Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What passed and what passes for fact.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been signed into law. There is a break down of how the money is to be allotted here and here ($288 Billion in tax cuts) and estimates of jobs saved/created by State here (Texas = 269,000). Now that it passed, some "just say no" republicans who voted against spending and tax cuts for Our Country are touting what their districts are getting. Even some very vocal opponent republican governors are starting to come around to accept the Federal funding allotted to their states. The latest to join this category was South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Governor Jindal of Louisiana is still unsure about additional Federal funding going to his state for things like fixing levees. It's understandable though. He is in the running for the republican nomination in 2012, and is hoping the Country has completely gone under by then so he, and the hip hop republicans can run against the failure. The way Candidate Barack Obama ran against the failures of the past 8 years of their party's presidency, 6 of which had them in control of both houses of congress. Hell, they had congress for 12 years. Check out the Pork and Earmarks (there are no ear marks in this bill) from the 6 years of Failure 43 and his rubber stamp reds' appropriations bills from 2001-2006 (Where is that confounded bridge to nowhere?). Yup, tax cuts for the rich, increased spending to build other countries, increased domestic spending for things like "abstinence training" but not the poor to middle class here at home, and the market will regulate itself policy, really worked out. As the Rude Pundit put it "Do you remember who put us into this goddamn vortex of financial suck?"

There have been no shortage of pundits, me included, making feeble attempts at becoming Economic experts. The arguments ranged from the "stimulus package" should be bigger to the government should do nothing to help the Country's economy or the millions who have lost their jobs. There's even been talk of a complete tax holiday that would severely reduce the Government's revenue. I assume that the people proposing this would cut the non-existent funds to Our Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (where $125 Billion US has been "misused"). 17,500 more troops were ordered to Afghanistan last week. However you slice it, opinions are one thing (Everybody's got one), but Out "right" lies, falsehoods, and "myths" are another.

1. There is no provision in the stimulus package for a mouse preserve in San Francisco.

2. There is no provision for a high speed rail in Nevada. Which would be bad because Harry Reid is the Senator there.

3. President Obama opposes, much to my dismay, any decrease in the defense budget.

4. The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) said the bill's spending Would stimulate the economy.

5. The bill is not just for "Democratic pet projects" (See what States get what , relative to the size of their economy, at this interactive map)

6. The New Deal reduced unemployment.

7. ACORN is not mentioned in the bill.

8. Anyone , "illegal" or not, without an officially issued Social Security number is ineligible for "make work pay" tax credits.

There are more, but you get the idea. For those of us who didn't read the whole 1,000+ page document there remain some questions as to how and to whom it will help. There are portions of the bill I don't understand. There is spending that I am glad to see, but can not see the connection with economic stimulus (see NASA). Before you say it, red failure 43 gave NASA billions for his "mission to mars". Remember that doozy? We all knew there would be no grace period (Typically the First 100 days) for Barack Obama, who has put together an administration faster than any President. He has already passed several pieces of Major legislation. He has given his first presidential press conference (a feat that it took failure 43 nine months to do). President Obama's "kind of a" State of the Union after only a month in office is yet another sign of how his administration has hit the ground running, sprinting actually. If the stakes were not as high as they are, if the situation was not as dire, there would be greater faith/benefit of the doubt/mandate given to the Leader who received more votes than any other President, and won by a greater margin than reagan did in his first presidential election, not to mention Obama's current and start off approval ratings.

I hope the stimulus bill, with the housing crisis plan, whatever happens to the remainder of the bush bank bailout, and everything else helps to get us out of Our downward spiral of an economy that is getting worse by the day. We won't know for some time. My guess is a more stabilized economy will start building steam in the beginning of 2010. Until then I think we should do Our best to help the people that need help the most. We Are All Americans.

Topic for next week:
The Disconnection: A Lack of Empathy and Understanding

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Stimulus, Fear, and Obstruction.

598,000. That's the number of Americans who lost their jobs in January 2009. 598,000. That is the highest number since I was Two Years Old (1974). Let's say the average salary for each of those jobs was $20,000. If they don't find a job in a year, $11,960,000,000.00 will not be spent (in the "US" economy) over that year and that's just the people who lost jobs in January. The economy is Scary and getting Worse. It's going to take more than former secretary to failure 43, and former goldman sachs ceo, paulson's "bank bailout", which gave out $254 billion in capital purchases (with virtually no oversight) for bank assets worth about $176 billion. Why was no one concerned about the conflict of interest with a Former CEO giving his old bank a "$2.5 Billion subsidy"? It's going to take more than the second half of the $700 Billion bush bank bailout (expect more on the Obama plan for that later). It's going to take more than the $800+ Billion dollar Stimulus Bill that's meant for US (haves And Have Nots). Of course, anti-stimulus republicans are pushing for even more tax cuts in the bill, because their tax cut and spend policies have worked so well for Us so far. As Our President said "We are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin," The obstructicans have been stalling/trying to stay relevant/"standing their ground" because of 2% of the spending in a $800+ BILLION "stimulus" bill. Would they bicker and pick all the way to depression? There's part of me that thinks to change Our society and its view of money, it would take a crisis of this predicted proportion, but the suffering may be too much for me to condone. That's not to say that is why the republicans "hope it fails". We Have already given hundreds of billions to war, to banks, and to tax cuts for the rich. Why shouldn't We the People (poor included) get some help?

Barack Obama has only been President for a little over two weeks. He's already got former vice president, mr. potter, pausing from "moving boxes" to tell us that if and when we're attacked by "nuclear or biological weapons" (remember that phrase?), it will be Obama's fault. We will never forget what happened 8 months, and several warnings, into his administration, but that was President Clinton's fault, right? Not to mention the hate and anger bushco. filled hearts and minds with all over the globe. I know, who cares what the "evil doer" former vice dick has to say. Probably the same wing nuts that care what treasonous drug addict limbag has to say or hatetity or o'lielly or glen bark. The republican party has become "regional" and reasonless. They're so splintered, it took six votes to elect a new "leader". He's their first African American "leader". Isn't that a funny coincidence? But seriously, mr. potter brought back that feeling of fear, as does, the President of the United States' call on Americans and their representatives to act now on the economic stimulus or there will be "a catastrophe".

The republicans are playing politics while Our economy is At The Cliff. The Old gOp tax cuts or death policy hasn't worked for the Country since it was called "reaganomics". Reinvestment in infrastructure and education, along with investment in up and coming industry, like the Clinton administration's investment in the internet and Pell Grants, provide the foundation for extended economic growth. Forward, long term thinking and planning isn't something recent administrations have considered and that is one of the reasons we find ourselves in the predicament we're in today, and it looks like it's going to get worse before it'll get better.

President Obama did sign his first law, the Lilly Ledbetter Law. It states that women doing equal work should get equal pay. I still can't believe that 1. In 2009 we still need a law like this and 2. It took until 2009 to get it. Barack also autographed a law giving health care to millions of children by expanding SCHIP. My favorite Presidential move so far was limiting ceo pay at companies that receive "bail out" money from US taxpayers. Some say it isn't strict enough. Some say its just a political stunt. I say it sends a great message from the White House. $500,000.00 a year should be plenty, especially when so many Americans are losing their jobs and having trouble staying sheltered and fed.

Obama nominated not one, not two, but three people who had "trouble" paying their taxes (Come On daschle?!??!), and one whose husband's business had tax problems. But President Obama's response to "the embarrasment" and "mistakes made" was honest and straight forward. He "screwed up" and owned up to it, as if he was an Adult in the White House who understands what taking responsibility actually means. Another thing to come out of the "back taxes" issue is the fact that government officials are no longer above the law to republicans. This is a real change of heart from the past eight years.

Campaigner Barack Obama was never one to react immediately. He was patient. He thought before he acted or spoke. A patience that, at times, drove some of us crazy. But more times than not he was working several moves ahead. President Obama, with Democratic control of the House and Senate greater than that of the republicans under bush, held out his open hand. The republicans did not unclinch their fist. One red senator went as far as to advise the republicans to learn from the taliban and form an "insurgency" to "disrupt and change" President Obama. In recent days, President Barack Obama has come out much stronger for his plan and against his critics. He's taking his push to the people this week, but it's the Congress that will bend and twist the legislation into something that he hopefully won't have to hold his nose while signing, and We won't have to hold Our noses while swallowing.

"In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail."

-From the President of the United States of America's Op-Ed to with Washington Post

"I am the eternal optimist. I think that over time people respond to civility and rational argument."
Barack Obama at his First Press Conference as President. Not that it's fair to compare, but bush gave his first "presser" after 9 months in office.

Monday, February 02, 2009

the First First Week.

Not that we heard much from him as "president" for the last year of his tenure, but talk about a clean break. Since junior got on that helicopter and headed back to his ranch photo set in Texas, the only peep in the news about him or his minions hasn't come from them as much as it has come from the percolating talk of investigations, subpoenas, and war crimes. Faux news pundit rover received another subpoena last week from the Honorable Congressman John Conyers. This time the White House might not back his executive privilege defense for not honoring it. A UN official said this week that there is enough evidence on rummy to prosecute him for War Crimes. Neither of these stories made Major headlines. There was another big story outshining them.... President Barack Obama's First Week in Office.

It's been a little over a week since the Inauguration (that even had the Rude Pundit feeling verklempt). There's a Great zoomable picture of it here (if only it was taken from the other side I could have found myself). Since January 20th, President Obama has signed executive orders and Presidential directive memoranda strengthening ethics rules in the Executive branch (an order that has made the appointment of the Secretary of Defense's choice/Obama's nominee for Under Secretary a bit sticky). In another order, President Obama opened presidential and ex-presidential records, reversing one of his failure of a predecessor's secrecy policies. He repealed the ban on funding international groups who provide information about abortion. He halted "war crimes trials" at Guantanamo Bay (for review). His administration will close Guantanamo Bay in a year, along with all the other CIA "black sites". He has ensured "lawful interrogations", stating plainly "the United States will not torture". He talked with both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Day One, as well as his military leaders. He struck a Respectful/we're all in this together tone when he gave the first presidential interview to an ARABIC television station. During the interview, the President of the United States said "Americans are not your enemy" and "all too often the United States starts by dictating". He has the Environmental Protection Agency reevaluating the 13 states that want higher gas mileage regulations. He froze pay increases on his highest paid (about 100) aides. He has his new and improved up and running, where he has started his weekly video addresses. The "most technologically advanced campaign" walked into a White House complete broken email systems and old computers running on old operating systems. One aide commented ";It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," President Obama departed from junior on global warming, wolves, and drilling in Utah. He and Secretary of State Clinton spoke of "direct diplomacy" with Iran. The New President met with Republicans from the Senate and the House to show his respect (however unwarranted) and to listen to their ideas most specifically on his far reaching, high price tag "stimulus package" which will focus on energy, infrastructure, and education projects, mainly. How many times did the previous administration talk to Democrats when they were the minority on policy matters? The republicans have been grasping at arguments against the "package", even after the Democrats gave into their billions (33% of the price tag) in corporate tax cuts, and cut the funding for medicaid family planning, because republicans couldn't understand how contraceptives, preventing disease and unwanted pregnancy, save US money in Health Care and Welfare (These are the same people who were for millions on "abstenance training"). The obstructicans didn't understand how resodding and upgrading the National Mall in Washington DC would create jobs. I guess none of them have hired grounds keepers or landscapers at home. It too has been removed. Some suggest that it, along with the family planning funding, were put in the legislation to be removed as "compromise". But obstructicans are literally making up fictious reports to prove their pathetic points. President Obama's outreach, given his mandate, seemed pretty unprecedented and unfortunately unappreciated. The obstructicans won't be happy unless as big fat idiot and known doper limbag hopes "Obama fails" or at least there are more tax cuts for the rich and big business, because they've been so effective since reagan came up with his "trickle down" reagonomics... Not! Bipartisanship may have meant republicans get whatever they want when they were in the majority for twelve years, but does it have to be the case now that the Democrats hold the House, the Senate and the White House. I'm sure we'll talk more about "the American Recovery and Reinvestment plan" that the President says he plans to sign by the middle of February. It passed the House, without one republican vote (talk about a strictly political vote for republicans). I wonder how much spending they'll vote yes to for building infrastructure in Iraq. President Obama had this to say on the vote.

And speaking of the economy...
Home Depot, Caterpillar, Sprint Nextel, Texas Instruments, Microsoft, Pfizer, Ford, Boeing, Starbucks, and Allstate announced they were cutting thousands of jobs, probably about 100,000 in all. Unemployment is over 7%. The GDP is down 3.8% (suffering its biggest drop in 27 years). "New-home sales collapsed". And "durable-goods orders slumped". And wall street executives received $18.4 billion dollars in bonuses, which the New President of the United States called "shameful" and "the height of Irresponsibility", with Secretary of the Treasury Geithner at his side.

So as Cindy Sheehan is printing her t-shirts that read "Adios Mother F&#@er" bush, I join with Most Americans in saying "Hello President OBAMA!" Pretty damn good first week, Sir, but there remains a HUGE and deepening hole for Us to get out of.

Here are some excerpts from the President's interview with al-Arabiya Television (Dubai):
"Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what's best for them. They're going to have to make some decisions. But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that instead, it's time to return to the negotiating table."

"We have not been perfect."

"ultimately, people are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration's actions. And I think that what you will see over the next several years is that I'm not going to agree with everything that some Muslim leader may say, or what's on a television station in the Arab world -- but I think that what you'll see is somebody who is listening, who is respectful, and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity. I want to make sure that I'm speaking to them, as well."

Q: President Bush framed the war on terror conceptually in a way that was very broad, "war on terror," and used sometimes certain terminology that the many people -- Islamic fascism. You've always framed it in a different way, specifically against one group called al Qaeda and their collaborators. And is this one way of --

THE PRESIDENT: I think that you're making a very important point. And that is that the language we use matters. And what we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations -- whether Muslim or any other faith in the past -- that will use faith as a justification for violence. We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith's name.

And so you will I think see our administration be very clear in
distinguishing between organizations like al Qaeda -- that espouse violence, espouse terror and act on it -- and people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions, or may have a particular viewpoint in terms of how their countries should develop. We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful. I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians and we will hunt them down.

But to the broader Muslim world what we are going to be offering is a hand of friendship."