Archive for June, 2010

Obama tries to (cap and) trade on the oil spill

After eight weeks, President Obama has decided he needs to stop letting our crisis in the Gulf of Mexico go unexploited. In an Oval Office address tonight, he’ll explain why, as he recently told Politico’s Roger Simon, the spill should “shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come” — just as our perspective on foreign affairs was “profoundly … indelibly” changed by 9/11.

Oh, so within eight years our government will be studiously avoiding the word “oil” and referring to “pipeline-caused disasters”? Maybe a future president will make speeches about how oil barons helped pave the way for the European Renaissance.

Nah, probably not.

Obama reportedly hopes the spill will reinvigorate efforts in Congress to pass a cap-and-tax bill. The Gulf oil spill is a tragedy, but it doesn’t change the basic calculus about cap-and-tax — namely that, among other things, it:

1. reduces, not increases, employment by giving companies an incentive to move production to …

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Surprise! ‘You can keep your coverage’ is not so truthy

The most obviously false claim that President Obama made during the health-care debate — and there were many — was that, regardless of the new law he sought, you could keep your current health coverage if you were satisfied with it. It was obviously false because existing plans were still going to be made to comply with certain mandates after a grace period, and new mandates always cost something for someone — the health consumer, the employer subsidizing the coverage or, most likely, both.

Some of us were pointing out that this wasn’t true in one iteration of the health bill almost 11 months ago. But since the president kept repeating his claim (albeit with ever-evolving nuance to cover himself), I guess fresh confirmation that it isn’t so qualifies as news. From the Associated Press:

Over and over in the health care debate, President Barack Obama said people who like their current coverage would be able to keep it.

But an early draft of an administration regulation estimates …

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Kasim Reed and Atlanta’s fiscal crisis

This was going to be the column where I regretted not endorsing Kasim Reed last fall.

I would write about the visits that Atlanta’s new mayor has made to the AJC’s offices to talk about fixing the city’s finances, in particular the crushing unfunded pension obligations it faces. I would write that I was impressed with his new priorities and his resolve.

Reed would have gotten my vote, I would write, if he had talked this way during the campaign rather than putting first and foremost a plan to hire 750 more police officers. That was probably good electoral politics, for it no doubt matters to a great number of Atlantans.

I simply didn’t think then — and still don’t — that such a plan was feasible until the new mayor had gotten a grip on pension costs, which have come to consume about 20 percent of Atlanta’s general budget. I thought I heard Reed signaling that he now agreed.

Then came his first budget.

It includes 100 new police officers and a 3.5 percent raise for current …

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Green jobs: Billions for something we’ll define later

The Obama administration isn’t quite sure what a “green job” is, but it sure wants more of them! From the Washington Examiner’s Byron York:

Buried deep inside a federal newsletter on March 16 was something called a “notice of solicitation of comments” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the Department of Labor.

“BLS is responsible for developing and implementing the collection of new data on green jobs,” said the note in the Federal Register, which is widely read by government bureaucrats and almost never seen by the general public. But the notice said there is “no widely accepted standard definition of ‘green jobs.’” To help find that definition, the Labor Department asked that readers send in suggestions.

The notice came only after the department scoured studies from government, academia, and business in search of a definition. “The common thread through the studies and discussions is that green jobs are jobs related to preserving or restoring the environment,” the notice …

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Handel’s fumbling of gay-rights question doesn’t inspire

It’s not even summer yet, but silly season is already upon us. Must be an election year.

With fewer than six weeks until Georgia’s primaries, the Republican candidates running second and third in most opinion polls are arguing about the oh-so-germane issue of … gay adoption.

Or domestic partner benefits. Or something. But not jobs, education, water, taxes and spending, or transportation.

Instead, Handel and Deal are feuding about what Handel may or may not have said to some gay political groups, whose votes she may or may not have courted, by belonging to their organizations and campaigning at their events — or not — in 2003 while running for the Fulton County Commission.

Deal claimed last month that Handel at that time supported adoption by same-sex couples. He further said she joined one such group, the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans, while seeking its endorsement.

Handel denied both assertions. But this week a former president of the group, Marc Yeager, produced copies of

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Oil spill: Why did Obama refuse to go Dutch?

I’m not talking about splitting the tab with BP. I mean officially declining help offered by the government of the Netherlands. The Houston Chronicle’s Loren Steffy has the story:

Three days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch government offered to help.

It was willing to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands.

The response from the Obama administration and BP, which are coordinating the cleanup: “The embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” said Geert Visser, consul general for the Netherlands in Houston.

Now, almost seven weeks later, as the oil spewing from the battered well spreads across the Gulf and soils pristine beaches and coastline, BP and our government have reconsidered.

U.S. ships are being outfitted this week with four pairs of the skimming booms airlifted from the Netherlands and …

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MARTA’s response to my series

As promised, here is MARTA’s response to my series of columns about the transit agency: its perennial budgetary problems, false hope in ending the 50-50 restriction on its sales-tax revenues, out-of-control spending even before the recession hit, and one possible partial solution.

I’ll let readers judge the agency’s response for themselves without adding my own opinions here, although I will respond to readers in the comments thread.

You can also read the piece here. In addition, a different MARTA board member wrote a response published by Creative Loafing.

By Michael W. Tyler

9:42 a.m. Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently published a four-part series by Opinion columnist Kyle Wingfield that purported to examine the budgetary dilemma confronting MARTA and offered suggestions for future consideration that underscored some of the intricacies of running the nation’s ninth-largest transit system.

While Wingfield’s series has helped to further the …

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‘Kick ass’ Obama is turning the spill into his Katrina

I have held off blaming President Obama for the continuing Gulf oil spill. I don’t think one can complain that the media, Democrats and Kanye West were too quick to excoriate George Bush following Hurricane Katrina, and then turn around and say Obama should have personally made sure a mile-deep oil leak had been sealed. Even if the former happened within days and the latter has now reached the seven-week mark.

But Obama is talking himself into deserving any criticism he gets from here on out.

When the president said in a “Today” show interview aired this morning that he wanted to “know whose ass to kick,” and that he would have fired BP chief executive Tony Hayward over certain comments Hayward made, that was the final straw for me.

Obama can’t have it both ways. He can’t declare BP solely responsible for the spill and deny the federal government’s culpability or ability to stop the spill — even as he says the company is “acting at our direction” — and then talk about firing …

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As close to Super Tuesday as we’ll get in 2010

A lot of us have been speculating for months now about the power of the tea party, the anger of the hard-left toward more moderate Democrats, and which way independents will swing after a year of ObamaCare, growing deficits and persistent unemployment. In the primaries and special elections to date, the results have been mixed: A Republican took advantage of a Democratic feud in a special congressional election in Hawaii; a Democrat won pretty convincingly in a Pennsylvania special congressional election which some pundits called an opportunity for a GOP gain; tea party favorite Rand Paul won his Kentucky GOP Senate primary but other candidates with support from the movement have fizzled.

After today’s primaries, we’ll have a better idea of where things really stand.

California, Nevada and South Carolina have GOP primaries for the Senate, House and governor’s mansion that will help to show the tea partiers’ mettle. So will the north Georgia congressional runoff between …

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Public-sector unions are shaping up as a 2012 issue

Public labor-union members have been a key voting bloc for Democrats for years now, so it’s interesting to read this Politico story about bipartisan wariness over civil servants’ pay and benefits. Democrats in Illinois (Gov. Pat Quinn), New York (attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo) and California (left-of-center blogger and U.S. Senate candidate Mickey Kaus, not cited in the article) have acted or spoken against the growing disparity between the public and private sectors, something I’ve written about before here, here and here.

The story also quotes some Republicans who may be prime challengers to President Obama in 2012: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and, if you believe the early talk about GOP voters possibly going for an Obama-style fast-riser, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

For whatever reason, the authors didn’t connect the 2012 dots. So, allow me.

Suppose that Daniels is the GOP nominee in 2012. Such a contest would pit …

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