Too many deadlines and commitments
"Well those drifter's days are past me now - I've got so much more to think about. Deadlines and commitments...What to leave in, what to leave out..."
Bob Seger, Circa 1980, "Against the Wind."
A friend of mine from Seattle once asked me what I would call our time together as we rushed to meet a deadline on a project. The "no smoking" policy was snuffed out about an hour before that question was asked after a frantic search produced the three inch wooden match we used to light our cigars. The room was filled with the blue haze of two Arturo Fuente Hemmingway Masterpiece cigars against the glow of several computer monitors. I took the cigar from between my teeth, twirled it between my finger and thumb and looked up from the keyboard. "Deadlines and Commitments," I said without a thought. "You can use it as the title."
I nodded as I thought about what I had just said. That seems like ages ago, and it was at a time when I still thought I could pull this whole juggling act off, and I'm guessing that a world without deadlines is surely out there. Somewhere.
For those like me that take on far too many projects, that doesn't exist for now. Though the balancing act is just too tough for me to continue this column, I must confess how thankful I am for my time with The Landmark readers and realize just how blessed I am in times like these to have so many opportunities. But the time is just not there, and so hard choices must be made.
This is one I really dread letting go.
This column ends my run with The Landmark. The time is no longer available for me to dedicate to the research and consideration it takes for a columnist covering the world of politics. I feel I owe that dedication to the readers who I will miss so much. The feedback was always welcomed and I treasured each one that questioned my intelligence, especially those with such flavorful language, to those who actually believed I had it exactly right and those who thought I was somewhere right in between genius and idiot.
For Ivan, a special thanks for all of his help he has given me over the years, and for running a newspaper that is still a real life "watchdog" media outlet.
That's one of the most important roles in a society that believes in free speech and though it puts editors, publishers and all other types of news producers in tough situations, kudos to those like Foley who still have the backbone to be the eyes and ears of the taxpaying public, even when the doors are slammed (and at times locked) and the stonewalling is underway.
I also miss the daily conversations Foley wrote about in his column last week that we used to have the time to enjoy. Someday again perhaps the daily musings will resume - sooner than later, I hope. Until then, due diligence calls, and just a few quotes and notes, for your amusement.
•"It seems the mystery (of the mistress) has the world waiting, just like (South Carolina Governor Mark) Sanford when he first went missing. Reports at the time claimed that he was said to be "hiking the Appalachian Trail" musing over the moments of being the Governor. However, the joke is that he must have told his wife over a bad cell phone connection. It goes something like this - He had revealed to his wife that he was off to get some ‘hot Argentina tail’ (not "hike the Appalachian Trail") and it got lost with the fuzzy tower signal."
--Josh Hart, The National Ledger
CK: I can picture the governor with the cell phone jammed to his ear as he stood in the jetway waiting to board.
"•Yes, I know, shocking. Another Republican affair. Next thing you know, we'll learn that a Democrat hasn't paid his taxes. There does seem to be a pattern of failure in those matters about which people purport to care the most. If we were feeling charitable, we might say something about man's fallen nature and his attempt to repair himself through public works. Thus, Republicans touting family values can't seem to stay zipped. Democrats raising taxes can't seem to spare the change come April."
--Kathleen Parker, Washington Post
CK: I will miss the daily grind of politicians, especially for humor. I know several who are good people, but with headlines like, 'Missing Governor Found With Mistress in Argentina' they seem to stand little chance. While that's a storybook sleaze headline, it usually comes out of Hollywood. A writer couldn't ask for a more desirable plot line to help develop for a racy novel or for an R-rated screenplay. Develop the characters correctly or get just the right actors and you might even have a hit. Unfortunately for all of us, too often they are the real life stories and failures of those that are running the show. Even more unfortunate, when they get caught, they don't even have the decency to quit.
You may bump into me again, somewhere here in these pages or perhaps online at The Landmark website. But until then, I'll quote the only tune from the 1973 Pink Floyd album that gives a writing credit to all four members of the band and comes fittingly from a song titled simply, "Time.”
"The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say...”
(Reach our buddy, our pal, our friend, our partner in fiscal conservatism CK Rairden at email@example.com)
First 'stimulus' bill not getting positive results
The High Sonoran Desert is usually at its hottest in June. Thanks to some sort of climate change that surely was caused by a V-8 somewhere, last Sunday in Phoenix, Arizona, the city was enjoying the 17th consecutive day to stay below 100 degrees. That's the longest stretch of its kind in any June since 1913. In the last 73 years the highest measured June temperature in Phoenix was 122 degrees Fahrenheit and that came on June 26 in 1990. It was so hot they closed the airport as airplanes couldn't land on the asphalt runway as the heat made it too soft. In June, temps soar past 115 degrees on a regular basis, just not yet this year.
But it is hot in Kansas. On Monday, the Fahrenheit topped 102 degrees in Salina. Does all this mean global warming is real or fake? In case you are just now catching on, it doesn't really seem to matter. As far as Washington is concerned you may dub it global warming, climate change or perhaps even global cooling if that suits your fancy. Just remember - the plan is all about the green.
Unfortunately its not that catchy little 'green' in an environmental kind of way, its green as in as in the color of money and the plan is to come after your cash. Will this be a better investment than the one the taxpayers just were dragged kicking and screaming in with General Motors? Open your wallet, they want more money.
"How much will it cost the average American household to reduce the U.S. share of global warming pollution and shift to cleaner sources of energy produced at home? If Congress passes a law that puts the country on a path to that outcome, the answer on costs will depend on what kind of consumer protections are part of the new policy."
--Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers
CK: One report cites the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and it has estimated the allowances prices and figures the total amount would start at $60 billion in 2012 and increase. House Republicans claim it would cost households $3,100 a year. Though the GOP has missed badly on numbers of late, no matter what the bill, you will pay, just like the cash that was handed to General Motors.
"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will roll the dice on a top priority this week, bringing a contentious climate-change bill to the floor despite strong misgivings from her rank-and-file and an outspoken chairman who remains a major impediment. The speaker filed the legislation with the Rules Committee on Monday night, her spokesman said, even though its authors, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, are still working out a deal with Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson."
---Patrick O'Connor, Politico
CK: Collin Peterson is described by the Wall Street Journal as "a Marlboro-smoking free spirit who scoffs at warnings about climate change and says the Environmental Protection Agency is "in bed with" corporations opposed to the ethanol industry." We'll see if he can remain independent, the smart money says the Minnesota Democrat will likely roll right over and allow you to foot the bill. Another report claimed late Monday night that "Mr. Waxman has said he is "very close" to an agreement with Mr. Peterson that would clear the way for a vote on the legislation." Is everyone still on board with all of the spending? The latest polls are are seeing shifts and backlash.
"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ratings stand at 38 percent positive and 45 percent negative. The last time the Post-ABC poll asked about Pelosi (D-Calif.) was in April 2007. At that time, 53 percent said they approved of the way she was handling her job and 35 percent disapproved."
"Barely half of Americans are now confident that President Obama's $787 billion stimulus measure will boost the economy, and the rapid rise in optimism about the state of the nation that followed the 2008 election has abated, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."
--Confidence in Stimulus Plan Ebbs, Poll Finds, Washington Post
CK: These numbers are not tragic by any stretch of the imagination but they do show what will be the toughest part Democrats will have to deal with, unless whatever this plan is actually works. As conditions on the ground continue to deteriorate for many US families, President Obama has admitted that the first stimulus bill did not work as expected and Nancy Pelosi wants more of your money to fight her ever-evolving definition of climate change. Can they continue to sell this?
(CK Rairden’s final Landmark column will be next week. You won’t want to miss it. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
If only we had a competent political party
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke urged congressional leaders in a closed meeting way back in September that they needed to get busy "to craft legislation to help financially troubled banks," reports the Chicago Tribune on Monday. The market was already stumbling and ready to plunge, but leaders were trying to calm fears and keep investors from selling. The message from Paulson and Bernanke was one of absolute panic and huge financial losses to the Senators and they all admitted they could feel the panic.
If you were a US senator with this information about the banking crisis and the high probability that the markets could collapse and fortunes would be lost, would you hear bells in your head going off saying 'sell your stocks now as the market is getting ready to tank?' Of course you would, you're human.
But if you used that information to your advantage would that be unethical?
"As U.S. stock markets plummeted last September, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, sold more than $115,000 worth of stocks and mutual-fund shares and used much of the money to invest in Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The Illinois senator's 2008 financial disclosure statement shows he sold mutual-fund shares worth $42,696 on Sept. 19, the day after the meeting with (Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke described above.)"
--Durbin cashed out during big stock collapse, Chicago Sun-Times
CK: Fox News reports the the Illinois Democrat defended his actions insisting he didn't capitalize on anything he was told during those meetings, and that he had been moving money around in his retirement accounts for some time. Do you believe him?
"CIA director Leon Panetta says it's almost as if former vice president Dick Cheney would like to see another attack on the United States to prove he is right in criticizing President Barack Obama for abandoning the "harsh interrogation" of terrorism suspects. "I think he smells some blood in the water on the national security issue," Panetta said in an interview published in The New Yorker magazine's June 22 issue.
CK: This is our "Intelligence" chief.
"Dick Cheney released a statement responded to CIA Director Leon Panetta's suggestion that the former vice president's criticism of Obama administration policies means Cheney is wishing for another attack. 'I hope my old friend Leon was misquoted. The important thing is whether the Obama administration will continue the policies that have kept us safe for the last eight years.'"
--Stephen F. Hayes, Weekly Standard
CK: You have to give Dick Cheney credit, as an ex US Senator he is still willing to make a deal and give his old pal Panetta a chance to pull his shoe leather out of his mouth.
"Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004. The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s."
--Conservatives Are Single-Largest Ideological Group, Lydia Saad, Gallup Poll published Monday.
CK: One might think conservatives would be a powerful force if they had a competent political party to represent them.
"On his HBO show "Real Time," Bill Maher even compared the leader of the free world to actress Lindsay Lohan: "Just like Lindsay, we see your name in the paper a lot, but we're kind of wondering when you're going to actually do something… This is not getting the job done, and this is not what I voted for." Maher continued saying, "What (President Obama) needs in his personality is a little George Bush... What we need to do is marry the good ideas that Barack Obama has with a little bit of that Bush attitude and certitude."
--Bret Baier, Fox News
CK: Some on the far left end of the political spectrum are now so furious with President Obama they are borrowing the 'celebrity' line used by John McCain during the campaign, though Lindsay Lohan's days as a celebrity might be over. Let's help poor old Bill out as Maher needs to learn at least two things right away.
1) The celebrities were Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and...
2) The list of folks that care what Bill Maher thinks has dwindled, and no longer includes President Obama.
(Email CK Rairden at email@example.com)
Public tide starting to
turn against spending
General Motors last turned a profit in 2004, and according to US News and World report has borrowed $19.4 billion from the government already, and needed billions more yet to be tallied just to get to this point. Congratulations, you own a nice chunk of this company that is mired in bankruptcy and of course all of the debt. One interesting item has appeared from the latest taxpayer purchase, the General Motors bailout and buyout may be a tipping point on spending for some, as many now are souring on the economic plans of the Democrats.
Despite that, President Obama announced Monday that his administration is ramping up the pace at which funds from the $787 billion economic stimulus package are spent.
It's still unclear what results the first batch of stimulus dollars have produced, but ahead we go with even more money. People receiving these stimulus bucks must be pretty happy, but shockingly a majority others seem to have lost interest in the free ride for some at the expense of all. Is the tide turning on the spending spree?
•"This latest Gallup Poll shows that the U.S. public has significantly differentiated views on various dimensions relating to (President) Obama. Americans are most positive when asked about their basic opinions of Obama as a person. They also are positive when asked to assess his overall job performance, and on aspects of his performance relating to foreign and international issues. Americans have become increasingly less positive about Obama's handling of the economy in recent months, and are most negative when asked to say whether they approve of his handling of the federal deficit and federal spending."
--Gallup Poll, released Monday.
CK: Spending in the last four years under President Bush was an embarrassment and President Obama has found one part of the Bush legacy he's seems committed to carry forward. Spend all the money you have, print more, borrow from China. Wash, rinse repeat.
•"Voters now trust Republicans more than Democrats on six out of 10 key issues, including the top issue of the economy. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 45% now trust the GOP more to handle economic issues, while 39% trust Democrats more. This is the first time in over two years of polling that the GOP has held the advantage on this issue."
--Rasmussen Reports, Monday, June 08, 2009.
CK: The GOP as a party is a dysfunctional mess with no sense of direction and no real leader who has emerged to even begin to help lead the party to develop ideas to challenge the Democrats. Despite this, enough people are now fearful of out-of-control spending and runaway debt that that they trust this Motley Crew of Republicans more on the economy.
"•The latest survey was taken just after General Motors announced it was going into bankruptcy as part of a deal brokered by the Obama administration that gives the government majority ownership of the failing automaker. Voters not affiliated with either party now trust the GOP more to handle economic issues by a two-to-one margin."
--Continuing from the Rasmussen Reports poll.
CK: That last number is staggering as it is hard to believe anyone would trust either party with taxpayer dollars. That has to give Democrats pause that they have lost the upper hand on the economic issue that quickly. Will John McCain ride in with his ‘fundamentals of the economy are strong’ speech?
•"No often means yes in Washington, but we hear from Sen. John McCain's posse that he is not considering a 2012 rerun of his failed 2008 presidential campaign. (W beat him in the 2000 primary, remember.) Word came this week that he is mulling over another try, but a key insider says, "Ridiculous."
--Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
CK: Guess not.
•"Nine years ago, when FoxNews sprinted past CNN to become America’s number one news network, I attributed its ratings gains to the election of George Bush and the triumph of Fox-watching conservatives. I figured conservatives would be savoring their victory while liberals were averting their eyes in disgust...Now, seven months after Barack Obama’s victory, CNN’s ratings have gone down the drain. From May of last year to May of this year, CNN lost 22% of its total primetime audience. MSNBC was down 2%, while FoxNews was up 24%...There’s no need to throw any more numbers at you–Fox is gaining, CNN is wilting."
--Reese Schonfeld Reese Schonfeld, co-founder of CNN, The Huffington Post.
CK: Why would anyone watch CNN? Larry King and Anderson Cooper hardly give anyone a reason to ever even consider turning to the channel and now more are tuning out. I wonder what would happen if CNN started covering news without any bias.
(Email CK at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Government has no exit
strategy for its car business
On Monday General Motors and President Barack Obama finally figured out what many predicted during that first bailout: The only chance for survival for GM is bankruptcy. Now everyone is talking cars and the timing couldn't be better for me. My car story - I just faced what I deal with every few years, I have to shop and study and decide what new car I should lease.
Leasing is a good fit for me, I don't drive far during the year, just around the high Sonoran desert surrounding Phoenix and few trips to the ocean and the beaches of California and some trips into town to see the Hollywood friends. That means it’s easy for me to keep the mileage under the minimum. That gives me the opportunity to drive a brand new car every few years with no commitment.
This year I took a bit of a flyer. I have leased a Genesis S380. After driving and searching through the usual Lexus, Honda, BMW and Acura models, I settled on this Genesis. They all have the luxury package and ride and drive wonderfully, with lots of power, the Genesis included. It's a beautiful car. The kicker, it is made by Hyundai.
It has more horsepower and features than my last BMW and my last Acura, but I wonder, will it hold up? I hope so, but as I only have the car for 36 months and the bumper-to-bumper warranty extends to 4 years and 50,000 miles, and it has nationwide roadside assistance included, I risk little other than inconvenience if something were to happen.
It has plenty of features such as dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, traction and stability control, side- and side-curtain airbags, Bluetooth, Homelink for the garage door opener and the outside lights on the house and a keyless ignition, which is really cool as you just hit a button and the car roars to life.
Is it a keeper? I hope so as I like the attitude of the company and the quality of the people that make the South Korean product and the Hyundai business model in general.
Still, if it doesn't work for me, I have an easy out. That's why I like the process. Though I have yet to find a car to keep by leasing (the BMW that is due this month was a real disappointment) I have no hassle from the car people, as I just take the car back to the dealer where I leased it, they inspect it and we settle up for any money that might be owed to me, or vice versa. The reason, we both have a clearly defined exit strategy. How important is that? I think we are about to find out.
"President Barack Obama now owns General Motors, even though he insists he's taking it out only for a spin. Hours after the government sent GM into court Monday to file for Chapter 11 protection, Obama declared, 'What I have no interest in doing is running GM'."
--Analysis: Gov't firmly behind the wheel at GM
CK: It almost sounds like we are 'leasing' GM. While that is a good sound bite, its still not clear what exit strategy will be attempted to get the taxpayer out from under this mess and if it will work. Can we just turn GM back in and if we do, what is the total bill for taking it out for this spin?
"Neither Obama nor his spokesman offered an indication of how long the government's involvement with GM would last. "I don't know that there is a timeline," said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary."
--Tom Raum, San Diego Tribune
CK: The government has a 60 percent equity stake in the carmaker and $50 billion in taxpayer money riding on GM's success with more likely to be thrown at the problem. Shouldn't a timeline be in place and spelled out specifically?
"There is a huge wish list of things (the government) wants. They don't want any risk for taxpayers, at the same time they are promising potential rewards for taxpayers.They don't want to run this forever, but at the same time it's a failed company and they're taking on responsibility for it without any clear exit strategy. The longer the promise, the bigger the potential disappointment for people."
--Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, said of the administration, in an Associated Press article.
CK: So what happens if it fails? Let's hope this isn't some sort of an omen.
"Steve Rattner, the president's top auto advisor, told reporters today that during President Barack Obama's speech today on General Motors's restructuring that an unnamed advisor passed out."
--David Shepardson, Detroit News in a story titled, "Obama auto advisor passes out during Obama speech.”
(Email CK Rairden and his exit strategy at email@example.com)
California's trouble could
signal same for U.S.
California is not a bad place, despite its reputation. Sure there are wildfires and earthquakes and a mess of traffic in Los Angeles and San Diego, but the people are quite nice, the golf courses and beaches are beautiful. It could almost be a utopia of sorts, and that’s what many believed they would find in the "Golden State" as people flooded in to feast on the sun and government freebies. Promises were made of health care coverage for all and assistance for every problem one would encounter, all paid for by the taxpayers and provided for by the government. Sound familiar?
"I understand that these cuts are very painful and they affect real lives, this is the harsh reality and the reality that we face. Sacramento is not Washington - we cannot print our own money. We can only spend what we have."
--California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
CK: Schwarzenegger is now forced to cut to the bone as California faces a budget deficit of at least $22 billion. The governor's cuts will be real and an Associated Press story suggested they might include "ending the state's main welfare program for the poor, eliminating health coverage for about 1.5 million poor children, halting cash grants for about 77,000 college students, shortening the school year by seven days, laying off thousands of state workers and teachers, slashing money for state parks and releasing thousands of prisoners before their sentences are finished."
"California likes to think it’s the coolest state. We do everything better and sooner. Our vehicle emission standards are tougher, our beaches better. We funded stem cell and other cutting edge research while the other states were still debating whether intelligent design ought to be taught in schools. Until Proposition 8, we were one of the best states for gay and lesbian couples to live in. We were using “green,” “sustainable” and “organic” before they became ubiquitous. Our buzzwords are better than yours. California isn’t just in the future … we are the future."
--Editorial, University of California, Irvine.
CK: That attitude does prevail on the West Coast though being broke in the present seems to have humbled some and brought many back to earth. Will Washington, DC notice or will they take us all down the same path while expecting a different result?
"California, it has long been claimed, is where the future happens first. But is that still true? If it is, God help America."
--Paul Krugman, New York Times
CK: Krugman is a big government liberal and even he has noticed the financial mess in California.
"The recession has hit the Golden State hard. The housing bubble was bigger there than almost anywhere else, and the bust has been bigger too. California’s unemployment rate, at 11 percent, is the fifth-highest in the nation. And the state’s revenues have suffered accordingly...California has immense human and financial resources. It should not be in fiscal crisis; it should not be on the verge of cutting essential public services and denying health coverage to almost a million children. But it is — and you have to wonder if California’s political paralysis foreshadows the future of the nation as a whole."
--Continuing From Krugman's New York Times Column
CK: As debate continues on the spending in Washington, DC and how bad it will be for taxpayers that have to pay the bills once they come due for all of these shiny new bailouts and programs, it is already a reality for California. They have seen the future and it isn't all that glamorous. So what are they doing? They are quitting. Many are fleeing the state and others are cashing out early and taking retirement. Seriously.
"Instead of working longer as the economy worsens, more Americans are calling it quits before age 66. The ramifications could be profound for the retirees, families, government and social institutions. Instead of seeing older workers staying on the job longer as the economy has worsened, the Social Security system is reporting a major surge in early retirement claims that could have implications for the financial security of millions of baby boomers."
--Mike Dorning, Los Angeles Times
CK: Many of these folks are counted on as taxpayers no matter what state they reside in and the federal government needs their taxes as well. Since they are quitting and cashing out, who will be forced to pay their part of the pie now?
(Reach CK Rairden at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Obama brings negative
change to Las Vegas
Some college students would like to have their debt forgiven. The money that they borrowed as student loans are a 'burden' for the new graduates. "I feel like it's a real shame that people like me are coming out of college, weighed down by all this debt," Austin Light, 24, a journalist for The Mecklenburg Times in Charlotte, told the USA Today.
According to the report, he and his wife have $100,000 in student loans. "My dream is to be a full-time children's book author and illustrator, and if I wasn't shackled with this debt, I would be pursuing that."Though little other information is given on the family's circumstances, the selfishness of that quote is amazing.
Bob Bergstrom of Calabasas, California wrote in response, "When I read this, I wondered whether his time in college led him to believe that a debt does not have to be repaid?" I'm inclined to agree.
I'm not certain who forced the aspiring "full-time children's book author and illustrator" and his wife to borrow a $100,000, but many seem to believe that if you borrow money for school, you should only have to pay it back if it is convenient for you to do so.
That's really bad when you look at the numbers. A recent study notes that college students across the country owe a collective $86 billion in loans, with the average amount reaching just under $22,000. Nearly 40 percent of college expenses were paid with loans last year, with students’ families shouldering 16 percent of that debt.
It looks like they are following the lead of the Feds and borrowing more than they can afford to pay back. Here's some more fun numbers to ponder as grads try and figure out how to shirk their debt.
For cash for college, private loans have expanded nationally by more than 600 percent over the last decade. A study from New York also revealed that as of 2007, nearly two-thirds of college students graduating in that state were in debt.
The national student loan default rate rose to nearly 7 percent last year, up from a recent average of 5 percent, and Sallie Mae, which controls almost 45 percent of the loan market, reported that its default rate rose to 10.2 percent in the same period. What do we do as that number increases? Chrysler and GM got their bailouts, why not the graduates?
"Starting July 1, there will be new help for recent grads -- or those who have been out of school for a while and are struggling to repay student loans. The new federal Income-Based Repayment program will allow those with low incomes to pay as little as zero on their student loans, as long as they qualify based on income and amount of debt. The rules are a bit complicated, but basically if you owe more on student loans than you earn in a year, you will probably qualify."
--Terry Savage, Chicago Sun Times
CK: The shame of all this is that there are real financial hardship cases that need help, not someone just looking for yet another taxpayer funded handout. Some of the grads are already working and only need a boost. But if everyone takes the attitude that their recent debt they took on while going to school is holding them down from their dream job, and they try and get out of their loans, private lenders will pull out and say no thanks. As an added bonus, you and I will get to foot the bill.
“As Nancy Pelosi continues to face a firestorm over what she may have known about aggressive government interrogation techniques, and when, a new survey has more unpleasant news for the House Speaker. Nearly half of all Americans — 48 percent — disapprove of how the California Democrat she is handling her job as Speaker of the House in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday, while 39 percent approve of her performance. That rating makes her less popular than other members of her party.
--Poll: Pelosi facing Gingrich-like approval ratings, CNN News
CK: What did Nancy know and when did she know it? The CIA claims that she had been briefed on the waterboarding and didn't object. Pelosi has said that she was only told that the CIA was seeking legal guidance on waterboarding, not that it was actually being performed, and said last week that the agency misled her.
"The speaker says she was made aware seven years ago that the CIA was contemplating using so-called enhanced interrogation techniques -- including waterboarding -- and that Justice Department lawyers had advised that such methods would be legal. She said and did nothing in response to this knowledge. But now she says such techniques amounted to torture and were illegal. She supports a grand investigation to find out if the legal advice provided by the Justice Department was somehow a crime as well."
--Brit Hume, Fox News
CK: What a spectacle. Wasn't the mission of Nancy Pelosi to 'clean house' once she became speaker? She is now accusing the CIA of lying and they are firing back effectively branding her a liar. A fine hour in US history.
"I am disappointed at the hypocrisy shown by this Administration. President Obama is coming to Las Vegas later this month for a political fundraiser, but he will not help the struggling families in Las Vegas and Nevada who are out of work because of his reckless comments. President Obama is coming to Las Vegas to raise campaign cash for Senator Harry Reid, apparently our money is good enough for the President, but our tourism, jobs, and economic future are not. This is politics, pure and simple, President Obama stood for change, but all he has done is brought negative economic change to Nevada.”
--Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, KTNV
CK: The governor says that canceled conventions and meetings have cost the Las Vegas economy over $100-million, not including gaming revenue and the governor is not happy. He blames Obama for his comments on business conventions after the earlier bailouts. It looks like some of that big money in Las Vegas has dried up. Politically, it will be interesting to see what impact this has on Harry Reid as he is up for re-election next year in Nevada.
(CK Rairden can be reached at email@example.com)
Obama's budget deficit four
times that of Bush
Need to borrow some cash? The Federal Government is chalking up deficits and debt and this week's big revelation is that the annual budget deficit will blow right past $1.8 trillion this year. That number is the yearly difference between what the federal government spends and what it collects. That is a runaway new record and is almost four times the previous record set by President Bush. The Obama administration announced the number this week and revised its estimate of U.S. budget deficits, adding $176 billion to the shortfall of cash. It was revealed on White House budget director Peter Orszag's blog.
"Orszag writes that the higher deficit figure is caused by what he calls "technical revisions in light of new information regarding the collection of receipts, financial stabilization efforts, and other federal programs." What that means: Orszag is saying that today he knows more than he did in February about how much money the government will get from taxpayers this year and next and how much this recovery will cost. And the new information points to a higher deficit."
--Frank Ahrens, Washington Post
CK: Where will the government get the money? The debt is now at what is largely an incomprehensible number that grows every second and can never be repaid.
"The U.S. debt, now at $11.27 trillion, will swell more rapidly if the Obama administration's projections prove accurate. Higher government debt can lead to higher borrowing costs for consumers -- from mortgages on houses to credit card costs. Much of the U.S. debt is now being financed by China, Japan and other foreign countries and interest costs on the debt are costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
--Analysis, New York Post
CK: One of the many frightening parts of going into debt each and every second of each and every day is that you have to borrow the money from somewhere and in this case, that means several foreign governments.
"Republicans are likely to pounce on the new data, saying it underscores Democratic President Barack Obama's failure -- even this early into his presidency -- to tackle fiscal problems that began in the Republican Bush administration...Democrats in the White House and Congress might cite the larger deficits as further proof that quick action has to be taken to reform healthcare in the United States, a top priority of the administration. Obama has argued that such reforms would lower the government's costs in the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and poor. These rising costs are accounting for more and more of the budget deficit."
--Scenarios, Fallout of Obama's higher budget deficit estimates, Reuters
CK: There's no end in sight for spending and the appetite for throwing money at every problem from many Americans is quite healthy. As the debate over health care continues to unfold, expect Obama to use that to push his health care plans.
"The White House still is projecting that the nation's economy will shrink by 1.2 percent this year and increase by 3.2 percent next year. It projects that the economy will be growing at a 3.5 percent annual rate by the end of the year. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts a decline in gross domestic product of 3 percent this year and 2.9 percent growth next year. The April consensus of 50 blue-chip private economists sees a 2.6 percent decline in 2009 and 1.8 percent growth next year."
--Projected US Deficit Balloons, McClatchy Newspapers
CK: One would hope that the Obama Administration is right. The separate reviews by the CBO and the "50 blue-chip private economists" sound quite bleak, but they paint what is the more likely scenario. Is there any good news with that? Some believe you might start getting better service, read on.
"Lopo Rego, a marketing expert at the University of Iowa, who has studied customer service in strong and weak economies...observed that the quality of customer service had slipped badly (in boom times).The tight labor market had drained the pool of good workers at the wages that stores and fast-food restaurants were paying. Now businesses are begging for customers, and Rego is predicting a whole new attitude: "I would expect customer service to go up in the current economy because the surplus of demand has disappeared."
--Froma Harrop, "Better Service in Bad Times?" Creators Syndicate
CK: I think that's right. Of late I have noticed more attentiveness from customer service people and from people trying to sell goods and services in general. Will we get back to the point where the customer is always right?
(CK Rairden may not always be right but he’s always on the right of this page. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
How does road construction
lead to instant stimulus?
My commute would make an environmentalist quite envious. With cup of coffee in hand and the newspaper under my arm, I walk out of the house, down a flight of stairs and work my way along a flagstone walkway for about thirty feet, round the corner and walk a few more steps to my office. I open the door and I'm in. No cars, no traffic and very little hassle. As an added bonus I have time to read my paper instead of sitting in traffic.
On a good day my rush hour traffic consists of a few quail and a lizard or two. On a bad day, I have to dodge a rattlesnake on my commute. Still, at times I have do dust off the gas guzzling SUV and make my way to a meeting. This week as I ventured toward a visit with the suits, I was greeted with the colors of spring and summer on the streets of every town in America, orange and yellow. It wasn't a sunset, it was orange barrels and signs and flashing yellow lights. Slow down, construction zone, stimulus work ahead. The usual twenty minute drive took about twice as long. I wondered if I should feel extra patriotic as I sat watching the flagman try and figure out if he should turn the yield sign back to stop.
•"Drivers across the country will have to contend with far more roadwork — and all the frustration that goes with it — as states prepare to launch a spate of new highway projects this summer. The work is part of President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package and is meant to create jobs by repairing roads and bridges."
--Brad Heath, USA TODAY
CK: In this case, stimulus means the same people that worked the last umpteen summers tearing up the same roads and bridges only to patch them back up will still be working. Doing the same thing. But this summer as you watch five guys watch one guy work, remember that this is the stimulus creating jobs.
•"Anyone who’s ever sat in a single lane of bottlenecked traffic knows what this means. The surge in construction projects (not to mention the low price of gas compared with last year) has the potential to create severely obnoxious slowdowns and traffic jams...perhaps this is a relatively small price to pay for job creation, but that will probably be hard to keep in mind when you’re creeping along a four-lane highway that’s been reduced to two lanes of bumper-to-bumper stimulus traffic."
--Stephen Markley, Cars.com
CK: I've never quite understood road construction for instant stimulus. Each year in towns across America roads are torn up, motorists get stuck in traffic jams, swear and curse. This year will be no different, except more roads will get torn up and the repairs will take longer. I know many drivers' blood pressure gets stimulated a bit, but road construction as stimulus for jobs is still a tough sell.
•"The proposed $128 million Indian Street Bridge across the St. Lucie River has been debated in Martin County, Florida, for more than 20 years. But now that it has been cleared to receive money from the federal government's nearly $800 billion economic stimulus effort, the debate may be over. Critics say the span, which will connect the communities of Palm City and Stuart, is wasteful."
--Abbie Boudreau and Jessi Joseph, CNN Special Investigations Unit
CK: The reason critics say that the bridge is wasteful is that there's one less than three miles away that covers the same two points. They have not only debated the bridge, they tried and failed to build this particular bridge for 20 years. The reason it kept getting a no vote was that it was wasteful.It gets the nod now because it was 'shovel ready' though it still seems murky as to what that means.
•"It was originally estimated that the $64 billion in the stimulus for infrastructure - for transit, high-speed rail, aviation, federal buildings and Army Corps of Engineers projects as well as roads and bridges - would create or sustain 1.8 million jobs. But so far, reports on new jobs were mostly anecdotal. The Transportation Committee said its survey of state and local transportation officials revealed that work had begun on 263 highway and transit projects in 30 states, putting about 1,250 workers back on the job."
--Jim Abrams, The Associated Press
CK: Most of these construction projects move at a snail’s pace and that's what leads to the job creation debate. Much of this stuff takes years even if it is 'shovel ready.' The $128 million bridge in Florida claims to be 'shovel ready' but the Florida DOT says it has purchased only 33 of the 63 pieces of property it will need to complete the bridge. At best they think they can get those bought by 2011. At worst, some homeowners will choose to fight it out in court if they refuse to sell or want more money for their houses. That would take what the investigation calls 'years'. No worries for Florida, though. Despite the obvious delays for this project, the state of Florida says it is waiting on the check from the Feds and expect it soon.
(Stimulate our man CK with an email to email@example.com)
Has the Swine Flu 'crisis'
been hyped too far?
This weekend I was browsing Amazon.com for a gift when I saw one of the day's best sellers. It was a surgical mask, specifically a mask identified as being "n95 rated" by the government to stop most particles from escaping through the mask and infecting the person wearing it. People were ordering them to try and get protection from the Swine flu. On Monday I read in the Wall Street Journal the masks were all sold out. I went back to Amazon and sure enough, the masks were on backorder.
So this company sold out of these masks in 24 hours, I wondered do they even work? According to a report from UCLA, the N95 is made by various manufacturers under different names. You have to look for "NIOSH N95" on the package AND the "N95" is a government efficiency rating that means the mask blocks about 95 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns in size or larger.
I read a little more and found out that the N95 rating "meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for protection against tuberculosis and anthrax spores, as well as the most foreseeable bio-weaponry, which ranges in size from 1.0 to 5.0 microns. So the N95s are more than capable of preventing their inhalation." Wow, who knew? Have we hyped this thing too much?
"During the (Mexico City) visit, Obama spent time with a national museum director who ended up dying a few days later, reportedly after experiencing some flu-like symptoms."
--Bill Dalton, Prime Buzz, KC Star
CK: President Barack Obama not only spent time with him, they shared a handshake. Felipe Solis Olguin passed away two days after the president stood with the very sick man in Mexico City. Much of Monday's White House press conference was centered on the health of the president.
"Obama said yesterday there currently is 'not a cause for alarm,' and while the situation in Mexico certainly is dire, it's possible the media is overhyping the domestic crisis just a bit. Fortunately, as Robert Gibbs had to announce repeatedly, Obama himself is healthy. This is not actually an episode of (Fox TV Series) 24."
--Ben Pershing, The Washington Post
CK: The World Wide Web was crawling with all sorts of conspiracies over this mysterious man that died over the weekend and into this week. As for the 24 reference, a character that once played the president in the series is David Palmer, and during season 2 he was shaking hands with onlookers and one was a woman that slipped a virus into his hand via a handshake. Oh and he played the first African-American president on the show. The coincidence was too much for the wild eyed conspiracy buffs. It even spilled over into the White House press corps a bit.
"The Obama handshake heard round the world was with a man in Mexico on his trip to the country last week. Felipe Solis Olguin has since died and many have speculated that it was from the swine flu. Panic is everywhere over the disease and reporters peppered Obama spokesperson Robert Gibbs on the issue on Monday, desperately seeking information to find out if President Barack Obama had been exposed."
--Tim Morgan, National Ledger
CK: I saw a replay of the back and forth and reporters were certainly driving hard trying to get answers, though Gibbs tried to laugh it off and say everything was fine. It snowballed enough that the Administration would finally issue comments later that day.
"The White House released a statement on Monday afternoon confirming that the man, Felipe Solis Olguin, did not have swine flu. Gibbs also noted that the incubation period for swine flu is one to two days and the President's visit to Mexico happened more than a week ago."
--The Huffington Post
CK: Watching this escalate to that point was certainly entertaining. It’s fairly clear now that one thing Americans are not in a shortage of is panic. It was that way in September when the markets melted down and it is that was now with the swine flu outbreak. Make no mistake, this could be a serious health issue but a wave of panic before very much is known seems more than counter productive. It looks as each unfolding 'crisis' will drive fear into many Americans, and panic will rule.
(CK Rairden hasn’t crossed the border lately and as best we know is free of Swine Flu. Check his status via email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dead presidents are the worry,
not dead trees
Earth Day has been triumphed by the present economic crisis. So sayeth Gallup. While people are planting trees and selling the global warming crisis, this year America is tuning out. In a series of polls designed to correlate with Earth Day this year, the Gallup polling organization has found that people either don't believe the hysteria of global warming and the coming doom, or they think it is greatly exaggerated.
"For all the heated rhetoric about global warming, plenty of people are starting to worry the issue is running out of steam. Elizabeth Kolbert kicked it off yesterday in The New Yorker, contrasting the multitudinous, bottom-up demonstrations at the first Earth Day that convinced Richard Nixon to create the Environmental Protection Agency with today’s environmental indifference."
--Keith Johnson, Wall Street Journal
CK: 'Global warming' has now given way to 'climate change' in the lexicon of those trying to drum up support for policy changes favored by those that believe the earth is well on its way to destruction and that is all the fault of man. That matters little to those polled as with each losing dollar in someone's 401K, the public is now more worried about how much a 'Cap and Trade' system will cost them in terms of cold hard cash as opposed to how much stress the planet is feeling.
"There is little question that the current economic crisis poses a significant challenge for the environmental movement in this country. Previous Gallup research has shown that concern about global warming has diminished this year, and the research reviewed here shows clearly that Americans are more willing than ever to forgo protection of the environment if needed in order to ensure economic growth or the production of energy. With the economy as bad as it has been in recent memory, Americans' preferences have swung even more strongly in the direction of the economy over the environment."
--Frank Newport, Gallup Poll, Americans: Economy Takes Precedence Over Environment
CK: Six months ago, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was struggling, but just over 11,000. People were a bit nervous, but they still had a lot of their investments holding steady and they didn't believe the bottom was about to fall out from underneath them. Monday, the DJIA was again down, closing at 7841. Six months later, many have watched as about thirty percent of the market has crumbled, much of their retirement funds with it. That's a huge hit for workers and is on top of the money that has dropped out of the real estate market, costing them in yet another investment and even strangling credit. Are they in the mood to pay more for energy to cool the planet? Read on.
"For the first time in Gallup's 25-year history of asking Americans about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, a majority of Americans say economic growth should be given the priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent."
--Frank Newport, Gallup
CK: The new improved green economy is the same as the old, people are more concerned about dead presidents and the dead trees they are printed on than they are about 'global warming' that more and more don't seem to believe.
"Although a majority of Americans believe the seriousness of global warming is either correctly portrayed in the news or underestimated, a record-high 41% now say it is exaggerated...Also, compared with last year, fewer Americans believe the effects of global warming have begun to occur. The figure is now 53%, down from 61% in March 2008. At the same time, a record-high 16% say the effects will never occur. Prior to now, Gallup polling found no more than 11% of Americans saying the effects of global warming would never happen."
--Lydia Saad, Gallup Poll, Increased Number Think Global Warming Is "Exaggerated"
CK: This is hardly the end of the movement for Al Gore and his friends. They want you to pay more for energy in every form and won't be satisfied until people are priced out of the market. They want you to use less and pay more. The novelty of that appears to have worn off with Americans that no longer have the wallet for it.
(Email CK at email@example.com)
Do taxpayers have a chance
to stop this mess?
Tax day has some quite fired up. Many American taxpayers are unhappy with their money being taken and given to people based on the US Government determining who is 'too big too fail' or who gets to keep their house despite not actually paying for it. Others are furious that the much of the money designed and sold as 'stimulus' is nothing more than construction projects handed out to the same people who performed the work before. Can the taxpayers actually stop this mess? I guess we'll find out.
"April 15 might become the biggest tax-and-spend protest since the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Politicians fear spontaneous citizen outrage. That's because when the public realizes they have been scammed, bamboozled, defrauded and hustled by politicians who take and then misspend their money -- mostly to enhance their own power -- they'll run like scalded dogs."
--Cal Thomas, Real Clear Politics
CK: I'm writing this column on Tuesday morning. According to the people that figure out this stuff, all of us that actually pay taxes have been working for the US government for the past three and a half months. Tax Freedom Day for 2009 was on Monday, April 13. That's to pay off the feds. You will still have to kick in for state and local taxes, and pony up that bonus and benefit money for any 'retiring' officials looking for a little double dip into the taxpayer pool of cash.
"People think this is about President Obama, but it’s not. It is about making a change in government. They’re making bad decisions. These stimulus bills are out of control. I’ve worked hard all my life and no one has given me a handout."
--Marilyn Jordan, an organizer of a Texas Tea Party, Houston Chronicle
CK: I found this little fact. In 1900, Tax Freedom Day arrived January 22, for an effective average total tax rate of 5.9 percent of the nation's income. We've gone from 22 days to 103 days of full-time employment just to pay federal taxes. Before you get too fired up, that's down from a high of 123 days in 2000 under Bill Clinton. With all of the freebies now being promised to those that don't have to pay taxes, expect that date to hit June in just a few years. Some people believe we are pushing our way towards 'European socialism' and will soon resemble the government of France. Their tax freedom day is July 16, and those poor saps work over half the year (197 days) to hand over that money to the government.
"I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state. That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union. Millions of Texans are tired of Washington, DC trying to come down here to tell us how to run Texas.”
--Gov. Rick Perry, Texas, Drudge Report
CK: Uh-oh, now the governor of Texas is spouting off about the Tenth Amendment? Here's the full text of the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
"Mainstream Republicans are pushing back against charges that they are engaging in what was dubbed AstroTurf activism (by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman) and encouraging the right-wing political fringe."
--David Weigel, Washington Independent
CK: The push back from the left is to dub this effort as fake and that is where Krugman gets his clumsy AstroTurf reference. Krugman seems to be stuck in the Carter years as AstroTurf is long gone on most sports fields and the attempt to be clever falls short. Add to that, as Krugman failed to criticize MoveOn and ACORN as paid political protesters, he comes off sounding like a hypocrite.
"They take money from people who are paying their bills, paying their mortgage, and they take our money and give it to somebody who's not paying theirs."
--Amanda Grosserode, KMBC-TV
CK: It seems to have evolved this way for those that pay taxes - what you can keep of the money you make is now on more people's minds than ever. Whether you are a school super just looking for a nice golden parachute of about $75K with taxpayer funded benefits or just the usual defender of high taxes and spending, the folks that pay the bills are fairly angry with the way their money is being wasted on bonuses and bailouts.
(CK Rairden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Harpst move smells like a tax-funded bonus
President Barack Obama has hit Baghdad, and North Carolina has made it back to the top in one of the most boring NCAA Tournaments ever. Buzzer beaters and upsets were few, and the Monday night game was a yawner.
•"North Carolina spent the entire season motivated by its lopsided loss to Kansas in the semifinals of last year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The goal for coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels: to make amends and win the national championship this year."
--Garey Ris, Wall Street Journal Blog, "The Daily Fix"
CK: I played three brackets this year and all were middle of the road including the one where I had North Carolina winning it all. Congrats to the Tar Heels.
•"President Barack Obama made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Tuesday, the White House said, on his way back to Washington from his first overseas trip as U.S. commander in chief. Obama's Iraq visit came at the conclusion of a trip that included the G20 and NATO summits in Europe and two days in Turkey. He is scheduled to arrive back in Washington Tuesday night."
--Robert Schroeder, CBS Market Watch
CK: This was a good move by the president. It was unannounced as that is the protocol for flying the commander-in-Chief into a war zone, but is important that he acknowledge the troops and their sacrifices. Kudos to President Obama for that.
•"Mark Harpst...has been hired to serve in a newly-created position for Platte County R-3. Harpst, who will “retire” at the end of June after 14 years as the superintendent at Platte County R-3,will become a financial consultant for the district beginning in November."
--Ivan Foley, Platte County Landmark
CK: It appears that Platte County R-3 missed the memo about the fury the public has for bonuses. Though it appears to only be a bit less than $75,000, Mark Harpst may want to consider that a lot of people will consider that money just another taxpayer-funded bonus to an executive on his way out the door.
•"Most importantly, why all the cloak-and-dagger, clandestine activity? Whether you believe the move is a good one or you feel it is unnecessary is immaterial. What should concern you the most is that such a decision was made in total darkness and would still be unknown to all had The Landmark not done some investigating."
--Ivan Foley, Platte County Landmark
CK: The public seems pretty angry at anyone that makes a penny more than they do. They will soon start to look closer and scrutinize these government deals as well.
•"It all started with a question: "How much responsibility, if any, do you have for the financial crisis?" Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and a conservative Harvard law student debated over how Frank should have handled his role as the House Chairman of the Financial Services Committee. Frank was at Harvard University for a speech at the Kennedy School of Government."
--WFXT-TV, My Fox Boston
CK: Locally or nationally it doesn't seem to matter. This might get a bit ugly for some politicians when the fury turns from CEO's in business to the executives in government.
•"Almost three-quarters of Americans think it is a good idea to raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 per year. In fact, two-thirds of Americans think the tax code should be changed so that middle-class Americans pay less than they do now and "upper income" people pay more."
--CBS News Poll released Tuesday
CK: Bonuses, bailouts and something now dubbed 'upper income people' have the ire of the populists and they want some sort of satisfaction.
•"Despite President Barack Obama's commitment to bipartisanship, Rogers says Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi (whom he described as ‘crazy,’ ‘mean as a snake’ and ‘Tom DeLay in a skirt’) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn't get that memo. ‘They don't talk to us," he said. ‘They've got the vote, and they can do what they want.’ Rogers said to be fair Democrats are paying Republicans back for how they were treated when the Republicans controlled Congress."
--U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, Montgomery Advertiser
CK: It appears the congressman believes that Reid is out to lunch and Pelosi is mean and nasty but wouldn't "Tom Delay in a skirt" be a compliment from the Republican lawmaker?
(Reach CK Rairden at email@example.com)
This brand of socialism getting scarier by the week
No one seems quite certain what to label this brand of socialism soup that brews over each day. Politicians in Washington, DC now hire and fire private workers to score points with the populists and it appears that taxpayers will pay for banks, insurance and car companies and the government will be the new management. It's full steam ahead. The new plan is to take control of not only the salaries of the executives that we all love to hate of the companies that took bailout cash, but it now appears they will come for some of your jobs as well.
The latest plan is for the government to monitor all employees of any company that took bailout money. A report from Byron York claims that means if you work for one of those companies, your job is now property of the US government. Salary, benefits and all. Does that mean they can hire and fire you, or cut your pay and benefits at will?
•"In a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the “Pay for Performance Act of 2009,” would impose government controls on the pay of all employees — not just top executives — of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government...(that) includes regular pay, bonuses — everything — paid to employees of companies in whom the government has a capital stake, including those that have received funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested."
--Byron York DC Examiner
CK: This has to be a buzz kill for all of those folks working for companies now on the public dole that were cheering when they heard how the US Congress was going to punish the AIG executives.
• "The U.S. government is set to offer an online emotional rescue kit! "Getting Through Tough Economic Times" will launch Tuesday with a media push across all platforms. The site is meant to help people identify health concerns related to financial worries. The feds will warn of depression, suicidal thinking and other serious mental illnesses.It will raise warning flags for: Persistent sadness/crying; Excessive anxiety; Lack of sleep/constant fatigue; Excessive irritability/anger."
--Matt Drudge, The Drudge Report
CK: Isn't this the least they could do? A cynic might think this is the type of care you will receive if you sign on to what the final version of whatever government health care looks like. Dr. Helen adds, "Isn't this kind of like an abusive spouse providing you with tips on how to cope with his or her abuse?" As Libertarian Harry Browne once said, "Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, "See, if it weren't for the government, you wouldn't be able to walk."
•"Many assembly line autoworkers reacted with skepticism and anger Monday to the Obama administration’s tough tactics, which stoked long-simmering feelings that the people who put the country on wheels get treated differently than the wizards of Wall Street. . . . Many workers — not generally known for their affection toward executives — even sympathized with Rick Wagoner, who was forced to step down as chief executive of General Motors Corp. He was by turns called a sacrificial lamb, scapegoat and fall guy."
--Associated Press story titled "Workers say Obama treated auto workers worse than Wall St"
CK: Politics makes for strange bedfellows when a union guy is willing to show sympathy for an executive as they are all on the edge of unemployment. As an added bonus, they will have the above mentioned "Getting Through Tough Economic Times" to provide an assist.
•"The problem on healthcare, as on cap-and-trade and card check, is that this is a big and complicated country. America doesn't have one energy system, one employee relations system, one healthcare insurance and delivery system -- it has many. Members of Congress from different states and congressional districts have constituents who are very differently situated, and those differences cut across party lines. Democrats from coal states like North Dakota see energy issues differently from Democrats from coal-free states like California. Democrats from heavily unionized Michigan see labor issues differently from Democrats from nonunionized Arkansas. And let's not get started setting out the regional differences in healthcare."
--Michael Barone, Creators Syndicate
CK: Michael Barone calls this mess an attempt at a "European-style welfare state," and that likely works well enough, at least for now.
(Email CK at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bailout fatigue is building, hurting Obama's ratings
It appears America is outraged. Bailout fatigue is building, and apparently if you have taken any of the bailout money, you should take a pass on any bonus. AIG executives are learning the new political landscape on the fly as they are now public enemy number one. Fortunately for them, the anger will move to the next group to blame soon. It might aimed at DC politicians as Americans seem anxious that all of the money they have now given to the government to hand out to failing companies has done little to boost the economy. Pollster John Zogby says it is already reporting that his latest poll will drop the president's approval rating substantially and Obama now is only getting a thumbs up from 50% of the people. A fifty-percent approval rating, can that be right?
•"With the braying of 328 yahoos -- members of the House of Representatives who voted for retroactive and punitive use of the tax code to confiscate the legal earnings of a small, unpopular group -- still reverberating, the Obama administration yesterday invited private-sector investors to become business partners with the capricious and increasingly anti-constitutional government."
--Syndicated Columnist George Will
CK: The plan was even mocked on the front page of the USA Today on Tuesday. The paper printed the famous picture of Uncle Sam with his white beard and red white and blue wardrobe from the famous poster, pointing and saying "I Want You!" (To invest in risky mortgages, distressed commercial real estate and devalued derivatives.) Some invitation.
•"California's Rep. Pete Stark, a senior House Democrat who helps write the nation's tax laws, has been claiming a $1.7 million Maryland home as his principal residence in recent years, although he represents the Golden State's 13th District on the east side of San Francisco Bay."
--Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.Com
CK: Stark's plan was to save $3,900 in state and county taxes each year. Is it illegal, unethical or both? Stark tells Bloomberg, "Insofar as I know, I'm obeying the law." For the record he makes $174,000 per year to represent the people of California.
•"Maryland law allows the tax break only to those residences used "for the legal purposes of voting, obtaining a driver's license, and filing income tax returns...(Stark) confirmed that he and his wife Deborah are indeed not registered to vote in Maryland. He said they use her parents' address in San Lorenzo to maintain their California voting eligibility."
-- Andrew Malcolm, Top of the Ticket, LA Times
CK: Its entertaining to watch members of the US Congress publicly flog the CEO of the week as they sit in judgment of the same folks that send them campaign cash. But what happens to congress if the anger and resentment begins to leak over to them?
•"The honeymoon is over, a national poll will signal today as President Obama’s job approval stumbles to about 50 percent over the lack of improvement with the crippled economy. The sobering numbers come as the president backpedals from two prime-time gaffes - one comparing his bowling score to a Special Olympian and another awkwardly laughing about the economy, which prompted Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” to ask 'are you punch-drunk?'"
--Joe Dwinell, Boston Herald
CK: This number seems off as Gallup still has Obama at 65% and the average of all of the polls before the Zogby poll has the president with a 60% approval rating.
•"The Herald also spoke with a communications professor at Boston University, who believes that Obama has mismanaged his media appearances. Toby Berkovitz says Obama has become overexposed and needs to be seen working rather than campaigning. “I wonder when the public will say ‘Instead of being in front of the camera, be in front of a spreadsheet.'"
--Ed Morrisey, Hot Air
CK: "The numbers are going down," Zogby said in the Herald interview, "It’s not because of the gaffes, but a combination of high expectations and that things aren’t moving fast enough with the economy." Zogby polls are notoriously wrong. But certainly "It's the economy, stupid," seems to have made a stark return. The president's approval ratings will rise and fall with the Dow, the job numbers and the general economic news.
(CK’s numbers aren’t going down. Email him at email@example.com)
This week: It's wall-to-wall basketball
The Madness of March is upon us and gamblers and office pool players get their last best hope for some easy office pool play until the NFL season rolls around and even training camp is several months away. It's time to fill out those brackets and get ready to play. The Landmark’s annual college basketball bracket contest kicks off this week and in that vein, we are skipping all politics for a week, and will take a look at some of the predictions and analysis these so called experts provide for the tournament. But as you listen to these experts pontificate on their upset specials and tournament locks remember that Kurt Foley and yours truly buried all of the KC media types in the NFL weekly pigskin picks this past season by several games. That said, I never win these pools, so you may want to copy Kurt's. I will be furiously filling out brackets on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning, and one early one for The Landmark’s deadline.
"My Big 12 bracket is in shambles but so is everyone else’s in the office pool. At least we have 38 the Spot’s Holly Starr to look at for another day."
--Greg Hall, Off the Couch, Platte County Landmark.
CK: Prognostication skills aside, its good to see Hall's "Off the Couch" column back online. I know the local crowd loves it, but it is especially helpful for those that are away and only get a few glances at the KC coverage. I am a bit concerned about one particular strand of his coverage and that is his Henrik Stenson inch-by-inch coverage when the golfer stripped down to his boxer briefs for a shot in a recent tournament. (You may have to go to Hall’s column at plattecountylandmark.com and see the picture to really get this one).
"If the upset-racked conference tournaments this last week have demonstrated anything, it’s that this Dance will be as wide open as it gets and defy profiling. And so I will pick these teams to reach the Final Four, with no confidence whatsoever that any of them will live that long: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma. In the national semifinals, Louisville beats Memphis in the Hair Gel Bowl, Rick Pitino vs. Calipari. Oklahoma takes out Pitt in the other semi. And your national champion is …Louisville."
--Ben Smith Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
CK: The Cardinals looked great as they pulled away from an exhausted Syracuse team to win the Big East tournament and never count out the Memphis Tigers as they are headed into yet another Big Dance with another massive chip on their collective shoulders.
"Upset special: Dominic James' season-ending injury helped drop Marquette to a No. 6 seed in the West regional, and then the Golden Eagles were dispatched to play 11th-seeded Utah State in Boise, where the Aggies will have the advantage of a friendly crowd."
--Terry Bannon NCAA Tournament Predictions, Chicago Tribune.
CK: First round upsets can ruin or save a bracket. If you can hit two or three early upsets it can really pay of in the later rounds, but only if you don't take the Cinderella story past the Sweet Sixteen.
"Upset special: Western Kentucky over Illinois. Everyone will be jet-lagged in Portland, the Illini might not have Chester Frazier at 100 percent and the Hilltoppers have a win over Louisville—Louisville!—on their résumé."
--Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune
CK: This is my favorite opening round upset. Other possible upsets are VCU over UCLA and maybe even Cleveland State over Wake Forest. Arizona over Utah seems to be many prognosticator's favorites but many are always looking for the 12 seed over 5 seed upset. Arizona and Western Kentucky are both 12 seeds and both could win.
"Although Kansas was among the best in the Big 12 all season, they lack experience as they lost four starters from last season's championship team. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich will be key if the Jayhawks wish to avoid being upset in the first round, and simply because I have picked it safe so far, I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say the Bison will prevail in this shocker (*runs off stage avoiding thrown objects*). North Dakota State 84, Kansas 79."
--Andrew Wharton, Bleacher Report.
CK: Kansas is a tough team to figure. They could easily bow out in one of the early rounds but will they really lose to North Dakota State? This is one upset that seems like a serious long shot.
"Louisville-Memphis sets-up for a potential Conference USA return match. Memphis is the underrated squad, but the Cardinals have been tested in a more demanding conference. Louisville advances to the championship game to face Pittsburgh. In a game to give Mike Tranghese goose bumps, Louisville will knock off Pittsburgh 76-70 allowing Rick Pitino the thrill of leading both of Kentucky’s major basketball programs to the championship."
--The View From the Sidelines.
CK: This scenario might just play out though I have never been completely sold on Pitt. The way my NCAA picks have been going this season that might mean a Panthers championship.
(Email C.K. Rairden at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cost of bailouts exceeds cost of all major wars
If you combine the movie "Groundhog Day" with the Schwarzenegger film Terminator,you may have a hybrid character that is ready to spend forever named Nancy Pelosi. In the movie "Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray plays a character who lives the same day over and over with seemingly no end in sight. In 1984 Science Fiction thriller "The Terminator," Arnold Schwarzenegger gives his signature line, "I'll be back." This certainly seems like the same day over and over as Nancy Pelosi has borrowed the line from Arnold and she is back. On Tuesday, Politico reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is open to introducing a second stimulus bill.
•"Pelosi also accused the Washington media and cable news establishment of taking an overly critical approach toward the first stimulus — and expecting too much too soon. “We hope it will be sooner rather than later that [the stimulus] catches fire in Washington, D.C. But we aren’t waiting,” she said. “This is a fiscally sound package,” she said. “This is market-oriented.”
--Pelosi open to second stimulus, Politico.Com
CK: A second stimulus would actually be the third bailout plan the taxpayers are asked to deliver the payment on for generations to come. The first was the Bush bank bailout that was followed by the Obama local government bailout. The omnibus spending bill (a whopping $410 billion) that will likely become law this week with President Obama's signature will contain loads of pork and earmarks for pet projects for those with friends in Washington, DC. The money is barely dry on that printed up currency and from the other trillions of dollars worth of bailouts and already Pelosi seems to be rubbing her hands together, ready to take more of your money and give it away.
•"The total value of the bailouts undertaken by the federal government in 2008 now exceeds the combined cost of every major war the United States has ever engaged in...According to CRS, all major U.S. wars (including such events as the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, but not the invasion of Panama or the Kosovo War), cost a total of $7.2 trillion in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars."
--CNSNews report on the cost of the first two bailouts.
CK: Yikes, good thing someone is keeping score.
•"The federal government has made commitments worth a total of $8.5 trillion in the bailouts of 2008. That includes actual expenditures as well as loan and asset guarantees. Bianco Research puts the total value of the bailouts at $8.7 trillion."
--Bloomberg analysis on the cost of the first two bailouts.
CK: It will be interesting to see if the Pelosi bailout is the tipping point for America as it comes to politicians grabbing stacks of taxpayer cash and unloading it to their friends, all in the name of stimulus.
•"According to Time magazine, Sen. Amy Kobuchar (D-MN) is having doubts the disputed U.S. Senate race in her home state will be decided soon. “Elections law experts say that Coleman has been laying the groundwork for an appeal... Indeed, it's not rare these days to hear Coleman's attorneys claim the ruling violated the equal protections clause of the U.S. Constitution... Tellingly, both sides appear to be girding for more legal battles." Reuters quotes professor David Schultz, who nails the Republican strategy: "For the GOP a vacancy is as good as electing Coleman." Schultz predicts the legal dispute will not be settled until late summer.
--Republicans Seek to Drag Out Minnesota Fight, Political Wire
CK: The vacant Minnesota seat in the US Senate may be the only hope for stopping the Pelosi bailout and all of the pork that is in the omnibus spending bill. Democrats need sixty votes on most controversial issues to stop debate and they need help from the Republicans each time. But if the spending spree is to be stopped it will still take a Democrat to step up and demand an end to spending money we don't really have.
•"What I don’t think people should do is suddenly stuff money in their mattresses and pull back completely from spending. I don’t think that people should be fearful about our future. I don’t think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions because the overwhelming majority of them actually have managed things reasonably well."
--President Obama in a New York Times interview.
CK: I can still remember workers on the farms around Platte County joking about getting their metal detectors when an old farmer would pass away. They didn't put it in their mattresses, they would stuff it in metal coffee cans and bury it.
(Always managing things reasonably well is longtime Landmark columnist CK Rairden, who can be reached at email@example.com)
Obama's policies have become part of the problem
So where is the good news? A cable news show in the morning this week had the Ken and Barbie talking head duo ask that question after reading off some tough stories. They included the usual falling numbers for the stock market, the housing market crisis and the general economic downturn stories we each hear each day. If you haven't quite yet figured it out, the next few years are going to remind us all of the era of Jimmy Carter. The blame game is already underway.
•"We are now looking at a deficit of well over half of a trillion dollars, so one of the things that I think we have to recognize is that pursuing the same kinds of policies that we have pursued over the last eight years is not going to bring down the deficit...Having inherited a trillion dollar deficit that will take us a long time for us to close, we need to focus on what we need to do to move the economy forward, not on what is nice to have."
CK: The Obama strategy appears to blame all of this on President Bush, and that might work for a few more months. Unfortunately, Obama supported the bank bailout and the latest government bailout, and unless one of those starts to provide relief that people can actually see, at some point folks will start blaming him.
•"Maybe the Dow will rally tomorrow, and here’s hoping it does. But so far the markets have greeted Obama’s program with a resounding thud. . . . Obama is temporizing with his financial crisis in favor of moving quickly on his big spending plans, and watching the Dow trip steadily downward by the day."
--Rich Lowery, National Review Online
CK: This will be the blame game from the conservatives. Lowery points out that on Jan. 19 of this year, the day before President Obama was inaugurated, the Dow was at 8,281. On Monday it closed at 6,763.
•"As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9034 on Jan. 2, its highest level since the autumn panic. Yesterday the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama's policies have become part of the economy's problem."
--Editorial, Wall Street Journal
CK: Bill Clinton has even tried to give advice to President Obama, telling him to tone down the gloom and doom rhetoric. The day before the elections in 2006, when the Democrats took both houses of Congress, the Dow was at a solid 12,106.
•"Obama's budget proposal calls for $989 billion in new taxes over the next 10 years, most of which will be earned from increased taxes on individuals who make more than $200,000 and from families who make more than $250,000."
--ABC News Report on the Obama Budget
CK: The "rich" are already making plans to make adjustments so that they don't work longer hours only to hand the cash over to others, keep reading.
•"A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told ABCNews.com that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law. We are going to try to figure out how to make our income $249,999.00."
--Unidentified attorney from Louisiana
CK: This is where the 'soak the rich' plan starts to really unravel. If you ask those that produce jobs and income to keep working longer and harder for less, they will usually say no.
•"I've put thought into how to get under $250,000. It would mean working fewer days which means having fewer employees, seeing fewer patients and taking time off...Generally it means being less productive. The motivation for a lot of people like me – dentists, entrepreneurs, lawyers – is that the more you work the more money you make. But if I'm going to be working just to give it back to the government -- it's de-motivating and demoralizing."
--Dr. Sharon Poczatek, who runs her own dental practice in Boulder, Colorado, from the ABC News story.
CK: Yikes. How many more of these 'rich' people will react like this? And once the numbers don't add up, how low will the threshold go on raising taxes?
(CK never moves quickly on big spending plans. Ask him why via email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Survey says: Three out of four Americans 'angry'
The stock market has now dropped to numbers below post 9/11 and the last time American investors saw numbers like these was in the second term of Bill Clinton. It now appears that most have their hands out and are waiting desperately for that bailout cash to trickle down their way. Like most of Americans, the US Government hasn't even saved a dime for a rainy day. That means we print it, or ask China for loans. Or even beg.
•“US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Sunday urged China to keep buying US debt as she wrapped up her first overseas trip, during which she agreed to work closely with Beijing on the financial crisis. Clinton made the plea shortly before leaving China, the final stop on a four-nation Asian tour that also took her to Japan, Indonesia and South Korea, where she worked the crowds to try to restore America's standing abroad."
--Agency French Presse as Secretary Clinton left Asia
CK: Begging for cash from the communist Chinese does something for America's image, though restore is not the correct word. Of course, that all depends on what the meaning of "is" is.
•"Police are preparing for a "summer of rage" as victims of the economic downturn take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions...Britain's most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return of the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming "footsoldiers" in a wave of potentially violent mass protests."
--Paul Lewis, The UK Guardian
CK: Those European socialists certainly seem to get quite angry when the government promises they will bail them out, provide free health care and mortgage help (basically meet all of their daily needs) then fail to deliver. Americans are must more patient, though. Right?
•"According to Gallup polling on all elected presidents from Richard Nixon through George W. Bush (this excludes Gerald Ford, who assumed office after Nixon resigned), the range of job approval for new presidents after about a month in office extends from 55% for Ronald Reagan to 71% for Jimmy Carter. The average one-month approval rating for all six past presidents is 62% -- nearly identical to Obama's current 63%."
--Gallup Poll Released Monday
CK: Jimmy Carter beats President Barack Obama in the polls one month in, and the president now has the exact same poll numbers as former president George W. Bush had one month into his presidency. Who Knew? It appears the New York Times, read on.
•"President Obama is benefiting from remarkably high levels of optimism and confidence among Americans about his leadership, providing him with substantial political clout as he confronts the nation’s economic challenges and opposition from nearly all Republicans in Congress, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll."
--New York Times analysis of Obama's approval rating in their poll where he has the same 63% approval rating that he scored with the Gallup poll.
CK: Please don't confuse the NY Times writers with those pesky facts.
•"A new national poll indicates that nearly three out of four Americans are scared about the way things are going in the country today...Nearly eight in 10 say things are going badly in the country, with just 21 percent suggesting that things are going well. The survey also says that three out of four Americans are angry about the way things are going in the country."
--CNN on their Monday poll
CK: It appears we won't need a Jimmy Carter like misery index as the general mood of the country has tanked.
•"House Democrats unveiled a $410 billion spending bill on Monday to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year, setting up the second political struggle over federal funds in less than a month with Republicans. The measure includes thousands of earmarks, the pet projects favored by lawmakers but often criticized by the public in opinion polls. There was no official total of the bill's earmarks, which accounted for at least $3.8 billion."
--David Espo, The Associated Press
CK: The Democrats in the US Congress will ask you to do without, but certainly you shouldn't expect that from them. It's business as usual for Nancy Pelosi and company as they load up on even more pork for their friends. Keep in mind, this is on top of the last two bailouts that add up to nearly $2 trillion
(CK’s mood hasn’t tanked. Check it out with an email to email@example.com)
Will Bailout 3.0 be happening in the spring?
Watching incompetence and greed isn't quite as entertaining as it once was for those no longer being paid. The state of Kansas is the latest to join the deadbeat craze, telling taxpayers they might have to wait for their money to be refunded that they overpaid to the state government last year in taxes.
How many taxpayers will ever make the mistake of overpaying their taxes again? One would think it is time to adjust the dependents on that paperwork and increase those to the top legal amount and underpay and then square up with the state the following April 15. Who would loan the state of Kansas money at no interest, only to be told to wait for the money they are owed?
•"Kansas has suspended income tax refunds and may not be able to pay employees on time, the state's budget director said Monday. The state doesn't have enough money in its main bank account to pay its bills, prompting Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to suggest transferring $225 million from other accounts throughout state government. But the move required approval from legislative leaders, and the GOP refused Monday."
CK: Governor Kathleen Sebelius wants to use what amounts to an accounting gimmick to get the cash out, she wants to borrow from one area of the state to pay the other. If that is confusing see the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal, it's the same basic principle.
•"Big question: are state workers going to be paid on Friday? When will tax refunds go out? Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, said she doesn’t know, and the answer depends on whether legislative leaders hold firm."
--Prime Buzz, KC Star
CK: Governor Sebelius is blaming Republicans, they are saying that she can't borrow from Peter to pay Paul. Fault matters little, this is your view of the future of depending on the government from cradle to grave. The best idea for you right now is to lower expectations, all of these bailouts are going to do little to ease the pain and may make things worse in the long run.
•"The state of California — its deficits ballooning, its lawmakers intransigent and its governor apparently free of allies or influence — appears headed off the fiscal rails. Since the fall, when lawmakers began trying to attack the gaps in the $143 billion budget that their earlier plan had not addressed, the state has fallen into deeper financial straits, with more bad news coming daily from Sacramento. The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects."
--NY Times Business Article, Monday
CK: The bailout that President Barack Obama signs on Tuesday goes to help the states like Kansas and California that can't manage their money or pay their bills. That cash will then be put into action tearing up roads and rebuilding them, along with all of the other usual construction projects you see each year around your local community. That means lots of road signs and those cute little flashing lights. Is that stimulus? It is if you have connections with people that will receive the government contracts.
•"Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters nationwide believe the $787-billion stimulus plan passed by Congress will help the economy. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 29% believe the plan will hurt and 24% believe it will have little impact. Middle-income Americans are more likely to believe the bill will hurt rather than help."
--Rasmussen Reports Poll Released Monday
CK: Every member of the US Congress voted for this bill without ever reading it in full and we are told that is okay, that's just the way the US Government works. Democratic lawmakers swear the near $800 billion plan will work, but if this doesn't provide instant relief, the natives (i.e. the US Taxpayers) will become even more restless and make even more demands. Expect bailout 3.0 by Spring.
(CK Rairden takes you an a weekly spin around the nation here in your neighborhood Landmark. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Obama using same scare tactics as Bush
There is a fairly old joke that goes something likes this. A short time before President Barack Obama took the oath of office, outgoing President George W. Bush presented the new president with three numbered envelopes, all embossed with the presidential seal. The first said 'Blame your predecessor.’ The second (which would need to be opened after things again began to deteriorate) said 'Reorganize' and the third said 'Prepare three envelopes.’
It appears that after three weeks, Barack Obama has opened the first envelope.
•“When I hear that from people who presided over the national debt, then I just want them to not engage in some revisionist history. I inherited the deficit and the economic crisis.”
--Barack Obama at his support the bailout, prime time press conference.
CK: Economists claim that when Obama signs the new bailout that now appears to be headed towards $900 billion, he will double the deficit. I guess the next guy or gal will get to blame his or her predecessor for that mound of the cash everyone's children's, children's, children now will owe.
•"The bill’s health rules will affect ‘every individual in the United States.’ Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors."
--Betsy McCaughey in a Bloomberg Column titled, 'Ruin Your Health With the Obama Stimulus Plan.’
CK: If her opinion is right and the new health care plan is anything like the examples she cites, Canadian health care may start looking good. Read on, and if you're a senior citizen, don't get sick, it appears you could be expendable with the wrong disease.
•"But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions."
--Betsy McCaughey, from the Bloomberg article.
CK: The author of the piece, Betsy McCaughey, is a health care activist. She was one of the most vocal critics of the 1994 Hillary Clinton plan. She had some of her criticism of that doomed plan proven right and others wrong, but she was one of the many that helped expose enough that the plan was defeated. The federal government is now so incompetent it can't even handle the switch from analog to digital TV without an extension. Now they want to control health care with bureaucrats who will take a look at the disease you have and decide if its cost effective for you to get treatment?
•"We are choosing hope over fear. We are choosing unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America."
--Barack Obama, right before his Election Day Victory.
•"We're in the midst of a serious financial crisis, and the federal government is responding with decisive actions. Without immediate action by Congress, America can slip into a major panic. If Congress fails to approve the rescue plan, the nation could face a long and painful recession.
--President George W. Bush asking for the first bailout
•"A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a longer recession, a less robust recovery, and a more uncertain future," he said. "That's why I feel such a sense of urgency about the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan."
--President Obama asking for the second bailout
•"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days."
--FDR’s First Inaugural Address
CK: Times certainly have changed, and it seems like it should have taken Obama more than three weeks to begin to use the exact scare tactics Bush employed when the first bailout was rushed through.
•"If we don't act immediately,'' unemployment across the country will rise, and "our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse."
--President Obama on Monday in Elkhart, Indiana
CK: Most of the money from the Obama bailout won't be spent until 24 months down the road. That leaves many concerned the rush is so issues like the government takeover of health care can be slipped in without discussion.
•"We're All Socialists Now”
--Newsweek Cover on Newsstands Now
(Always willing to choose hope over fear, Landmark conservative crusader CK Rairden can be reached at email@example.com)
How many more unions can taxpayers afford?
I'm still old school and still love to sit and read the print version of newspapers, sometimes with a cigar. On Monday after flipping though my e-mail which seemed more doom and gloom than normal (perhaps it was the still stinging defeat when the Arizona Cardinals fell just short of a Super Bowl victory by losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers with only 35 ticks left) I decided to sit outside, soak up some sun and see why so many were concerned at the tone of the news. I've noticed more than enough anxiety in some of the most stable people of late and on Monday, as I browsed the USA Today, it was clear they would be 'woe is me' central for that day. From the front page to the Life section to Sports and Money, it all seemed to be bad news.
•"Here's a Wall Street adage that investors hope doesn't come true in 2009: As January goes, so goes the rest of the year. With the Dow Jones industrials and Standard & Poor's 500 losing 8.8% and 8.6% in January, respectively — their nastiest start to a year ever — followers of the so-called January Barometer are hunkered down for the worst."
--Financial article in USA Today on Monday
CK: The US Government has adopted a strategy of taking money from taxpayers and handing it to failing businesses in an attempt to allow them to fail again, but on your dime. It should surprise few that investors are pulling out.
•"Signs abound that the battered economy is causing serious damage to the mental health and family lives of a growing number of Americans. Requests for therapists have soared, Americans say they're stressed out, and domestic-violence and suicide hotlines are reporting increased calls."
--Life Section of the USA Today on Monday
CK: Many of these people have never been told "no" their whole life. It appears that is over, and once reality smacks some of these folks in the face it might not be a bad idea to check in for a little couch time.
•"Prime Minister François Fillon on Monday rejected demands that the French government seek to stimulate consumer spending, rather than follow his plan to stimulate corporate and infrastructure investment, to lift France out of its economic slump. Opponents of the government have been calling for an "Obama-style" stimulus plan, one that puts money directly into the pockets of working people."
CK: The Obama plan appears to be nothing more than business as usual for Washington, DC. $900 billion or more of taxpayer money being handed out for friends of the DC politicians and calling it a stimulus will do little to stimulate anything other than the wallets of the same people that got us in this mess. Why should any of us believe this is going to work?
•"I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem, to me it's part of the solution."
--President Barack Obama, January 30, 2009
CK: Tell that to General Motors and Chrysler and the taxpayers that now finance these two 'private' companies thanks, in part, to union benefits, labor and legacy costs. How many more unions can taxpayers afford?
•"Obama expressed his continued confidence in (Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle) during a brief photo op yesterday, support that was echoed later in the day by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs."
--US News and World Report
CK: Daschle failed to pay about about $140,000 in unpaid back taxes and has all sorts of red flags surrounding him. How do you try and convince the American taxpayer that it is okay for a former Senate Majority Leader to skip out on over $100,000 of taxes and get a promotion? Daschle's answer was similar to Timothy Geitner (he has been confirmed despite skipping paying taxes) once he was caught he said he was sorry, and finally paid the taxes. Are we really supposed to continue to ignore this?
•"Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, says he'll refinance two mortgages that he received through a VIP program from Countrywide Financial. Dodd has acknowledged receiving mortgages in 2003 through a VIP program at Countrywide, which was sold to Bank of America Corp. earlier this year and has been the focus of allegations that it gave favorable loan terms to lawmakers... Dodd says he never sought special treatment."
CK: Love those sweetheart deals. Remember when the Democrats were off to Washington to "clean up" the corruption? Perhaps they meant they would refinance it.
(CK Rairden gives Landmark readers the special treatment each and every week. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ignorance drips from this Michigan town
Marvin E. Schur died "a slow, painful death," said Kanu Virani, Oakland County's (Michigan) deputy chief medical examiner, who performed the autopsy, according to an Associated Press report. His crime, he failed to pay his electric bill to the city of Bay City, Michigan. He owed almost $1,100 in bills to the city and they put a device on his house that would trip if he used too much power.
A city utility worker had installed a "limiter" device to restrict the use of electricity at Schur's home on Jan. 13. According to the city, the device blows out like a fuse if consumption rises past a set level. Power is not restored until the device is reset.
So the city places the device on the man's home, and according to a report from M Live in Michigan, "City officials said Monday they don't believe a city worker ever made one-on-one contact with Schur to explain the limiter's operation." So the stage is set, the limiter is on the house, the man hasn't been contacted by the city at all, and when the power exceeds the limits, it shuts off everything, including the heat. On cold nights in Michigan, that can be deadly.
The man froze to death indoors. Schur died Jan. 17 in his home.
"His furnace was not running, the insides of his windows were full of ice the morning we found him," neighbor George Pauwels Jr. told the Bay City News. He is the man that discovered the body.
Is the city responsible for the man's death? Did they make a deadly error by not actually sending a worker to the door to make certain what was going on inside the house before turning it dark? They think not and blame the neighbors. Seriously. City manager Robert Belleman told the Associated Press Bay City Electric Light & Power's policies will be reviewed, but he didn't believe the city did anything wrong.
•"I've said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors," Belleman said. "When they think there's something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department."
--Quote from the Associated Press article
CK: Only a government employee would say that with a straight face. The city (which knew something was wrong as the man didn't pay his electric bills) wants the neighbors to call the city to tell them something is wrong. This would be humorous if it didn't lead to a slow painful death of a 93-year old war veteran from hypothermia while he sat inside his house. It makes one wonder how much money will Bay City, Michigan get from the next taxpayer bailout and why we would ever reward such behavior. Much of that new $850 billion worth of money is said to be directed at all sorts of governments, including cities, will Bay City get some of your cash?
•"Workers at the General Motors Powertrain plant in Bay City were celebrating Friday's announcement of a federal loan package designed to help the struggling automaker, a company official said. Those who lobbied for the loan package included Bay City Mayor Charles M. Brunner, who flew to Washington, D.C., twice as part of a contingent of area officials."
--Bay City News when it was announced that the automakers would get their bailout cash.
CK: Why are we giving these folks money, again? They did get the cash, a whopping $9.4 billion "federal loan" to GM. They celebrated and kept their heat on, but somehow the city couldn't knock on this guy's door and communicate with him to help make arrangements to keep his heat on.
•"The Bay City Commission voted to raise electric rates by 3 percent on Monday. The 3 percent increase is the latest in a series of scheduled rate increases for city utilities and the second in the past year for electric customers, who saw a 9 percent increase last summer. City officials say the increase is needed to keep up with the rising costs of purchasing power."
--M Live in an article covering the city business.
CK: The ignorance drips from this town. While everyone can understand scheduled increases in fees, it might not be a bad idea to delay this vote until the next session. Were often told how much towns like Bay City will suffer if the taxpayers don't donate money to the automakers. After reading how they treat their own, how many will now say - so what?
(Email CK Rairden at email@example.com)
Biden had his choice of positions
The confetti streamed down from the ceiling at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on Sunday and the Arizona Cardinals shocked the world with a win to send them to their first Super Bowl.
As I looked around, it was hard not to think of the Kansas City Chiefs fans and the absolute wasted years with Carl Peterson. That may be over with the hiring of Scott Pioli, though it is still quite the surprise that he has yet to help Herm Edwards find the door. The Cardinals changed their ways by hiring a young energetic coach that wasn't just yet another failed retread from another team. I sure hope that is the same philosophy of Scott Pioli.
Now it is off to Washington, DC where the celebrities and the high rollers are partying with the common folk as the celebrations are in high gear for the inauguration of Barack Obama. Tuesday is a magnificent day for the people of our country as opposition parties trade places of power in a peaceful manner. It's a truly American moment we should all enjoy.
Fortunately I will never run out of material as behind the scenes it is business as usual, and it appears that Jill Biden is as loose lipped as her husband Joe.
•"The wife of Vice President-elect Joe Biden let it slip that her husband had a pick of two jobs in the Obama administration. Jill Biden said President-elect Barack Obama gave Biden the choice of being secretary of state or vice president. Her comment came when the Bidens made a surprise appearance on Oprah Winfrey's show, recorded at the Kennedy Center. The vice president-elect tried to hush his wife as soon as the words came out of her mouth, with a loud "shhh!"
--Associated Press story on the latest Biden gaffe
CK: Vice President Joe Biden had some of the loosest lips and biggest gaffes on the campaign trail, and now his wife is following suit. The idea here is that Hillary Clinton will be very angry when she finds out she wasn't the first choice for Secretary of State and surely she will be furious. Team Obama was spinning away late Monday night trying to say that Hillary was choice number one, but obviously that wasn't the case.
•"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task. This is the price and the promise of citizenship."
--Barack Obama at his Inauguration Speech
CK: Hard to argue that point. I listened to Barack Obama's speech that he delivered on Tuesday morning and much of it was aimed at folks like me. It will be interesting to see what he can deliver.
•"Al Gore’s side may be coming to power in Washington, but they appear to be losing the battle on the idea that humans are to blame for global warming. Forty-four percent (44%) of U.S. voters now say long-term planetary trends are the cause of global warming, compared to 41% who blame it on human activity."
--Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday
CK: I'm not certain Al Gore's window is yet shut, but public support is fading. Keep in mind though that Gore has one huge ally, President Barack Obama.
•"The 52-42 Senate vote on the second half of the "TARP" bailout money broke down mostly along partisan lines. Six Republicans, however, voted with Obama (Alexander, Gregg, Kyl, Lugar, Snowe, Voinovich), and nine Democrats voted against him (Bayh, Cantwell, Dorgan, Feingold, Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Shaheen, Sanders, Wyden). But to show you how hot of a political potato the TARP money is, FIVE of those nine Dems are up for re-election in 2010 (Bayh, Dorgan, Feingold, Lincoln, Wyden). And out of the six GOPers who voted with Obama, just ONE is up for re-election in 2010 (Gregg)."
--NBC News on Sunday
CK: People are finally starting to tire of having their money given away by a government that appears unwilling to even divulge where they are spending it. Will that change under an Obama Administration?
•"The latest Associated Press-GfK Poll finds nearly two-thirds of those surveyed say Barack Obama will be at least an "above average" president, including 28% who think he'll be "outstanding." That compares to previous inauguration polls showing a 47% "above average" rating for George W. Bush, 56% for Bill Clinton and only 51% for Ronald Reagan."
--Fox News report
CK: A USA Today/Gallup Poll says there are "stratospheric expectations for Obama that even his own supporters acknowledge may be unrealistic." That's accurate. While it is very nice to see America rallying behind a leader, turning him into a celebrity president is probably a bad move.
•"With the metabolism of a White House set by its occupant, Obama's team is preparing for a return to long nights, heavy weekend shifts -- and a boss who will venture into Washington far more than the place's current resident. It's a throwback to Bill Clinton's cramming-for-an-exam style, a shift from George W. Bush's early-bird routine. Aides expect the workload to be so intense, at least for the early months, that they're trying to formalize ways to help staffers stay in touch with spouses and kids -- with ideas under consideration that include inviting family members into the White House for casual after-hours meals."
--Politico in an article discussing the early speed of the Obama plan, and the work that will come with it.
CK: These first 100 days will set the tone. Obama appears as if he is trying to combine the optimism and plea for hard work and good citizenship of Ronald Reagan and the social engineering programs of FDR. That sounds very tough.
(Not opposed to late nights, reach CK Rairden anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bond, others make up one confused party
When you spend a lot of time in Arizona, you get used to some pretty bad professional football. That all changed this playoff season as the Arizona Cardinals have now won back-to-back games as a playoff underdog and will host the NFC Championship game. It's a tough ticket (apparently it sold out in eight minutes) but using all of my wares and influence, the tickets are in hand.
Watching the fans of the team here is similar to watching Chiefs fans, except this team wins a playoff game or two every decade to keep that small sliver of hope. Plus they have a really cool stadium and the temperature for Sunday's game is forecast to be 72 degrees. Is there hope for the Kansas City Chiefs? Well, Carl Peterson has finally slithered off (though about ten years too late) hopefully dragging off the stink of losing that surrounds the Chiefs with him. And if Arizona making it to the NFC Championship game doesn't prove there is always hope for the Chiefs, nothing will help a weary Chiefs fan.
Of course that could all change if you take a look east towards Washington, DC. It appears that many Republican senators are acting on the new and improved Carl Peterson plan, run the organization into the ground and leave the cleanup to the next crew.
•"US Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond (R) unexpectedly announced Thursday that he will retire in 2010. He joins GOP Senators Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) in not seeking re-election next year. "In 1973, I became Missouri's youngest governor. I do not aspire to become Missouri's oldest Senator. I'd like to retire while I'm still at the top of my game ..."
--Politics 1, noting Bond is on his way out the door along with two of his Republican friends.
CK: It appears that the ‘abandon ship!’ policy is in full force for some of the senior members of the party. It's not much fun being in the minority party in Washington if you don't have a clear opposing message, and this is one confused party.
•"CNN has confirmed that US Senator George Voinovich (R) will announce his retirement on Monday. He had previously -- and repeatedly -- announced his intention to seek re-election in 2010 and has roughly $3 million cash-on-hand in his campaign account. Voinovich, 72, spent the weekend on vacation with his family in Florida as he finalized his decision."
--CNN on Monday, adding the liberal Republican's name to the list.
CK: Had The Landmark editor only known that legendary US Senate dealmaker George Voinovich was right next to him in the Sunshine State at what sounds like about the same time, he could have jump started that 'Father of the Bride' bailout.
•"This is a potential disaster [for the GOP] with four retirements this quickly especially given that Republicans are already defending more seats. ... It is a self -fulfilling prophecy. Republicans won't be able to recruit any challengers, and even if the environment shifts in their direction (a la Democrats in 1996), they won't have incumbents or challengers in place to take advantage."
--NBC Political Director Chuck Todd
CK: Everything is now on the shoulders of the Democrats in Washington and with the current state of the union that is an incredible opportunity for Republicans. How? An opposition party could thrive in this climate but it will take competence and some strong leadership. If taxpayers are forced to pay more money in bailouts and the economy doesn't boom, the minority party could move quickly back to power. However, that would require leadership or at least some competence. No Republican has stepped forward as of yet.
•"If his stimulus plan "doesn’t work out, he may very well be a one-term president,” said Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times, who covered Obama’s campaign. “It’s hard to imagine that he could be reelected if the economy’s in the exact same position four years from now. A lot of the things he said on the campaign trail you can now dispense with,” said correspondent Peter Baker. “For the moment he has to focus on the economy.”
--Politico, reporting from a Sunday afternoon panel at the New York Times Center in New York City of political reports from the Times.
CK: Expect many pundits to get their 'Obama might not be all that great' predictions in now so they can say 'I told you so' later if it all goes south. This one is pretty bad, though, as certainly if the economy looks the way it does now the least of the worries of the voters will be if Obama is re-elected.
•"The number of people leaving California for another state outstripped the number moving in from another state during the year ending on July 1, 2008. California lost a net total of 144,000 people during that period — more than any other state, according to census estimates. That is about equal to the population of Syracuse, N.Y."
--LA Times, noting that many are bailing on the once Golden State.
CK: I spend a lot of time on the left coast with my liberal friends and even many of them are finally getting fed up with the government in the state. That means some are packing up and spreading out all over, including in Missouri. Good luck.
•"After a nearly two year sabbatical, the series “24” has returned. Sunday, television's "24" uber-agent Jack Bauer stood before a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating intelligence abuses and gave a bombastic Senate inquisitor what-for: "Please do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions that I have made, because, sir, the truth is, I don't.
Asked if he had tortured a suspect, the Kiefer Sutherland character Bauer answered, "According to the Geneva Convention, yes I did." Actually, according to any standard, Bauer tortured people. He shot and killed suspects, choked his brother and shot a suspect's wife in the leg."
--Syndicated columnist Debra Saunders
CK: I'm hoping that this season's 24 makes a strong return but some TV folks say we might see a kinder and gentler Jack this season on "24.”
(Reach CK via email at email@example.com)
Many who have brushed Obama now in scandal
It would have been fun to avoid the world of politics for another week but alas, it appears the corruption and scandal continues, as does a quote filled column with a tip of the hat to Greg Hall and his familiar style that was found in his "Off the Couch" column that covered the sports media.
•"The wreck of Bill Richardson, who withdrew earlier today as President-elect Obama’s nominee for Commerce Secretary, surely should have been anticipated by the Obama vetters...the New Mexico governor has, over the last decade, left behind a wide trail of questionable business dealings, many of them involving the energy industry. Obama's transition team apparently chose to ignore these past whiffs of scandal. They also seem to have been unfazed by the current federal investigation into a possible pay-to-play scandal, which was already well underway when Richardson’s nomination was announced on December 3."
MoJo Blog, Mother Jones Online after Richardson withdrew his name from entering the confirmation process to be Commerce Secretary in President-elect Barack Obama's new cabinet.
CK: The Richardson pick was a strange one and it was fairly obvious why Richardson jumped on the Obama train so quickly--he wanted that appointment as there is trouble in New Mexico. He is now one in a line of many Democrats that have brushed up against President-elect Obama that is now surrounded by scandal that is in and out of the courts. Right now, everyone is counting on Obama not being just another politician and desperately trying to give the incoming president the benefit of the doubt. He had better hope that any more of those that are tainted come out now, as he can survive it unless it continues.
•"Six candidates vying to be the next Republican National Chair participated in a debate moderated by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Incumbent RNC Chair Mike Duncan faces a challenge from former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, South Carolina Republican Chair Katon Dawson, former Tennessee Republican Chair Chip Saltsman, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Michigan Republican Chair Saul Anuzis. When asked their biggest complaint with the Bush Administration, each of the six candidates gave different complaints. They included mismanagement and mishandling of the war in Iraq, mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, poor communication, overspending, and massive deficits."
The Battle for the Chair of the RNC according to Politics One
CK: Never has a political party needed energy, charisma and the ability to communicate as much as the Republican Party does now. The party needs a communications boost online in the worst way along with some very plain speak against the continuing trend of the bailout nation we have now evolved into. Will any of these people make that leap for the party and bring it into the 21st century and provide some opposition? The selection is key for Republicans as they have absolutely no leadership.
•"We’re at war, (vice president-elect Joe) Biden told congressional leaders of both parties during their sit-down with Barack Obama in the Capitol, according to two sources familiar with the exchange, as reported by Politico...last month on ABC’s “This Week,” Biden said that a stimulus package was needed to keep the economy from absolutely tanking...Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said Biden "was speaking of how after September 11th, that the Congress came together and worked together for the sake of the country, that the Congress worked day and night to accomplish what was necessary. We did it then and we can do it now."
Politico in the article 'Biden on Economy: We're at War'
CK: Bailout nation continues to borrow money to give to the same people that put us in this mess. Obama is proposing what is anticipated to be upwards of an $800 billion bailout. He will sweeten the deal for Republicans with a tax cut, but the rest of the money will be doled out to governments and others that have already failed and are bankrupt. The rhetoric will get scary, just as it did with the first bailout. Is anyone really still buying this?
•"The Madoff scandal echoes a deeper absence inside our financial system, which has been undermined not merely by bad behavior but by the lack of checks and balances to discourage it. 'Greed' doesn't cut it as a satisfying explanation for the current financial crisis. Greed was necessary but insufficient; in any case, we are as likely to eliminate greed from our national character as we are lust and envy. The fixable problem isn't the greed of the few but the misaligned interests of the many..."
Michael Lewis and David Einhorn in the New York Times in a commentary on how Bernie Madoff allegedly scammed investors out of $50 billion.
CK: Greed is a good start. Some seem determined to put their money with people that promise them high returns even though they don't have a clue what they are actually investing their hard earned cash in. Most people wouldn't do that with a set of tires for their car. People lost their savings because they believed an alleged con-man that promised them a high return on their investment. If they wanted a safe and stable return, their was certainly a lot of other choices.
(Reach CK via email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
For columns from 2008
For columns from 2007