Tag Archives: politics

Obama’s Latest Jobs Speech: “Stop the political circus,” says the Ring Master.

President Obama and I agree on at least one thing: “Washington hasn’t always put [Americans’] interests first.”

Ain’t that the truth.

With Republicans vying for his job, the economy persistently sluggish, and unemployment relatively unchanged since the Bush Administration, President Obama took to the podium to make “the big speech” before a special Joint Session of Congress to lay out his job plan.

This is not his first job plan. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a month where the news has not talked about an Obama job plan.

  • In November of 2008 (“After more than two weeks of virtual silence on the economy, President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team burst on the scene with new ambition and urgency Sunday, demanding swift passage by Congress of a massive two-year spending and tax-cutting recovery program.”)
  • In January of 2009 (“President-elect Obama countered critics with an analysis Saturday by his economic team showing a program of tax cuts and spending like he’s proposed would create as many as 4.1 million jobs, far more than the 3 million he has insisted are needed to lift the country from recession.“)
  • In March of 2009, after its passage (“President Obama on Friday touted the benefits of his economic recovery plan […] the recently passed $787 billion stimulus package.”)
  • In July of 2009, after the plan failed to stop unemployment from climbing to 9.5% (“Obama, a Democrat, is trying to restore economic growth to the US but his $787-billion economic stimulus plan […] failed to stop the unemployment rate from rising to 9.5 percent.”)
  • In December of 2009 (“President Barack Obama says his administration needs to “get America back to work” as quickly as it can, and he‘s putting together a list of proposals aimed at doing just that.”)
  • In February of 2010 (“President Obama hit the road again Tuesday to promote the new job-creation program he described as his No. 1 priority, […]”)
  • September of 2010, just one year ago (“U.S. President Barack Obama will announce on Monday a six-year infrastructure revamp plan with an initial investment of $50 billion to jump-start job creation, a White House official said.”)
  • In February of 2011 (“The Obama administration outlined an “innovation strategy” for US job growth Friday, […]”)
  • In May of 2011 (“Obama, GOP unveil competing plans for job growth.”)

That’s a lot of talk, but not a lot of change. But don’t lose hope. The President has another plan for you. 

I’ll give him this: Obama’s got a lotta plans. But he isn’t making much headway. Unless, of course, you have managed to convince yourself that he actually staved off a worse disaster.  Maybe, but even President Obama sells his plans not as fingers in the dike, but as reversals.

Anyway, in America we don’t believe in treading water–we believe in winning. Why else would we keep score? 14 million people can’t be wrong–the plans just aren’t working.

So what is he proposing, this time?

Where we agree

First, there are a couple things he said that I liked…assuming he means them:

Economic Growth is  Driven by Business

Those of us here tonight can’t solve all of our nation’s woes. Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers.

Great! But why have all of your plans up to now been focused more on funding the public sector, increasing the debt that must be paid by taxes from individuals and the private sector, and not just decreasing the cost of doing business for “businesses and workers,” as per your speech? Why wait until the 11th hour to come to Jesus?

Infrastructure Helps Business and Employs Construction Workers

Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world.

This is inexcusable. Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?

I like upgrading our roads. But what’s new about this from promised infrastructure fixes over the last three years? What happened to the spending you’ve been talking about since 2009?

OK, so, maybe I agree, but I’m a little distrustful of his sincerity. And that the money is actually going to get the economy going again. Employing workers to build roads and bridges will get cash into the economy, but it alone won’t employ 14 million people, most of who are not construction workers.

Where  He’s Wrong

On the other hand, there are several places that I just flat out think the President is wrong.

Federal Money to Rebuild Schools

And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school — and we can give it to them, if we act now.

The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows; installing science labs and high-speed Internet in classrooms all across this country.

I’m all about education (even if, as a high school drop-out, I’m not a huge fan of public ed), but I don’t agree that this has anything to do with getting the economy going or creating jobs. Yes, every kid should go to a good school, but no, that has nothing to do with the economy, or with the federal government. That’s the states’ job, and the only thing it does is redistribute money from state A to state B.

So, Mr. President, rather than increase our taxes (or the deficit, but it’s the same thing, in the long term), just let us keep our money in our states, and we’ll fix the schools ourselves.

Federal Money to Hire Teachers

Again, with the education thing.

Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this jobs bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.

My problem with this is the horribly faulty logic and the blatant pandering to the education unions.  As economist Arnold Kling explains “it assumes that state and local governments need more money in order to keep teachers. They do not. They could reduce compensation and maintain hiring or even increase it.”

In other words, states aren’t firing teachers. Teachers are leaving for better paying jobs, or the states are paying teachers too much (and that’s an entirely different conversation than this one, which is, if you forgot–THE ECONOMY).

A reduction in the number of teachers only indicates that you need more money if the reduction comes from teachers quitting their jobs. If you are laying off teachers, that shows that you are making a choice to keep their compensation too high rather than have more on staff.

Get it? States aren’t firing teachers to make cuts–they are paying them more than they should. They could pay less, and employ more, but (again, enter the unions), that’s not going to happen.

Remember, I’m not saying that what teachers are paid is fair or enough. I’m saying that there’s no correlation, in spite of what President Obama is trying to trick you into believing–that states have fired teachers because of budget crunches.

If you aren’t a teacher, you must be an oil executive

Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both.

This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare.

Actually, it sounds a lot like class warfare. The 14 million people out there that are unemployed are, for the most part, not former teachers. In fact, education, up until 2010, was the industry that actually increased in employment.

Enter the graphic:

And that was just as of the middle of 2010!

Who are the big losers, then? You wouldn’t know it to listen to the President’s speech, but among the unemployed you can find former professionals and business service providers , construction workers (housing industry, not bridge building, though arguably, they could cross over, I assume), durable goods (like the auto industry) and retail (where shop).

Conclusion: Fail. Just like all the other plans.

I’d like to see the economy rise in the next year, because everyone would win. But what President Obama does get is that he doesn’t get it. Like one candidate said in the Reagan Library Republican Debate Wednesday night, “the President is a nice guy, but he doesn’t have a clue.” And, as another said, “its time to get out from behind the teleprompter.”

Yes, he can speech-ify, but speeches don’t amount to results, as we’ve seen for the last three years. I hope the Congress can find the morsels within the plan that will help, pass them, and move us forward.

On the whole, though, I’m not sanguine. As one Twitter level pundit put it, the speech was not expected to offer anything new. And it didn’t fail to deliver on that point.

[Read the full text here.]

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Reagan Debate Recap: Perry, Romney and six other candidates

Ah, presidential debates. They have little to do with demonstrating one’s fitness for the highest office in the land, and yet they are often weighed and measured with the highest of stakes.

Such it is for our generation, cultured to see winners and losers after a series of head to head play-offs, championships, and competitions between athletes. We’ve simply transferred those expectations over to the selection process for our chief executive.

Enough philosophizing, though, let’s look at last night. What were the substantive results on the race?

From my perspective (in an arm-chair far from the spin rooms), we are starting to see true colors. Further, with Rick Perry finally in the race and on the podium last night, the race feels full. We’re still missing Sarah Palin, but she’ll show up, if just with her bus as she “tours” America.

Yes, I do think there’s a good chance she’ll get in.

But back to the debate. Since your time is short, here’s the skinny on the “winners” and “losers.” Since his supporters will cry “foul” if he doesn’t get his due for winning the after debate polls, we’ll start with Ron Paul.

  • Ron “if I had a silver dime for every time the press ignores me” Paul: From moments of brilliance (attacking Perry with an ad for his support of Al Gore then going after him on HillaryCare in the debate) to sheer weirdness (gas for a “silver dime”), I both like what he says and shake my head. He’s kaleidoscopic.
  • Mitt “I have a 160-page plan to kick-start the economy” Romney: Coming into the debate as the strongest candidate but down in the polls due to Perry’s entrance to the race, he managed to come off articulate, graceful (especially when the rest of the candidates were piling it on to Perry), and wise (as when he took a Reagan-esc stance on Social Security). While not the clear winner, he remains on his pedestal as the man to beat (Obama in 2012).
  • Rick “We execute bad people” Perry: with expectations set high, Perry came out strong against Ponzi schemes–er, I mean Social Security–but weakened as the others pointed out his weaknesses. Fortunately, for him, it was not an “intellectual discussion,” a term he use dismissively twice, and he’s not Mormon, as Chris Matthews pointed out repeatedly. I couldn’t help but feel like he had all of George W.’s strength, but none of his charm or wit. A pretender.
  • Jon “I can beat Obama if we skip primaries” Huntsman: Trailing (everyone) Huntsman excelled at looking and sounding articulate, but also a bit petty. Huntsman repeatedly drew attention to Utah’s economic success under his term as Governor, but I couldn’t help but wonder why all the Utah State Legislators who served with him  and delivered those bills to his desk are now supporting Romney…
  • Newt “I’m running for Veep” Gingrich: To the press: don’t mess. Gingrich was articulate and reminded us all that he was a part of the Reagan revolution. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he’s shifting to VP candidacy land, though.
  • Herman “9%” Cain: He continues to come up with good one liners, but he’s not making ground.
  • Michelle “SNL” Bachmann. I know SNL was watching, just hoping she’d stay in long enough for them to cast her…in the meanwhile, she’s fading. Perry has stolen her based, Pawlenty was gone for her to fight with, and her performance was next to unremarkable.
  • Rick Santorum: Did you know his parents and grandparents were Italian immigrants? He won’t leave until they stop inviting him, but he’s on stage…for now.
Your take? Is this really already a two-horse race? Can Huntsman pull out a New Hampshire miracle and become relevant in 2012? Will Bachmann find a way to win more than just the Iowa straw poll? Should we care that Ron Paul gets ignored by the media while last place runner Huntsman is their darling?
Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Image via Wikipedia

The biggest loser of the night, as one colleague pointed out to me? Ronald

 Reagan. He’d be a RINO next to these guys, especially Perry and Bachmann (who at points sounded like a psychic trying to channel his spirit). He compromised, raised taxes, grew government to fight the “evil empire,” and, most importantly, inspired Americans to save the economy without the government’s help. Maybe it’s time the candidates stopped trying to be the Gipper and started trying to be themselves.

Also, to beat Obama and get the economy back on track.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Tea Party bait in the NYT: “You are white, Republican, and racist. Oh, and theocratic, too.”

I’ll admit it: just the fact that the story is coming  from the New York Times gives me pause.

But there it is: “Crashing the Tea Party,” by David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam, a couple of professors who think they have profiled Tea Party members based on some wide ranging research.

The results are provocative and, if they are in any way correct, indicate that Tea Party members are less naïve about politics than previously thought, tend to hold a low regard for immigrants, and very religious, even wanting leaders who mix religion and politics ….which explains why Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry are getting good reviews from the Tea Party.

Oh, also they are more likely to be Republican.

Whatever the characteristics, Campbell and Putnam suggest that it has contributed to giving the Tea Party a lower  approval among the public than atheists and Muslims. Ouch.

...because blondes have more fun.

But wait! There’s more: the Tea Party is not necessarily a creature of the recession. Tea Party members tend to have already been (as well as being white) very conservative and active Republicans.

Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.

[…]

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.

Hmm…so how about that ‘separation between church and state’ thing? The Tea Party does know that it was one of their darlings, Mr. Thomas Jefferson himself,  that was one of the first to actually phrase it that way, right?

I don’t know about you, Reader, but the last thing I think we need is a litmus test for an elected official the measures religiosity. I would rather an atheist that upholds the law and defends the practice of religion over a deeply religious nut job  person who discriminates in favor of his or her faith. Of course, if we could find a deeply religious person who upholds the law (and doesn’t err on the side of larger government), then I probably wouldn’t mind. But then, it has nothing to do with religiosity, and we’re back at my main point: religion is the wrong litmus test for a leader.

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) led 30,000 Christians in prayer Saturday -- at an event that may boost his fortunes with the GOP's critical bloc of evangelical voters. Photo: Brandon Thibodeaux/Getty Images

And yet, Campbell and Putnam suggest that this very litmus test is the likely reason for Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry’s success in recent weeks with the Tea Party.

And what about the libertarians that are finding common cause with the Tea Party? I don’t see them reflected in the research discussion or results. In my experience, libertarians are just about growing on Republican trees these days, but they would be the last people to support increased religion in politics.

Which leads me to Campbell and Putnam’s method. The two professors (Campbell is an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame and Putnam is a professor of public policy at Harvard) interviewed 3,000 people in 2006 as part of continuing research into national political attitudes. They returned to the same people this year. They explain that

[a]s a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously — isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant.

Perhaps. I’d like to take a closer look at the results to find out what kind of questions were asked, how the people were selected, and what the margins of error were.

In any case…

Even as a Republican, and a long time Republican at that, it would be disingenuous for me to dismiss these findings out of hand. While I don’t find them to be definitive, I do find the results descriptive.  Utah’s Tea Party may be distinct  in some respects due to some characteristics that are uniquely local, but in many respects the results seem to apply here.

On the other hand, could this just be Tea Party bait by New York Times liberals?

Religious litmus test or not, elections are not about rationality, but winning, and if it takes that to win, could we expect anyone but a deeply religious person to win the race for the Republican nomination?

Read the full article at “Crashing the Tea Party” in the New York Times.

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To Brandon Beckham: Try a little honey before you resort to vinegar.

Remember the civility initiative that Utah was pushing earlier this year? I wrote about it here on the blog.

The Utah Civility and Community 2011 site states that “In Utah we are committed to respectful discourse and behavior toward all people. Further we are committed to being a welcoming, inclusive and caring community. Now is a great time to pass it on and start the five steps to a more caring Utah.”

Remember that? That was in January.

And this was today, courtesy Brandon Beckham, who called Utah legislators “traitors.” He was talking about his displeasure with the speed with which legislators who passed HB116 and who are moving far too slowly, for his taste,repeal HB116:

“Those who drafted this bill are traitors to Utah and they will be held accountable by voters in 2012,” he said [today].

Brandon Beckham, organizer of an effort to repeal HB116, speaks with a supporter at a press conference urging the repeal of the bill at the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

Thanks, Brandon. Way to raise the level of dialogue to a new high.

One must wonder: traitors to whom?

To the Republican Party?  Republican state delegates voted 833-739 on June 18 to support a resolution supporting repeal. In other words, about 24% of total state delegates voted for repealing HB116. That’s not a ringing endorsement…especially when you consider that 21% voted against it…leaving over half of the Republican Party unrepresented on the resolution. (Ironically, this is the same group of delegates who denied Beckham’s bid for even a first round shot at Vice Chair for the Republican Party).

Someone ought to remind Brandon that this is a republic (a compound constitutional republic, if the legislature is to be heard on this one, a representative democracy, otherwise), not a democracy. And thank heavens. We select representatives so that they can study out the topic, evaluate all sides of an issue, take testimony and conduct analysis, and make a decision. That’s their job, and Utah legislators, despite their idiosyncrasies, occasional message bills, and generally conservative tendencies, do a good job of it. Utah is one of the best run states in the nation, if not the best run, and it’s due in large part to good governing.

It isn’t the job of the Republican Party to dictate policy to law makers. It’s the Republican Party’s job to choose candidates and help them get elected. Period.

If you don’t agree with the lawmakers, make your case, and make it well. Don’t resort to ad hominem attacks, ridicule, and name calling. Not only does it diminish your ability to persuade, but it destroys any credibility you might have had.

As the cliché goes, you’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar. If nothing, the immigration debate has been fueled, at least on one side, by far too much vinegar, and not enough honey.

If you want to be heard, Brandon, then start listening. Winning a vote for a non-binding resolution with 24% of the body does not equal a mandate. It’s barely even a reason to get a headline during the summer doldrums.

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Politics + kebab = …?

 

 

 

 

 

(h/t The Monkey Cage)