Hey, Could We Ask a Governor or Mayor in a Low-Unemployment Area?
On Chris Matthews right now, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm and Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter are singing the praises of Obama’s speech on creating jobs today.
Michigan’s unemployment rate is 15.1 percent; Philadelphia’s unemployment rate is 11 percent. You would have to look pretty hard to find two local officials who have presided over steeper or more dramatic losses of jobs; I’m not sure that praise from either of them should be all that reassuring.
At This Point, They’re Just Throwing Around Money Willy-Nilly
House Republicans notice that President Obama discussed using returned TARP money to add to the “cash for caulkers” weatherization program, and observe that the initial “stimulus” (their scare quotes) bill included $5 billion for a Weatherization Assistance Grant Program and less than HALF of that money ($2.3 billion) has been spent at this point.
“Shouldn’t we finish spending the money Congress has already authorized before we spend billions on more spackle?” they ask, quite reasonably.
Oh Yeah, There’s an Election Today.
Today Massachusetts Democrats select their nominee, and in all likelihood, their state’s next U.S. senator.
The choice on the Democratic side is among Attorney General Martha Coakley, Rep. Michael E. Capuano, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, and Celtics co-owner Stephen G. Pagliuc; from the perspective of those of us on the right, it’s lefty vs. lefty vs. lefty vs. lefty.
Two Republicans are running; state senator Scott Brown and Duxbury businessman Jack E. Robinson.
The general election/coronation is January 19.
Robert Gibbs’s Pointless Combativeness
You look at White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’s attack on Gallup . . .
“If I was a heart patient and Gallup was my EKG, I’d visit my doctor,” Gibbs said in the morning, off-camera briefing with reporters. “Five days ago there was an eleven-point spread. Now there is a one-point spread. I’m sure a six-year-old with a Crayon could do something not unlike that.”
. . . and you’re left wondering: Why? It’s not like Gallup’s numbers are so far out of whack with everyone else’s. Why couldn’t Gibbs acknowledge that the president – and the country – are going through a rough patch right now? Nobody – well, almost nobody – is saying that Obama’s numbers can’t improve. Why, when confronted with metrics that show the public is losing faith in Obama, must Gibbs go on the attack and insist it’s nonsense?
I suspect that this is an old habit. During the 2008 campaign, “working the refs” – i.e., bullying, haranguging, or berating members of the press covering Obama – worked quite well for the campaign; campaign manager David Plouffe’s book is apparently full of cases where he and other staffers wore down those covering the campaign.
But it’s worth noting that after a while, spin stops working. Chanting “the economy is improving” will only improve public perception so much; after a while, people start noticing that they and their friends and neighbors can’t find jobs. Chanting ”there is nothing significant about any changes in the president’s approval rating” sooner or later turns into whistling past the graveyard.
And there are times when the big, furious pushback fails; as noted earlier today, the DNC tried to argue that scoffing and skepticism about the merits of President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize amounted to throwing in with the terrorists. Well, 66 percent of Americans aren’t buying it.
The Public’s Verdict Is in About Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize
Remember this statement from some fool at the DNC?
The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists — the Taliban and Hamas this morning — in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize.
Well, apparently in the eyes of the DNC, 66 percent of Americans have thrown their lot in with the terrorists, and only 26 percent are decent, patriotic, God-and/or-Obama-fearing . . .
News Items Like This Explain That Deficit News Below
Our government will spend $7 million on radio and television commercials with a “don’t do drugs and drive” message this year.
How many potential drug-using drivers have ever changed their behavior because of a public-service announcement?
This Year’s Debt Is Roughly Twice Individual Income-Tax Revenue
The debt gets front-page coverage in the Post, which offers these mind-boggling figures:
“Right now, this year, we have 1.6 trillion in debt coming due. That’s roughly twice individual income tax revenue. Our only plausible strategy for paying that back is to borrow more money,” says Leonard Burman, an economist at Syracuse University.
Under some grim scenarios, the cumulative debt of the United States could rise to several times the nation’s annual GDP by mid-century. David M. Walker, a former U.S. comptroller who has long thundered about unfunded government obligations running to the tens of trillions, recently testified before Congress that because of long-term entitlement obligations, “our total federal financial hole is about $10 trillion more than the current estimated net worth of all Americans and the gap has been growing.”
Hard to get your head around it. And perhaps that’s the idea . . .
Saul Alinsky wrote:
The moment one gets into the area of $25 million and above, let alone a billion, the listener is completely out of touch, no longer really interested, because the figures have gone above his experience and almost are meaningless. Millions of Americans do not know how many million dollars make up a billion.
Less Focus on the Symptoms, More on the Disease, Please
Also from that Post article, it says administration officials are arguing that the nation’s 15.4 million unemployed need an extension of jobless benefits.
Actually, what they really need are jobs.
No Program, No Matter How Useless, Is Resistible With a Cutesy Nickname
I think when they feel the need for alliteration, they’ve run out of ideas:
The president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board has recommended a weatherization program, dubbed “cash for caulkers,” that would provide financial incentives for people to make their homes more energy-efficient. Other initiatives under consideration include extending jobless benefits and health-care aid for people out of work, providing a new round of federal aid to states to prevent them from laying off public employees, freeing credit for small businesses, and establishing an infrastructure bank that would allow the federal government to float bonds for large public works projects.
Hey, the AIG bonuses weren’t a waste of money; it was the “Lucre For Losers” program!
‘Less Bad’ Is Not the Same as ‘Staying the Same,’ Mr. President.
President Obama, today:
On Friday we got the best jobs report that we’ve gotten in a very long time. And it significantly beat expectations. At minimum, it showed that for all practical purposes, we’ve stopped losing jobs.
Actually, Mr. President, the jobs report said that 131,007,000 Americans were employed in the private sector in nonfarm work in October, and 130,996,000 were employed in that sector in November, a decline of 11,000 jobs. So for all practical purposes, we’re still losing jobs, just at a slower rate. You know when we’ll stop losing jobs? When that number stays the same or gets bigger than it was the previous month.
Second Verse, Same as the First
President Obama will propose using $200 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to support creating jobs, White House officials confirmed Monday. The president, in an economic speech before the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, will argue that the money would be well spent by funding projects to build bridges and roads, weatherize homes, and provide other assistance for small businesses as well as the unemployed.
Hmm. Those proposals sound familiar . . .
Obama, July 31:
And we enacted a Recovery Act that put tax cuts directly in the pockets of middle-class families and small businesses; extended unemployment insurance and health insurance for those who’ve lost their jobs; provided relief to struggling states to prevent layoffs; and made investments that are putting people back to work building bridges and roads, schools and hospitals.
We’re going to weatherize homes. That’s going to immediately put people back to work.
In other words, Obama’s plan to deal with unemployment at 10 percent is exactly the same as his plan to deal with unemployment when it was 7.6 percent.
Chris Dodd Has a Lot of Bad Days, Doesn’t He?
The campaign of Rob Simmons offers this short item on the latest bad day for Sen. Chris Dodd:
Today, Senator Dodd Sent Out A Press Release Touting The Attendance Of RSL Fiber, Inc. CEO Giovanni Tomasi At His Press Conference In East Hartford. “Today, following a tour of the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, Senator Chris Dodd (D- CT) unveiled his new, comprehensive jobs agenda . . . Joining Dodd [was] Gio Tomasi of RSL Fiber, Inc. RSL is the most recent company to join the CCAT.” (Sen. Chris Dodd, “Dodd Unveils New Jobs Agenda in East Hartford,” Press Release, 12/7/09)
But Tomasi “Won’t Be Voting For [Dodd] In Nov. 2010,” And Supports Rob Simmons, Declaring “No Economy Is Stimulated By Raising Taxes.” “Giovanni Tomasi, who is the CEO of RSL Fiber Systems LLC, just one of the many companies located inside the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology . . . won’t be voting for him in Nov. 2010. Tomasi, who endorsed Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele last week in Cromwell, said he supports former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, one of Dodd’s three Republican challengers. ‘No economy is stimulated by raising taxes,’ Tomasi said. He said he would like to hear more about how the state and federal governments are going to cut taxes, so he can hire more people.” (Christine Stuart, “Dodd Unveils Jobs Agenda,” ctnewsjunkie.com, 12/7/09)
This Year’s State Tax Hikes Were 16 Times More Than Last Year’s
What kind of fool raises taxes in a recession? The kinds of fools who run 29 states.
This is an extraordinarily revealing fact:
Twenty-nine states raised taxes or fees this year, bringing in an estimated $23.9 billion — the highest increase since at least 1979, according to data released this week. The reliance on so much new revenue is sudden, to say the least. In the previous year, tax and fee hikes totaled $1.5 billion.
I suspect many voters don’t make much distinction between federal, state, and local government, particularly when it comes to taxes. If they pay more, they implicitly blame Obama, even if the president had nothing to do with it.
But if we’re wondering why so many incumbent governors are polling so badly — Schwarzenegger in California, Paterson in New York, Patrick in Massachusetts, Doyle in Wisconsin, Bredesen in Tennessee, Rendell in Pennsylvania, Perdue in North Carolina, Ritter in Colorado, Crist in Florida — we can start with the fact that they’re taxing their constituents more heavily during tough times.
Get Used to the Headline ‘Obama Approval Hits New Low’
At this point, polls showing Obama’s approval at roughly 50–50 barely constitute news, but Gallup has Obama’s approval at 47 percent, a new low, and disapproval at 46, a new high.
As recently as mid-November, Obama was at 53 percent approval and 38 percent disapproval.
You’ll hear a million and one theories for what’s driving the slump in Obama’s numbers: the Afghanistan war decision, lack of progress on health care, frustration with a sense of runaway public spending and a government that’s out of touch. I think Obama’s got bad news at a bad time.
It’s December, and the holiday season. It’s a time when folks think about getting Christmas and Hannukah gifts for their friends and family, and they’re finding that financial situations are forcing them to skimp a bit, or in some cases, a lot. They want Santa to leave a lot under the tree. It’s also coming up on the end of the year, and usually a time of reflecting upon the year gone by. A lot of folks, in January, thought that Obama’s inauguration meant better days were ahead. Not yet, they aren’t.
If an unemployment rate between 4 and 6 percent is “normal,” as it was during much of the past decade, it looks like we’re going to take a long time to get back to it, more than one year. The signs of economic pain are still everywhere one looks in a lot of communities – foreclosure signs in front of houses, empty storefronts, construction projects on hold. Food and gas prices seem up a bit, exacerbating the squeeze.
Americans elected Obama for results; they didn’t elect him so they could spend a year hearing him go on and on about all the problems he inherited . . .
Support Your Favorite Magazines!
Holy smokes. Newsweek has lost almost $30 million this year?
With Obama on the cover every other week, and with pictures of Palin’s legs in running shorts?
That’s why a business blogger puts Newsweek on its list of “10 Brands That Will Disappear in 2010.”
Hard to See Bayh Losing, But . . .
Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana always been a tough, perhaps impossible target for the GOP to knock off in 2010. His father was a senator, he’s been governor of the state, he’s won by huge margins in the past, and his approval rating has usually been high. He’s got a ton of money.
Enter former congressman John Hostettler. He’s a non-traditional Republican in a lot of ways; he supported Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party in 2008, instead of John McCain. Intriguingly, Hostettler was one of only a handful of House Republicans who did not vote to authorize the Iraq War; Bayh did. If Hostettler wins the primary, Bayh could find himself attacked from the left on the Iraq War.
The spending in Washington and the mood in Indiana appear to have forced Bayh to sound a bit Tea Partyish: “We can’t keep charging to the national credit card. Washington needs a credible plan to pay its bills. Last week, I stood up in the Senate and told my colleagues so.”
Hostettler will face at least three other Republicans in the GOP primary: state senator Marlin Stutzman, Carmel business owner Richard Behney, and Don Bates, Jr., a branch manager for Wachovia Securities.
It’s hard to see a scenario in which Bayh isn’t reelected, but . . . the mood in the country is strongly anti-incumbent and increasingly anti-Democrat. Ordinarily, a high-profile, well-known, and generally well-liked incumbent like Bayh doesn’t have to break a sweat; 2010 might be a year where he has to sweat some.
Fighting ‘the Greatest Threat to Our National Security’ Suddenly Costs Too Much
Ohio Senate candidate Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, back in February:
The resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the greatest threat to our national security. I would support a troop increase in Afghanistan and work with the White House and Congressional leaders to expand our NATO allies’ troop presence in Afghanistan. We must also work with the Afghan government to help revitalize Afghanistan’s economy and provide more opportunities for Afghani citizens.
The same Jennifer Brunner, on November 29:
At the risk of being called a naysayer, a name I’m not often called that because of the “can do” attitude I normally adopt, I believe the costs are too great — in human lives and economic resources — to continue along the current path. It is clear to me that America must set a timetable for bringing our troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible.
Health-Care Vote Could Cost Dina Titus Her Seat
In Nevada, a Mason-Dixon poll has Democratic congresswoman Dina Titus tied with challenger Joe Heck; she leads Rob Lauer by a more comfortable margin.
What’s hurting Titus? Well, M-D asked, “Representative Dina Titus voted in favor of the House Healthcare Reform bill. Do you approve or disapprove of her vote?” They found 47 percent disapprove, only 41 percent approve; among independents, 50 percent disapprove, only 38 percent approve.
It Took a Lot of Time to Conclude That Time Was Running Out
From the Washington Post’s “tick-tock” story on how Obama reached his decision on Afghanistan:
At a meeting Oct. 26, as he studied McChrystal’s proposal for 40,000 new troops to flow into Afghanistan between March 2010 and summer 2011, the president first made clear that he wanted a faster troop deployment than he had been shown. “If the situation was as dire” as McChrystal portrayed it, a White House official said the president wanted to know, why couldn’t they “get the troops in there to stop the momentum?” . . .
What Obama wanted to know, Jones said, was: “Can we do it quicker? If we narrow the mission, and tighten the timelines, are there some effects we can achieve quicker?” It was a question that the military had often answered negatively, he said. “They just said . . . we can’t do it any faster, because of logistics or whatever. Everybody [had] accepted that.”
So, just to clarify, two months into the process, Obama recognized that time was of the essence, and speed was essential . . . so he announced he was sending more troops a month later?