Archive for August, 2011

Are we about to see a more aggressive Obama?

The medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan taught us.

With that in mind, what should we make of the fact that President Obama has requested a joint session of Congress on the evening of Sept. 7 to lay out his jobs program?

The high-profile setting, with live coverage by the networks and news channels almost guaranteed, would suggest that Obama intends to be ambitious in his proposal. A more cynical mind would also note that Obama might be treating this as the kickoff to his 2012 election campaign, using the speech to lay out a series of proposals and publicly challenge a highly unpopular Congress to adopt them.

If Obama has decided to model his campaign on Harry Truman’s 1948 successful campaign, in which “Give ‘em Hell” Harry ran hard against a do-nothing Congress, this would seem to be a great opportunity to drive that message home.

Of course, that’s not how the White House put it in the letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

“It is …

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Hugely profitable companies pay more to CEOs than to Uncle Sam

Now isn’t this special?

According to the Institute of Policy Studies, a liberal think tank, 25 of the country’s 100 highest-paid CEOs were paid more personally than their corporations paid in federal income taxes last year. (The corporations in question made, on average, a profit of $1.9 billion each.)

If you believe many conservatives, that’s pretty amazing. After all, corporate taxes in America are allegedly sky high, so the fact that so many profitable companies somehow managed to pay their CEOs even more than they paid Uncle Sam — well, that’s really saying something.

“In 2009, we calculate, major corporate CEOs took home 263 times the pay of America’s average workers. Last year, this gap leaped to 325-to-1. Among the nation’s top firms, the S&P 500, CEO pay last year averaged $10,762,304, up 27.8 percent over 2009.”

Average CEO pay among the S&P 500 up 28 percent in a year. Tough times. And again, that’s not the high-performers, the CEOs who did something special. The …

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The only person who can stop Rick Perry is Rick Perry

John Ellis, who among many other things is a Republican political analyst, a blogger and a cousin to former President George W. Bush, nails the state of the GOP presidential race in a Business Insider column:

The Republican “establishment,” such as it is, is quickly coming to the realization that the 2012 GOP presidential nomination is Texas Governor Rick Perry’s to lose.

That establishment would prefer someone more electable, someone more like, say, Mitt Romney. But as Ellis points out, Romney is the guy that most Republican voters will choose only if they have no other viable choice:

“Romney’s problem is four-fold: he’s politically “fungible” (to put it politely), he’s from the wrong region of the country (New England), he’s of the wrong religion (Mormonism) and he’s too closely identified with Wall Street (Bain Capital). The Republican base would prefer to nominate a strong conservative, evangelical Christian from the Sunbelt who, at the least, shares their disdain for …

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Transit investment a necessity for metro Atlanta

Based on the draft list approved earlier this month, 55 percent of the Atlanta region’s proposed transportation sales tax would be used to support mass transit, a fact that has generated considerable grumbling in some quarters.

Benita Dodd of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, points out that just 5 percent of commuters in metro Atlanta regularly ride a bus or rail system, concluding that with its emphasis on transit, “the project list ignores this reality.”

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Cobb County, believes the list should favor road projects that deliver more immediate relief than longer-term transit projects. State Rep. Sharon Cooper, also a Cobb Republican, argues that the bond between Southerners and their cars is so strong that transit might not work here.

All in all, there’s a sense among many in metro Atlanta that transit is somehow experimental and untested and represents too much of a risk. I’d argue that the exact opposite is true. …

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Consumer spending up, but recession still a threat

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON – U.S. consumer spending rose
at its fastest pace in five months in July, backing views the
economy was not falling back into recession, although pending
sales of previously owned homes fell.

The Commerce Department said on Monday consumer spending
increased 0.8 percent on strong demand for motor vehicles,
after slipping 0.1 percent in June.

Economists had expected spending, which accounts for about
70 percent of U.S. economic activity, to rise 0.5 percent.

When adjusted for inflation, spending rose 0.5 percent last
month, the largest gain in 1-1/2 years and the first increase
since April.

cash

While that’s good news, a double-dip recession is still a very real danger. The sovereign-debt crisis in Europe continue to play out, and seems destined to result in at least one and possibly more defaults. The recent brinksmanship in Washington has raised doubts both here and abroad about the sophistication and sense of responsibility among much of our elected …

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Bachmann: God demands attention to tea party message

Michele Bachmann, campaigning in Sarasota, Fla. over the weekend:

“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.”

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With latest success, ’strategic defeat’ of al Qaida within reach

From AP:

WASHINGTON — U.S. and Pakistani officials said Saturday that al-Qaida’s second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, delivering another big blow to a terrorist group that the U.S. believes to be on the verge of defeat.

Since Navy SEALs stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound and killed him in May, the Obama administration has been unusually frank in its assessment that al-Qaida is on the ropes, its leadership in disarray. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that al-Qaida’s defeat was within reach if the U.S. could mount a string of successful attacks.

“Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them,” Panetta said, “because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple al-Qaida as a major threat.”

A Libyan national, al-Rahman never had the worldwide name recognition of bin Laden or bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. But al-Rahman was regarded as an instrumental …

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Look out Bruce, trouble with a big ‘T’ travelin’ north

With Irene barreling north, taking apparent direct aim at New Jersey and its environs this weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to feature the Bard of the Jersey Shore, Bruce Springsteen, to take us into weekend.

I know it’s not the merriest of introductions, but I have eerie flashbacks to six years ago to the date, looking at satellite photos of big ugly Katrina in the Gulf and thinking oh my goodness, that’s a world of hurt right there.

Anyway, maybe BRRRUUUUUUUUCCCE!, live from Barcelona, can cheer us up! BRRRUUUUUUUUCCCE! BRRRUUUUUUUUCCCE! BRRRUUUUUUUUCCCE! BRRRUUUUUUUUCCCE! BRRRUUUUUUUUCCCE! BRRRUUUUUUUUCCCE! BRRRUUUUUUUUCCCE!

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Hurricane Irene intent on exacting a toll

A satellite image is worth a thousand words.

irene

Governors of five states have already declared a state of emergency. And as Nate Silver warns in the New York Times, after assessing the history of hurricanes making landfall in the Northeast:

“Apart from the inevitable loss of life in the most densely populated part of the country, history suggests that the economic damage could run into the tens of billions of dollars, depending on the severity of the storm and how close it comes to the city. Unlikely but theoretically plausible scenarios could have the damage entering the realm of the costliest natural disasters of all time, and perhaps being large enough to have a materially negative effect on the nation’s gross domestic product.”

A sobering if not downright frightening assessment of possible damage is offered by meteorologist Mike Smith here. “The damage potential is huge,” he writes. “Even if the “best case” occurs, I believe the damage may be north of $10 billion.”

He also …

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Perry’s scorn for Social Security won’t be issue in GOP primary

In his 2010 book “Fed Up,”, Texas Gov. Rick Perry didn’t hold back in expressing his scorn for Social Security and Medicare.

Social Security, he wrote, is a “Ponzi scheme,” “a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal” created “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”

It’s going to be fascinating to see how that language plays out politically. In a recent CNN poll, 64 percent of Americans said they oppose making “major changes in Social Security and Medicare” as a means of addressing the debt problem, while only 35 percent supported the idea. Those numbers suggest that Perry’s statements could become a serious problem in a general election.

(A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released in March produced similar numbers. Only 18 percent said Medicare cuts were necessary to “significantly reduce” the deficit, while 54 percent said they were not. Just 22 percent said cuts to Social Security were needed, while 49 percent said they …

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