Archive for the ‘The Obama Administration’ Category

Like Neville Chamberlain

May 18th, 2013 4 comments

Five years ago to the day in 2008, both Bush (speaking on foreign soil no less) and McCain accused Obama of being an “appeaser.” In that case, it was for saying that he would talk to groups like Hamas.

I pointed out that the definition of “appeasement” requires the actor to “pacify or placate someone by acceding to their demands.”

Now, in retrospect, I see that in fact, they were right about Obama. Not in that he appeased Hamas or Iran or anyone they were suggesting… but that Obama is an appeaser at home. His major flaw is genuinely wanting to bring in a consensus, despite facing an implacably irrational opposition dead-set to oppose him on any grounds.

Bush and McCain were correct, just not about who Obama would, to our own ruin, appease.

It’s a blind spot that has cost us dearly.

Categories: The Obama Administration Tags:

The Vulcan Mind Trick

March 9th, 2013 1 comment

A lot of people are making a deal about Obama mixing up Star Trek and Star Wars when he referenced a “Jedi Mind Meld.”

First, if you hear him say the words, you realize he was searching for the right words and failed before he had to finish the sentence. Had he tacked the word “whatever” onto the end of the sentence, it would have worked perfectly.

Second, what he messed up was not his central point or a planned statement.

And third, at least he knows about the Jedi mind trick and the Vulcan mind meld; he gets points for knowing the cultural references, even if he did mix them up.

Making that specific error was a concatenation, a merging of two ideas in the mind at once. You know that he was thinking of both and trying to work out, off the cuff, which to say, and they got mixed up. Nor was this the first time it has happened; he once mentioned visiting “fifty seven states, one left to go”; from the context, it was clear that he was mixing together “fifty states” and the “continental forty-eight states.”

This is a fairly pedestrian slip-up.

Tell me, would you rather have a president who can’t get simple grammar straight, or botches entire narratives?

There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again!’“

”Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.“

”Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.“

”Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?“

There’s lots more where that came from, including how he immortalized ”The Google“ and ”The Internets.“ Look, he made lots of goofs that can easily be forgiven, however hilarious they sounded—mixing up OPEC for APEC, getting prepositions wrong, even using poor phrasing from time to time, but really… next to Dubya, Obama’s errors look smart.

Categories: The Obama Administration Tags:

Try Something Different This Time

August 25th, 2012 3 comments

Upon the eve of the 2012 elections, the economy is not doing well. Why is this the case?

After Obama’s election in 2008, Republicans announce a policy of obstructing progress and reform, saying that it “works for” them. They fight against the Stimulus, eventually watering it down to the point where it is far too ineffective. They fight against health care reform, watering down that as well, costing billions and offering alternatives that would balloon the budget and cost massive numbers of jobs. Instead of focusing on how to fix the economy they broke, they instead focus on sloughing off blame on Obama for doubling unemployment and losing millions of jobs, while fighting to maintain the policies which decimated the economy in the first place. Republicans fight equal pay, fight minimum wage increases, fight unemployment benefits, fight stimulative spending. Republicans announce that their primary goal is not jobs or fixing the economy, but making Obama fail so they can retake the White House. Republicans force the extension of Bush tax cuts, proven to significantly deepen the deficit while being poison to job creation. Upon gaining control of the House, Republicans fail to act on jobs, instead focusing on things like restricting abortions. Republicans instead push for cuts, admitting that it would kill jobs. Republicans repeatedly put “nuclear options” into play, sometimes over severely ideological issues like Planned Parenthood. Republicans pass budgets that promise job losses. Republicans threaten defaulting on the debt, causing the US credit rating to be downgraded for the first time in history. Republicans kill Obama’s jobs bill, even though it offers $250 billion in tax relief. Republicans finally offer their own “jobs” bill which essentially includes deeper tax cuts for corporations and elimination of regulations governing pollution and corruption, none of which would create jobs.

So now, four years later, the economy has not yet recovered from the devastating effects of the Republican policies that led to the effective depression we suffer from today.

Republicans point at Obama and shout, “Look what he did!!

Yes, the president owns the economy, for better or for worse. All the media plays into this, acting as if Republican policy to essentially sabotage the economy somehow does not exist, and only Obama is to answer for it.

That may be a political reality. But it is not reality.

Had Obama been free to do what he wanted, the economy would look far different than it does today. Obama may own the economy, but he was far from alone in creating it.

The key point: Republicans have been far more destructive to the economy, even openly stating goals which work against economic recovery, again openly admitting their goals in this are to gain political power.

The answer to this is not to reward them with more power.

The answer is to give that power, definitively this time, to Democrats, even just for two years, so we can see what Democratic policies would reap without Republicans poisoning everything.

If, after two years, things don’t improve, we can try something else. But the idea that Democrats have tried and failed, or that Obama has tried and failed, are fiction.

But that’s just reality. My apologies.

Rewarding Sabotage

June 23rd, 2011 1 comment

From TPM:

They’ve made it explicit. Democrats are accusing Republicans of trying to sabotage the recovery — or at least stall it — by blocking all short-term measures to boost the economy, even ones they previously supported.

Ya think?

And this is news? It’s been happening since Obama took office. When most economists were saying that we needed boosts in infrastructure and other job- and value-creating spending, and that more tax cuts were the least stimulating, Republicans fought tooth and nail for less stimulus and more tax cuts. While the Dems, and especially Obama, have been far too conciliatory and indulgent with right-wing demands, they have worked in mostly the right direction for recovery (or at least a much better direction), and, were it not for the changes they allowed Republicans to wheedle them into making, we’d be in a lot better shape right now.

Much of it may just be Republicans favoring their more wealthy constituents or following the party line, opposing anything Obama and the Dems propose–but it does, in fact, have the overall effect of sabotaging any economic recovery.

Republicans have demonstrated, repeatedly, that they consider their own hold on power as a far higher priority than the health and welfare of the people and the country. Boehner said it clearly enough: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.” The Republican leadership knows full well that a wrecked economy will hurt Obama and the Dems while they are in office, and that when Republicans take power back, the absence of them wrecking the economy can be played as them “saving” it. In the meantime, they are quite happy to threaten shutdowns and defaults and everything else that could make the economy tank, knowing that so long as Obama is in the White House, everything they do to trash the economy will be “his” fault.

The real tragic irony is that, in 2010, and probably again in 2012, the people, as a result of this purposeful slowing of the recovery, have rewarded and will likely reward those who harmed them the most.

What It Isn’t Good For

June 19th, 2011 1 comment

One thing that has kind of mystified me is why so many, including liberals, seem to be equating the Libyan intervention with the Iraq War. “We’re now at war with five countries,” I hear. Well, if you want to take the greatest liberty in stretching the definition, I suppose so–if being involved in bombing is equal to being at war, then perhaps so. But what we’re doing in Libya is about as far from what we’re doing in Iraq as one can imagine.

This also serves to make a more recent distinction between recent Democratic and Republican wars: Clinton and Obama have limited their wars strategically, intervening where it is both potentially stabilizing as well as humanitarian, but doing so in a relatively risk-free and hands-off manner, using mostly bombing and other forms of support. The last two Republicans, Bush junior and senior, engaged in rather dramatic, major land wars in Asia.

The initial Gulf War was a “good” war, in that it was carried out well and was to good purpose–the flaw was that it was unnecessary, had Bush 41 only paid a bit more attention to whom he was dealing with. The war in Afghanistan again was a “good” war, in that it was something we all agreed was necessary–but again, had Bush 43 only paid a bit more attention, 9/11 would have been foiled and the war would not have been necessary. However, unlike his father, Bush 43 tanked his “good” war, dropping the ball and turning what should have been a conflict of less than a year, maybe two, into a decade-long quagmire. As for Iraq, well, the whole thing was a catastrophic blunder from start to finish.

In contrast, Clinton’s Kosovo intervention was extraordinarily restrained; even when NATO wanted to send ground forces in, Clinton held back, and eventually, the air campaign succeeded. While it is still unclear if Obama’s from-the-air, NATO-led intervention in Libya will also be successful, they share other key similarities, in that they are being carried out more for humanitarian purposes rather than to correct tactical blunders or to serve America’s self-interests.

One other shared feature of these conflicts is their defiance of the War Powers Act. While that act remains controversial, it is law, and it makes me uncomfortable when it is more or less ignored like it is. Clinton dodged it by claiming that funding by Congress implicitly approved it by providing funding; Obama is dodging it by claiming it’s not a direct conflict, but instead we are just playing a support role to NATO.

There are extenuating circumstances, however. In both cases, the wars are “good” wars–carried out not for profit or self-interest, but to prevent oppression. In both cases, the wars are limited, costing relatively little (Libya is costing America no more than $10 million a day, whereas the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at their peaks, cost a collective billion dollars per day. In both cases, the wars use only air power, meaning only a minimal risk to our own forces.

One more difference, however, is significant: in both conflicts, while a Democratic president in power tries to use severely restrained, low-cost and low-risk military force to humanitarian ends, a Republican-led force in Congress wants to end the war for purely internal political game-playing reasons stemming from spite and pre-election-year posturing.

This, to me, is the main thing that keeps me from being pissed at Obama–the fact that support from Congress would never be in question were it not for petty game-playing by Republicans. Were it Bush doing this, for example, they would give absolute support for the action. This, to me personally, constitutes effective approval, if not legal approval, and is why I have few problems with what Obama is doing. If Obama is playing games with the War Powers Act, then he is doing it because the Republicans are doing it first–and Obama, at least, is doing it for the right reasons, something which cannot be said about the Republicans.

What bothers me is the precedent–that a future president, for less noble reasons, may start a major land war expensive in both lives and funding, using the same dodge. The problem is, as we saw with Bush 43, even the War Powers Act doesn’t work well when it is enforced, and is only as strong as Congress would be without the act in any case.

Categories: Military, The Obama Administration Tags:

Painting Success as Failure

May 8th, 2011 2 comments

Conservatives continue to find more and more ways to criticize Obama for his nailing bin Laden. One of the latest is Andrew Card, Bush’s former Chief of Staff:

SPIEGEL: At the beginning of the war in Iraq, you reassigned many experts. Did President Bush set any priorities higher than the hunt for bin Laden?

Card: He had many top priorities, but I honestly do not believe that the president neglected the hunt for bin Laden. People we moved out were replaced. I think there was a dedicated team whose job it was to wake up every day and say: “Where is Osama bin Laden today?”

SPIEGEL: But now President Obama is the big winner…

Card: I think he has pounded his chest a little too much. He can take pride in it, but he does not need to show it so much.

SPIEGEL: He didn’t appear triumphant while announcing bin Laden’s death.

Card: I thought his statement was subdued, but I think his schedule is not subdued. Personally, I think it is premature to go to Ground Zero, in New York. I think my role model in this would be George H. W. Bush, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. It was a day to celebrate, but we did not dance on the Wall.

Wow. Okay, the first thing that stands out is the criticism that Obama “pounded his chest too much,” following up on the general right-wing complaints about Obama’s “narcissism” and hogging all the credit. Here, Card specifically criticizes Obama for going to Ground Zero. I mean, really?

Who here does not remember that, when the “major combat operations” had been “completed” in Iraq in May 2003, Bush famously dressed up in a flight suit and unnecessarily took a fighter jet to an aircraft carrier in a massively staged PR event culminating in a speech in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, a banner which the White House arranged but later tried to blame the soldiers for? Especially when Card himself was in the jet that flew in right before Bush, and Bush strutted around in his flight suit and bragged about how he flew the jet himself. The right wing loved that display. And if Bush had captured bin Laden, the right wing would be criticizing him (mildly, of course) only if he didn’t pound his chest about it.

Seriously, had it been Obama on 9/11 and he went to Ground Zero with the bullhorn, right-wingers would have bashed him for “pounding his chest” instead of lionizing it as a defining moment in U.S. history.

Aside from that, we have Card trying to make it look like Bush was intent on capturing bin Laden, despite Bush’s famous “I’m not all that interested in him” statement to reporters. Card is less than convincing when he says he “believes” Bush was dedicated, and he “thinks” they had a team working on it. Card was Chief of Staff; if he wasn’t sure, then it doesn’t sound like it was really a high priority.

Finally, note that Card chose, as his role model of restraint, Bush 41–not Bush 43. I wonder why. In any case, we find conservatives clashing in their criticisms–most right-wingers bash Obama for not going farther in dancing on bin Laden’s desecrated body. No matter what Obama does, it does not matter to these people–it’s always wrong, for some reason or another.

Interesting, John Yoo’s most recent criticism is that bin Laden was killed instead of captured. Despite the fact that he never seemed to voice any concern for Bush’s “dead or alive” policy, and Card mentioned that certainly Bush had no preference.

It will be interesting to see conservatives continuing to pick over the event as time goes on, but one thing remains clear: if they have their way, Obama’s killing of bin Laden will go down in their books as a huge blunder, a failure that made Obama look horrible as a president. The idea being that they want to mitigate, as much as possible, whatever currency, political or otherwise, Obama could take away from the accomplishment.

Obama and GM

May 6th, 2011 3 comments

Republicans attacked Obama for the GM bailout, claiming that when the government intervened, it was a “major power grab” that effectively put GM under the control of the federal government–and, in the eyes of many right-wingers, under Obama’s personal command.

Well, in early 2009, the company was near collapse, threatening to destroy the American auto industry and put huge numbers of Americans out of work. Today, as a result of the intervention, the company is not only back on its feet, but posted a $3.2 billion profit. It’s not perfect, but without doubt far and away much better than it was before Obama came in.

So, will Republicans–who claimed Obama owned the industry–give him credit for its success?

It’s Not Over

May 3rd, 2011 2 comments

I agree with the right-wingers on one thing: it’s not over. The “War on Terror” was not really a war to begin with, but what it really was–an attempt to quell the use of terror tactics by fundamentalists and others as a result of our Middle East policies–was around well before bin Laden, and will continue. Bin Laden’s death was significant, but not in that it ends all of our problems.

Getting bin Laden was not the magic bullet that makes terrorism stop. It was, however, greatly symbolic, and has value to that extent. It could be, in a way, our excuse to leave. Because Afghanistan was not really crucial to end the bigger problem, and Iraq certainly wasn’t. The answers lie elsewhere.

Do we need to be in Afghanistan? Will it bring great harm if we leave? Depends on what’s important to you, and what you think we can accomplish. I’m not expert, so my guess here is just that–a blind guess. But I would imagine that in the long run, it won’t make much difference. Unless we expend huge amounts of money and a great many lives to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely–which I do not see as being feasible–the country will probably, inevitably, devolve back into something similar to what it was before. Will that harm us and the region? Possibly, but I would argue that it would not be much better overall if we stayed.

We need to get out of Iraq, out of Afghanistan. We need to make the military into something far less bloated, far more surgical and precise. This is not a new idea, but it is a good one. Do this, cut the hundreds of billions wasted in that part of the budget, bring back more reasonable tax rates for the wealthy and corporations, and we stand a good shot of turning this sucker around. And maybe this event today was what we needed to start doing that.

Not that I think it’ll happen.

Categories: Security, The Obama Administration Tags:

Credit Where It Is Due

May 3rd, 2011 3 comments

Here’s a question: who thinks that if Palin were president, she would have gotten bin Laden?

No, I don’t, either.

Nor do I believe McCain would have. Despite his bluster about knowing exactly how to capture bin Laden but he would tell us ONLY if he became president, McCain, during the debates, not only gave no clue about how to do it, but he opposed Obama’s idea of unilaterally going into Pakistan were we to find Osama there. Remember? And other Republican contenders echoed that sentiment.

If McCain had won, bin Laden would most likely still be alive today.

Nor does Bush deserve any credit. He had more than seven years to get the job done. He blew it. And he left Obama no leads, those developed only after Obama brought bin Laden back into our sights.

In the end, Obama was the one who got the job done. This was no accident of timing, he was no bystander. He’s not perfect, he’s not a miracle worker, and yes, I don’t like a lot of the crap he’s still doing. But he got this one right, and he didn’t do it at the expense of something else more important.

Categories: Security, The Obama Administration Tags:

Bin Laden Dead

May 2nd, 2011 12 comments

It took Bush seven years and he didn’t get close. Obama got him in two years.

Had this happened under Bush, even after seven years, one can assume that this would have been the beginning of a weeks-long self-congratulatory paroxysm of crowing amongst right-wingers, with the media showering praise on Bush in particular, followed by a double-digit jump in his popularity ratings.

One wonders how this will be handled differently now that it took Barack Hussein Obama, in a long-planned and well-coordinated mission, to accomplish.

Bush in March 2002, when he was diverting his attention from bin Laden and Afghanistan so he could prosecute the war in Iraq instead:

… I don’t know where [bin Laden] is. I — I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.

Obama in 2008:

And we have a difficult situation in Pakistan. I believe that part of the reason we have a difficult situation is because we made a bad judgment going into Iraq in the first place when we hadn’t finished the job of hunting down bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda.

So what happened was we got distracted, we diverted resources, and ultimately bin Laden escaped, set up base camps in the mountains of Pakistan in the northwest provinces there. …

And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act, and we will take them out.

Nor was this a chance or accidental result; Obama was truly focusing on the task, while Bush let his attention wander almost immediately. Obama today:

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda. Even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat his network.

Then last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain. And it took many months to run this thread to ground.

I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside Pakistan.

And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abad Abad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties.

And, time until conservatives find some way to criticize Obama for taking out bin Laden, in three, two….

Categories: Security, The Obama Administration Tags:

Health Care Reform, Always Popular, Gains Even More Support

December 28th, 2010 34 comments

Just a reminder of the BS that’s too often passed around:

Obamacare was opposed by most Americans when passed. It’s gotten even less popular now and most Americans support repealing it altogether.

CNN released their latest poll [PDF] that would appear to support the idea that Americans oppose the new health care reform:

Dec. 17-19
Aug. 6-10
Mar. 19-21
No opinion

So it would seem that Americans oppose “Obamacare” because they don’t want the government getting involved in health care.

Except when you look at the reasons why they oppose it:

Dec. 17-19
Aug. 6-10
Mar. 19-21
Oppose, too liberal
Oppose, not liberal enough
No opinion

Not that this is new–we’ve known for a long time that a good chunk of the opposition is because they want stronger government involvement, not weaker or less. Considering that the people who oppose because it doesn’t go far enough want at least as much as the reform offers now, the grouping should not have the “Opposed, not liberal enough” counted with the “Opposed, too liberal,” but with the “Favor.” Otherwise, it’s like counting Tea Partiers who don’t like the Republican Party as “Democrats.”

Recognition of this simple fact would make the numbers represent reality better, as such:

Dec. 17-19
Aug. 6-10
Mar. 19-21
Favor and/or want more
Oppose, too liberal
No opinion

Now consider that the above numbers are arrived at without most respondents being aware of what the reform measure actually consists of–when that is factored in, support only grows.

While the claim that a majority “opposed” the plan is technically correct, the assumption behind it–that a majority don’t want government health care reform–is a bald-faced lie. Those who want what was passed at least have always been in the majority. And now, despite a constant media campaign to malign the program, even the plurality approves of the plan as passed.

And, hmm, “Gotten even less popular.” Kinda hard to take that from any of the numbers. Support is actually growing, meaning that people are more and more realizing the benefits of the plan despite the campaign of lies. But the lies are still too thick and heavy for Americans to approve of a single-payer plan which would be the best of all. We’ll have to wait at least another generation for that, sadly.

START Ratified, 9/11 Responders Cared for (Sort of), Senate Looking to Reform Filibuster

December 23rd, 2010 11 comments

As 26 Republicans voted against a nuclear treaty which is clearly in the best interests of the nation and the world, they seem to have inadvertently handed Obama a bigger victory than he would have gained otherwise. Without opposition, the treaty would probably have been ignored by the media as simply business as usual. Instead, its passage has made headlines and comes across as an Obama victory.

This only emphasizes what Obama could have gotten done had he and the Dems had any kind of backbone when it came to the tax cut legislation, or any number of other issues that they became spineless on. The START treaty is poor compensation for other, even more critical decisions that were flubbed. In this case, in classic Obama fashion, he gave Republicans credit for not overwhelmingly sabotaging American security, saying, “The strong bipartisan vote in the Senate sends a powerful signal to the world that Republicans and Democrats stand together on behalf of our security.” So, a dozen Republicans voting for something clearly necessary for American security–while double that number voting against said security so they could score political points–is “strong bipartisanship”? Only relative to Republican standards, i.e., any Republican who votes for anything that could cast even a halfway-decent light on Obama and/or the Democrats is a traitor.

In the meantime, the 9/11 First Responders bill finally passed after years of Democratic attempts to get it through and repeated Republican attempts to block it–but not before Republicans slashed the amount of care they will get by 40%, and cut the length of coverage by three years. Because nothing is too good for the heroes, except, of course, money, health care, and respect. Dozens of Republicans in the House still voted against the bill, but even the GOP had a hard time justifying a “no” vote on this one.

Something interesting, if two years too late: Senate Democrats seem unified in approving a change in the filibuster rules. Every Democratic senator signed the petition. It’s not a call for a “nuclear option,” but a change in the rules that would change filibustering from dead-simple, no-pain casual act into, well, a filibuster. Maybe. The details are not fully clear, but it’s pretty certain it would simply make it harder for anyone to anonymously stop a vote cold, or for one party to kill a bill simply by saying so. How the details are worked out should be interesting–and expect the Republicans to make huge noises about it.

I somehow doubt they’ll call it a “constitutional option” this time.

Spam Targets, and, Oh Yeah, Obama and the Dems Are Being Stupid Again

December 15th, 2010 1 comment

As part of some overdue maintenance, I figured I’d check out and empty the Spam box for the blog… and discovered that almost all of it, or at least 60 comment’s worth, was for a single post: The White House White Board post on jobs. Many were the traditional arm’s-length list of spam links, many had the innocuous-sounding “love this place, just peeking in” message along with a site link to spam, several Russian-language spam ads, several longish comments which, when read, are pretty much gibberish (with spam links), and many were the more involved long post on a tangentially-related (if even that) subject which have links (often formatted for forum links styles) to, of course, spam sites.

Makes me glad for spam blockers, despite their occasional inconveniences, and reminds me of the days when blog comment spam was still new and had to be deleted by hand.

By the way, since I brought up the White House White Board, I see they have a new video up–this time on the tax cut issue. Thought I’d put it up here as well.

This one I’m not so crazy about. Obama says that we have to give Republicans the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to save the tax cuts for the middle class, but the truth is if he and the Democrats had not been such idiots from the beginning they wouldn’t have to be doing this. Republicans are still the black hats here, but Obama and the Dems are the dumb sheriff that let them get away with holding up the train in the first place. Obama says we have to give in to the hostage takers–but the first rule of hostage negotiation is that you don’t give in, because that will just encourage them to take hostages every time. And Obama says we’ll fight them in two years–seriously next time, though he was supposed to be serious this time–and the fact is, in two years, the story will be exactly the same as it is now, only the Republicans will be stronger and more emboldened by then.

Olbermann had a good discussion on this the other day.

The White House White Board: Jobs

November 20th, 2010 3 comments

I didn’t think I’d be posting another so quickly, but I went to the site and found another White Board mini-lecture that explains exactly what I have been writing on this blog about for the past year or so: the Stimulus Act and its effect on jobs. Goolsbee does a fantastic job of laying it out:

Again, they should have started these long ago. Just this one should have been the Democrats’ primary campaign ad, despite its 4-minute length–the extended buys would have been an unusual move, attention-getting, and very, very smart politically. It would have shown millions of Americans how Obama did focus on the economy, how he did save millions of jobs, how the Stimulus did work, and why it is a smart idea to invest a lot more.

If you are able to spread these around, do so. They need to be shown and seen as much as possible.

Categories: Economics, The Obama Administration Tags:

The White House White Board: GM

November 20th, 2010 1 comment

I had heard people talking about The White House White Board, but had not seen one before this. And now I want to go back and look at the previous ones. This is what should have happened more than a year ago, and should have been–and should be now–publicized as much as possible.

In the video below, Austan Goolsbee, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under Obama, describes the astonishing success of the GM bailout, using nothing but a simple whiteboard and a plain, down-to-earth mini-lecture format. View the video full-screen to get the most of the HD quality:

As you can see, it’s about as low-budget as you can get–but it’s also very effective. Succinct, educational, and not boring–a straightforward telling of an economic success story in terms anyone can understand. No flashy effects, no smarmy music, no ham-handed political demagoguery–just a guy in a shirt and tie giving a lecture, and you come away feeling like you just attended a really good college class. It almost reminds me of something you might have seen on The West Wing back when Sorkin was writing the show.

And this particular episode clears up so much of the lies and obfuscation about the auto industry bailout–how it was done fairly, how it challenged the odds, and how it became a rousing success–that so many Americans need to hear because they probably still believe that the money was wasted somehow, or that the bailout and its terms were socialist and destructive somehow.

I’ll be look at these things more often and posting some here from time to time.

Categories: Economics, The Obama Administration Tags:

Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Two Years Ago?

October 31st, 2010 3 comments

It’s a fair question. For some, the answer may be “no.” But for a lot more, the answer will be “yes.” For me, I cashed in some Apple stock which got badly beaten down by the Bush housing crisis; this week, I sold it for almost four times what it was worth when Bush left office. If nothing else, it speaks to the health of the stock market, which right-wingers initially tried to blame Obama for just a month or two after he took office (they don’t any more, you will note).

But let’s take a look at a more general picture. Three very meaningful questions asked in a post from DailyKos:

1. What was the average monthly private sector job growth in 2008, the final year of the Bush presidency, and what has it been so far in 2010?

2. What was the Federal deficit for the last fiscal year of the Bush presidency, and what was it for the first full fiscal year of the Obama presidency?

3. What was the stock market at on the last day of the Bush presidency? What is it at today?

There is a fourth question (about Boehner, the next Speaker should Republicans win the House, campaigning with a Nazi re-enactor), but I see it as relatively inconsequential, and meaningless to most voters, so let’s go with those three. The answers:

1. In 2008, we lost an average of 317,250 private sector jobs per month. In 2010, we have gained an average of 95,888 private sector jobs per month. (Source) That’s a difference of nearly five million jobs between Bush’s last year in office and President Obama’s second year.

2. In FY2009, which began on September 1, 2008 and represents the Bush Administration’s final budget, the budget deficit was $1.416 trillion. In FY2010, the first budget of the Obama Administration, the budget deficit was $1.291 trillion, a decline of $125 billion. (Source) Yes, that means President Obama has cut the deficit — there’s a long way to go, but we’re in better shape now than we were under Bush and the GOP.

3. On Bush’s final day in office, the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 closed at 7,949, 1,440, and 805, respectively. Today, as of 10:15AM Pacific, they are at 11,108, 2,512, and 1,183. That means since President Obama took office, the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 have increased 40%, 74%, and 47%, respectively.

While the source of the questions and answers is biased, the facts are not. Once again, under Obama and the Democrats, job numbers have improved markedly, the deficit, while unwieldily, is not Obama’s doing, and business is much better than it was. Compared to two years ago, things are much, much better.

The question any self-interested voter should ask is, do I want to go with the people who made things worse, or do I want to go with the team that made things better?

You can focus on side details as much as you want, try to ignore the mountain for the pebbles, but one thing is inescapable: Obama and the Democrats performed well on the economy–much better than the Republicans, who dropped us into the cesspool Obama and the Dems have subsequently been blamed for.

For those seeking to confirm the job stats, go ahead and visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics site, and download the data tables showing All Employees, Total private; the data you get will show you private sector job standings by month. Use Excel to calculate the month-to-month changes, then (a) add the gains & losses in 2008 and in 2010 (to September), and then (b) chart it out.

The raw table:


Here’s the table after transposing, selecting, and calculations:


And the chart:


Oh, and from a Feb. 2009 NYTimes article about private sector jobs over the past 35 years:

One of the weakest sectors was manufacturing. The number of such jobs peaked in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was president, and fell in every administration since, with the exception of a small gain in the Clinton years. The decline in the current administration, at a rate of 3.1 percent a year, is the steepest yet seen.

Carter and Clinton were the best at adding jobs; Reagan and both bushes the worst. How about that. If Obama’s total numbers are low, it’s due to the hole Bush left for him to climb out of.

Categories: Economics, The Obama Administration Tags:

The Stimulus, The Budget, Employment, and the Election: Conservatives Are Lying Their Asses Off, Obama Is Doing Great, And Here Are the Numbers to Prove It

October 26th, 2010 9 comments

To hear Republicans talk about it, Obama has done nothing about the economy, has not created any jobs, has busted the budget with unprecedented spending, and is responsible for the unemployment rate being what it is. The stimulus, they maintain, is a failure, and the people are suffering because of Obama’s inaction.

The problem with these accusations is that they are all one-hundred-percent, Grade-A horse shit. Bush wrecked the economy, and Obama and the Democrats, despite massive Republican obstructionism, have managed to pull off a minor miracle. And here are the numbers to prove it.

Before on this blog, I have refuted the claim about the stimulus’ failure; the numbers speak volumes–here’s a chart I published six months back:

With no other notable effect acting on jobs other than the stimulus, it would take huge leaps of legerdemain to explain the turnaround seen here in any other way than to recognize the stimulus as successful. As a result, Republicans simply ignore it, acting as if pulling the country out of a deep hole–their deep hole–is meaningless because the Democrats haven’t made the economy rocket into the sky yet. And sadly, Democrats–who should be plastering this chart up everywhere in sight–are letting their best advertising slip away as the conservative narrative takes hold.

Yes, the surge in jobs and/or the halt in layoffs sputtered soon after I made this chart, and since then the numbers have hovered below zero. However, this is pretty much what was predicted back in early 2009 by those who said the stimulus, as finally passed, wasn’t enough–they were 100% spot-on correct–and let’s not ignore the fact that we are substantially better off now than we were when Bush left office.

Now, how about the budget? That’s another GOP talking point–that things were going OK under Bush, at least tolerably well–but then Obama came in an exploded spending and the deficit. Let’s explode that lie, shall we? Here’s a chart [source data] showing expenditures and receipts over the past six years:


Ouch. Sure enough, deficits have exploded, and spending is up. Yes, spending is more of a straight line, but it’s not supported by revenue. Looks like under Bush, the deficit was under control, and then recently, under Obama, things have gotten out of hand.

Until, of course, you draw a precise line showing when Bush left and Obama took over:


What do you know. The deficit exploded under Bush, not Obama; Obama has been holding relatively steady. His spending is increasing at about the same rate it was under Bush. Also notice that the deficit is not that much greater now than it was when Obama took over–the arrows show the deficit when the transition occurred, laid over the latest numbers and a year before Bush left office. Obama, it turns out, has not really added much at all relative to what he was given. In contrast, Bush more than doubled the deficit in his last year in office.

So much for the “Obama and the Democrats have wrecked the budget” lie. Not to mention that soon after Obama came in to office and deployed the stimulus, the recession ended and government receipts started trending upward again. How about that.

Another tack taken by the Republicans is the unemployment rate; their claim is that since the stimulus did not take the rate down to the optimistic projections of the Obama administration, Obama therefore owns the unemployment rate–he is, they say, responsible for it.

But let’s take a look at that chart over time as well–red represents Bush months, blue for Obama:


Despite the fact that the trend and momentum started and gained steam fully under Bush, it doesn’t look too great for Obama here–when he came in, the rate was just under 8%, then it went up to 10%, and now is hovering between 9% and 10%. Republicans have picked up on this, adding fuel to their criticisms.

One problem: the unemployment rate lags behind improvements in the economy, usually by about three quarters. Apply that to the chart, and you get this:


Seen this way, one finds that not only was Obama not responsible for the 10%, he has actually lowered unemployment since he got into office. This would not be a surprise to anyone aware of the job trends since the stimulus began. Of course, this doesn’t make things all rosy–we’re still in a bad place, and slightly better than catastrophic is still terrible.

However, that’s why the unemployment rate seemed to go the opposite direction of the job surge: not only were we delayed by nine months or so, but in addition to that, we spent a year in negative territory–despite the fact that things were getting way, way better, we were still losing jobs up until late ’09. Thus the reversal in unemployment trends has been tepid so far.

So, let’s pause for a quick review: Conservatives say the stimulus is a failure. The facts say it was a resounding success, reversing the horrific nosedive that Bush had put us in. Conservatives say that Obama exploded spending and destroyed the budget. The facts show that Bush did all of that, and under Obama, spending has increased at the same general rate it did under Bush, but deficit increases have slowed greatly. Conservatives say that Obama made unemployment rise to 10% and hasn’t done a thing to change that. The facts say that Bush drove unemployment up, and that Obama stopped the trend and has slowly been wrestling the number down.

The difference is like night and day–Bush wrecked the economy, Obama has been bringing it back under control. And now Republicans are trying to blame the guy who has been helping for all the damage that Republicans wrought on the economy.

OK, back to the unemployment numbers, and where they will go. Now, the stimulus surge came to an end after May, the month in which we gained about 430,000 jobs. There was a 4-month period from February to May when the surge continued upwards, and then things went dead from June, since which time we’ve lost roughly 100,000 jobs a month.

If unemployment lags as predicted, this will be bad timing for the Democrats, and very good for Republicans: if they win the House in November, it will probably be to news that unemployment is dipping, a trend that should continue until early 2011. They would, of course, attempt to take full credit for the change, acting as if it were the euphoria over their election wins and the expectation that they would pass tax cuts for the wealthy that spurred the gains–despite the fact that it would be the tail end of the stimulus and the special employment due to the census. Even more ironically, the trend would have continued far upwards and might even have taken us out of our dire economic straits had not the Republicans cut the stimulus down to well below what it should have been.

Nor would I be surprised if (a) the downturn in unemployment ends somewhere around February or March 2011, and (b) Republicans attempt to blame it on the Democrats for not going along with all the crap they will try to ram through the House the moment they have the gavel.

I don’t have a sterling reputation for political and economic prognostication, though, so let’s see how this plays out. In the meantime, it looks like Americans are blaming the bad economy on those who have done a good job repairing it so far, and are set to hand over power to the party that caused the worst of it and has hampered the recovery. You get what you deserve. Too bad about all the people who you’re dragging down with you.

What Were You Saying About Confirming Judges?

August 3rd, 2010 Comments off

This chart shows what is perhaps one of the most under-reported stories in D.C. today:


Remember when Democrats refused to confirm Bush’s most extreme judges, and right-wingers screamed about how the filibuster was unconstitutional, and all that crap? Yeah, I know, this is old news–the GOP is being hypocritical as hell, yet again. The filibuster was toxic and traitorous and so on, but now Republicans use it virtually all the time, breaking records year after year, so that now a 60-vote majority is virtually required for everything.

Republicans acted like confirming judicial nominees was even a more important matter, the courts were tied up and it’s the president’s right to get anyone he wants approved by the Senate, no matter what their politics, and (again) so on and so on… and now Republicans are blocking nominees like never seen before.

Right now, the Party of No is blocking pretty much anything coming down the pike–even a tax cut for small businesses, which Republicans claim is their forte, they voted against as a bloc. Health care for the heroes who worked at Ground Zero and now suffer? Screw them!

What excuses are given? The goddamned DemocRATs didn’t allow us to attach huge tax cuts to the rich and every other thing we ever wanted tacked on to these bills as amendments, they wanted to force us to vote on these issues up-or-down! After all those years WE were in power and let Democrats add as many amendm… uh, OK, well, we shut them down and treated them like they didn’t exist, but now they’re fascist bastards anyway!!!!

Stuff like this, in addition to the we-love-fat-cat-bankers, the we-love-BP, we want to give Paris Hilton billions but the jobless are lazy and don’t deserve relief, and the fact that the GOP is going even more extreme as time goes on… even with people hating incumbents this year, it is still astonishing that people cannot see who is causing the damage.

You want Congress to do something about jobs? If Republicans get more than 40 in the Senate (they won’t retake the majority, that’s for sure), then you can bet that the near-total filibuster marathon will become an all-out standstill, or worse, Democrats will start to cave and things will start to roll back to the Bush years.

They have made it clear: as long as the Democrats hold the White House and a majority, they are determined to grind D.C. to a halt and make the country fail.

What really astonishes me: the Democrats and left-leaning independents don’t see this as a clarion call to march to the polls in droves. The Stimulus, Health Care, the auto industry revived and profitable, Wall Street reform, credit card reform… all despite near-monolithic opposition from the GOP, the Democrats have managed to get through as much big-ticket legislation in two years and others get through in four or eight. If you’re a liberal, it would be hard to claim that they haven’t accomplished anything, or as much as they could have. But if you fail to get out the vote, you’ll see either nothing or a hard, sharp turn to the right.

The alternative, should the Left fail to do the right thing: Democrats scrap the filibuster. In hindsight, they clearly should have taken the GOP up on this when the “Nuclear Option” was being threatened a few years back–it would have made no difference then, but a huge difference over the past two years. And if the Democrats do toss out the filibuster, and hang on to a majority in the House and a 4- or 5-vote margin in the Senate, with the filibuster gone they could accomplish even more.

And the Republicans could not even criticize the Democrats, because they themselves vilified the procedure and came up with the whole idea of killing it off, so they would have to be silent.

Ha! Gotcha! Of course they’d be hypocritical and blast the Dems. But the Dems should have the guts to ignore them and push ahead.

Voting and Interests

July 22nd, 2010 20 comments

Today, Obama signed the financial reform plan into law, bringing back regulation to the financial industry to avoid future meltdowns like the one that occurred under the era of deregulation under Bush.

64% of Americans approve of the bill. It passed 60 to 39 in the Senate because of the Democratic majority, with Republicans monolithically voting against it. The GOP vows to repeal the regulations–they actually said they want no regulations–and let businesses do practically whatever the hell they want.

In a similar vote (this one 59 to 39), Democrats passed a bill to extend unemployment benefits, which will help those suffering from the economic crisis, and will pump more money into the spending side of the economy, where it is desperately needed.

Again, Republicans voted against it as a near-solid block, saying we should instead let rich people have more money. Even when reminded that this will increase the deficit, 62% of Americans approve of the extension.

So, Americans want out-of-control businesses who have helped wreck the economy brought under control; Democrats passed a law to do that, while Republicans sided with big business and against the people.

Americans want relief for the unemployed; Democrats passed a law to do that, while Republicans, again against the will of the people, told the unemployed to go suck it, it’s your fault you lost your job and rich people need that money more than you do.

Americans recoiled in horror at the BP oil spill; Democrats made BP pay for it, while Republicans clearly stood by the criminally reckless oil company.

After Bush and the Republicans brought the economy to its knees, brought massive job loss and massive deficits before Obama set foot into office, and after Democratic initiatives brought an abrupt stop to the job loss and now have us gaining jobs and doing everything they can to help those who still can’t find one…

…remind me, why are Americans set to elect more Republicans this year?


Obama’s [Insert Crisis Meme Here]

June 1st, 2010 6 comments

You can almost smell the desperation among the right wing to smear Obama in any way they can, using the time-honored political strategy of throwing as much mud as they can at him until something sticks. But in their method they betray their shallow, self-contradictory nature. Obama is a socialist, they tell us. He’s a communist. And he’s a fascist. Which is kind of like trying to say that he’s a Democrat, a Libertarian, and a Republican–they don’t mix.

In the BP oil spill disaster, the right wing sees a glimmer of hope, in that there’s a terrible incident that covers a span of time, so of course it can be blamed on Obama. At first, they saw an environmental disaster hitting the Gulf region, and naturally glommed onto the idea that this was “Obama’s Katrina.” However, the meme didn’t catch on; whereas Bush was immobile and inept, Obama is merely unsuccessful. Hurricanes are something that the US government is expected to act on promptly and with vigor; oil spills, not so much. The government’s handling of Katrina was hampered by stagnation, corruption and cronyism within the bureaucracy which Bush was responsible for; the government’s responsibility for the BP oil spill also harkens back to corruption–but not Obama’s, as Bush was the one who deregulated the industry to allow this to happen. With Katrina, Bush delayed ending a vacation, and dallied for five days before ordering in the national guard while people starved, were abandoned, and died; Obama has been doing about all that a president can for such a crisis–that it is taking so long is not a matter of incompetence, but rather the difficulty involved. It took ten months to stop a similar–but less disastrous–oil spill in the Gulf back in 1979. Had Obama’s direction been able to cap this leak after just one and a half months, it would have been miraculous, not a failure.

So the “Obama’s Katrina” story didn’t work–but the right-wingers felt they could tack this on Obama if only they had the right slogan. So in came “Obama’s 9/11.” Forget that this claim betrays the idea that 9/11 was a failure on the part of the government to respond well to a severe crisis, something right-wingers insist was not the case. And forget that the right wing tried to say that the economic crisis was “Obama’s 9/11,” or that the New York Times Square bomber incident was “Obama’s 9/11,” just like Haiti was supposed to be “Obama’s Katrina” before the oil spill was. One reason they fail is because they just don’t resonate: the oil spill is a terrible disaster, but not a political scandal. Who associates Bush 41 with the Exxon Valdez? Nobody–they associate Exxon with the Exxon Valdez. Fact is, the public doesn’t blame presidents for oil spills.

So the 9/11 meme didn’t gain any traction–the comparison was kind of silly, and right-wingers may not have liked the inference that 9/11 was a failure that could be blamed on the previous administration.

In fact, right-wingers may have started to become aware of how revealing it was that they were constantly trying to assign Bush scandals to Obama–Obama’s Katrina, Obama’s 9/11, Obama’s Enron, Obama’s Harriet Miers, Obama’s “Mission Accomplished,” Obama’s Iraq War, and so on. It highlighted the fact that the Bush administration was hip-deep in scandals, validated the idea that Bush’s scandals were indeed his fault, and came across as a desperate ploy to “hand off” the scandals to a Democratic administration in the hopes that Bush would no longer look so bad.

As a result, we are now seeing a different approach: The BP oil spill, we are now being told, is “Obama’s Iran Hostage Crisis.” The parallel is supposed to be that this is a long-drawn out crisis which will kill the president’s chances of re-election.

Yeah, good luck on that one. When it fails, what next? Obama’s Vietnam? Obama’s Great Depression? Obama’s Appomattox? Obama’s Boston Massacre? It could be months before the spill is finally plugged; the right wing will have the chance to try out a variety before the well runs dry.

Can’t wait to hear the next meme.