Archive for July, 2011

Debt limit: Obama stands alone as Reid crafts cuts-only plan

There are a lot of reports out there about what’s happening with the debt-ceiling negotiations:

  • This report, if true –that Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to a two-stage plan which Reid took to the White House, only to have President Obama reject it — reflects poorly on Obama.
  • Reid is now working on his own plan to raise the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion (has anyone else noticed the figure has gone from $2 trillion to $2.4 trillion to now $2.7 trillion?) and cut spending by a commensurate amount, with no tax increases.
  • It seems the chief result of the “Gang of Six” plan, so far, is to embolden Obama to increase by half what he wants in higher taxes.

It appears Obama is now the lone holdout at this point on two key elements of a deal: whether taxes have to rise, and whether a two-step process is acceptable.

Reid, by deciding to work on an all-spending-cuts-no-tax-hikes plan, is essentially — ahem — …

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An opportunity not to take power from Atlanta’s voters

State officials have an opportunity this week not to overreach, and to keep the Atlanta Public Schools board intact.

The state Board of Education will hold a “courtroom-style one-day hearing” Tuesday, as my AJC colleagues described it, to decide whether to recommend that Gov. Nathan Deal remove the city’s school board members from office. The Legislature set up this procedure earlier this year as a safeguard in case the APS board appeared unable to keep from losing the system’s accreditation.

The board has made some progress by solving its internal bickering about its leadership, although the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has warned that APS may have trouble rising out of its current probation because of the scale of the cheating scandal as reported by state investigators.

That’s as it should be. The cheating scandal was always far worse than petty politics among elected politicians, and it was never clear to me that the governor’s removing and replacing the …

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Reading about terror in Oslo, and remembering a stroller

I remember seeing many things during the fast-paced day I once spent in Oslo: a 12-centuries-old Viking ship; the freaky sculptures at Vigeland Park; the hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year; a can of Coca-Cola priced at the equivalent of $4 at an honest-to-goodness Seven-Eleven.

But the image that keeps returning to my mind today — after hearing that reports that several people were gunned down at an island youth camp, following a bombing near the Norwegian parliament building — is of a stroller.

It was sitting alone outside the entrance to a store in downtown Oslo. And, yes, there was a baby in it. As hard as it is for most Americans to believe, the trust among Norwegians, my wife and I learned, was such that a mother could leave an infant in a stroller outside the store while she shopped.

How shattered that trust must be today.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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Poll Position: Does ‘Gang’ plan help or hurt Saxby?

Saxby Chambliss got an unusual amount of attention this week. Georgia’s senior senator was front and center explaining the “Gang of Six” fiscal plan that was endorsed by President Obama and hailed by much of the press, even as it drew mixed reviews from Republicans on Capitol Hill and sharp criticism from some conservative commentators.

My own take, as I wrote Thursday, is that the proposal relies too much on future actions by Congress to be considered a concrete plan — for better or for worse. It’s almost the legislative equivalent of the “blank screen” that Obama has called himself: one that allows people to project upon it what they want to see.

But we all know that, as president, the Blank Screen hasn’t stoked bland emotions.

Nor will Chambliss move on from his Gang work quietly, especially among Georgia Republicans.

Does the ‘Gang of Six’ help or hurt Saxby Chambliss?

  • It hurts him, and he’d lose a primary. (150 Votes)
  • It helps him. (65 Votes)
  • It hurts him, but …

Continue reading Poll Position: Does ‘Gang’ plan help or hurt Saxby? »

Some good stories I haven’t gotten around to sharing

On this blog, I try to share my own opinions as well as highlight and comment upon (and link to) the work of other journalists and commentators. I think that’s one of the strengths of the blog format.

That said, in any given week there are a lot of good articles I don’t get around to passing along to y’all. I’m not considering a daily set of links like a lot of blogs do, but I am toying with the idea of doing an occasional or maybe even weekly ICYMI-type roundup of these otherwise unmentioned articles.

I’m going to experiment with it today. Feel free to let me know whether you think this is useful, enjoyable, or if there’s a way to improve it.

And away we go:

  • Noemie Emery says universal social programs were bound to fail because people came to view goods and services as rights.
  • USA Today reports that the federal government fired or laid off just 0.55 percent of its workers in the last budget year.
  • Another executive, this time Atlanta’s Bernie Marcus, says the Obama …

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Gang of Six’s proposal is a leap of faith in an era of doubt

Who says Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on faith-based government initiatives? That’s exactly what the “Gang of Six” senators, with Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss as one of their front men, proposed Tuesday.

Set aside for now the real nitty-gritty of the sextet’s long-rumored grand bargain, which is still emerging and, like everything in Washington, is subject to change. What struck me most about the proposal was that, in this era of distrust — Republicans vs. Democrats, Congress vs. the White House, the electorate vs. the elected — it relies so heavily on mutual faith.

If you’re agitating for tax hikes, you’re expected to believe the plan will actually generate the $1 trillion in new revenues (in 10 years) the Gang says it will. Which may be difficult, given that much of the supposed extra revenue will come from stimulating economic growth by ending tax loopholes and lowering marginal rates.

If you’re nervous about tax hikes, you’re expected to believe, …

Continue reading Gang of Six’s proposal is a leap of faith in an era of doubt »

APS: Millions to fire cheaters, including those who confessed

I thought we were getting somewhere when the state investigation into cheating at Atlanta Public Schools revealed that more than 80 teachers and principals had admitted to cheating. But apparently not. From the AJC:

With only today left in a three-day grace period for APS employees named in the probe to walk away or otherwise face termination, only four of them had taken the district up on its encouragement for them to quit their jobs — two on Tuesday and two on Monday. The district declined to release their names; a spokesman said it had not compiled a list.

APS, it appears, is on the verge of a long and costly journey to fire nearly 200 employees, as a mass of resignations appeared Tuesday to be a waning prospect. …

[APS Superintendent Errol] Davis has already estimated that it will take at least four months to get through the process of firing them. It could take longer given the numbers who may stay on to fight. Davis has given no firm estimate for the cost of that fight, …

Continue reading APS: Millions to fire cheaters, including those who confessed »

All in a day’s news: Apple’s way up, and Borders is toast

Two business stories from Tuesday illustrate a fact of life in the free-enterprise system:

Creative:

Apple Inc. steamrolled through growing competition from smartphones and tablets running on Google Inc.’s Android operating system, as the company more than doubled its quarterly earnings and posted surging revenues on strong sales of its iPhone and iPad.

Apple’s quarterly profit rose to $7.31 billion for its fiscal third quarter, up from $3.25 billion a year earlier. Revenue soared 82% to $28.57 billion. Gross margins rose to 41.7% from 39.1% a year ago.

The results fueled a spike in Apple’s shares in after-hours trading, with the stock up 4.8% to $395.34, after ending in 4 p.m. trading at $376.85 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Destruction:

The final chapter was seven for Borders Group, the Michigan-based book-selling chain that will begin liquidating stores — including about 10 in Georgia — almost immediately.

The nation’s second largest traditional bookseller received no …

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2012 Tuesday: The presidential politics of the debt ceiling fight

There will be some kind of resolution for the current debt-ceiling debate well before November 2012 — my gut tells me there will be an agreement in principle by this time next week, but that’s just a hunch — but however and whenever it ends, this debate will have a huge impact on next year’s election.

The debate, regardless of how it’s being portrayed, isn’t really about who’s responsible and who isn’t. Like almost every other policy debate since the 2009 stimulus, it’s about two competing visions for the federal government going forward. Liberals want to find a way to pay for bigger government. Conservatives want to find a way to make government smaller.

The debt ceiling has gotten caught in this because conservatives feel there are few chances remaining to make sure this remains a debate rather than a foregone conclusion — that conservatives do not merely become, in Steven Hayward’s excellent phrase, the actuaries of liberalism. Republicans, still outnumbered in the Senate …

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Wynn: Obama is ‘greatest wet blanket to business’ and jobs

Why aren’t businesses expanding and hiring? Steve Wynn, the casino and resorts developer, said in an earnings conference call for Wynn Resorts on Monday that his company could hire 10,000 more people — leading to another 20,000 jobs indirectly.

So why isn’t he doing it? Because, he said, the Obama administration is “the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime.”

He didn’t stop there. From the conference-call transcript posted at Seeking Alpha (h/t: Real Clear Politics):

And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right. A President that seems — that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this …

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