Archive for January, 2011

Speaker Ralston sets poor ethics example for Ga. legislators

House Speaker David Ralston

House Speaker David Ralston

David Ralston, the speaker of the Georgia House, is 10 times or 100 times the leader that his predecessor was. He is smart and level-headed, which may not sound like high praise until you remember how rare that latter trait can be among state leadership.

All of which makes this deeply disappointing:

House Speaker David Ralston and his family spent part of Thanksgiving week in Europe on a $17,000 economic development mission paid for by lobbyists interested in building a high-speed train line between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

Commonwealth Research Associates, a D.C.-based consulting firm, paid for the trip, which also included Ralston’s chief of staff Spiro Amburn and his spouse, to Germany and the Netherlands the week of Nov. 21-27, according to records filed with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission.

The trip was the most expensive single expenditure reported by a lobbyist …

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Anybody up for travelin’ to Dahlonega tonight?

It’s easy to get discouraged by what comes out of Nashville these days under the name of “country music.” And if you didn’t know better, you might worry that the real music was being lost, that Americans growing up in a world of auto-tuned voices and “American Idol” and overproduced songs might lose sight of the things that have made American music the most creative, innovative and influential music on the planet.

But then you hear a group like the “Farewell Drifters” — based out of Nashville, and playing tonight at the Crimson Moon Cafe up in Dahlonega — and you breathe a little easier about it all.

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A little budget quiz on federal spending, budget and the deficit

All right, time for a quick, two-part quiz before the morning lecture.

1.) From fiscal 2001, when President Bush took office, to fiscal 2007, when Democrats took over the Senate and House of Representatives, total federal spending increased each year by an average of:

A. 4.39 percent
B. 5.35 percent
C. 6.57 percent
D. 11.86 percent

2.) From fiscal 2009, when President Obama took office, through fiscal 2011, when Republicans took over the House of Representatives, total federal spending increased each year by an average of:

A. 4.39 percent
B. 5.35 percent
C. 6.57 percent
D. 11.86 percent

Answers: 1-C; 2-A. Source: OMB Historical Tables, Table 1.1.

That’s right. Between fiscal years 2009 and 2011, federal spending increased by an annual average of 4.39 percent. Between 2001 and 2007, it increased by an annual average of 6.57 percent.

Now for Part Two:

3.) Conservative House Republicans have proposed a plan to slash the “overgrown” federal civilian workforce by 15 …

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Why is Ga.’s economy worsening, while the national economy improves?

While the unemployment rate slowly falls nationally, it continues to increase here in Georgia, rising from 9.8 percent in October to 10.2 percent in December. While the country as a whole added more than 1 million jobs last year, Georgia has continued to lose jobs.

There are a lot of possible explanations, including the fact that this recession has hit hard at real estate and other industries on which metro Atlanta and Georgia have depended. But there’s also a deeper problem: In metro Atlanta and in Georgia, we face fundamental economic challenges that predate the recession and have largely been hidden from view.

Despite recent setbacks, most residents of metro Atlanta still think of the region as a growth machine temporarily derailed by the national economy. Through much of the ’90s, that perception was accurate. We were creating jobs, and a lot of them were well-paying jobs. Georgia ranked 10th in the country in per capita income growth that decade, and by 1996, per capita …

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Ala. governor apologizes for ‘God’s family’ remarks

Robert Bentley, Alabama’s new governor, got in some hot water this week for comments he made shortly after his inauguration. Making a King Day speech at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once pastored, Bentley said:

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit. But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.”

“I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their saviors, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

That touched off a predictable firestorm. “The governor does …

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Yet another ‘great idea’ from that genius John McCain

From Politico:

“Sen. John McCain has the perfect next job for his friend Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent who announced Wednesday he won’t run for re-election to the Senate next year: Secretary of Defense.

McCain, who nearly chose Lieberman to be his running mate on the GOP ticket in 2008, called on President Barack Obama to consider the Pentagon post for the retiring senator.”

President Obama is trying to find opportunities for agreement with Washington Republicans. And Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has already made it clear that he intends to leave the post sometime this year, leaving an important vacancy to fill.

However — and I say this based on no inside knowledge whatsoever — whatever chance Joe Lieberman had to become secretary of defense disappeared on Election Night, 2008, with McCain’s defeat. The chances of Obama inviting a preening prima donna such as Lieberman into his cabinet are nil. There are no doubt conflicts, disputes and resentments behind …

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Obama’s poll numbers on the rise, to opponents’ dismay

I’ve been holding off on posting about President Obama’s improving poll numbers because I wanted to see if the trend would hold.

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It’s holding.

The last 10 national polls conducted on the question show marked improvement. CNN puts him at 53 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable, compared to 48/48 a month ago. Washington Post/ABC puts him at 54/43, compared to 49/47 a month ago. Gallup’s daily tracking poll puts him at 49/43, which is about where he was in May. McClatchy has it at 48/43, compared to 43/50 in early December.

Even Rasmussen acknowledges, if grudgingly, that Obama’s numbers are rising.

None of this is permanent, of course. Numbers rise and fall. And while Obama’s reaction to the shootings in Tucson may be boosting his most recent numbers, the uptick clearly began much earlier. Overall, they indicate that he still has a lot more political strength than his opponents want to believe, particularly as he and congressional Republicans head toward an apparent …

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For first time in decade, U.S. adds manufacturing jobs

From the WSJ:

U.S. manufacturing, viewed as a lost cause by many Americans, has begun creating more jobs than it eliminates for the first time in more than a decade.

As the economy recovered and big companies began upgrading old factories or building new ones, the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. last year grew 1.2%, or 136,000, the first increase since 1997, government data show. That total will grow again this year, according to economists at IHS Global Insight and Moody’s Analytics…

Among others, major auto makers—both domestic and transplants—are hiring. Ford Motor Co. announced last week it planned to add 7,000 workers over the next two years.

The economists’ projections for this year—calling for a gain of about 2.5%, or 330,000 manufacturing jobs—won’t come close to making up for the nearly six million lost since 1997. But manufacturing should be at least a modest contributor to total U.S. employment in the next couple of years, these economists say.

On …

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FDIC sues head of Senate Banking Committee, charging ‘gross negligence’

From the AJC:

Federal banking regulators Tuesday announced a lawsuit against eight former insiders of a failed Alpharetta bank – one of them a state senator who was just named chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

State Sen. Jack S. Murphy, R-Cumming, is among the former Integrity Bank executives or directors accused by FDIC regulators of gross negligence and various breaches of fiduciary duty related to a series of loans made from 2005 to 2007. The FDIC seeks damages of “over $70 million.”

The civil suit is just the third filed nationally, and the first in Georgia, by the FDIC against the officers and directors of a failed institution since the banking crisis started.

The 56-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in Atlanta, paints Integrity as an uninhibited lending warehouse with slipshod controls and a loan committee of directors and management that badly failed in its duties.

Georgia leads the nation in bank failures since mid-2008. Integrity was the first of 52 …

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On health-care reform, GOP has an unmet obligation to get beyond ‘NO!’

This week, House Republicans will take the symbolic step of voting to repeal the health-insurance reform act signed into law by President Obama last year. The vote won’t mean anything, given that the Senate will refuse to go along and that President Obama holds a veto. But it will at least allow GOP House members to claim they took action.

What we don’t know, however, is how the Republicans propose to address health care reform themselves. Their slogan during the campaign was “repeal and replace,” but replace with what? They offer no plan, no approach, no solution of their own. And it’s rather odd, if you think about it. Sure, they only took power in the House a few days ago. But we’ve been debating health-care reform for at least two decades if not longer. During last year’s bitter fight over health care, Republican leaders were constantly in front of the TV cameras, complaining that Obama and the Democrats were refusing to listen to all their great ideas.

Well, now that …

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