Archive for September, 2011

Left’s criticisms of Obama blunt charges of tea-party racism

President Obama will outline his (latest) plan to boost employment in a speech tonight to Congress, under pressure that comes not only from weeks of anticipation and dire economic data but from strained relations with his core supporters.

From labor unions to environmentalists to the Congressional Black Caucus, the political left is venting its frustration with Obama and his policies, or lack thereof. An unintended consequence may be the unraveling of the narrative that tea-party opposition to our first black president is rooted in racism.

It was always ludicrous to suggest that a movement as large as the tea party would be born from hatred for Obama’s skin color rather than disapproval of his policies. And the movement is large: Near-monthly polling by CBS News and the New York Times since April 2010 finds that, at any given time, between one-fifth and one-third of Americans say they support the tea party (see page 10 of the PDF at the link).

It would be foolish to say that …

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GOP debate: Romney edges Perry, and the stage is set for a long, good contest

Mitt Romney won Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate over newcomer Rick Perry, but not by much. Based on what I heard and saw, we’re in for a long and compelling contest between the two candidates at the front of the pack.

Romney won, I thought, for two main reasons, both of them noteworthy but neither of them definitive at this point:

First, Romney came prepared with new ways to disarm the Texas governor’s job-creation boasts without being seen as “messing with Texas.” He didn’t try to disparage the quality of the state’s many new jobs, as Democrats have done — just to question exactly how much Perry had to do with them. When Perry took the first shot, putting down Romney’s record on jobs as Massachusetts’ governor, first Romney defended his record as the work of a turnaround artist who stopped a free-falling state and got it rolling in the right direction. Then he went after Perry:

States are different. Texas is a great state. Texas has zero income tax, Texas is a right …

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Will wonders never cease: Congress mulls immigration fixes

Those of us who have said all along that Congress ultimately has to deal with the issue of illegal immigration should be heartened by this news. From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), an immigration hardliner who now heads the House Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would revise an existing guest-worker program and allow up to half a million foreign farm workers a year to work in the U.S.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R., Calif.), whose district includes almond, rice and grape growers, also is seeking the creation of a new visa category for agricultural workers. He said it would allow “hundreds of thousands” of foreign farm laborers to work in the U.S. for 10 months at a time, the same time frame allotted by Mr. Smith’s proposal.

Stepped-up lobbying by farm groups on the issue amounts to a frank admission about their dependence on a foreign-born work force—whether legal or not. Their argument is that most American …

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2012 Tuesday: Huntsman jobs plan breaks some ground, points to some common ground

One good thing about having a GOP presidential field with no obvious standout candidate (Rick Perry’s rapid rise notwithstanding) is that the eventual nominee will have a host of policy prescriptions and political arguments to co-opt from the also-rans. For instance, Tim Pawlenty broke some ground by suggesting strongly that it’s time to stop subsidizing the production of ethanol from Iowa corn, even if he didn’t make it long enough as a candidate to see the idea to implementation.

Along those lines, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman may be polling around 1 percent, but he’s got a top-tier plan to free up the private economy.

Huntsman unveiled the plan last week to rave reviews on the right. Among the highlights:

  • implementing the revenue-neutral “zero plan” from the Simpson-Bowles commission on debts and deficits (commissioned and then ignored by President Obama), which entails eliminating all personal deductions and credits and reducing individual income tax rates to three bands …

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The continuing European turbulence, and the bad idea for easing it

Europe’s financial and sovereign-debt crises continue to grow, sending stock markets tumbling again Monday as they have been doing off and on for about a month now. What once was only whispered among certain European elites — creating a central taxing and spending authority for the euro currency zone — is now being spoken out loud very plainly. It would mean the birth of what I’ll call a “suprasovereign,” as a New York Times article describes:

The idea is to create a central financial authority — with powers in areas like taxation, bond issuance and budget approval — that could eventually turn the euro zone into something resembling a United States of Europe.

Or, as British lawmaker Sajid Javid writes in the Wall Street Journal Europe:

Let’s be clear what that would mean: a single treasury, tax regime, welfare system and public-borrowing function.

And it would fail spectacularly. Pay attention to this unfolding story, because it could have a huge impact on the 21st-century …

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How WikiLeaks became what it claims to oppose

The latest WikiLeaks outrage — the publication of 250,000 confidential U.S. State Department cables, complete with the names of thousands of U.S. informants living in oppressive regimes — is summarized well in this article by Spiegel International. For more background, a former WikiLeaks employee writes at the Guardian about the corrupt, secretive and unaccountable culture within the organization.

This excerpt about Belarus, otherwise known as Europe’s last dictatorship, illustrates perfectly how the WikiLeaks gang has undermined its own alleged principles:

Dismay mounted, however, with the arrival of Israel Shamir, a self-styled Russian “peace campaigner” with a long history of antisemitic writing. Shamir was introduced to the [WikiLeaks] team under the pseudonym Adam, and it was only several weeks after he had left –- with a huge cache of unredacted cables –- that most of us started to find out who he was.

Press enquiries started to trickle in. A little research revealed his …

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The long and short of the ugly way we pick our leaders

Five hundred thirty-two dollars per character, or about 3,700 bucks a word. That’s what a new MBA candidate at the University of Iowa received in scholarship money last month for his Twitter-length answer to why he’d be a good graduate student and eventual employee.

Iowa’s Tippie School of Management offered a $37,240 tuition scholarship for the best, ahem, essay using no more than 140 characters — the standard on the popular social networking site. The winner was selected, the school said, for combining the Twitter format with that of a haiku in only 70 characters.

And you never know when that skill will come in handy.

Tippie isn’t the only school experimenting with byte-based brevity to help it distinguish between applicants. Columbia University, the Wall Street Journal reported in a story this past week about evolving college admissions processes, asked prospective students to explain their “post-MBA professional goal” in no more than 200 characters. Which is downright …

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Zero job growth in August puts more pressure on Obama

As if President Obama needed any more pressure leading up to his jobs and economy speech next week:

Nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged (0) in August, and the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

Zero, just zero.

The employment number reportedly was lower than it should have been because of a strike by 45,000 Verizon workers. But it is a sad — no, disturbing — state of affairs when one strike by one union at one company, even a large one, can cancel out all other job growth in nation of 310 million people.

Job growth in the two previous months was also revised downward by a cumulative 58,000.

The chorus on the left advising Obama to be bold in his proposal — and by “be bold” they mean: propose a whole lot more of what he’s already tried, rather than a little more of what he’s already tried, even if he/they know a remix of Obama’s greatest “hits” won’t pass muster in the GOP-controlled House — is only going to …

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Does football season put politics on the back burner?

It’s been said that politics is a spectator sport, which seems a bit odd given that I’ve never heard of anyone eagerly counting down the days until Congress went back in session. In any event, the spectator sport about which this country is truly passionate — football — is about to get into full swing.

The college variety started last night, and the professionals will begin next Thursday night — kicking off, as fate and inter-institutional negotiations would have it, right after President Obama gives his big jobs and economy speech. While there was some discussion about whether Obama’s speech should overlap with a long-planned GOP presidential debate, virtually no one thought it would be a good idea for the president to go head-to-head with the NFL’s season-opening tilt between the last two Super Bowl champions. And by all accounts, Obama will wrap up his discussion of how to beat the worst, longest employment slump in 80 years before toe meets leather between the Packers and …

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Speech spat shows Obama still has the anti-Midas touch

I got to the office later than usual after a morning of outside meetings, and was surprised to find hackles still raised on the right and especially on the left after yesterday’s kerfuffle over the timing of the address to a joint session of Congress that President Obama requested.

One can only wonder what people in the White House were thinking. Asking for the time slot they did — exactly coinciding with a long-scheduled GOP presidential debate at the Reagan library in California — was a lose-lose-lose proposition:

First loss: Had the White House gotten its way, it would only have opened the door for the Republicans to push back their debate by one hour and provide instant, multi-throated criticism of his plan — stealing his thunder and setting the tone for coverage of the plan in the next news cycle.

Second loss: If the White House was anticipating a fight over the speech’s timing, it would have behooved the folks there to have known the procedural and security problems …

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