtime.

If all else fails, let’s create some wealth and income envy:  My friends on the left need to own up to this.  Their belief in raising taxes creates a need to make the rest of America mad at the wealthy.  You can hear it when the President speaks of the previously mentioned corporate jet owners.  Or when he talks about tax breaks that high-earners “don’t need.”  You even get it when he speaks of the oil companies.  Lest we forget, Dems want to take a tax break away from the top 5 oil companies, since they are making so much money.  Absurdity, not only because we’re talking about a small amount of money ($21 billion over 10 years), but because it would then be a break that every company in America EXCEPT those 5 oil companies could take advantage of.  But hey, Big Oil is evil and they need to pay up!

Can someone define “fair share?”:  Sometime soon this will get its own post.  I’ve heard my friends and the President refer to fairness in various terms when it comes to taxes.  But I don’t understand what that means, since I’ve never heard it defined.  What is fair?  Based on the proportion of taxes paid, high-income earners pay a ton.  We hear about hedge fund managers paying less than their secretaries, but is it unfair that they take advantage of lawful tax deductions and such?  And do they really pay less than the secretary, or is that just another one of those garbage speak political catchphrases referred to earlier?  I would go with the latter.

A Nice Visual Explanation of How the Government Can “Cut” Spending…and Increase Spending at the Same Time

Been curious as to whether or not the government was really cutting spending in all these negotiations?  Wondered what “baseline spending” is?  Didn’t realize that all the crying about cutting programs for the poor is crap?  Check out this video.  You’ll never look at “spending cuts” the same again!

Let’s Put the “We Can’t Guarantee the Checks Will Go Out” Myth to Bed, Shall We?

Once more, with feeling!

If you haven’t heard, President Obama said he couldn’t guarantee that Social Security checks would go out on August 3rd, the day after the US is projected to go past the debt ceiling and somehow default on every debt under the sun.  While some of us recognize that even after that point, the money coming IN to the Social Security Administration will still be coming in, which means the money going OUT in terms of checks will still be going out, the scare tactic is being echoed by those on the left as though its a done deal that recipients (along with recipients of veterans benefits) won’t be getting their money.  How could the mean, rich-loving Republicans do that?

Then we find out that there is plenty of tax revenue to cover the benefits:

he Daily Treasury Statement for June 30—which any American, including the president, can look up on the U.S. Treasury Department’s website at this link—says the government took in $196.994 billion in revenue during the month.

The same statement says that the government paid out $50.719 billion in Social Security benefits in June, $4.196 billion in veterans’ benefits, and $2.961 billion for other Veteran Affairs department programs.

The combined $57.876 billion that the federal government paid out for Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits and other veterans programs during June equaled 29.4 percent of federal revenue for the month.

The only way the checks don’t get paid is if the government DECIDES not to send them out.  And we know who is in charge of the government in DC right now, no?

So, let’s do the math. The government had about $140 billion extra over what they paid out in benefits. And unless time stops, there is a very good chance the same thing could happen during July as well. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that there will be money to pay out those benefit checks, right?  Ding  Ding!  Ding!  We have a winner!  Now, go to the front of the line and get that Social Security check!

It will be waiting for you on August 3rd.

President Obama says “Hey! You Don’t Need That Money!”

Yesterday amongst my online pals, I was lamenting a new law that pushes for light bulbs to be more efficient, but in effect ends up pushing the masses to use more efficient but also more expensive and more hazardous CFC bulbs.  The focus of my complain was a statement from Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who said: “We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.”  Yes, we the masses would be lost if we didn’t have the government guiding our way.

Now, we have President Obama, who is currently trying to get a deal done to raise the debt limit.  During a press conference, he stated:

I don’t want a deal in which I am able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars that I don’t need, while a parent struggling to send her kid to college finds they have a couple thousand dollars less in grants and student loans.

For now, let’s move past the second part of the statement, where he invokes the time honored tradition of scare tactics. Let’s talk about the “need.”

On the surface, Mr. Obama is talking about himself not needing a tax break, and not needing money he considers to be extra money.  It’s quite humorous that he states this, since as President, he has everything taken care of.  But let’s go below the surface.  Obviously, his statement implicitly implies that the higher income earners should be happy to pay more in taxes because they don’t “need” the extra money they have in the bank.  Once again, here is the government to our rescue, to guide us!

Hey!  You’ve earned enough money!  It doesn’t matter what your plans are for you money, we the government have decided FOR you that you have more than you need!  Ignore that we are notorious for overspending!  Its your patriotic duty to pay up anytime we feel we need more money!

Oh, and let’s do revisit the second part of the statement, regarding grants and loans. We are in a dire financial situation.  Isn’t it a natural assumption that folks are going to feel the pain? And even if taxes go up, wouldn’t that money go to pay down the debt?  Evidently, even in a situation where cuts should be the priority, and paying down deficit and debt right behind that, the administration will find ways to either increase spending somewhere or attempt to keep things status quo.  Hello!  McFly!  Is that what Joe Public does when he needs to cut spending in his own household?

Just remember:  the government knows what’s best!

When Spending Cuts Aren’t Really Spending Cuts (or, “They Think We’re Stupid”)

In the ongoing battle between the parties to negotiate a debt-limit increase, there has been much talk of spending cuts.  Republicans are strongly taking a stand on cutting spending but no new taxes.  Democrats are open to spending cuts but are looking for ways to increase revenue to increasing taxes or cutting tax breaks.  But people won’t be surprised to know that both sides are choosing not to be up front with we the people.

When we the people look at a budget, we base it on what we have coming in at the time.  We then decide where we will spend those funds.  We won’t get into the notion that if we were out of money and needed more, if we did as the government does sometimes and print our own, we’d be hauled off to jail rather quickly.  In general, most people don’t have the luxury of just going out and getting loan after loan while continuing to spend above their means.

Not so with the government.

I got a call from a good friend of mine who was watching a show on CNBC.  He said a guy was on talking about how spending cuts weren’t spending cuts and how he’d remembered hearing it from me months ago.  You see, the government doesn’t operate the way normal people do.  Matter of fact, the government doesn’t even operate like a good company does.  And here is where they pull the wool over our eyes.  Let me explain using an example.

When Joe Public is doing a budget, he bases it off of how much he has coming in, and how much he as going out.  If he has more going out than coming in, he has no choice but to cut spending.  If he decides that he must make a spending cut, typically its going to result in him spending an amount less than what he is spending now.  So, where he may be spending $1,000 per month now, a budget cut may result in spending $950 per month next year.  That is a budget cut.

Now, the government doesn’t do that.  The government uses a nice little trick called baseline budgeting.  The government has already planned ahead as to what spending increases will be.  For example, while the budget for program A is $1,000 for 2011, they have already planned that in 2012 it will be $1,100, for 2013 it will be $1,200, and so on (sidenote:  the government tends to project increases in terms of percentages.  I’m using real numbers so I don’t have to use a calculator.).  So when there is talk of a spending cut, it is not like Joe Public, who takes his spending below what he was spending before.  Instead the government says, “well, instead of spending $1,100 in 2012, we’ll spend $1,050, and in 2013 we’ll spend $1,100.”  As you can see, overall spending still goes up, just not as fast.

This is why complaints about spending cuts have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Politicians will make things seem like a program is going to die due to budget cuts, but that is making the assumption that the reduced spending increase won’t be enough.  They also assume (correctly) that the majority of the people have no idea of how they are pulling the wool over their eyes.  If there is to be a serious, authentic discussion about spending cuts, then lets see some serious, authentic reductions in actual spending!

Good Reasons Why the GM Bailout Was Not a Good Thing

I came across an opinion piece that reminded me of the reasons why the GM bailout was not a good thing.  Shikha Dalmia explains why in an article at Reason.com called “Driving to Delusionville.” He mentions many reasons that have been stated before, but here is my favorite:

It gave Chrysler’s secured creditors, who would have had priority in a normal bankruptcy, 29 cents on the dollar. Chrysler’s unions, on the other hand, got more than 40 cents, even though they are equivalent to low-priority lenders. This made a mockery of longstanding bankruptcy law, something that will make credit markets wary of lending to political sacred cows in the future.

The administration favored union workers not only over creditors, but also other workers. All United Auto Workers retirees at Delphi, GM’s auto supplier, got 100 percent of their pension and retirement benefits. But 21,000 nonunion, salaried employees lost up to 70 percent of their pensions, and all of their life and health insurance. The Treasury could have covered 93 percent of the benefits of all employees for the same funds it spent on full union benefits, testified Bruce Gump, a representative of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association.

So, not only did the government meddle when it wasn’t necessary, they managed to make sure union workers (who tend to vote Democrat) got good deals, while pretty much sticking it to the non-union employees and creditors. I would love for someone (anyone!) to get the White House to explain why the unions should get special treatment. The way the non-union Delphi employees were treated is absurd and indefensible.

White House Disputes the Findings of Their Own Economic Advisors

Earlier I posted about how a group of economists picked by President Obama issued a report that showed the stimulus saved or created 2.4 million jobs at a cost of $278k per job.  Evidently the White House disagrees with those findings:

“That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job,” according to the Weekly Standard, a Washington, D.C.-based magazine. “In other words, the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the ‘stimulus,’ and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead.”

But the White House said that study is based on “partial information and false analysis.”

“The Recovery Act was more than a measure to create and save jobs; it was also an investment in American infrastructure, education and industries that are critical to America’s long-term success and investment in the economic future of America’s working families,” White House spokeswoman Liz Oxhorn said in a statement to FoxNews.com.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/07/05/white-house-disputes-study-saying-stimulus-cost-taxpayers-278000-per-job/#ixzz1RGDNjWuj

The story goes on to say that the WH points at a CBO report that says the number is closer to 3.6 million jobs, that the stimulus lowered unemployment, and helped spark economic growth. Republicans point out that unemployment is higher than it was, in addition to a substantial increase in the national debt. Still another person quoted says that there is no point in measuring effectiveness based on “cost per job.”

Whether or not the stimulus was effective will continue to be debated, it seems.

 

$278k Per Job “Created or Saved.” So the Stimulus Worked?

From Jeffrey H. Anderson at The Weekly Standard:

When the Obama administration releases a report on the Friday before a long weekend, it’s clearly not trying to draw attention to the report’s contents. Sure enough, the “Seventh Quarterly Report” on the economic impact of the “stimulus,” released on Friday, July 1, provides further evidence that President Obama’s economic “stimulus” did very little, if anything, to stimulate the economy, and a whole lot to stimulate the debt.

The report was written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the “stimulus” in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.

Wow.  Not very efficient, right? I would say that in corporate America, and you were running a company that was that inefficient, you’d get canned. When hiring an employee, there is the employee’s salary. Then, factor in another 30%-40% of the salary, which is what it costs the employer to train the new employee. Then, factor in another 20% of salary to account for benefits, social security, and other costs. Even if every employee accounted for in the stimulus numbers were new hires, and they were all paid $100,000 salaries, it STILL wouldn’t cost $278,000 to hire them. So one has to wonder why the cost was so high.

In the face of these numbers, as well as the fact that unemployment post-stimulus is higher than pre-stimulus, the argument made by Obama supporters that things were “worse than they thought” doesn’t justify the inefficient spending. Then again, I have to agree with Anderson–that maybe the stimulus would’ve worked better if the money had not been spent “mostly on Democratic constituencies rather than in a manner genuinely designed to stimulate the economy.”

 

Dems Want to End Oil Company Subsidies. Another Fight Over Chump Change

Oil companies, aka “Big Oil,” have been a constant target of the Left for as long as I can remember.  Oil companies don’t control the price of oil, and only make a couple of pennies off the sale of gas, but one would never know that from listening to the constant berating they receive.  Since most of us drive to get from A to B, we have to buy gas.  When oil prices go up, so do gas prices.  When this happens, SOMEBODY has to be the boogeyman.  Why not those mean, nasty Big Oil companies?  Any report of high profits must be attacked–in spite of the fact that the profit margins of the same oil companies tend to stay the same.  Not only that, but they don’t even rank in the top 10 in terms of profit margins, yet companies with far greater margins don’t get nearly the attention.  Its as though cheap gas is some type of right, not just a commodity.

Recent world events have sent the price of oil to major highs.  Subsequently, some of the larger oil companies had record profits to report.  Right on time, members of the Left were quick to start yelling about record profits, as well as government subsidies that oil companies receive.

Just to be clear (thank you, Pres. Obama.  I love that phrase!), in a time of high deficits, I’m in favor of major cuts in corporate subsidies.  We shouldn’t be borrowing money to fund ethanol (proven to be a waste of time), fund farms, ect.  If there is an argument to be made, argue for getting rid of all of them.

But that is not the argument being made.  Democrats in Congress are rallying to end corporate subsidies for the major oil companies.  They basically say the companies don’t need it, and the money can be used to lower the deficit.  I want to say amen but I find myself laughing at this.  Why?  Because just like with the budget negotiations, we have politicians making a huge deal over a relatively small amount of money.  The projected savings from ending just those subsidies is $21 billion over 10 years.  Yes, my fellow Americans, with trillion dollar deficits projected over that same time period, Democrats are yelling about what amounts to an average of $2.1 billion per year.

Is it a lot of money?  To us, yes.  As part of a multi-trillion dollar budget?  No.  This is nothing but a political ploy.  A game.  An attempt to lash out at those mean nasty oil companies.  Someone let me know when the games end and folks get serious.

Thoughts on Bin Laden: Credit, Sea Burials, and Other Randomness

Just some thoughts on the dispatching of Osama:

ATTABOY AWARDS

Let’s start by making sure credit for this is given to all the parties that deserve it.  First, I hope they make a movie about the SEAL team that got to go in and execute the plan.  It has all the parts of a good movie:  overall plot (kill the terrorist mastermind), buildup (years of searching and intelligence), suspense (one chopper lost on the ingress), action (fast roping on the roof, gunfight), and a happy ending.

Kudos also to everyone from top to bottom that was involved in the search.  that includes folks under Bush as well as the current folks under Obama.  The president was very classy in mentioning that the effort started under Bush, and also in calling him to let him know OBL was dead.

And yes, credit to Obama.  Though I give more credit to the folks below him, he gets credit not only for being the final go-no go decision maker, but for keeping good folks working for him in order to get this done.

LET’S NOT GIVE HIM A CAPE JUST YET

I’ve noticed that many of Obama’s supporters have gone beyond the simple idea of giving him credit for getting OBL.  Many are already running the victory lap for the 2012 election.  My friends, slow your roll.  There is a lot of time between now and election day.  And with gas prices going up, unemployment still around 10%, and other issues going on, getting rid of OBL is not enough to punch his ticket into term #2.

If all else fails, look at Bush I.  He had the whole world behind him as the US and its allies went in and kicked Saddam out of Kuwait and back to Baghdad.  But on inauguration day in 1993, the person sworn in was named Clinton, not Bush.

OBL BURIED AT SEA

Evidently, the body of Osama was buried at sea.  Per Muslim tradition, a person must be buried within 24 hours of death.  So nice of the US to go ahead and adhere to such.  The reasoning behind the move makes sense.  Finding a country to take OBL’s remains may have been tough, and on top of that, burying him at sea preventing OBL supporters from creating a shrine.

But lets just count how long it takes before the conspiracy theorists take this and run.  Was it faked?  Why not show everyone the actual body?  Is he really dead?

INTERESTING BITS OF INFO EMERGING

–OBL was given a chance to surrender.  He opted not to.  He caught a bullet in the left eye as a result.  In the left eye.  that’s some impressive shooting.

–Is someone going to try and convince me that authorities in Pakistan didn’t know OBL was living in the city in a massive mansion?  !t was located within sptting distance of the Pakistan Military Academy.  Yeah, right! 

–There was a plan to bomb the compound in March.  They were going to use two B-2 stealth bombers to drop a bunch of bombs on it.  But Obama didn’t sign off because there wouldn’t have been enough left to confirm OBL was dead.
Bottom line:  Osama Bin Laden is taking a dirt nap.  Good riddance.

Dear Birthers: The Horse is Dead. Stop Beating It.

When I posted a humorous line as my Facebook status for Easter (“I hear Birthers aren’t celebrating Easter. something about not seeing an authentic copy of his birth certificate…”), I figured my friends and I would share a good laugh and move on.  But of course, my friends who are somewhat in line with the Birther movement jumped in, prompting responses from the other side, and away we went.  I know I’ve posted about this before, but if Birthers must persist, then so should I.  Look at this as an appeal to reason.

Members of what has been labeled the “Birther” movement feel that President Obama was not born in Hawaii, but instead was born in Kenya.  They have offered no proof of this.  They maintain that he has not sufficiently proven that he was born in the US.  No matter what is said or shown, they insist on it.  But let’s give the evidence a look-see, shall we?

Birther’s once maintained that Obama’s grandmother said he was born in Kenya.  This would be a nail to hang their entire argument on.  Even Donald Trump mentioned this in an interview recently.  Unfortunately for Trump and Co., the story was debunked.  Not true.  Didn’t happen.

The biggest Birther argument as to do with Obama’s birth certificate.  For presidential election eligibility purposes. Obama submitted what is called in Hawaii (and many other states) a “Certificate of Live Birth.”  When a copy was made available for the naysayers, they scoffed.  “It can be faked!” they said.  But, my favorite opposition lines were “it’s not good enough–we want to see the long form!” and “its not the same as a Birth Certificate!”  Both of these arguments leave a lot of pertinent info out, most likely on purpose.

First of all, the Birthers purposefully ignore Hawaii law.  In Hawaii, when one requests a copy of their birth certificate, they do NOT get a copy of the original, long form birth certificate.  They get the “Certificate of Live Birth.”  It is a legal document carrying behind it the weight of the issuing state, and it has the necessary seal of authenticity.  Second, government officials in Hawaii have verified that there is an official long form birth certificate on file with the state of Hawaii.  Third, while people are saying that a person could simply walk into a hospital with an already-born baby and get a COLB, there is no proof that this is what happened when Obama was born.

Oh, did I forget to mention the dual birth announcements in the news papers right after he was born?

Birthers won’t accept the notion that in order for their version of events to be true, there would need to be a major conspiracy put together, involving a birth in another country, a very long flight to Hawaii, and convincing state officials, a hospital, and the news papers that Obama was born in Hawaii.  Who would want to go through that much trouble?  And on top of all else, since Obama’s mother was an American citizen, it didn’t matter WHERE he was born!  Her US citizenship made HIM a US citizen.  Period.

Birthers are being allowed to drive this discussion.  The proof is out there that shows that Obama was born in the US.  The question is, why isn’t it on the Birthers to provide evidence that he wasn’t?  Just like in a court trial, let’s see what they have and let the jury decide.

I suspect the verdict would be unanimous.

Forget Picking Winners in the Budget Fiasco; We All Lose in the End

Unofficial seal of the United States Congress

Image via Wikipedia

After the absurd theater that was the “oh-my-god-the-government-will-shut-down” nonsense of last week, many news sites were picking “winners” and “losers.”  Frankly, the loser in all of this is clear–the American People.  If it takes this much effort to get Congress to cut a few billion dollars from a 3-plus trillion dollar deficit, what happens going forward, with expected trillion-dollar deficits for the next ten years?

Contrary to the posturing being done by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama, Democrats came out on the losing end of the battle.  At least temporarily (since success can be fleeting in politics), many Americans scratched their heads as Democrats dug in and fought against budget cuts that make up less than one percent of the total budget.  One looks silly fighting to hold on to every penny when nearly everyone knows that the level of debt we are piling up as a country is unsustainable and a threat to national security.

Wait.  I digress.  Based on the number of people who actually supported the Dems position in all of this, either “nearly everyone” is far from accurate, or there are a lot of people in denial.  They are convinced the way to fix this is to maintain the spending and only increase taxes.  But that’s a different story.

Since we’re talking budgets, and in Washington, its always about the baseline, let’s look at the baseline of the budget battle.  If Democrats had passed a budget back in 2010, while controlling Congress and the White House, none of this would’ve happened.  It was the first time in many years that there was no budget submitted.  Even worse, the fact that the Dems punted in June of 2010 in order to go into butt-covering mode for the upcoming elections seems to have been swept under the rug.  I’m very surprised some person within the Democrat machine didn’t point out that if they didn’t get it done, it could possibly be out of their hands in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Tea Party, whose focus is and always has been spending cuts (don’t be fooled by accusations to the contrary), powered an election that sent new people to Congress with the mission of reigning in spending.  I’ve actually gotten a kick out of watching how people who were quick to defend the ramming through of Obamacare by saying “that’s what we elected them to do” turn around and actually criticize members of Congress for being beholden to the Tea Party!  It’s more important to demonize the TP than to recognize that their criticism of spending is legit.

But back to the budget fight.  Republicans aren’t without criticism here.  This was no time to inject social issues into the fray.  A fight over funding for Planned Parenthood had no business occupying time and space in this.  Or did it?  One analysis of the battle said the Democrats fell for the okey-doke in that regard; that really, defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t really the big priority that Democrats thought it was, and when they agreed to give up something in return for a dropping of that issue by Republicans, they were suckered.  Further, as part of the final agreement, Obama and Reid agreed to allow a debate and vote on defunding PP to be brought up in the Senate.  Still, any future fight over defunding Planned Parenthood just because they are an abortion provider is a waste.

There is one upside to the way the deal went down.  Democrats hoped to achieve cuts by simply delaying some projects (which did happen) and/or freezing funding for certain programs and refunding them in the next budget.  Republicans didn’t play ball.   Instead, many programs were terminated in order to get to the nearly $40 billion in cuts.  For the other programs with reduced budgets, they have a new baseline to start from in the 2012 budget.  In other words, even if there is a programmed funding increase, they will still spend less going forward.  This serves to reduce the monsterous deficits already projected for the next 5-10 years out.

So, after all of that, why do I say we all lose?  Because this bears repeating:  we nearly had a government shutdown over cuts amounting to less than 2% of the overall budget!  So much hinged on so little.  In order for the country to win, spending has to come down.   Is that so hard to understand?

On Libya and US Foreign Policy

I may have addressed this before, but at the risk of being repetitive, I have to question the rhyme or reason behind the US getting involved in Libya.  Further, I have to look at it from a different view–if we are going in there to help with regime change, or prevent a leader from killing his own people, how do we decide which places to stick our noses in and which ones to ignore?

President Obama publicly rebuked Libya leader Mommar Quaddfi, saying that the US and its allies would get involved in Libya to stop the killng that was going on there.  On the surface, such actions are noble.  who doesn’t want to see an end to slaughter and bloodshed by a tyrannical dictator?  But the issue is a complex one.  If we are going to take this stance on Libya, why not on other countries?  There have been hundreds of thousands killed in Darfur.  The people in Iran tried to rise up and got squashed.  There are numerous countries in the Middle East where the citizens are currently protesting their government.

Of the situations mentioned, there is no plan for intervention from the US or otherwise.

So the question becomes, under what grounds do we decide to jump in?  Does the situation have to be 100% winnable?  Only under NATO approval?  Only when invited by the Arab League?

Someone somewhere needs to spell this out.

Becoming President Can Make You Hypocritical

We’ve seen it many times. Candidate runs for President and says “I will do A, B, and certainly C.”  They then get into office…and suddenly, a few of those promises are conveniently forgotten.  With the recent actions in Libya, President Obama has joined the club.

First, a few quotes from then-Senator Obama about the US and military actions:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

Then-State Senator Obama on why the US shouldn’t go into Iraq, circa 2002:

“I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity … But … Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors …”

Fast forward to 2011. Quaddafi is no threat to the US. They only produce 2 percent of the world’s oil. But not only are we participating in Operation Odyssey Dawn against Libya, we did so without Congressional advice and consent. A complete 180-degree turn on both counts, no?

Links:
“Q and A with Presidential Candidate Obama”

“From Iraq to Libya, Obama Becomes a Hypocrite”

Obama Under Impeachment Threat–From His Own Party?!

Just a quick hit, from Politico, where it seems President Obama’s actions in Libya have have ticked off his own party members:

A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, with one lawmaker raising the prospect of impeachment during a Democratic Caucus conference call on Saturday.

Further, Rep. Dennis Kucinich brought up the “i” word:

Kucinich, who wanted to bring impeachment articles against both former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over Iraq — only to be blocked by his own leadership — asked why the U.S. missile strikes aren’t impeachable offenses.

Now, Kucinich has come up with some off-the-wall things in the past, and this is no different. But to me, this just goes to show that as Obama not only tacks to the center in terms of policy, and also becomes more agressive militarily, he risks having his own party mates turning against him. Time will tell.

Links:

Liberal Democrats in uproar over Libya action

See, It’s Not Just the “Tax Cuts for the Wealthy” That Are Adding to the Deficit!

As mentioned here before, arguments complaining about how the “tax cuts for the rich” are unpaid for and adding to the deficit is disingenuous without an accompanying argument about the similarly “unpaid for” tax rate cuts for everybody else–which cost three times as much.  Somehow, no one wants to talk about that.

Today the CBO released an analysis of President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal.  According to the analysis, while the Obama administration predicted $7.2 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years, the CBO stated that the number is more like $9.5  trillion.

Nine-point-five.  Trillion.  With a “T.”

But what also jumped out of the analysis is that the CBO predicts that tax rate cuts for the middle class will be made permanent–and the cost of that cut is going to help increase the deficit:

CBO said the biggest reasons for the deficits, compared to the status quo, are the permanent extension of the Bush-era tax rates for the middle class and changes to the Alternative Minimum Tax that Obama favors in this budget. As a result of the tax policy, there is a $2.7 trillion net increase in the deficit over the next 10 years.

There you have it, folks. criticizing the rich may be en vogue, but if there is to be honesty in this, all tax rate cuts must be discussed.

And then, rolled back.

“The president…is most likely the beast spoken of in the Revelation.”

If there is something that has bipartisan agreement, then it’s this:  the Westboro Baptist clan is crazier than Charles Manson and his group of followers ever was.  This group of…Christians (so they say, but who am I to judge?) goes around protesting at the funerals of fallen soldiers, spreading their “God hates gays” message to the masses.  The Church has approximately 50 members, and I think that in their eyes, there will only be 50 people in Heaven after the Rapture.

Fresh off of a Supreme Court win that affirmed their free speech protections, one would figure they would be quite appreciative to the Supreme Court justices.

Not so fast! Evidently, they are all destined for the fiery pits of Hell. But they won’t be alone:

“So the justices are going to hell? The president is going to hell?” asked Fox host Chris Wallace.

“Absolutely on the president,” Margie Phelps replied. “The president is going to be king of the world before this is all said and done, and he is most likely the beast spoken of in the Revelation.”

Yep. I guess now we know why President Obama’s hair is turning gray. It’s to cover up the “666” stamped somewhere in his hairline.

Read the story here: “Westboro Attorney: Obama, Justices Going to Hell”

Georgia Politicians Back off of Birther-inspired Bill

Either they got cold feet, or they realized they were getting laughed at by most of the country, but the bill in the Georgia Legislature to require proof of a presidential candidate’s citizenship seems to be losing sponsors:

When state Rep. Mark Hatfield, R-Waycross, dropped his bill to require next year presidential candidates to provide hard proof of their birth on U.S. soil, the paperwork contained the signatures of 93 of his House colleagues – 92 of them Republican.

Word of House Speaker David Ralston’s coolness toward the legislation spread through the Capitol on Wednesday. Those concerned with the Port of Savannah made their opinions known.

The article and an image of the bill with names of the former sponsors scratched out can be found here.

Is there ANY proof that Birthers will accept?

After hearing about a bill in the Georgia Legislature to require citizenship proof for a presidential candidate (which we all know is an effort to keep Obama off the 2012 ballot), I had to scratch my head.  What’s with these people??  Do they not realize how dumb they come off?  Anyway, soon after, I heard someone call into a radio show and ask a question that shuts the entire Birther argument down:  if Obama’s mom was an American citizen, doesn’t that make Obama an American citizen?”

Game.  Set.  Match.  If she was a citizen, it doesn’t matter WHERE she gave birth.  He’s a citizen.

Anyway, since Google is my friend, I did a little looking and came across what is (in addition to the info above) the ultimate “shut up, Birthers!” argument.  Never mind that they can’t prove their own argument (notice they always ask Obama for proof instead of offering up their own proof).  The article lays out every main argument by birthers– then shoots them down one by one:

Based on this working understanding of U.S. citizenship, three things have become obvious to me:

1. Those promoting the Birther fiction don’t have the first clue about almost anything having to do with how American citizenship really works.
2. Given that Dr. Orly Taitz (one of the main poo-stirrers spinning the fan in this fracas) is herself both an immigrant and a licensed member of the California bar, she should presumably know this stuff cold. But the national case that she’s built almost entirely on spurious legal fictions is one of incompetence.
3. The Google’s been around for over a decade now, but nobody on the right seems to have figured out how to use it yet. You can find confirmation for most of what I’m about to tell you in about 0.86 seconds, assuming you can type and spell and think well enough to concoct a basic search string. Apparently, nobody in Birtherland has that level of skill.

Link: Firing Back on the Birthers: Where’s Their Evidence?

Georgia Legislature Considering Bill to Require Proof of Citizenship

Republicans won’t pass a bill to allow Sunday alcohol sales, but evidently, verifying a candidate’s citizenship is much more important!

Georgia has become the 10th state to require proof of citizenship for a presidential candidate before they are allowed to be put on the ballot:

Even though Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed Obama’s citizenship, his birth certificate has been made public and courts have rebuffed challenges, the so-called ”birther” issue hasn’t gone away.

Georgia Rep. Mark Hatfield, a Republican, said he still doesn’t know if Obama is eligible to serve as president, and 92 of his GOP colleagues and one Democrat support the bill introduced Monday.

”Most people feel it’s an issue to a significant enough portion of our population that it needs to be addressed by the state,” Hatfield said. ”It is, in a sense, a response to … the sitting president and his inability or unwillingness to release his original birth certificate.”

Lets be clear. This is nothing but playing politics. Somehow, these folks don’t realize how stupid they look. If there is anything about this that is shocking, its that one of the sponsors is a Democrat.
Need proof that Georgia deserves the bottom ranking for education in the US? Just look at our politicians.

White House sparks controversy over Defense of Marriage Act–and I’m Torn

In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed states that did not allow gay marriage to refuse to honor such marriages done in other states.  On Wednesday, the White House sparked some major controversy when Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Department of Justice would stop defending DOMA:

President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has since 1996 allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex partnerships legally recognized in other states.

The announcement was made in a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to congressional leaders in relation to two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, which challenge a section of DOMA that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between one man and one woman.

President Obama believes that section – Section 3 — “is unconstitutional” given the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment (including its equal protection component), Holder wrote, and the president has instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend the law in those two lawsuits.

Here is where I am torn. On the one hand, I have an issue with the AG saying they are not going to defend a law just based on the President deciding its unconstitutional. That’s for the courts to decide. Per the article, a judge did rule it unconstitutional in 2010, but I don’t think that one judge is able to stop the enforcement of the law. If a sitting president can make such decisions, then it makes laws moot. What other laws could a president decide was unconstitutional?
On the other hand, I must confess–I don’t support DOMA. Contrary to the belief of many, traditional man-woman marriage is not under threat from the prospect of same-sex marriage. I have yet to see how allowing gays to marry (or civil unionize) has had a negative effect on marriage. It puzzles me that many on the right advocate for the government to stay out of folks’ personal business–then want the government to “protect” marriage.
So, as much as I would love to say “right on, mister prez!” my respect for the law says “not so fast.”

If Andy Stern’s ideas came true, I might become a union fan

In a Washington Post article/interview, columnist Ezra Klein interviews Andy Stern, former head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  I’ve heard a number of things he has said in the past that did nothing to pull me over to the pro-union side.  However, in the interview, he mentions a number of things that would actually think twice about my stance if they were status quo in America.  the article can be read here but here are a few quotes that jumped out at me.
On a “collaborative process:”

We have this anti-employer, they’re going to kill us we need to kill them first, mentality. We’ve done a very bad job, for instance, making alliances with small businesses.

We need an ideology based around working with employers to build skills in our workers, to train them for success. That message and approach can attract different people than the “we need to stand up for the working class!” approach. That approach is about conflict, and a lot of people don’t want more conflict.

On working together with employers:

We’ve never, as a union movement, promoted partnerships with employers where we talk about how to share in success and in skills and training. You say those things in the labor movement and they go over well with workers and employers and badly with activists. To the activists, this is sell-out language.

On the Democrat Party and unions:

The forces that don’t like unions there have largely finished with us. And now they’re moving to the public sector. But part of this story is that the Democratic Party hasn’t embraced unions in the last 20 years. Republicans understood unions as an ally of the Democratic Party. But unions couldn’t get Democrats to embrace unions as a response. They made the argument that making more union members was how you make more Democrats, and that argument is true, but they couldn’t get the Democratic Party to really embrace that theory.

The rest of the interview and the questions asked can be read here: “Andy Stern: ‘It may not end beautifully in Wisconsin.'”

So Much for Transparency…

One of the pledges made by then-Senator Obama on the campaign trail was a new era of unprecedented transparency.  And in some ways, he has kept that promise.  But a recent article puts a dark mark on that record:

Caught between their boss’ anti-lobbyist rhetoric and the reality of governing, President Barack Obama’s aides often steer meetings with lobbyists to a complex just off the White House grounds — and several of the lobbyists involved say they believe the choice of venue is no accident.

It allows the Obama administration to keep these lobbyist meetings shielded from public view — and out of Secret Service logs kept on visitors to the White House and later released to the public.

Read more: Lobbyists: White House sends meetings off-site to hide them

Revisiting the notion that only the Right does hateful rhetoric

As the protesters in Wisconsin are happy to show (and as I have been saying for a while now), the left is perfectly capable of the hateful rhetoric that supposedly is exclusive to the right.  Yes, the video is from the Wisconsin GOP (for those who care), but the evidence is clear.

Never thought i’d see it: Dems accusing Repubs of cutting too much defense spending!

Usually, Dems will yell at the right for never cutting defense spending. But in an interesting move, the shoe is on the other foot.

Since there is no official budget in place, the government is being funded through continuing resolutions–in short, declarations that say the government will continue to be funded at current levels temporarily. In the latest offering, republicans have suggested a number of deep spending cuts, including to the department of defense. But the president isn’t having it, saying he will veto the GOP spending measure:

“The statement said the GOP proposal goes too far and proposes cuts that would sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation, and would reduce funding for the Department of Defense to a level that would leave the department without the resources and flexibility needed to meet vital military requirements.”

Expect this drama to drag on for a while.

DNC picks Charlotte for 1012 convention, and supporters are not happy

Recently, the Democratic National Committee announced that their 2012 convention–where we presume that President Obama will be nominated as the Dem presidential candidate unopposed–will be held in Florida.  This decision has many on the left quite upset.  Why?  Well, its no secret that unions have a lot of sway and influence with the party, but it turns out, North Carolina is the least union state in the country:

North Carolina has another distinction: it’s the least union state in the country, with just 3.2% of its workers belonging to a union (coming behind even Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi). And the DNC’s host city of Charlotte has exactly 0 (zero) union hotels in which the 15,000+ visitors will stay for the convention. Finally, the host venue in Charlotte, the Time Warner Cable Arena, does not appear to have any union workers. (I called the arena; the operator laughed at the notion that employees would be union members, and a press contact hasn’t replied yet.)

I’m actually impressed. Both sides of the aisle have their “special interest groups” that they kneel to, and Dems definitely bow at the altar of the unions. So to see this happen is a surprise. However, I predict that between now and convention time, Dems and the unions will find a way to inject themselves into the situation one way or another.

Article here:DNC’s Union-Free 2012 Convention

Another ruling against the healthcare bill

As has been widely reported, U. S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled on Monday that the requirement to make individuals purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. Not only did he rule against that provision, he ruled against the entire law:

“I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit,” Vinson wrote.

As expected, the White House announced they would appeal. But what does this mean for the law?
Republicans announced right after the bill was passed that they would do whatever they could to repeal it. The House has already voted to repeal, and conservatives believe they can use procedural techniques to force a repeal vote in the Democrat-held Senate. But somewhere, Dems are nervous. While there have been two judges that upheld the new law, and now two that have ruled against, it’s highly likely the argument will not be settled until reaching the Supremes. Currently, the court leans conservatively, with no change in sight. This would seem to bode well for the right and not so well for the left–though stranger things have happened in regards to the court and their judgements (look up “Kelo” and “imminent domain“).

What to expect from the State of the Union speech

Well, we’ve come to that time of the year again where we get to hear the pleasant present state of our Union. A quick history:

Seal of the President of the United States

Image via Wikipedia

  • The first SOTU address was by George Washington on January 8, 1791 in NYC.
  • Thomas Jefferson started mailing it in in 1801.  Literally.  He began th e practic e of writing the speech and having it read to Congress by a clerk.
  • Woodrow Wilson restarted the read-in-person tradition in 1913.

So, what can we expect this evening from President Obama?  Well, one would have to assume (and hope) that the most important topic of discussion will be jobs and the economy.  No doubt he will say that the previous stimulus was a success (though there is a lot of debate about that), and maybe even mention again that if not for that, the unemployment rate would be worse.  But I’m sure there will be some discussion of bipartisan efforts to get the economy really moving.

We should also hear something about debt reduction.  This will be a tricky area for the President and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t address it at all.  The response to the report from his Debt Commission was predictable–Republicans were upset about talk of tax increases and cuts to defense, while Democrats were opposed to spending cuts and eliminating tax deductions, not to mention making changes to Social Security (even though those changes would kick in around the time today’s 4 year olds will draw retirement).  If he steps up and emphasizes that people will need to buck up and take the pain, I’ll definitely give him props.  Especially since the bulk of the criticism would come from his own party, still mad at him for caving to Republicans on the extension of the Bush tax rates and on cutting payroll taxes.

With the recent shootings in Arizona, President Obama will definitely spend some time addressing the tone of rhetoric in the political sphere.  He will probably avoid pointing fingers at one party or another, but the topic can’t be ignored.  The aide to Gabby Giffords who helped save her life is supposed to be there so expect that to be one of the bipartisan applause moments.

Speaking of bipartisan, many members of Congress, in an effort to show unity, are crossing the aisles to mix with members of the opposing party.  Some are simply sitting with members of their own state’s delegation, while others are reaching out to colleagues they have known for years.  It will be an interesting visual, especially during those times during the speech when the President tends to make a comment that one party (or the other) stands and applauds.

So, lets get the popcorn ready.

This picture is priceless!

Chinese president Hu Jintao is on an official visit to Washington this week. While they were giving a joint press conference, this picture was taken:

There are so many possible captions for this one, I don’t know where to start.  President Obama looks like he is about to backhand President Hu for talking about his mom or something!

Obama can’t win for losing

Last night, the President announced a compromise on tax rate cut extensions and unemployment benefits.  He threw in a few other pieces (including a Social Securit

Barack in Cedar Rapids, IA 10/29/07

Image by Barack Obama via Flickr

y rate cut) and implored his party to come on board.

It seems he’s not getting the love.

Members of the right are furious.  For them, its not enough to get the desired tax rate cut extensions and an extension of unemployment benefits.  In their eyes, Obama has sold out for agreeing to extend the tax rate cuts for “millionaires and billionaires.”  Add that to how he increased troops in Afghanistan and hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay yet, and he has some liberals apoplectic.  Searching Google for “liberals furious with Obama” brings up a ton of links that popped up in less than 24 hours, all at various levels of ticked off-ness and disbelief.  Comments range from “fight harder” to “Obama got rolled” to “Obama caved so hard it scared the bats!” (the last one from the Huffington Post).  It will be interesting to see the intraparty fight that will follow in the coming days.

Debt reduction: Andy Stern wants MORE taxes!

Who is Andy Stern?

Andy Stern is one of the people President Obama appointed to the Debt Reduction commission.  In the final vote, Stern voted no.  But this shouldn’t be surprising.  Stern is the past president of the Service Employees International Union (if you didn’t know unions are one of Obama’s favorite special interests, now you know).  His take on the plan?  from the NY Post:

“This is the issue of our time that must be solved,” said labor leader Andy Stern, who nonetheless voted “no” because he favored fewer spending cuts and more tax increases.
Unfortunately (and my left-leaning friends can’t deny this), it is a trait of the left that the answer to all revenue problems is to increase taxes.  Nevermind that there is proof from history that lowering taxes raises revenue in many cases.  The further problem is, even if the tax revenues did increase from higher tax rates, history has shown that often, the Democrat way is to increase spending instead of cutting spending.
As for Stern, do a search on him and the SIEU.  He didn’t leave the union in the best shape financially, so one has to wonder how he ended up on the commission.  Then again, he is one of the most frequent visitors to the White House…

At this rate, we’ll NEVER fix the issues

Today is the final vote on recommendations from Obama’s deficit panel.  For those who missed it, President Obama put together a bipartisan panel of 18 appointees, tasked with producing solutions for debt reduction.  The commission did its job, recommending multiple ideas that, if enacted, would help move the country towards fiscal stability.

As expected, the response was chilly at best.  Folks on both sides took the expected approach–“we need cuts, but don’t cut programs that I support!”  Republicans didn’t like the idea of tax increases on gas.  Democrats didn’t like the notion of raising the retirement age or lower tax rates.  Neither side wanted to sign on to doing away with popular tax breaks (even though lowering tax rates would offset it).

So, unless there is some sanity injected into things, we will continue on the rocky road to fiscal disaster.

QuickHit: very good article about tax cuts and small businesses

today on Yahoo, there is a very good fact checking article about tax cuts and small businesses. As is usually the case, both parties are bending numbers to make their argument look better, but the truth is in the middle:
FACT CHECK: Small business caught in tax battle

The left says the GM bailout is a success. The right disagrees. Who is correct?

Logo of General Motors Corporation. Source: 20...

Image via Wikipedia

This week, GM launched an IPO, moving forward in a turnaround that many thought unlikely a few years ago.  Just a couple of years ago, GM was losing a ton of money, closing dealerships, and about to go into serious bankruptcy.  Bush 43 began the bailout process with over $17 billion in loans.  Obama and Co continued the bailout, but with a caveat that many still consider controversial to say the least:  the United Auto Workers came out with a larger stake in GM than the shareholders and bondholders, even though the amount GM owed the union was less than that owed to the shareholders.  Many feel that letting GM go into bankruptcy and emerge leaner and profitable would’ve been better and allowed the pain to be shared more equally.  Many also felt that allowing the unions to end up with a larger share that seemed out of proportion was an obvious example of the Dems giving special treatment to their union supporters.

Sidenote:  many of the left leaning sources that are celebrating the IPO are saying the company would’ve died without the bailout.  This isn’t necessarily true.  A large number of companies that go into bankruptcy eventually come out.

So my good friend Ocie asked me this morning:  “GM IPO, we’re making American cars, people are employed, was the $50B bailout of GM worth it?”  My immediate answer to him was that it would be worth it once the US breaks even on its investment at least (the US Treasury owns a 33-35% stake in GM, that it took instead of money payback).  Having thought more about it, I would say that it has its positives and negatives.  I agree jobs were saved, but there is no guarantee jobs would not have been saved via bankruptcy.  I will say that bankruptcy may have had more of a negative impact “down the line,” as in the vendors that do business with GM.  But it can’t be denied that politics played a part in the end result–the union ended up with a larger stake than stock and bond holders.  And it will be years before the US is fully divested and paid back on their “investment.”

So let’s declare that it was worth it, but should’ve been done differently.

Tax cuts, small businesses, and the $250k line

During the long drawn out battle regarding the Bush Tax cuts.  Democrats have drawn the line at $200k/yr for individuals and $250k/yr for families as the dividing line between those who should get permanent tax cuts and those who shouldn’t.  The main argument is that the $700 billion in lost revenue over the next 10 years is unaffordable.  Republicans counter that not only should there be no tax increases in these economic times, lots of small businesses will be negatively affected.  Of course, the truth (as I see it, of course) is somewhere in the middle.

A logical approach would be to extend them all temporarily (give it a year or 2), then let them expire.  Now, people are right now saying I’m crazy.  But if we’re going to be for real about getting the deficit under control, that should be option 1 on the table.  Republicans like to say “no tax increases” but there has to be a middle ground where folks aren’t overtaxed and the government is getting more revenue.  If anything, add a new bracket for folks making a million per year or more.  Either way, its illogical to completely remove the idea of a tax increase of some kind to combat spending.

Democrats, on the other hand, have established $250k as the line in the sand.  Mind you, no one has any idea why this number is the magic number.  But as Dems often do, it becomes an emotional issue.  That approach started from the beginning, when the tax cuts were enacted.  Despite the easily researchable facts that the cuts actually removed a number of lower income taxpayers from the tax rolls, reduced the lowest tax rate, and shifted the overall tax burden to the highest income levels (look it up), the cuts have often been referred to as “tax cuts for the rich” simply based on the sheer amount that an upper income earner got to keep (not “was given to them” as is often used as yet another argument).  What’s often heard is that folks making that much money either “don’t need a cut” or “won’t spend it.”  Or, that they cost too much.  I usually wonder how it can be said that the estimated $700 billion over 10 years is considered unaffordable, when the rest of the cuts are estimated to cost over $2 billion over the same time.   This is why if anything should be done, ALL should be rolled back.

I predict that the White House will give in to all cuts being renewed for 2 years in order to avoid all of them expiring on 12/31/10, which would be a political disaster.

Quack! Quack! The Lame Ducks are here! What to watch for.

No, I’m not talking about all those Canadian Geese that are blocking traffic and crapping all over your lawn.  I’m referring to the “Lame Duck” session of congress.  For the uninitiated, the term refers to the congressional session between the elections and the beginning of the new congressional term, when many of the members of congress are simply biding their time before they are shown the door and replaced.  It’s a time where lots of shenanigans can occur; if you’ve been voted out and you only have a few weeks to “live,” you can vote on some things with no concern as to how it will affect you.

In this case, congressional democrats originally had lots of plans for the session.  Unfortunately, November 2 hit like a category 5 hurricane and messed up their plans.  But no worries, there will be fireworks.  Here is a sample of what to watch for:

  • The biggest issue to be resolved will be the extension (or not) of the Bush Tax Cuts.  Republicans want all of them made permanent.  Democrats want to draw the line at people making $200k/$250k individual/family.  There is talk of a 2 year extension of all cuts, but Obama and Pelosi are holding firm that they want no compromise.  Another compromise by Senator Chuck Shumer (D-NY) popped up over the weekend.  We will see if anyone pays attention.
  • The estate tax, aka the “death tax,” if not addressed, will go from 0% back to its original level of 55%.
  • Funding of the government is currently done via a temporary spending bill.  Congress will have to put in place a new spending bill for the year.  Should be a simple thing, right?  No.  Dems are refusing to accept a Repub proposal to hold spending at 2008 levels to reduce spending.

Other things that may come up include “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (which needs to go), the DREAM Act (a little too soon and too controversial right now), and the Alternative Minimum Tax, which could hit a lot more people if nothing is done.

Politicians aren’t serious about fixing problems

President Obama has installed a Debt Commission in order to come up with ways to reduce the deficit.  The report of the commission is due in December.  Everyone knows going into this that there will be some hard decisions that will have to be made, and not everyone is going to be happy.

Wednesday, an initial copy of the Commission’s report was released.  In it they suggested many ways to get the deficit down.  Among them:

As expected, folks on both sides have gone nuts.  The idea is, yes cut the money–but not for the folks that I support!

I’ve linked to a breakdown, as done by radio host Neal Boortz.  Some don’t like him, but read it anyway, since he breaks down each of the suggestions:
Let the Games Begin.
As mentioned, the negative responses weren’t slow in coming:
Response to deficit plan–tepid to “unacceptable”.
They just aren’t serious about fixing things.

Flashback to 2008 and the Democratic Party wave

While reading an article from 2008 that discussed the victories of the Democrats during that election cycle,  one thing really jumped off the screen:

Nearly two-thirds of those polled after they cast their ballots called the economy the most important issue facing the country — the most single-minded electorate in two decades of exit polling.

So much of the country puts the economy as the number one priority. So what do the Dems do? Ram through a stimulus package that was inefficient and then spent months on health insurance reform. In other words, the recent loss shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. And its not so much that the American voters were fickle as it was that the American voters spoke–but the Dems didn’t listen.
From 2008, In congress, a Democratic Wave.

QuickHit: Show me REAL Healthcare Reform

People are thinking that Republicans have a snowball’s chance in Hades of repealing the so-called Health Care Reform bill.  That’s a waste of time.  You know what would impress me?  If they turn around and say that they are going to create legislation to provide REAL healthcare reform.  Reform that addresses what the previous bill should’ve addressed–the rising costs of health care.  Every year, the costs of getting medical care goes up.  Ladies and Gentlemen, THAT is the main reason the cost of health insurance goes up every year.  So let’s see if someone comes up with a way to address that.

“Bush Screwed the Working and Middle Class.” How?

I was in a discussion where someone stated “Bush screwed the middle and working class.”  My reply was to ask exactly how he screwed them.  We then got into a discussion about corporations, tax breaks, and outsourcing.  But it really made me wonder:  do people know the difference between when something the government does puts them in a bad situation, vs when they themselves do it?  When they hear that a policy or program is bad, or doesn’t benefit them, do they actually do the research to find out why?  Or do they simply believe what they hear and don’t research for themselves?

Its apparent that many people don’t bother to find things out for themselves.  We are a nation of people who tend to enjoy being led around by the nose, trusting others to tell us what we need to know instead of finding out for ourselves.

In the end, I didn’t get an answer as to how Bush screwed the working and middle class.  I’m sure someone has an example.