Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Heartening, the Homeless, and, dare I say it, Change.

It's heartening to see that it's no longer "Unpatriotic" or "UnAmerican" to criticize a sitting President during wartime. Some "ditto heads" go as far as to hope the President's attempts to pull Our country out of the "Great Recession" "fail". President Barack Obama held his second prime time press conference this week. That's six months earlier than his predecessor held his first. Of course, the cracker-jack media reported on the big stories. The President skipped over the major papers. He read his opening and closing remarks from a teleprompter. He wasn't "angry populist" enough for some. He was calm, cool, and competent to others. What did it for me was when President Obama said "It took a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak." to a "journalist" whose question for the President of the United States was about why he wasn't more reactionary in the wake of the AIG bonus "scandal". Personally, I think the public outcry against the top rungs of this corporate giant makes the environment much more conducive for government regulation of Big Business, at least those who have been bailed out by Us, through Our taxes and not just outrageous pricing. But knowing that the President actually thinks before he reacts is almost comforting enough for now.

The President was comfortable and knowledgeable on a range of subjects, though there were little to no questions on foreign policy or Our two wars. At times he was almost professorial. The new President's (he's been in office for two and one quarter months) demeanor was a welcome change from the smirks, winks and nicknames that we've come to expect from the "leader of the free world". A world that is rapidly changing, with Russia and China calling for the dropping of the US dollar as the major monetary metric for a global currency. A world that sees the Governor of California opening up festival grounds to deal with a growing "tent city" or "shantytown" population of homeless. It was heartening to hear the President of the United States being asked about "the homeless" during his recent press conference, but Obama's "Part of the change in attitudes that I want to see here in Washington and all across the country is a belief that it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours." made me realize something else that seems to be changing, perhaps because of the sleeping giant that has been awakened by all the populist talk being thrown around. The idea that the wealthy are robbing the common citizen in America, a distinction that used to be reserved for welfare mothers. As the common American gets more pink slips and foreclosure notices, wealthy ceo's are complaining that they can't live on $500,000.00 a year or without Million dollar bonuses. The public outrage is getting scary in places with death threats and worse being made to ceo's and the like. Who knows if this outrage will spill over to republican governors, like jindal and sanford, who are putting politics ahead of federal aid for their constituents who have lost, or will lose, their jobs during these hard economic times.

Of course, one of the first two things that Congress has talked about trimming in Obama's budget proposal is the $400 Make Work Pay tax cut, but there may be a time in the near future when the tax cut can be pushed on its own. Politicians love tax cuts, right? The Obama budget proposal readies the stage for major health care, energy, and education reform. It lays out funding in 2009 for programs that do not yet exist but that would, and Hopefully will, be created in 2009. It does increase spending, which can seem ridiculous in this economy, but how could Our problems be fixed by simply running and cutting funding for programs as they currently stand. Another point that's important to make is that Obama's budget proposal includes items that haven't been included in the "budgets" in the past, like say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our version of capitalism has, for years, rewarded those on top, while ignoring or sticking it to the majority. Any person or small business that makes less than $200,000.00 per year receives a tax cut in the Obama budget proposal (about 95% of working American families). Who did the $1.3 trillion dollars in tax cuts over the last 8 years help? For those of Us that have some money to spend, let's let Our dollar be Our vote. To businesses going under every dollar counts. We can support companies and businesses whose practices and products we believe should be encouraged and supported. In this "economic climate", buying trends could turn into industry trends pretty quickly. Wouldn't it be nice to see a stock rise because a company was more "environmental" or health conscious or helped to increase employment here in the United States, rather than simply based on what's cheapest and most convenient?

To Progress.

David Calamoneri
Hoboken NJ

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Change, Truth and the Majority of the American People.

After reports of 651,000 more jobs being lost in February, the national unemployment rate is now officially 8.1% and climbing. Unemployment is over 10% in California. Michigan's is at 11.6%. Seeing lines of suits going around the block at ";job fairs" make one realize that the Obama Administration, and the 111th Congress, extension of unemployment benefits was a good idea, as was increasing funding for food stamps. A record 31.8 Million are now in need of them (an increase in 700,000 last month) . Helping millions of children get health care through SCHIP helps American people, who have children in need medical attention, while they face the recent economic Downturn. Spending billions in "stimulus" on Health Care may also help in curbing government costs. If Health Care was either provided for or Really made affordable by the end of a year or two (a dream of President Obama's), it would not only help families, hit hard by lay offs, foreclosures, etc. to not have to choose between medicine or food. It would also dramatically lower spending by State and Local governments, and businesses who provide insurance. Not to mention, easing the strain on the majority of the American people who are paying in some fashion for their own health care or don't have any at all (emergency room visits of the uninsured cost all taxpayers money).

Isn't that who government should be in the business of helping? The Majority, if not all, of the American people. A budget that cuts taxes for 95% of working families in the United States is more than making good on a campaign promise. It is also a good start at making Our government Change its focus from helping the wealthiest 10% or less and the military to helping the Majority of the American People and the military . Defense spending is something that's not going to go down. The Obama budget proposes $75 billion More in '09 and $130 billion in in '10 for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars failure 43 failed to finish. It is a change from the last 8 years to actually include war spending in the budget.

The stock market has been nose diving (with the exception of the uptick with Citi's profit news) with every jobs report, report on consumer spending, or on the housing industry (12% of Americans with mortgages are in foreclosure). Reports stating that the FDIC, which insures the money you have in the bank, may become insolvent, and AIG the world's largest insurer needs another huge chunk of money to keep insuring the millions it currently does, haven't helped ease wall street's slide. Neither has news that GM is no longer viable and may go bankrupt or that GE is in some real tough shape. In the past, like say the eighties, when unemployment was this high and the market was falling, the Fed cut interest rates, which encouraged lending and borrowing. Problem is the Fed dropped those to zero before Barack Obama even took office.

President Obama's budget represents a real change in how and on whose behalf the United States Government spends, but there have been other marked changes from the past occurring For one, the government seems hesitant to let Senator Leahy further a truth commission to investigate the laws failure 43 and his minions "may have" committed in prosecuting their war on the noun terror (see warrantless [FISA included] wiretapping, torture at American detention centers, extraordinary rendition). This is a marked change in Congress's willingness to investigate a former President's extra-marital affair and real estate deals he and his wife were involved in Before they became the First Family. The release of the "shocking" to some memos from failure 43's minions explaining how, in the words of another President, "when the president does it that means that it is not illegal", further evidence the fact that for the last eight years (at least the second half of 2001 through 2007) We were ruled by a "unitary" Executive with no checks and balances whose concern for the United States Constitution was not to uphold it, but to figure out how to get around it.

But while we debate whether or not the truth is important and whether tax payers' money should be spent to help the Majority of the American people, the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, told Israel it did something wrong and did so publicly. Of course, her words were not as strong as Obama's National Intelligence Council pick, distortions of which have made his stepping down the right move. The United States State Department also announced that it will meet with Iran and Russia, when it comes to supporting NATO's effort in the Afghanistan War. The Obama administration has also reopened talks with Russia, offering to ease up on the missile defense shield in Poland for some help in getting Iran to not build a bomb like the thousands that we and Russia currently possess. On the domestic front, President Obama is reversing failure 43's decision's on stem cell research and Science, endangered species, the office of "drug czar" being cabinet level, and Carbon Dioxide as a pollutant. (Does that mean we won't be allowed to exhale?). And of course, US combat troops will start leaving Iraq in September.

I'll leave you with a few things I just don't understand:
Why is it, only Jon Stewart of the "liberal media", tore up CNBC for their "cheap populism" rallying the losers on the "trading floor" while assailing the "losers" who have lost their homes?

How can you care about the DOW going down and be against bailing out big companies?

Hasn't the Dow been dropping since October 2007?

Did you know that $3.8 Billion dollars in "earmarks" in the $410 Billion dollar budget is .01% of the total bill and that 40% of those "earmarks" came from republicans? I guess that's why 8 "(R)" Senators joined all but 3 "(D)" Senators.

Does everyone who makes $250,000 per year own a small business?

How do tax cuts touted by most on the republican side, help poor people making less than a taxable income, if any income at all? (Anyone making under $250,000 will see their taxes cut or at least not go up with the Obama budget. Anyone over that will have there tax rate raised by a whopping 4.6%)

How can you complain about the wage of an assembly auto worker that works 40 hours a week and not have a problem with the salaries of upper management of major corporations?

Does anyone's health insurance allow them to choose any procedure they want and/or any doctor they want?

Does anyone remember that failure 43's "choice" for the second highest office in the land went to a CEO of the biggest no bid contractor the US employs? (The ethical bar for the current administration is exponentially higher)

Are the Green Bay Packers communist because they are "owned by the community"?

And are public education, taxpayer paid police and fire departments examples of "socialism"? (Big Hat Tip to M.M.'s movie Sicko for that one.)

Your Compatriot,
David Calamoneri
Hoboken, NJ, USA