Archive for December, 2009

Ralston as the next speaker, and Richardson’s farewell

I purposely didn’t name a favored candidate in the leadership elections that the House Republican caucus is holding today, because I simply haven’t spent enough time around each of them to form a solid opinion. I know some things about some of them, but preferred to make only broad comments about the races.

All that said, strictly on the merits of the speeches today by the nominees for speaker of the house, I would say the caucus got it right in choosing David Ralston.

The members ranked them just the way I would have based on their remarks: Ralston, then Larry O’Neal and Bill Hembree. All three spoke about the policy issues ahead and the need to get the party’s internal affairs (no pun intended) in order. I can only say that Ralston was most convincing.

On another note, Glenn Richardson’s appearance in the chamber and his speech came as a surprise. His farewell speech was, in a lot of ways, tough to watch.

Regardless of his own role in his personal and political destruction — …

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Economy will determine 2010’s political losers (Updated)

If you wonder whether the bums will land on their keisters come Election Day 2010, check out the University of Georgia’s Economic Outlook for next year. If you want to know whether it matters, read on.

The economy, and particularly the job market, is the main X-factor in incumbents’ vulnerability for the 2010 elections. Well, UGA economists reported Tuesday that the only good news is that the bad news is over. The economic recovery following our 18-month-long recession, while sustained, will have all the vigor of a dead-cat bounce.

The economists forecast growth of 1.7 percent in Georgia and an equally mediocre 1.9 percent nationwide. That’s better than a contraction, but it’s less than half the usual rate of expansion after a deep recession.

In fact, growth of 1.9 percent would mean the U.S. economy was actually slowing a bit from the 2.8 percent annualized rate of this summer. Bummer. [Update: Since this initial post, the third-quarter growth rate was revised …

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Ben Bernanke, person of the year

Time has named the Federal Reserve chairman its person of the year. I think this choice says a lot — perhaps not all of it as the magazine’s editors intended — about where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going.

1. Where we’ve been: There have been a lot of factors blamed for the housing bubble, financial crisis and subsequent recession. The causes of the collapse certainly were complex, but no single factor sticks out in my mind more than the easy-money policy that the Fed pursued under Alan Greenspan — with Bernanke at his side for much of the time when trouble was brewing.

Monetary policy is a powerful way to influence the economy, probably more powerful than any spending or tax policies can be. But that potency also makes it very difficult to rein in monetary policy at the right time and to the right degree. There can be little doubt that the Fed kept flooding the world with dollars far too long after the recession induced by the bursting of the tech bubble and the …

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Can we please get this right?

Who doesn’t get into the White House uninvited these days?

WASHINGTON — It wasn’t a state dinner, and they didn’t crash it on purpose.

Still, a Georgia couple who showed up at the White House a day early for a tour somehow wound up at an invitation-only breakfast with President Barack Obama and the first lady. It left the White House once again explaining how people who were not on an event guest list wound up being ushered into the presidential mansion anyway.

This happened two weeks before the Salahis famously crashed a state dinner with the prime minister of India, and it falls in line with a number of other protocol-related gaffes in the last 11 months. Quite obviously, the president needs better protection than a staff that lets random tourists into the house, tells them to just “go with the flow,” and lets them stand right next to him. Someone fairly high up the White House totem pole needs to get a grip on this, now.

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More inconvenient truth for Al Gore

If you wanted a summary of why skepticism abounds about global warming and what we know about it, you could do little better than this Times of London article from the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen.

It begins with an embarrassing episode for Al Gore in Copenhagen yesterday:

In his speech, Mr Gore told the conference: “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

However, the climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast.

“It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,” Dr Maslowski said. “I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”

Mr Gore’s office later admitted that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a …

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We have a bad bill = You people can’t be governed

I don’t know what part of this post about “Ungovernable America” is more laughable — the pro wrestling-esque notion that Republicans should know their role and just try to tidy up Harry Reid’s ridiculously bad health-care pseudo-bill around the edges, or the notion that the Republicans are the ones holding up a bill when there are enough Democrats and near-Democrats in the Senate to overcome any filibuster.

But let’s talk about each part.

The Senate is designed to be the more deliberative chamber of the Congress, where the passions raised in the larger and typically rowdier House can cool and the facts and ramifications of a particular piece of legislation examined fully. Frankly, any bill that can’t get the approval of 60 senators to even be put to a vote is a bill that deserves very careful consideration. Has this effective super-majority requirement been abused in more recent years, especially with regard to judicial nominations? Yep — but let’s not forget that Democrats …

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Georgia House GOP needs to pick new leaders carefully

The transition from Speaker Glenn Richardson to the next leader of the Georgia House will not be as scripted as first thought. Republican backbenchers bucked at the suggestion of a “show must go on” scenario.

Good for them. Georgians are not interested in seeing the House leadership carrying on, in either sense of the phrase.

A new direction, however, has yet to be set. The fallout from Richardson’s resignation — which came after his ex-wife alleged that he’d cheated on her with a lobbyist a few years back — has revealed a fractured House GOP caucus with serious misgivings about the way it had been led. A caucus vote on a new leadership team is scheduled for Thursday.

Here’s an idea: Give strong consideration to naming an interim leadership team.

Exactly six weeks will pass between Susan Richardson’s Nov. 30 television interview, which started this tumult, and the Jan. 11 start of the 2010 legislative session. Thursday’s caucus vote will take place less than …

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Obama’s Nobel speech: This was a good one

I didn’t have time until last night to read President Obama’s speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. I have been critical of the Nobel committee’s decision, but let’s give credit where credit is due: The speech was one that Americans ought to be proud of.

There was appropriate humility, acknowledgment that “compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize…my accomplishments are slight.” He nodded to more obscure seekers of peace and justice in repressive regimes around the world, and said “I cannot argue with those who find these men and women…to be far more deserving of this honor than I.”

For once, Obama did not speak as a president burdened with atoning for decades, centuries of American sins. He spoke forthrightly about how “America led the world” in building the post-World War II peace, “a legacy for which [America] is rightfully proud.”

He had nuance in the right places and spoke plainly in the right places. That goes double for his words about …

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Stimulus III more of the same

For five days this month, Barack Obama was right about economic policy.

At his jobs summit last Thursday, the president spoke atypically plainly about whether Washington can quickly stimulate the economy by spending money on roads and bridges.

He noted that “what is good long-term may not necessarily work as an immediate, short-term stimulus,” and that “the term ‘shovel ready’… doesn’t always live up to its billing.”

On Tuesday, however, Obama announced a new, multibillion-dollar spending package designed to help us “spend our way out of this recession.” The plan includes a reported $50 billion for — wait for it — infrastructure.

He had it right the first time. We may need some new roads and bridges, but these are not short-term economic boosts. In any case, infrastructure accounted for less than 10 percent of a bill that was sold in large part as a “reinvestment” package that would pay dividends for decades. In Atlanta, these “investments” …

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Gingrich on Reid’s health breakthrough

Harry Reid got a lot of attention for the health-care deal he announced last night to much fanfare and without many details. It’s been six weeks since Reid announced a similar breakthrough, only to admit later that he didn’t have an actual bill, so maybe some people will again believe that we’re approaching the beginning of the end.

Newt Gingrich, whose Center for Health Transformation has been active in the health-care debate, isn’t one of them. “My guess is this one will collapse,” the former U.S. Speaker and Georgia lawmaker said today over lunch with me, my colleague Jay Bookman and members of his staff.

Here’s why Newt thinks Reid’s bill won’t fly. One of the linchpins is a plan to allow people aged 55 to 64 to “buy in” to Medicare. The idea is that this will help some Americans who have difficulty buying health insurance. But Gingrich called the plan an “actuarial death spiral.”

“Only the sickest people will join, so rates will skyrocket,” he said.

He likened the push to …

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