Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is anyone else sick of seeing Joe the Plumber talk all day about Joe the Plumber while politicians fawn over Joe the Plumber?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stimulus Away

It's almost certain that the White House had this timed to coincide with the signing of the stimulus bill by President Obama, but it is refreshing to see at least one promise project actually underway.

Associated Press

Mo. bridge project touted as first under stimulus

TUSCUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Construction crews have started working on a replacement for a rural Missouri bridge within minutes of President Barack Obama's signing the $787 billion stimulus package.

Officials expected the Missouri bridge project would be the first in the nation to get started under the stimulus plan.

As Obama signed the bill Tuesday in Denver, Missouri transportation officials met at the bridge and quickly approved construction of its replacement.

The 1,000-foot-long bridge being replaced spans a Missouri River tributary about 30 miles southwest of the state Capitol in Jefferson City. It was built in 1933 but was closed to large trucks in 2007 because of structural concerns.

The state also planned to begin work Tuesday on three other highway projects.

It's fantastic political theatre. Hopefully more of the promised projects for needed infrastructure as well as tax relief will be in the pipeline soon as well. After all, it is law now.

However, there still could have been at least 48 hours to review the compromise stimulus package before shoving it through Congress. Was the administration afraid that it would not pass had that been the case?

The pertinent point comes 1:05 from the start.

Do we know what our government is doing?
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Monday, February 16, 2009

Obama Hates Struggling Americans!

If it hasn't been used already, some partisan hack will use it eventually.

But it is funny, that, with the rush to pass the compromise stimulus bill through Congress on Friday, President Obama will not sign it into law until tomorrow.

From The Business Review:

President Barack Obama will sign the $787 billion federal stimulus package into law in Denver on Tuesday.

Obama will sign the bill at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

It sounds like good theatre and a nice political show, especially after nearly every Republican in Congress refused to play ball. However, could we, and Congress, have not gotten the weekend to review the compromise stimulus bill? It would still have been ready for the president on Tuesday.

If we need it right now, without delay, then why the delay?

Hopefully, there is something in this bill that will help. We will find out as we find what's actually in this bill and what the results of these provisions will be. We can view the bill now, and its provisions, but it has already passed and will be signed into law. This kind of review should have come after the release of the compromise and before the votes that passed it through Congress.
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Future Generations to US Leadership: Thanks a Trillion

Whether one thinks the stimulus package is urgently needed or not, there should have been a little extra time for Congress, and the public, to review the bill as it came out of conference committee. No matter how many "shovel-ready" projects and immediate tax cuts there may be, they will not magically be underway in the morning. Surely, a little time to better understand all that is in this massive bill could have been given. The size of this bill alone demands it. The size of the coming deficits on top of the current public debt strengthens that case. After all, were we not promised greater transparency? If not for this bill, then where does it begin?

Even in better times, deficits mounted. While there were some very needed items included, this accumulation of debt has made it harder to take on additional debt, for needed items, for pork projects, for tax cuts, for anything. The additional debt securities that would have to be issued would have to be bought. Even if (or when) that happens, the country will face difficult decisions.

Servicing this debt will become more expensive as the debt increases. This will take more funds away from other priorities. Also, this debt will someday have to be paid. This could be done with the government's revenues or by issuing more debt. Either way, this will further erode resources and maneuverability on the country's other priorities. Combine this with the prospect of exploding entitlement programs and.... The situation in the decades ahead is looking nightmarish.

As the parties in DC form skirmish lines and play the predefined roles assigned to them based on which party is in power, who will foot the bill? Not those presently in power. The toughest decisions will come in the next several decades unless the current leadership chooses to make tough decisions now. After all, as massive and painful as this bill is, it would have been relatively less painful had it not been a cup of salt on a deep and old wound. Whether it would have meant a better and more efficient bill is an entirely other matter, however.

But for painful decisions punted to a future that is drawing ever closer, to the leaders that brought us here, thanks a trillion...or ten.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Race for in the White House

Whatever one may think about Barack Obama's decision to address the nation on race in the United States, there is no disputing that such an action had to be done. Throughout the whole campaign, the issue of race was ever present, albeit not on center stage, until his pastor's Sunday Morning Rantings were replayed over and over again on the political talk shows, on television and radio.

Although Obama should have spent time on this sooner to try to quell those background whispers, it is possible that the speech would have been said as pure politicking had he done so while he was still playing second fiddle to Hillary Clinton.

We need an honest discussion about race and an honest discussion about policies directed by race (such as Affirmative Action). We must have this so that they no longer remain the domain of people like Al Sharpton, who only set back progress and keep people suspicious of others. The Obama speech likely will not lead to that honest discussion, since he did not fully confront the issues and problems to the extent that he could have. But if he's all about hope, then we have to hope that this discussion does take place.
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Saturday, March 15, 2008

We Paid $42 Million and All We Got Was This Lousy Letter

The government has some fantastic news but the only way to tell you that is to spend $42 million to mail out letters to 130 million households. These letters tell you that the fantastic economy stimulus checks that will be arriving right to your door will be arriving not now but in the late spring.

From the Associated Press:

That works out to about 32 cents to print, process and mail each letter. It doesn't include the tab for another round of mailings planned for those who didn't file tax returns last year but may still qualify for a rebate.

So that $42 million sticker price will not be the final cost.

Keith Hennessey, director of the president's National Economic Council, said the letters are being sent to explain how the tax rebates will work.

"Any time you do something as a government tens of millions of times, there is ample room for people to get confused. And so if you're going to have tens of millions of taxpayers getting checks, you want to get the information out so that you have as few people as possible confused about what's happening, they understand what's coming, and it reduces the number of incoming requests that IRS and Treasury have to figure out how to deal with it," said Hennessey.

"Dear Taxpayer," the letters will begin, going on to say the IRS is pleased to inform the recipient that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law a plan that will provide payments of up to $600 for individuals who qualify or $1,200 for married couples filing jointly. The rebates are the centerpiece of a $168 billion economic stimulus package.

The actual rebate checks are scheduled to go out starting in May, after the IRS has finished separately mailing out routine refunds for the 2007 tax year.

Why couldn't the IRS simply send a receipt stating the reasons why the recipient received what they received, according to their tax returns. It would save the cost of an additional mailing and surely setting up a hotline to take questions from the population would not cost $42 million by the end of the summer or even the fall.

Unless this was just the IRS's way of doing their part to stimulate the economy.

Again, from the AP story:

Democrats accused the Bush administration of wasting time and postage.

"There are countless better uses for $42 million than a self-congratulatory mailer that gives the president a pat on the back for an idea that wasn't even his," Sen. Charles Schumer said Friday, arguing the IRS could more effectively spend the money to catch tax cheats.

Considering that the Democrats in the Senate overwhelming shot down the proposed one year moratorium on earmarks, including Senator Schumer, this argument rings quite hollow, especially since those earmarks cost far more than $42 million.

Of course, it may just be that it may be seen as giving credit to President Bush. In which case, don't legislators spend quite large amounts of money when using their franking privileges to tout themselves to their constituents?

This cost is unnecessary, but let's not blind ourselves to the fact that it is far from the only place where belts could be tightened.
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Friday, March 14, 2008

Resolving the Democrats' Primary Problem

The national Democratic Party carried out its threat to strip the delegates of any states that moved their primaries ahead of any of the four approved contests for January. Michigan and Florida tested those waters and the national party acted. The Republican Party, for their part, will accept only half of the delegates from those two states, as part of their own policy.

But, with most of the states having already voted and the Democratic nomination still being contested, there would be a major PR problem if the Democrats go to convention and no delegates from those two states take part.

Although the complaining from Democratic bosses in those states is immensely irritating, there will have to be a plan that leads to delegates from Michigan and Florida sitting in the convention.

Simply put, merely letting the results from the January contests stand can not happen. Barack Obama was not on the Michigan ballot for that vote and did not campaign in Florida (Hillary Clinton did her best to come as close to campaigning in Florida as possible). Further, it would validate those results as the voters expressed in January. If those results are validated and the delegates from that vote are seated, then what exactly was the punishment to those two states?

Having the states pay for new elections only punishes the average voters, whom, even if they were Democrats, had no say in where their elections were placed.

Thus, new votes must be done and paid for by the state Democratic parties. However they get the funds is up to them, but they must pay for it. Surely, people would rally to that cause.

The votes must also happen after every other primary and caucus has taken place. Therefore, the chances of the votes in these two states would become turning points for the campaign is limited. There would also be no punishments to the other states (and territories) by being placed behind these two states. Additionally, the chances of one candidate or another taking a lead large enough to prevent a disputed convention is greater. With Obama being ahead by approximately 150 pledged delegates, the chances of Clinton catching up are slim, due to the way delegates are apportioned in the Democratic Party.

These last two contests should also take place between one week and two weeks following the final contests, so that campaign attention does not drift too far away from the last contests nor would there be too large a gap exist such that there would be long, intense campaigning in Michigan and Florida.

It would be ideal if both states would only have half the delegates admitted to the convention, as is still the case with the Republicans. However, it might still be too much of a PR problem if that were the case if (or when) there is no clear-cut Democratic winner as there is for the Republican Party.

This deal should be made immediately. Not only so that the state parties could raise the money for the new votes, but also so that this bickering can finally cease. For two months, there has been nothing but griping from these two states. It is even threatening to rival the griping that comes from Holy Iowa and Holy New Hampshire when anyone even thinks that they shouldn't have their divine rights to vote first. This has to be ended.
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A Disgrace in the Senate

The Senate voted overwhelmingly against a proposed moratorium on earmarks for the 2009 budget. It wasn't even close. Seventy-one senators voted against versus twenty-nine that voted for the one-year ban.

If we cannot get the Senate to give up their pork barrel projects for even one year, what hope could we have?

The three Senators still in the running (Clinton, McCain, and Obama) for President voted for this ban. It may be politically calculated, but at this point, should we really care about such political motives so long as they support the ban?

The amendment to the bill was submitted by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) with fifteen cosponsors. Those cosponsors are listed below:

Sen McCain, John [AZ] - 3/13/2008
Sen McCaskill, Claire [MO] - 3/13/2008
Sen Coburn, Tom [OK] - 3/13/2008
Sen Kyl, Jon [AZ] - 3/13/2008
Sen Corker, Bob [TN] - 3/13/2008
Sen Burr, Richard [NC] - 3/13/2008
Sen Graham, Lindsey [SC] - 3/13/2008
Sen Obama, Barack [IL] - 3/13/2008
Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] - 3/13/2008
Sen Cornyn, John [TX] - 3/13/2008
Sen Bayh, Evan [IN] - 3/13/2008
Sen Martinez, Mel [FL] - 3/13/2008
Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY] - 3/13/2008
Sen Barrasso, John [WY] - 3/13/2008
Sen Inhofe, James M. [OK] - 3/13/2008

The roll call vote shows which senators supported this effort.

YEAs ---29
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bayh (D-IN)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Coburn (R-OK)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Obama (D-IL)
Sessions (R-AL)
Sununu (R-NH)
Thune (R-SD)

NAYs ---71
Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bennett (R-UT)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Bond (R-MO)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
Dodd (D-CT)
Domenici (R-NM)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Stevens (R-AK)
Tester (D-MT)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wicker (R-MS)
Wyden (D-OR)

What a shock it is that Ted Stevens, the king of the "Bridge to Nowhere" piece of pork is against this. Also a shock that the Senate can unite in a bipartisan fashion, against the ban that lets them take public funds to boost their own future campaigns.

Also of note is that more Republicans (23) than Democrats (6, including Joe Lieberman) voted for this moratorium. Whether it was out of individual stands (after all, more Republicans voted against than for this moratorium in the end) or because they'd like to stick it to the majority party, they should be applauded for their votes.

The 71 Senators that voted against this ban disappointed America, even though we should expect nothing more from them. Yes, this was only a proposal to ban it for one year, but it is a start. It's better than having nothing at all.
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Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Perfect Plan for 2010?

The conventional wisdom states that Lieutenant Governor, and, on Monday, New York Governor David Paterson was betting on a Hillary Clinton administration starting in 2009, thus paving the way for Eliot Spitzer to appoint him to the vacancy in the United States Senate.

Although the chances of Mrs. Clinton becoming President, or Vice President, are falling, the timing for Paterson seems to favor him. The current gubernatorial term, which Paterson will serve, will end in 2010. So will the current term for New York's senior Senator, Chuck Schumer. These two men could simultaneously campaign for the other's job.

Of course, there are things that have the potential to derail this plan. These two men do not exist in a bubble and the ambitions of others cannot be ignored. Suppose that Andrew Cuomo would want another opportunity to become Governor in 2010. Or that Tom Suozzi would like to take another shot at the top. Suppose that Michael Bloomberg would like to continue his public life after all. Or that the GOP could recruit a candidate much better than the sacrificial lambs they offered in 2006 (no offense to long shots like Chris Callaghan that truly fought for the offices they sought). Suppose that members of New York's congressional delegation would like a promotion to the Senate.

The potential pitfalls to this switch are many. There is a chance that each man may want to continue in his current job. This could be especially true for Schumer, who has become a big man in the Senate with the opportunity to be included in a potentially larger Democratic caucus after the 2008 elections. But it isn't as if running for Governor would be an idea out of left field for him.

However, both Schumer and Paterson could find themselves in very strong positions by the 2010 campaign. Schumber is very popular in New York. His smashing of Howard Mills in the 2004 Senate race shows it clearly. Paterson could boost his own stock if he performs well as Governor for the next two-plus years. His first tests come quickly as the state budget is due on April 1st and state approval for New York City's congestion pricing plan is needed this month in order to receive federal aid for the program. If he can handle Senate Majority Leader (and to-be-Acting Lt. Gov.) Joe Bruno (R) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D), his stock can only rise. His gains for the Democratic minority in the State Senate during his tenure as Minority Leader show promise that he can handle Bruno as Governor. If he backs a strong Democratic campaign that yields the party control of the Senate, for the first time in decades, he can boost his cause even more.

There is no reason why this plan would not have a good shot of succeeding, as things stand now. Both Schumer and Paterson have the skills to make it happen. They can certainly raise the funds to campaign, especially if they work together for 2010. And this switcheroo would be much better than another repeat of Al Vann and Annette Robinson swapping seats between the City Council and the State Assembly to get around the term limits on Council members. Schumer and Paterson could benefit immensely. If they are committed to fixing Albany, New Yorkers may benefit as well.

Of course, there is still plenty of time to see what will happen and how these men do. After all, two years ago, "Mr. Clean" was on his way to his coronation as Governor on the promise of fixing Albany starting from Day One. Since then, we've learned quite a lot, haven't we?
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

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Suddenly there was a flashback to an earlier time.

At this time, there is still no announcement on Governor Spitzer's plans to either resign or fight it out. The Republicans are seeking to put pressure on him to resign, by stating that they will seek to impeach the Governor if he does not resign in approximately 48 hours. I don't know if such a procedure would be able to go through, but it certainly shows Spitzer that there will be a fight if he tries to stay on as Governor. Although sheer determination has helped Spitzer in his career thus far, if he applies it here, it will only damage him and continue to prolong the pain for his family. We do not need another Alan Hevesi-type battle to remain in office.
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