Tag Archives: President Obama

Okay, Let’s Talk About Jobs

Well, as I mentioned in my last post Bank of America is planning to lay-off thirty thousand employees over the next couple of years. This news was announced with stunning irony, on the same day that President Obama sent his recently announced “American Jobs Act” to Congress. So, the talk in politics is all about jobs. What can Congress, or the President really do to create jobs in this country? The answer is. . . not much.

All the talk is about the record of job creation a person has. Rick Perry is touting the economic success “he’s had” in Texas. Mitt Romney is taking shots at him about it, and all the Republicans are blaming President Obama for the economy. John Boehner gave a speech today in Detroit basically outlining the fact that congressional Republicans aren’t going to work with the President. Unless, of course, he does whatever they want. Their ideas are the same tired ideas they’ve had for years, but I will deal with that later.

There is an idea that is more broad and it needs addressed. The American public has a huge misconception about the role of government in the economy. We talk about a President’s record of creating job, but the truth is that president’s don’t create jobs. Unless, they require the government to hire more people. George W. Bush, for example, created the job of Secretary of Homeland Security. President’s can only provide incentives, like tax credits and tax cuts, for employers to hire more people, but that won’t work.

Take a look at it this way. I’m CEO of the Worldwide Widget Corporation, J. Pierpont Finch. We sell two million widgets a year that are produced in two factories employing 100 people. The accountants come to me and say if we build a new factory and hire 50 more people, we’ll get a tax credit. What would you do? If your smart you’d go to the sales team and ask, “If we build a new factory how many more widgets can we sell?” If they say there is no more demand for widgets, you would be crazy to spend the money on a factory and employees that you don’t need. You would be throwing money away. Yes, the government is going to reimburse you for some of it but then your stuck with a factory that is a drain on your profit.

Now, if the sales team comes to you and says, “If we build a factory and hire some people we can sell one million more widgets and our profit will grow 50%.” What would you do? You’d build the factory, and I bet you would do it even if you weren’t getting a tax credit. You’d build it because it is good for Worldwide Widgets.

The President and Congress have no actual role in that decision. Only one thing does, and that is demand. The economy isn’t a physical thing. It is the compilation of all of the uncountable transactions that take place between people and business every day. The mood of the masses drives the economy. President Bush issued rebate checks to American taxpayers. If you filed a tax return you got a $600 check if you were a single person and a $1200 check if you filed jointly. That could stimulate the economy, but only if people spend that money. If the public puts it in their savings for another day, it doesn’t do anything until that other day.

That means that people are the economy. We make it succeed or fail, grow or retract. Capitalism is built on people spending money. That’s why consumer confidence is so important. If we believe the economy is going well and we can afford to spend money, then things will be okay. Christina Stein wrote an interesting article about this at the Kansas Free Press.

I’ve said before that the best way to stimulate the economy would be to eliminate taxes on the poorest people. Poor people are unique in that they are the only group of people who spend every dollar they have. The middle-class, and the wealthy don’t do that. They can afford to have a savings or a retirement account. If you give poor people more of their paycheck, a lot of money will immediately be returned into the economy.

The real truth about the economy is that it hinges on the behavior of people. Presidents don’t control that. Congress doesn’t control that. If you vote on the state of things now, you are voting for the wrong reasons. We need to be voting for the person who is thinking about the future. We need to look at a candidates vision, intellect, and drive. We need to take our eyes off of today and think about tomorrow, and pick the right person to lead us there.

A Debate, A Speech, And Oh, My God, I Forgot Claude Rains

The past couple of days have been eventful in the world of politics. There was a Republican debate, a presidential address to Congress, and shortly thereafter we kicked off the NFL regular season. I’m not sure what it says about this country that the President had to schedule his speech around a football game to make sure people watched, but that’s what happened. Scheduling aside, there is much to talk about.

First, the debate. I didn’t watch it. I have read the highlights. I probably should have watched because it is the first one Texas Governor Rick Perry has participated in, but I wasn’t that interested. Mostly, I didn’t care because the Republican party is not going to nominate anyone that I would consider voting for.  Michele Bachmann claimed she would get the price of gas down to $2 a gallon. I thought that was interesting. I’m sure her reasoning is that if we open the whole country up to drilling we’ll find enough oil. In reality that is nonsense. The price of gas is largely dependent on the price of oil and we will never find enough to compete with the national oil companies of countries like Saudi Arabia. I thought the small exchange between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry about job creation was funny. Perry pointed out the Micheal Dukakis had a better job creation record than Romney did as Governor of Massachusetts. Romney shot back that former Texas governors Ann Richards and George W. Bush had a better record than Perry. Personally, I believe that shows that governors don’t have a whole lot of power over job creation.

Jon Huntsman would be interesting candidate, but I don’t think he has a chance. He might not be a bad choice for VP. He is a seasoned diplomat, and the eventual nominee is almost certain to lack foreign policy experience. Why won’t they have that experience? The answer is simple. Rick Perry is going to be the nominee. I don’t have a doubt about it. He really is the best candidate that the Republicans can put forward. He’s got all the conservative bona fides. He’s got all the folksy appeal. He’s George W. Bush on steroids. Unlike Bush he’s a real Texan. He went to Texas A&M (though his grades weren’t that great.) With the economy stagnating and job creation basically non-existent, he has all the ammunition to take down President Obama. Obama’s problem is simple. His argument is more complicated. Perry can tout his record of job creation in Texas. On the surface this record looks good, but if you look deeper you find that most of those jobs are low-paying and don’t have benefits like health insurance. Obama’s problem will be that most people don’t look deeper.  On NPR’s “All Things Considered”, a Democratic strategist from Texas called Rick Perry, “the best, most talented politician to come out of Texas since LBJ.” If that’s true this election should be something to watch. Which brings us to the President’s speech.

Frankly, I didn’t think it was one of his best. I don’t believe it was particularly well-written. He told Congress to, “pass this bill,” far too often. From a policy standpoint, however, I think he is doing the right thing. His proposals will help everyday Americans. The middle class that doesn’t get talked about nearly often enough will benefit from the bill. The extension of the payroll tax cut, and unemployment benefits are good ideas. The fact that it won’t add to the deficit (which the president pointed out more than once) should make it palatable to Republicans. The President pointed out that the proposals in the bill have been supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the past. That, along with the fact that it won’t add to the deficit, should make it harder for Republicans to oppose it as another “government spending binge.” I firmly believe that the President has the best interests of the American people in mind. Yes, he has a political incentive as well. Job creation and a growing economy will help his reelection effort, but I think in this case he really wants to improve things for the people. We will see what Congress thinks.

Finally, I made a horrible omission. In my last post I recommended the film “Casablanca.” I talked about how the movie contained anything you could want. I talked about the amazing screenplay, and I talked about the stellar performances of all the cast members. To my dismay, I failed to mention Claude Rains. Claude Rains, in the role of “Louie” is absolutely one of the best parts in the movie. He even delivers the unforgettable line, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” So, I must apologize for my error, and once again recommend that you see “Casablanca” It is one of the best films ever made.

Praise For PolitiFact

You may know that I am a big fan of the website Politifact.com. Politifact is a non-partisan fact checking website that does it’s best to sort out the truth behind the statements of politicians, journalists and pundits. They recently did an article about the War Powers Resolution. The resolution limits a President’s power to engage in hostilities against another nation without congressional approval. You can read the article here. Politifact had a hard time coming to a concrete answer. Not surprisingly, the meaning of the War Powers Resolution, and its enforcment is a bit murky.

It limits the President from engaging in “hostilities” without congressional approval, but it doesn’t define hostilities. Experts seem to be split or undecided on the issue. I would enocourage you to read the article to try and form your own opinion. Politifact’s review of the situation is not what I wanted to talk about, but it is the backdrop. What I want to talk about is Politifact’s conduct regarding e-mails from readers.

I read the article about the War Powers Resolution. I’ve actually read a lot of what Politifact reviews. It is a top-knotch website when it comes to sorting out the truth. Their article on this issue left me with a couple of questions. So I took the opportunity to e-mail them. I wrote this:

“Your article on the War Powers act was interesting, I’m wondering why we are only talking about Libya? People are complaining about Obama’s actions in Libya violating the War Powers act, but since the Bush administration I believe, we have been striking Pakistan and targets in Yemen. Why are these not questioned? Also, since ratified treaties carry the weight of law are we not legally obligated to be a part of NATO actions? I would be interested in any information you can dig up on those questions. Thanks!

I was hoping for at least some kind of answer, but not expecting much. A website like this gets many emails about various subjects. I was unbelievably surprised when, I kid you not, 1 hour and 13 minutes later I got this reply:

“It’s a good question we did not address in the story. I believe that the answer is that (1) actions to counter terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda were approved in the post-9/11 resolution that green-lighted the Afghanistan War, and (2) no one in Congress seems to be making the argument that the president cannot pursue those actions.”

I couldn’t believe it. This was not a form letter reponse. It wasn’t a “Thank you for your interest,” auto reply. Someone had taken the time to read my question and provide an answer. I especially enjoyed that it was from a person who said, “I believe.” Obviously they hadn’t had the time to do detailed research into my question, but I was given a preliminary answer by a knowledgable person.

I wish to commend Politifact for this. Since it is becoming more evident that we cannot depend on the “news,” it is refreshing to see people who care about the truth and are willing to take the time to address an individual’s questions. Thank you Politifact.com.

Why Do We Take These Polls?

President Obama’s going to lose. It’s all over. I read it right on ABC.com.  They reported that the President is losing to a generic Republican in a recent poll. Specifically, 44 percent said they would vote for the Republican, only 39 percent would vote for the President.

So what does this mean? Well, I suppose we should say, “nothing.” Let’s go over the reasons why this poll is basically useless. First, the election is 18 months away. If we went by a poll like this is 2007 , we’d be talking about President Giuliani today. Secondly, let’s think about the benefits of the generic Republican. He’s the perfect small-government, fiscal conservative. Yes, “he’s” a he, and he has no negative side effects. He didn’t pass a healthcare law similar to the President’s law, he doesn’t support the legalization of drugs,  his entire campaign staff hasn’t resigned, he doesn’t back off of his rhetoric when his opponents are in the room, he isn’t “the pizza guy,” and he isn’t Michele Bachmann. Remember, “he” is a he. Until either party nominates a woman, I won’t change my view on that.

The point is that a generic Republican isn’t representative of anyone who could possibly be the nominee. All the possible candidates have things that make them more or less appealing to conservatives and more or less appealing to moderates and independents. A “generic Republican” a year and a half from the election is useless.

I just don’t understand these polls. They don’t mean anything. A poll about who might be the Republican nominee is useful. We can have polls that track who is winning and losing that race. That’s news, but until we know who the nominee is it isn’t important how a “generic Republican” will do.  For now the President is likely to lag because he has a history and a personality. We know him.  We will see how this race really shapes up when the Republicans have a face, a history, and a personality to represent them. Until then, ABC should quit wasting our  time.

Will Palin “Roosevelt” The Republicans?

Sarah Palin has been making news lately. In fact, she’s been making a lot of news, and not in her normal fashion. For the past couple of years, we’ve all been dragged through the Palin’s lives. People watched the reality show. They voted for Bristol on “Dancing With The Stars.” Even I read the Men’s Journal interview with Todd. Sarah herself has offered all her views at any event for one hundred thousand dollars. She even appears on FOXNews so regularly that they built a studio in her house. Recently things have changed a bit. Now Palin is on the road.

The “One Nation” bus tour sent sparks flying through the political arena. What is she doing? Is this a prelude to a presidential bid? Why won’t she tell us? There are a few interesting things about this tour that may provide a glimpse at the future. First is her treatment of the media. People following Palin have complained about the lack of information they are getting. There are no public schedules, no real information at all in fact. Palin is not hiding her disdain for the mainstream media. She did do an interview with Greta Van Susteran. Otherwise, she’s basically told the media to screw off. Why are they surprised? With no information coming from the bus tour, there is still plenty of news coverage. It’s like the media is saying McDonald’s should be delivering cheesburgers to them even though they go through the drive-thru daily. All the while Sarah Palin is getting all the media coverage she could want and reinforcing her image as an outsider or does things her way.

She continued to enhance that image breaking unspoken party rules. She rolled into New Hampshire on the same day that Mitt Romney was going to officially announce his campaign. The Romney event was staged from start to finish, and all the good details were leaked to the press. It was a classic political event. Everything Palin is doing is the complete opposite of that. She’s reinforcing her “rogue” persona while stepping all over the toes of the Republican establishment. I think she preparing something big. Perhaps a once in a century event. Let’s start with a little history lesson, and no, it’s not about Paul Revere.

The election of 1912 is possibly the most successful campaign by a third party in American history. Incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft is campaigning for reelection, but there is another big Republican name in the race. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, unhappy with his hand-picked successor, is running for the Progressive Party after a failed campaign for the Republican nomination. In a unprecendented campaign, the incumbent President was basically a non-factor. Roosevelt received more popular and electoral votes. In the end, the split of the Republican vote propelled a former college professor and New Jersey Governor named Thomas Woodrow Wilson to the White House.

If all the votes cast for Taft and Roosevelt were combined the Republicans would have defeated Wilson. This is the effect Sarah Palin could have on this race. In 2000 it was suggested that Ralph Nader did the same thing. His impact was probably minimal in reality, but it was an extremely close election. Ross Perot had this kind of effect in 1992 when he gained 18.9% of the popular vote. Sarah Palin is poised to take up the mantle of the third-party candidate. She wouldn’t win the election, but she could effectively destroy any Republican chances of defeating President Obama.  People are fed up with the establishment. Congress’ approval rating has been staggeringly low for years. The Tea Party is continuing to make waves in national politics. All this is going on and Sarah Palin is being pushed from the media spotlight by an increasing focus on the presidential race. She started changing that with her bus tour. Palin gets all the media attention she wants. FOXNews will bend over backwards to put her on TV.

On FOX and in stump speeches is where Palin shines. People recently ran her through the ringer about her account of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. Live Q&A is not her strong suit. She’s not good on the fly. Her Paul Revere account could have been completely accurate and it would have sounded like gibberish. However, if you put her in her comfort zone she is the ultra-Republican. She can send out buzzwords and catchphrases with the best of them, and she seems like a normal person doing it. She appeals to a significant portion of the Republican party who hates liberals, and is tired of the old white male conservatives who have been running the party. She could steal enough of the vote to doom Romney, Pawlenty, or any of the others to a life of celebrity golf.

The real question is would she? Would Palin ensure a victory for Obama just to stay in the spotlight. I think history says she would. It also allows her the chance to show the establishment that she needs to be listened to. After the 2010 midterms, Palin took a credibility hit. She endorsed some candidates (like Christine O’Donnell) that cost Republicans some congressional seats. If she wants to get back to the table it might be worth it force an election loss for her personal gain. This election will mark the 100 year anniversary of the election when the Bull Moose Party cost Republicans the White House. So we have to ask, will the Mama Grizzly so the same. I think she will.

Stand Your Ground, Mr. President

After scanning the news one particular thing stuck out at me. We can’t borrow anymore money. That’s correct the U.S. has reached its debt limit. Apparently due to some fancy accounting we are still paying our bills, but only for a few months. The President has called for the debt limit to be raised. Treasury Secretary Geithner has warned of dire economic conditions if it is not. The general consensus among economists and most politicians is that this must happen. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal even said:

“The first sign that a debt crisis has arrived is that bond investors lose confidence in a government’s ability to pay its debts – and by that point, it is usually too late to avoid severe disruption and economic pain.” Rep. Ryan’s Budget Proposal Pg. 21

Defaulting on our debt will certainly cause investors to lose confidence. So why hasn’t an increase passed it? Republican’s want more spending cuts.

The debt ceiling debate is driving me crazy. Speaker John Boehner is out calling for spending cuts equal to the increase in the debt ceiling. That’s ridiculous and impossible. We can’t cut spending by the amount the debt ceiling will need to go up. If we did it wouldn’t be long before we completely defund the federal government. The possible implications of not raising the debt ceiling are huge. Everyone seems to agree that if the U.S. stops paying its bills the effect on the global economy would be catastrophic. The result in this country would be unimaginable. The worst part is that John Boehner isn’t against raising the debt ceiling. He’s just against it when a Democrat is President. Not that his hypocrisy doesn’t exist across the aisle. Democrats are eager to raise the debt limit now, but they were more that happy to complain about it just a few years ago. For his part, Mr. Boehner has voted to raise the debt ceiling multiple times in the past. A number of these votes are hard to find, because under House rules some legislation is passed without anyone’s vote being recorded. How’s that for open government? It is record that in 2002 and 2004 (when President Bush was in office) he voted to raise the debt limit. He voted that way because it was necessary and John Boehner isn’t a lunatic. At least I hope he still isn’t. I should note that President Obama is calling for a raise in the debt limit, but when President Bush sat in the Oval Office, then Sen. Obama, along with many Democrats, voted against the increase. He now says that was a mistake. It was.

When it comes to budget deficits, debt limits and other things involving money, the reality is that it’s all politics. This is a non-partisan issue being used for partisan gain. Do you want evidence? We’ve had a budget deficit for 10 years. Republican’s just got angry about it when a Democrat was in the White House. Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling a number of times in the past decade. Republicans supported it all of them until President Obama took office. Democrats were against them at that same time. Then a magical thing happened. On Jan. 20th, 2009, President Obama was sworn in and everybody changed sides. It’s like everybody was suddenly persuaded by the other side’s point of view. If only one argument had been so compelling, we wouldn’t have this stalemate. Unfortunately, both sides were so convincing we just ended up right back where we were. Sentences like that make me wish there was a “sarcasm key” on your standard QWERTY keyboard.

This should not be an argument. We have to pay our bills, and bickering over some arbitrary limit imposed on the government nearly one hundred years ago is childish. I like that the debt ceiling brings public attention to our national debt. It’s important that we pay attention to what we are spending. Using that attention to promote a drastic partisan agenda, however, is irresponsible. John Boehner seems to think that spending isn’t getting enough national attention. We’ve been talking about spending for months. There are groups in both the House and the Senate working on budget compromises. Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled the Republican ideas for reducing the deficit weeks ago. President Obama released his proposal shortly thereafter. THIS ISN’T ABOUT THE BUDGET. This about whether or not we will live up to the commitments we have made. The budget should be a different debate, and it is a debate we are having.

That’s why I believe the President should stand his ground and not give in. For what might be the first time in his Presidency, he’s in a game of political “chicken” and he doesn’t need to flinch. Everybody knows that this has to happen. Yes, some of the new Tea Party supported members of Congress may be clamoring for spending cuts. I think that why Boehner is out causing a ruckus. In the end, the establishment of the Republican party will make sure our economy doesn’t collapse, and will continue the spending debate as they prepare the next budget.

The vote over the debt ceiling shouldn’t even be big news. It would be to the political advantage of both parties to quietly pass it instead of engaging in such obvious hypocrisy. If they don’t get what they want enough of them will still vote for it that the increase passes. Republicans just want the best political advantage they can get going into the next election. They will look at swing districts where a Republican is the incumbent, and a no vote will be popular and those members will vote no. They will look at districts where a Democrat is the incumbent, and a no vote would be popular and special interests will make huge ad buys in the 2012 election.

We have to raise the debt limit and we all know it. So, John Boehner can raise a ruckus about spending. Democrats and Republicans can hope that the public ignores how hypocritical they have been on this issue. Republicans will jump on any notion of conciliation from the White House. If the White House doesn’t give them the chance, they will still pass the debt limit increase.

Stand your ground, Mr. President. This is one fight you’re going to win.

The Trump Card

Boy, oh boy, the Obama-hating brigade is getting out in force. We have all heard about our Kenyan-born President. Donald Trump has made sure that we will continue hearing about it. That’s not good enough for Trump, however. As CBS reports in an Associated Press interview, Trump said he doesn’t understand how Obama got into Ivy League schools. The President graduated from Columbia and went onto graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law. Trump says that he has heard that Obama was a “terrible student.” He gave no evidence of that claim. Some people will probably say we shouldn’t be giving Trump this kind of attention. People like me and other bloggers and journalists should ignore him. I used to think that. I’ve changed my mind, because Trump is on the verge of gaining some serious support. Franklin Graham has said he might support a Trump run.

Franklin Graham is serious support, because he is the heir to the Billy Graham evangelical dynasty. Among evangelical Christians, who are a significant base of the Republican party, the Grahams are only second to Jesus and God. Billy Graham is in essence the “President” of the evangelical movement. He has spent time with nearly every actual President since Truman. His radio and television sermons have had a total of more than two billion listeners over the years. If the Graham organization gets behind Trump a large number of conservatives will take him much more seriously.

To put this in perspective, Franklin Graham is the guy who said President Obama was born a Muslim simply because his father was a Muslim. He agrees with Trump that the President has questions to answer about his birth. Myths about the President are furthered because people like Graham have a huge audience that is willing to believe them without much question.

The truly frightening thing about all of this is that the moderate Republican candidates turn out to be Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Huckabee. Pawlenty and Huckabee are in no way moderates.  Pawlenty is a hard-core fiscal conservative, and Huckabee is an ordained minister. I view them both as fairly equal on the political spectrum to George W. Bush. The possible candidates for President seem to range from standard conservative to ultra-conservative.  We learned recently that Haley Barbour is out. The field is beginning to narrow. At some point, I believe we will learn that Huckabee is out also. Maybe this is a publicity stunt by Donald Trump, but if it’s not his chances seem to be getting better. I don’t even know what to think about that.