Please listen to this President Obama

Barack Obama, Obama, Politics, President Obama


“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. … Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today.  They are unanimous in their hate for me. And I welcome their hatred!

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Nobody Cares About Life-Preservers!

Economic Policy, Economy, Election, Politics

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently commented that “You don’t get any credit in campaigns for what you prevented from happening”.

I brought up this same point in a post yesterday. People don’t feel as grateful for a person who straps the life preserver on…but they are eternally grateful to the person who pull them out of the water before they take that last gasp of life.

This is the way people are. Nobody is going to make people understand otherwise that the economy was saved. I’m afraid there will be Republican good fortunes brought on the backs of Democrats for years to come.

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The Difference a Couple of Years Makes

Economic Policy, Politics, President Obama

I was thinking about the current State of Anger we live in today, as I do on most days. I was thinking about what it is that has made everyone so mad. As is pointed out by me and many others, a large number of Americans aren’t thrilled there is a black man leading the country. But, I do think there is much more to this issue other than race. Racism and bigotry are much more prevalent when cultivated from unfortunate circumstances.

Every time, it seems, that the current recession is and has been discussed it is mentioned that it is the worst since the Great Depression. This point has seemed obvious to me. Also apparent to me has been the need to have the Federal Government do everything possible to improve the lives of Americans. To take care of us!

After reading the latest column from Frank Rich of The Times, I began to think about the country during The Great Depression. Americans sought the greatest efforts possible from the Federal Government at that time. FDR was not thought of as killing the American way. He brought comfort to a very uneasy nation because people knew he was doing everything possible to improve the lives of every American. Difficult economic conditions didn’t mean everyday, freedom-loving, patriotic, and hardworking Americans sought the demonization of the President. So what was the difference between then and now?

The difference was the country was hit by the stock market collapse and the onslaught of the Depression while Republican Herbert Hoover was in office. By the time FDR was elected, the nation was desperate for a savior. Though FDR enacted drastic changes, drastic measures were needed to change to course the country was headed on.

We didn’t get enough of a taste of what could have happened. The economy was headed south at the very end of the Bush administration. Barack Obama was elected and took those (not so) drastic measures to keep the country from from heading into a depression.

The country didn’t get to know despair. To the detriment of the current administration, it may require voters realization that the alternative, Republicans, will not improve their situation. Unfortunately, that will require the most likely failure of a Republican Congress and possibly Republican President.

A savior is not the person who puts the life preserver on you. A savior is the one who pulls you out of the water. The country will need to do a little more drowning before they are ready to truly be saved. Get your bathing suits on people…

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An industry must be back…

Politics

I put a couple of posts up of a certain industry that might have gotten some serious government assistance some months ago and every single ad these days is covered with said industry’s ads. This is my very weak attempt at throwing a post up that doesn’t mention that industry…so that I can bury those old posts and get some extremely relevant and interesting ads about writing essays back up.

Oh, big thanks go out to the RNC. Keep up the good work (paying for strippers)!

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Tea Partiers giving this guy with Parkinson’s Disease what he deserves…(not at all)

Politics

Thank God for the Tea Party. They keep stepping their game up and waking up more and more progressive voices. The passage of Health Care Reform is not going to lose Democratic seats this fall. Any seats that are on the brink now, were on the brink before HCR.

Anyways, like so many videos out there, this one was worth showing…

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Bush finally reaching out to the poor…

Politics

…and then quickly wiping that “poor juice” off on Clinton. This seems pretty accurate in how Republicans deal with the poor; avoid contact at all costs and if you absolutely must make contact, keep a Democrat nearby for quick hand washing.

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Way too long…

Foreign Policy

Since I took the time to post on here. This fact is not due to a lapse in news worthiness facts and opinions smothering the media. Domestically we have seen the Stonewall of NO Republicans reciting a 7 word play on a daily basis for months. If I hear another self-tanned, hair salon-styled John Boehner mention “Ramming down your throat” I may have to contact the FCC regarding the content being allowed on the air.

Besides this, we have seen numerous geopolitical hot spots heat up and cool down, an Afghan surge, elections in Iraq, Iran’s continuing persecution of free speech, etc…

I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around one subject with a daily annoyance over every topic. But, today I had a thought that went beyond the 140 character tweet. My thought pertained to the recent developments, or destruction, of the Israeli-US relationship. I don’t feel like there are a lot of Americans who are blaming the Obama administration for not holding together the relationship with one of our most key allies (but I haven’t actually read a poll backing that up). I do not want to get into all of the implications the latest changes in this relationship could bring, but I would like to really just propose an alternate scenario of the situation and how the feelings might change for some reason.

I was thinking about Israel and how the US in a few quick statements could shift the entire political structure there if it felt so inclined. But we don’t dare manipulate the scenery of Israeli politics for some reason. Even mentioning that we should stand up to Israel brings a strange feeling that we are “breaking the rules”.

So, I thought about a similar situation where we obviously had close allies, but would leave them behind to advance our national security. I guess some easy examples to me are almost every partner that is not inline with Russia. We may side with many Eastern European nations with issues attached to Russia, but when they go too far without US approval, they are left behind. At that point, I feel like it actually opens up new room for dialogue between the US and Russia.

Here we are, with, what seems to be, a great opportunity to open up greater dialogue with the nations found in the Middle East. They are not Russia, but the tensions surrounding each of their countries represent a greater risk to US national security than Russia has for years. When it comes to this relationship with Israel, though, it just feels like I am breaking the rules to think strategically about the slight breakdown of our alliance…

Should it be that way?

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Cash for Clunkers UPDATE

Uncategorized

UPDATE

Today is the final day for the Cash for Clunkers program.

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Cash for Clunkers or Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs???

Economic Stimulus, Economy, Infrastructure, Politics, Public Policy

Jesse

Recently, the most popular topic on the news outside of Jackson custody battles and estate issues is the Cash for Clunkers program, also cleverly (?) known as the CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System). The program is relatively simple based on its website: www.cars.gov and includes just five simple steps to keep dealers in business, minimize the exposure of underperforming dealers and cars from UV rays on dealership lots across the United States, and get gas-guzzling dinosaurs off the streets in favor of cars with better fuel efficiency. The biggest issue is that the CARS program is a 5-step program to keep more dealers from tanking when the real focus of any current and future economic policy should be a 12-step program to help the economy recover.

One thing to ponder is the basic economics and environmental logic of the situation. If you have a good, working car whose only flaw is its MPG, does it make sense to scrap it to take advantage of this program? Additionally, scrapping these cars might reduce the dependence on natural resources, but will the scrap industry properly dispose of all the additional transmission fluid, oil, gas, windshield wiper fluid, auto components like old brakes made of asbestos and other things that may be worse than gassing up? Finally, unless an incinerator is environmentally-friendly, there’s a good chance that we might be better off without a mad dash of clunkers to the scrapyard.

More importantly, from a free-market economy perspective, the numbers from the last 10 years show that the Big Three have lost significant market share from a demand perspective, but few dealerships perished until recently from a supply perspective. Based on data from the National Automobile Dealers Association, the Big Three’s combined market share was nearly 72% in 1997 and dropped to 52% by 2007, the most recent year with full data available. Interestingly enough, over this same period of time, advertising costs per dealership doubled from an average of $300 per car sold to $600 per car sold. Additionally, the average dealership has been losing money since 2006. So, dealerships were losing market share, losing money, spending more money on advertising, and cars weren’t moving off of lots.

Moving from cars that don’t move, at least not off of dealership lots, to the people who must sell them, the average dealership employs approximately 50 people per dealership. So, for each dealership that closes, 50 people lose their jobs, some right away, and some at a point in the near future. More importantly, dealership employees are classified in the retail sector of the economy, which has been hit significantly with losses for the last several fiscal reporting quarters. This reality begs the question…When will we have a Green for Jeans program that will subsidize the cost of new jeans when I turn in my old jeans? This way we can prop up the rest of the ailing retail industry, including The Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Macy’s, and all the other retail stores on life support.

Perhaps most important is the fact that the program only exacerbates the situation that got the nation into this mess…the American consumer’s insatiable appetite to buy. Only part of the current economic crisis is related to the cyclical nature of the economy; the other part of the mess is the impact of failed financial policies across the board, including consumer debt. If a dealership provides a rebate of $4,000 for a new car, and the government’s CARS program adds in another rebate of $3,500 to $4,500 that the dealer may or may not pass on to the consumer, where does the additional money come from? If the consumer does not have the cash, the consumer must take out an auto loan, thus adding more debt on top of an already impressive mountain of debt currently drowning the economy. If we just keep buying stuff regardless of the future implications, then at least the current implication is that we will buy less gas due to more fuel-efficient cars.

But, if those cars are only driving us to jobs that no longer exist, then we’re on a road to nowhere, which the Talking Heads (the group) seem to understand but not the Talking Heads I see on my TV. In July of 2009, the economic numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that for each current job opening, there are roughly 6 people applying for that job. This information comes from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which carries the ironic acronym of JOLTS. So, CARS might save some dealerships from closure and stabilize this number, but if these dealerships have been underperforming for years, aren’t we doing our economy a disservice by throwing more money at the problem and generating more debt for American consumers who are already maxed out? Moreover, by the end of September, half a million people will lose their unemployment benefits and this number could top one million by the end of December. Given those numbers, are old cars that are not fuel-efficient really the problem facing the nation today?

Whether this program creates more problems than it is worth won’t be known until we get out of the current mess, which many economists say we’re already headed toward a recovery. I am not an economic expert, but I do know that policies geared towards underperforming auto dealerships is likely not the best policy to stabilize a shaky economy. If everything works out, I promise to be relatively quiet and we can all drive happily ever after, even if we still won’t have any idea where we’re headed.

Adam

Jesse, I’m happy to see some conservatives showing concern for those Americans who have newly entered the unemployment world. I agree that the spending that has gone on for so long is one of the central issues of our current economic crisis.

Obviously, there are a few points that I hold a different opinion though. The first difference, and more important, is that I have never thought of the CARS program as a program strictly focused on propping up failing auto dealerships. The program’s most important goal was to get inefficient cars off the road and provide an incentive to the consumer to buy a vehicle that was more efficient (and very possibly more efficient than the car they would have preferred to buy).

So, rather than forcing consumers to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles through taxation (which is what I favor as a policy), the government provided incentives to effect the market. This market manipulation is the form so many conservatives have favored in the past across varying industries. A major difference this time is the level of the market that was reached. It effected small dealerships and consumers the most, not extremely large corporations.

The program brings two positives. One, it keeps people working at dealerships (no matter how inefficient they are). Two, it moves a large number of Americans to purchase fuel-efficient cars at a time where fuel costs are not the motivation. This short-term and long-term outcome are what the goal of so much of the economic stimulus package was about. Are we helping a person get a job for their life if they are working on laying tracks for public transit or building a new bridge on the interstate system? No. We are temporarily putting someone to work during an economic downturn, and at the same time making an important investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

A more fuel-efficient car will not save the environment over night or get our country off of foreign sources of oil, but it is a good first step in bringing positive change to both of those serious problems.

Government intervention is useful at times, and this time I feel it did help. Now, next on the agenda, updating the federal gasoline tax!

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Is the Obama Administration’s Response to Iran the Right One?

Uncategorized

I think the administration has responded to the protests in Iran almost perfectly. It is the people of Iran crying out for change, and they are the only people who can bring on that change. Any response on the part of the US that could be deemed interference (a common theme in US foreign policy) would only reinforce the hard liners.

Fareed Zakaria has a good description of the debate taking place and provides some perspective on the issue:

Neoconservatives are already denouncing Obama for his caution. Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defense secretary under Donald Rumsfeld, has compared the White House reaction to Ronald Reagan’s reticence when Ferdinand Marcos’s regime was challenged on the streets of the Philippines. But the analogy makes no sense. Marcos was an American client—he was in power courtesy of the United States. The protesters were asking Reagan to withdraw that support and let events take their course. Iran, on the other hand, is an independent, fiercely nationalistic country with a history of British and U.S. interference in its politics and economy. Britain essentially took over Iran’s oil industry in 1901; the United States engineered a coup in 1953. The chief criticism of the Shah of Iran was that he was an American puppet. As in many such countries—India is another example—this anti-imperial sentiment is quite powerful. Iranians know this is their fight, and they want it to be.

The appropriate analogy is actually to George H.W. Bush’s cautious response to the cracks that started to appear in the Soviet empire in 1989. Then, as now with Obama, many neoconservatives were livid with Bush for not loudly supporting those trying to topple the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. But Bush’s concern was that the situation was fragile. Those regimes could easily crack down on the protesters, and the Soviet Union could send in its own tanks. Handing the communists reasons to react forcefully would help no one, least of all the protesters. Bush’s basic approach was correct and has been vindicated by history.

I can only hope that the US continues down the path Obama has set out in handling the relationship with the Iranian regime and the Iranian people.

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