Category Archives: President Obama

Obama on the Political Fence

I always get yelled at for being an Obama apologist, and after writing this article it’s not going to be any different. CNN came out with a poll that was conducted over the weekend that had President Obama’s approval rating at 44% with 54% disapproving of his job performance. But seeing who is disapproving of the President is telling, and shows us the type of voters Obama need to reach in order to win reelection in 2012.

Having commented on liberal blogs, I try and reason with those who say the President is trying to take away their health care, or Social Security. Of course this isn’t true and is actually what Republicans would like you to think so liberals stay home on election day. Fortunately most liberals don’t believe the hype.

In the CNN poll it showed while most people aren’t thrilled with Obama, he still has strong support with liberals (70%) and Democrats (77%). Among people who said they disapprove with Obama’s performance, only 16% said it was because he was not liberal enough. That it is a seven point jump from May, but not enough to cause serious panic for Obama’s prospects in 2012. Those are the people who Ralph Nader attracted when he ran for President. No matter what Obama does they will never be happy with him. In 2012 they will either stay home, or vote for him because they don’t want to take the risk of having another President like George W. Bush.

Not surprisingly it’s the exact opposite for conservatives. 87% of those who identified themselves with the Tea Party disapproved of the way Obama was handling his job. Virtually the same amount of Conservatives disapproved at 79%, and Republican’s at 88%. Again, they were never going to vote for Obama just on general principle.

What concerns me about these numbers is with the Independent and Moderate voters. Just 36% of Independents approve of the way Obama was handling his job. They don’t have a political affiliation, don’t believe one party is better than the other, but they are politically active. They will be voting in 2012 and even though they take forever to make up their mind, they are paying attention. While people who said they were moderate gave Obama a 54% approval rating, these voters are less likely to go out and vote.

There has been some good analysis by smart people recently. The first by Stanley Greenberg who argued Democrats need to start talking about jobs. The other by Drew Westin who said the President needs to stop telling people what he’s doing and show them. Greenberg’s argument is so obvious I’m not going to bother to say why. But Westin has a more interesting one. He’s arguing that now that Obama has been on the podium more recently, he needs to start doing a better job describing his policies. Most political scientists don’t think it’s that big of a deal and point out not everything he describes in his piece is correct.

Even so I think it still has merit. We can all agree Obama was not exactly screaming what he wanted during his first two years in office. It annoyed the hell out of me because he should have been more active to get his policies achieved. Even though he’s done a lot of good, I can’t help thinking he could have done more. He has even admitted during town halls that he should have done a better job explaining his policies more so people actually know what he has done for them.

But he does have to explain those policies in the right way. As the leader of a country he needs to have a vision of where he wants to take it and be able to explain it to the American people what that vision is. I was happy to hear the President say on Monday that he would be recommending policies to the Super Committee that will be formed to reduce the nation’s deficit. Even though it won’t result in any short term spending, Obama is showing he has ideas that he believes will fix the country and move it forward. That’s what people want out of him. Not rhetoric, but ideas. Change was a good slogan during a campaign during frantic times, and while out of office he wasn’t held to as high of a standard. They assumed he knew what he was doing and had ideas on how to fix the economy. But he didn’t even propose his own health care bill, even though it’s more popular title is now Obamacare.

Maybe he’s learned that as President whatever comes out of Washington is his fault no matter what. While people can criticize the ideas he comes out with, as President it’s a lot easier to fire back. Having ideas on the table will allow him to control the debate. Instead of randomly deciding what to threaten to veto, Congress knows what he wants. If members of the Tea Party try to send him something that’s different it will be a lot easier to explain why it won’t help them, and how his policies will. It’s really not a hard argument.

While S&P’s reason for downgrading the U.S. was faulty, it’s easy to blame their reasoning on the Tea Party. S&P wasn’t worried about America not being able to pay back its debt, it was worried that there was no political will to figure out a way to do it. While, according to John Boehner, the Republicans got 98% of what they wanted by walking away from the table(not once, but twice) and refused to compromise. It caused the stock market to lose all the gains it made the last two years, along with $3 trillion dollars worth of people’s 401k’s. Now, we’re back at square one.

It wasn’t just enough that I said in the last paragraph the Republicans have ruined the economy. I explained why and described it in a way people can visualize the downfall. Square one tells people in a easy way where the economy is, reminding them of 2008 when Obama was elected. It shows what was gained in Obama’s first two years, and what we lost when the Tea Party took over the House of Representatives. It was the same way Change was able to give people a vision to let people know what Obama was about while keeping their attention for the short amount of time they look at the TV.

So fine, blame me for trying to help our President out. Tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about and Obama is going to ruin the country and destroy our social protection programs. I still think you’re wrong and it’s better the devil you know. All politicians play politics whether you like them or not. Their goal is to win the middle and stay in office. The next election will be decided on the state of the economy, and the CNN poll showed he’s losing that battle with virtually all major demographics. As the election gets closer the people paying close attention are going to be looking for ideas that will help them and their families. Obama is on the political fence when it comes to people who sway on the political scale, and if he wants to win reelection he’s going to have to start now in order to sway them his way.

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Filed under Obama, President Obama

Better The Devil You Know?

I’m not calling President Obama the devil, but unfortunately I feel many liberals believe Obama has left them high and dry. I may just be a simple policy wonk, but if you look at history and what this president has accomplished, it has been some of the most progressive policies ever.

The prime example liberals point to is health care. The Affordable Care Act did a lot to curb costs and keep Medicare solvent for future generations. While there are problems with it, such as the possible illegality of requiring everyone to have insurance, it is by far the biggest accomplishments any president has made since the Social Security Act in 1935.

During the process though, Obama made a deal with the insurance companies saying he would not include a single payer system with the reforms. So instead of an entire new government agency that would manage people’s healthcare, it is instead going to be managed by private companies. In the long run, it probably would have been cheaper to have done it through the government. But what would have been sacrificed is the quality of the care people received. Hospitals in this country are run pretty well, and studies have shown countries that have public facilities don’t get to people’s needs as efficiently. Even in Canada where health costs are cheaper for the countries citizens, it is still easier to see a doctor privately then if you go to a public office. Even if a single payer plan was enacted cost constraints would have also have been needed to make sure the price for these services is going up fairly. This, by the way, was the main problem to begin with. Those controls are in the Act and will be enacted in future years.

And don’t forget, when Social Security was enacted, the law stated people would receive benefits when they turned 65 years old. Of course, the average people were living to then was 61.

Then there is foreign policy. Obama inherited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and during the campaign he said the military would be removed from the Middle East. Well, it may not have been as fast as everyone would have liked, but our troops are coming home from Iraq next year, and with the continuing stories of corruption in Afghanistan, plus having killed Osama Bin Laden, there is no reason for us to be there anymore either. Just last month Obama set goals for getting the troops out of Afghanistan as well. With the amount of military equipment there is, it still wouldn’t have mattered when the order was given to recall the troops because it would have taken a while to get everything out of there anyway.

If you noticed there hasn’t been a lot of talk about these two countries recently because of what had occurred in Egypt, and there haven’t been many big operations within the last year. While many erred at the troop increase, after it had taken place violence in Afghanistan sharply decreased, and Al Qaeda has had trouble recruiting new members.

I have complained many times about Obama, particularly the way he had forgotten how to get his point across. At the town hall today he admitted he wish he had done a better job explaining to the American people how his policies would help them. It almost cost him the gains he made with healthcare. But the policies this President has gotten through will help millions of Americans, and improve their quality of their life.

Politically speaking, Obama owns the middle, which he needs to win next year in order to stay in office. Every poll shows that no matter who the Republicans nominate to run against Obama, he or she losses. Liberals should also remember that if a Republican were in the Oval Office, the people that President would have to appeal to are extreme conservatives who want to dismantle the social safety nets that are needed today need more than ever.

Our government was built so people can be skeptical of it, and it has served us well. The American people, by default, are not meant to trust their elected officials. When Obama says we need reforms to social programs, it is to make sure they are there for our children. It might require some cuts for those who are earning enough to pay out of pocket, but that is a lot better than not having anything at all.
Those on the left should remember it is better to have someone in office that you know will have to appease you, and not the one who doesn’t.

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Politics, Policies, and the Debt Ceiling

There’s been a lot of talk on left leaning blogs about how President Obama has moved to the right on the current debt ceiling negotiations. He has asked for more spending cuts than Republicans, along with reforms to Social Security and Medicare, which would, reduce the countries long term deficits. But what is missing in their arguments is the political reality that the White House is facing.

People who have read my past writings know I don’t always agree with the actions Obama has taken. But as both political parties like to say “elections have consequences” and we’re seeing one of them now. Not raising the debt ceiling would be catastrophic for the country. Standard and Poors lowering America’s credit rating would be the last thing America would have to worry about. The stock market would drop more than it did in 2008, and interest rates would be at an all time high. So if you thought banks weren’t lending money now, people wouldn’t be able to take any money because there would be no way they would be able to pay it back.

It’s clear that the Tea Party Republicans are the ones actually in charge of the House of Representatives, and Speaker John Boehner has no influence over them. The numbers simply aren’t there to increase the debt ceiling. But since our constitution says Congress has the power of the purse, Obama needs to find a way to get a majority. Most posts I have read blame the reason on the White House asking for tax increases which Republicans have pledged not to do, but when have Republicans ever wanted to raise taxes? This is nothing new and the left shouldn’t be acting like it is. What the major difference is, is that no matter what the Tea Party will refuse to raise the debt ceiling. They don’t believe the August 2nd deadline is real, even though Eric Cantor does, and believe tax increases will hurt the economy. They are zealots when it comes to these issues and no one is going to be able to change their mind. It forced Obama to make concessions to real Republicans, not Tea Party members but Conservatives, to get them to vote for an increase on the debt ceiling.

Raising the ceiling is a hard vote because the vast majority of people don’t want their elected officials to do it. It is much easier to say, like the Tea Party is doing, that they will not raise it and have a better shot at winning reelection. With the lack of leadership in Congress it makes it a lot easier for this minority to have a bigger voice and come up with small sound bites.

Mitch McConnell, realizing the disaster that would take place if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, was going to allow Obama to raise ceiling on his own, and then have Congress vote whether to veto this action. But this would be a loss for both sides. A vote would still have to be taken forcing all members to be on the record of increasing America’s debt. Republicans show they weren’t able to govern, and Democrats show how little influence they have even though they still control the Senate.

Where Obama screwed up is that he had bad timing. Both sides agree we need entitlement reform, but if done right it can be a progressive issue. When the think tank Third Way came out with a proposal on how to talk about reforming Social Security and Medicare one of their main points was to make it about small adjustments. “Democrats should invert the traditional messaging on entitlement reform, which has tended to emphasize the heroic, major sacrifices being proposed, and thus serves only to make it more politically painful and scary.” By emphasizing tax increases for the rich, and reminding the people currently receiving these benefits this is not about the present but the future of these benefits, it would have been a lot easier for him to make changes to the system. But now that Obama is lumping small changes in these entitlements with raising the debt ceiling, it makes it a big deal and wound up scaring a lot of people. If he really wanted to figure out a way to make sure Social Security and Medicare would be there for future generations, he should have done it earlier.

After Nancy Pelosi convinced the President not to cut much spending, at his press conference today Obama said he would like to see the $2.4 trillion in cuts that were being discussed in the Biden group as part of the debt ceiling deal. The $4 trillion he originally asked for was never mentioned, which is a win for liberals. What is considered big now is making changes to the safety net, as Obama said today “$2.4 trillion without any revenue would cut too many programs that would hurt people” and he’s right. The policies he is proposing aren’t crazy, it’s responsible, and many other Presidents, or Presidents to be, have wanted to do the same thing. It was Senator Truman and his commission who cut programs in the military that were deemed a waste on tax payer money. President Clinton also cut programs in the mid 90’s in order to reduce the deficit and emphasize the programs that worked.

If the Democrats were still in control of Congress the debt ceiling would still be a contentious vote because so much money has been spent. But the arguments would be much different. There wouldn’t be Tea Party Republicans refusing to cooperate. Instead there would be Blue Dog Democrats hoping enough moderates are in favor of the package being voted on so they could vote no. What the Democrats and Blue Dogs have in common is that they wanted to keep the majority while the Republicans want to take it.

Those politics don’t make for good policy when America’s economic structure is on the line. Obama has finally been using the bully pulpit much more recently, as he knows it will benefit him. He did so right before the fundraising quarter ended by holding a press conference, and has done it again three more press conferences in the past eleven days in order to look like the mature one in the room, and it’s worked. His campaign raised a lot of money and polls show Americans like the way he is handling this situation. But he hasn’t come out with a plan on his own that would give his opponents ammunition. What Obama is betting on is that neither side wants to see what will happen August 3rd, and I hope he’s right.

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Filed under Boehner, Congress, debt ceiling, Deficit, Economics, Eric Cantor, President Obama, Third Way

Living In The Present And Working For The Future

Sometimes it gets easy to blame the media when polls show the American people contradicting themselves on questions. But this time only the politicians have themselves to blame. The WSJ/NBC poll found 61 percent of American’s believed the budget should be cut, while only 31 percent said they believed the President and Congress should boost the economy even if it means an increase in budget deficits.

Having always being against increased spending and raising taxes, Republicans have had it easy. It’s always a lot easier to say “read my lips, no new taxes!” or “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem” than “I am going to raise taxes, just not yours” or “sometimes government regulation is needed, and sometimes it’s not”. Campaigns are sometimes won if the voters do not understand what you plan to do in office or what you did while in office. If they don’t agree with you that’s one thing, but if they don’t understand what you’re about that’s a whole different problem.

Economists and policy wonks alike have made arguments (Robert Reich, Fareed Zakaria, and, not that I’m on their level, but yours truly) that the problem with the economy right now isn’t the supply of things, it’s the demand for them. No matter what income bracket American’s are in the majority of their money goes toward housing, followed either by insurance or healthcare, and then food. Things like Ipads, movies, music, days at the beach, are all luxuries many American’s can’t afford or are squeezing out of their pockets. But when the economy was moving in the 1990’s these were areas that did really well.

Even though most people were not earning more money, they were confident in the future which allowed them to spend money on extra outings or stuff that allowed them to have fun with their families and friends. But now the cost of gasoline is so high in some areas that driving to work is costing families most of their weekly budgets.

What both parties do a bad job of explaining is that economies are cyclical and money has to come from somewhere. Even in times when the economy was strong, families did not earn enough to pay for health insurance on their own. So the government had to step in and create policies that made sure families were secure in the long run so they could live in the present.

When the last round of tax breaks were passed, the “extra” money people thought they had was spent on necessities like food. None of the areas that would have a bigger effect on the economy like infrastructure or food stamps were even part of the bill. That being said, the biggest items economists claimed would have a simulative effect wasn’t even an increase of 2 percent, and in some cases it wasn’t even 1. These were also short bursts of growth, it wasn’t anything that would have secured families in the long run so their kids can go to college, eat, or get to work.

But when we see video’s of the President saying government is wasting our money, of course no one is going to believe that the government can do anything right. Whether he is right or wrong, it gives the Republican’s the ammunition they need to say there is no reason for you to be taxed. President Obama also likes to remind people we are coming out of what was almost Great Depression 2.0. Well, when FDR cut stimulus funds during the middle of his depression, the American economy went into another free fall. Plus with interest rates as low as they are, and Bernanke not hinting to raise them any time soon, more money into the economy won’t do any harm. In fact, all signs point to gains.

There is also no proof that raising taxes will hurt the economy either. In fact, it was after George H. W. Bush raised taxes the economy really started to move. It shows one thing has nothing to do with the other. But if policy makers are serious about making sure America stays number one, raising taxes on the rich to secure social programs and create a stimulus is a must.

I don’t think anyone is willing to bet right now they will be making enough money to retire in the future. No one ever has, which is why pensions and Social Security were created in the first place. The federal government needs to spend more money in exchange for short term debt. If they don’t more scenes, like the ones taking place Minnesota, will be more frequent around the country. More stimulus now means more people will be working, families can buy what they need, and more revenue can be raised in order to take care of the families in the future.

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Filed under America, Budget, Congress, Economics, economy, Families, Political Economy, Politics, President Obama, taxes

Nuclear Puzzle

A guy named Gregory Jaczko is about to get more exposure to the media then he has ever wanted. He was appointed by President Obama in 2009 to be the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and will be testifying before Congress this coming week on a report that came out, from the NRC, that concluded “Mr. Jaczko failed to fully inform the other four members that he was issuing budget guidance that would essentially halt the commission’s work on the project, which was to decide whether the Energy Department should be allowed to build and operate the dump.”

The project they are talking about is Yucca Mountain, Nevada, which is about 90 miles away from Las Vegas. According to the article, Jaczko used to work for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has always been fighting to keep Yucca Mountain from becoming a permanent site for nuclear waste. During the 2008 election, Obama, while being in favor of nuclear energy, said many times Yucca Mountain will not become a place for nuclear storage. More information has come out since then making it clear Obama and Reid are close. It was Reid who convinced Obama to run for President, and when the Republican National Committee put millions into “Daschelzing” Reid last year, Obama held events and fundraisers in Nevada.

Policy wise though, it made no sense for Obama to be in favor of using nuclear energy but not store it at Yucca. Time and time again the NRC has said Yucca Mountain was the best place to store nuclear energy and was close to it in President (W’s) Bush’s first term. Bush signed the law to turn the area into a storage facility, only for it to be vetoed by the Governor, and then overturned by Congress.

As far as Jaczko is concerned, the report said he did not break any laws, but he obviously didn’t make any friends. Obama put him on the commission to look at other sites in the country that can be built for storage. It’s an example of a political appointment, and someone coming in with an agenda. It’s the nature of the game. But while other sites around the country are closer to residential areas, Yucca is closest to volcanic lava on federal land. Using nuclear energy is clean, creates jobs, is more efficient, and costs less than other forms of energy. According to World Nuclear the price of generating nuclear fuel is cheaper then coal and gas, making it cheaper for consumers in the long run. Readers know I want to visit Las Vegas again, but people don’t like to see wind turbines in their back yard, and solar power can’t be used everywhere or at any time.

I write a lot about how politics get in the way of good policies being put together, this is an example of that. At the same time, politics is also a necessary evil. If it wasn’t for Harry Reid, Obama may not have run for President, and of course the alternatives to a democracy/a republic don’t look to good. All the pundits were saying nuclear energy would take a step back after the earthquake in Japan, but eventually there’s going to be more nuclear plants in this country, it just makes too much sense. Designs for nuclear plants have improved since the one at Fukushima was built, and obviously we don’t have to build them on a fault line. There’s a smart way to do it, and eventually enough politicians will solve the puzzle to get it done.

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Filed under Clean Energy, Congress, Environment, global warming, Harry Reid, Nuclear, Politics, President Obama, Reid

Boehner Wields A Little Gavel

Ever since Barack Obama became President the Republican Party’s argument to everything was simply no. No to raising taxes on the wealthy, no to the Affordable Care Act, and now it is no to raising the debt ceiling. While it is important for all politicians to make sure their base is happy, they still need to pass legislation. Of course that is easier said than done with a divided Congress, but what doesn’t help is when their isn’t strong leadership that is capable of herding the cats.

In a recent article from The Hill, it describes how some members of the GOP have missed the old days of Tom Delay where they were able to get things done without much bickering. While at times upset with the leadership style of late 1990’s and early 2000’s, these members are eager to get things done and don’t see Speaker John Boehner being able to. Tom “the hammer” Delay and Dennis Hastert were never shy of wielding their power to get what they wanted. “In 2004, then-Transportation and Treasury Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) tried to rescind Amtrak earmarks, sparking a heated fight with then-Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) and other GOP legislators. Istook’s subcommittee was reorganized in the next Congress, stripping him of his gavel and ‘cardinal’ status.”

Coming back to today, we still don’t have a full budget, not many appropriations have been passed, and can I ask you to name one thing Republicans have done since taking over the House that has helped you? Of course Paul Ryan’s budget was passed, which would have ended Medicare, cut taxes for the wealthy and businesses, plus increase defense spending when all the major players within the Pentagon are calling for cuts. But this isn’t a sign of strength for Boehner.

Ryan’s budget proposal is being used right now by Democrat Kathy Hochul running in a special election in New York’s 26th district, far far away from the liberal city. In fact, no one thought this race would even be close, but since Hochul started running against this budget she has picked up a large amount of momentum. It has gotten so bad for the GOP that Boehner had to head to Buffalo to try and help the Republican candidate Jane Corwin. But the election is Tuesday and recent polls show Hochul with the lead.

Boehner is struggling with members that are afraid they will be facing Tea Party candidates, and they know their “leader” won’t be able to help them. Since coming out in favor of the bailout in 2008, and accomplishing nothing to decrease the debt, he won’t be able to speak for the candidates who came into office saying they will make the government smaller. While many Democrats believe the GOP tends to agree on everything, they clearly haven’t, otherwise more legislation would have passed the House. The major accomplishments of the GOP since Boehner was minority leader had been getting his entire party to vote against the Affordable Care Act and the stimulus when Democrats took over. But most of the credit for was given to GOP Whip Eric Cantor.

When Truman was running for reelection in 1948, he branded the “Do Nothing Congress” as the reason he was not able to enact policies that will help the American people. So far in this first session of Congress, the House has passed twenty-nine pieces of legislation, compared to 2001 under Speaker Hastert, where seventy-five pieces of legislation were passed in its first session. While some of these bills are to change the name of a court room or post office, the majority of them were appropriations for member’s districts. Appropriations, (or pork, whatever you prefer) that could create jobs and stimulate the economy.

Even as the Republicans took over the House, Boehner was pushed to the sidelines by the RNC because he wasn’t good at using the talking points they gave him. Obama needs to do the same as Truman. The election isn’t going to be won over Iraq, Israel, or Osama Bin Laden, it’s going to be about the economy and the state of the nation. The reason why Tom Delay was able to keep his majority was because he got things done. But while the president has tried to get Congress to pass legislation that will help millions of Americans, all John Boehner has said is no, without offering an alternative, and unable to form a consensus for his party.