Archive for November, 2011

Is Congress really going to take on a congressional perk?

Prediction: The following bill would have near-universal public support. From The Hill:

While vast numbers of the private-sector workforce have seen their pensions vanish over recent decades and find themselves with precarious, market-based 401(k) plans, members of Congress receive both a pension and a quality employer-match plan.

According to at least two lawmakers, it’s time for elected officials to join the real world.

“If you compare the private sector to what the folks in the federal government get, in the federal government you not only get healthcare benefits, you get a 401(k) that has a higher match than most private-sector companies,” Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) told The Hill.

“Then on top of that you get the pension,” Griffin said. “Most private-sector folks don’t get a pension.”

In an effort both to identify cost savings amid the nation’s growing debt crisis and to give federal lawmakers more credibility in addressing related financial issues, Griffin and Rep. Mike …

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2012 Tuesday: Why the Obama economy will sink Obama

At lunchtime today, I’ll be among a few hundred people listening to economic forecasters from the University of Georgia tell us what to expect next year in the state and nationwide. It’s tempting to think there’s no point in going, since pretty much every forecast I’ve seen lately suggests we’re in for more of the same sluggishness.

And if that turns out to be true, the most pointless question in the GOP presidential primary may be the one about which candidate is the most “electable.” For, at that point, it would be rather difficult for most of the candidates to lose to President Obama.

To name one example: The prognosticators at the OECD (the Paris-based club of industrialized nations) proffer that the U.S. economy will be stuck at 2 percent growth next year. That’s the same rate, thanks to yet another downward revision to our economic estimates, we experienced between July and September. It was during that time that Obama’s public-approval rating for his handling of the …

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How a good job-creation idea can go bad for Georgians

You’ve heard of good ideas and bad ideas. Today, meet the bad “good idea.”

Earlier this month, I previewed a job-creation program that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other state leaders are expected to champion next year. The state would use some to-be-determined revenue stream to partner with private investors and pump money into Georgia start-up companies in certain strategic industries.

It’s a variation on an idea I’ve advocated before, on the premise that Georgia creates many promising young businesses — only to watch them move to places like Boston or Silicon Valley, because that’s where the capital they so desperately need is located.

Most of the details of this specific plan are still being worked out, or at least Cagle didn’t share them with me when I interviewed him. On the surface, it might sound like a good idea.

Less than a week later, however, AJC readers learned why it could be one of those bad “good ideas.” That’s when my colleague, Aaron Gould Sheinin, reported that …

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The thanks we owe to mentors like Conrad Fink

It’s always risky to write a column about someone known for his red editing pen, but here goes nothing.

It was the day after Valentine’s Day, 1997. Your correspondent, then 18 years old and interviewing for a scholarship at the University of Georgia, had just been handed a copy of The Red & Black.

Alongside one article, which concerned certain services offered at the UGA health clinic, was a photograph of — how to describe this on a family website, rather than a student one? — an elongated yellow fruit wearing a latex prophylactic. Was this, one interviewer asked the young would-be journalism major, an example of responsible reportage?

I gave her a satisfactory enough answer to keep the conversation moving on a media-ethics bent and, minutes later, said something about weighing the public’s right to know versus its need to know. For the first time in the session, another interviewer raised the bushiest eyebrows I’d ever seen and leaned forward to offer his approval.

Years …

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Newt Gingrich’s immigration gambit (Updated with video)

One of the headlines from last night’s GOP presidential debate, which focused on foreign policy, actually has more to do with domestic policy: Whether Newt Gingrich, the latest anti-Romney frontrunner, kinda-sorta endorsed amnesty for illegal immigrants who have been in our country for a long time.

I had to go back and listen to a recording of the debate because, watching it live, I thought he might have erred by not phrasing his policy in the conventional conservative manner of 1) secure the border to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants, then 2) decide what to do with the ones already here. In fact, here’s what he said (there’s a partial transcript below the video):

I think you’ve got to deal with this as a comprehensive approach that starts with controlling the border … I believe ultimately, you have to find some system — once you’ve put every piece in place, which includes a guest-worker program, you need something like a World War Two selective service board that …

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2012 Tuesday: A (light-hearted) look at why each GOP candidate is thankful this year

The Republican candidates will have their last “national” debate tonight, before a string of debates in Iowa begins in mid-December. The topic is an important one, foreign policy, and tomorrow we’ll rehash what the various contenders say.

Until then, and in the spirit of this week’s holiday, let’s visit the lighter side of politics and review what each of the candidates has to be thankful for — including which of their rivals they ought to mention while giving thanks.

Just to be clear, this is not Jon Huntsman (Source: Screen shot from Huntsman campaign video)

Just to be clear, this is not Jon Huntsman (Source: Screen shot from Huntsman campaign video)

JON HUNTSMAN: The former Utah governor can be thankful the threshold for participating in most GOP debates hasn’t been higher than 2 percent. In more than 80 national polls taken since February, Huntsman has risen above 2 percent exactly 10 times; he’s recorded zero percent, or been left off the survey, 15 times since then. But hey, four of his 3 percent showings have occurred this month — Jonmentum! ** The candidate …

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Deficit solution will have to wait for 2012 elections

So, the congressional “super committee” failed to agree to a deal that would cut deficits. Maybe the defense-heavy spending cuts will now take effect, or maybe Congress will find a way to finagle its way out of them.

A deal that reformed entitlements and the tax code would have been great. But it was never terribly likely.

As much as people like to wring their hands about partisanship and ideological inflexibility, the fact is that there is a deep divide in this country about how to fix the nation’s finances. Oh, sure, you can find polls whose respondents largely say, “cut spending and raise taxes!” But dig much deeper, and the specifics — usually, cut the spending I don’t like (on programs that amount to peanuts), and raise other people’s taxes — don’t lend themselves to a grand bargain.

There is an election in 11.5 months, and no issue before the electorate surpasses the urgent importance of this one. There won’t be a breakthrough on it before then. Whether we get one …

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Less than a year out, the Hillary-2012 chatter won’t die

Apparently, those polls that show President Obama leading most of his GOP challengers in head-to-head match-ups do not impress pollsters Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen. That’s noteworthy because Caddell and Schoen are Democratic pollsters — and they argue, in an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, that for the good of the country and the Democratic Party, Obama should step aside in 2012 and let a certain runner-up stand for election (cough, cough, Hillary Clinton, cough, cough:

Certainly, Mr. Obama could still win re-election in 2012. Even with his all-time low job approval ratings (and even worse ratings on handling the economy) the president could eke out a victory in November. But the kind of campaign required for the president’s political survival would make it almost impossible for him to govern — not only during the campaign, but throughout a second term.

Put simply, it seems that the White House has concluded that if the president cannot run on his record, he will …

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Larry Munson: RIP to a DGD

If you live in this state, it hardly matters whether you went to the University of Georgia or are a fan of the Bulldogs; I don’t have to explain who Larry Munson is. Nor do I have to recount his most famous calls from his four decades of radio broadcasts of Bulldog football; you’ve probably heard them somewhere along the way. Nor do I have to make a list of my favorite calls; they’re his most famous calls — Lindsay Scott, the hobnail boot, sugar falling from the sky, etc. — and they’re famous for a reason.

Just about every team has a broadcaster. And many of them are, as others have noted, more technically proficient than Munson was. But Munson was famous, beloved, cherished, because he was tradition personified.

Larry Munson became the Bulldogs’ play-by-play man before my parents had drivers licenses, and by the time he hung up his earphones, my firstborn was in the womb. In thousands upon thousands of other families of Georgia fans, he covered more generations than that. He …

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What Herman Cain’s 2012 run has already accomplished

If this GOP presidential campaign has taught us anything, it’s not to write any candidate’s political obituary before its time. (Hello, Newt Gingrich.)

So, today I come to praise Herman Cain, not to bury him beneath the opinion polls that show him slipping. No matter how the Georgia businessman’s candidacy turns out, it has done three important things.

As Cain’s popularity surged, there came a stream of allegations that he had sexually harassed women in the past. At first, the charges were vague and anonymous. Later, two women publicly accused Cain.

Depending on your point of view, or your allegiances, the allegations were either part of the vetting process or the lowest kind of character assassination: a he-said, she-said situation in which neither side can definitively prove its case.

While Cain’s poll numbers dipped slightly, donations to his campaign funds also rose. So, ultimately, while voters weighed the stories against what they previously believed about his character, …

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