Archive for May, 2012

Economic security still non-existent for many Americans

If you don’t think these statistics will have more of a bearing on this November’s election results than President Obama’s stances on gay marriage, free contraception, etc., then you’re fooling yourself. From a USA Today story:

  • “One out of five families owes more on credit cards, medical bills, student loans and other unsecured debt than they have in savings … “
  • “[T]he number of families surveyed at the end of 2011 that have no savings at all increased to 23.4 percent, compared with 18.5 percent in 2009.”
  • “Among homeowners, 1.7 percent said that they expect to fall behind on their mortgage payments in the near future … slightly less than in 2009, when 1.9 percent expected to run into mortgage problems.”
  • “Sixty percent of workers say that the value of their savings and investments is less than $25,000 … retirement confidence is at historically low levels.”
  • “[N]early half of families say they have no debt at all from credit cards and other unsecured loans, the same percentage …

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Obama got it right about gay marriage . . . in 2004

What I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman. But what I also believe is that we have an obligation to make sure that gays and lesbians have the rights of citizenship that afford them visitations to hospitals, that allow them to transfer property between partners, to make certain that they’re not discriminated against on the job.

OK, confession time: I didn’t create those opening sentences. Then-U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama did, in 2004.

Obama offered a different, “evolved” belief Wednesday, saying he thinks same-sex couples should be able to marry. He had it right the first time.

Well, not the first first time. Before tackling the issue, let’s review Obama’s “evolution.” In 1996, while running for the Illinois Senate, Obama noted on a questionnaire that he “favor[ed] legalizing same-sex marriages.” By 2004, he’d flipped on that position.

Last week — after an endorsement of gay marriage by Vice President Joe Biden and a report that wealthy gay donors had …

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Poll Position: How much of a candidate’s life is fair game?

A day after President Obama endorsed the concept of same-sex marriage (but, notably, no policies to legalize it), the Washington Post reported that, as a teenager in boarding school, Mitt Romney once forcibly cut the longish hair of a fellow classmate who was “presumed” to be gay. The story has since been found to have a number of problems: Two sisters of the alleged victim (who died several years ago) claim the depiction of him is “factually incorrect,” and one says she had never heard of the incident (which, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen); one of the Romney classmates quoted about the incident now says he didn’t actually witness it.

As if to confirm that juvenile behavior by juveniles is not a partisan issue, a blogger soon posted an excerpt from Obama’s “Dreams From My Father” in which he describes behaving rudely toward an unpopular female classmate. (The posted excerpts don’t refer to his age at the time, but the reference by Obama to her being in …

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Falcons stadium proposal begs a look at football’s future

Before spending a few hundred million taxpayer dollars — for example, on a new stadium for the Falcons — it is worth mulling worst-case scenarios. The worst of the worst cases for the stadium is that, within a few decades, football as we know it is extinct.

Get this straight: I’m not predicting football’s death. The NFL and college football have never been bigger. Projecting the sport’s demise would seem to put one in the company of Harold Camping, the nonagenarian preacher who (twice!) last year forecast Doomsday, not among UGA football’s season-ticket holders.

That said, there are some dark clouds on the sport’s horizon. What better time to pause and consider those clouds than before a deal is signed and the bonds — for which Atlanta’s hotel tax revenues would be committed until 2050 — are sold.

The place to start is with the dominant story this NFL offseason, which concerns player safety. The NFL faces 70 lawsuits covering more than 1,800 ex-players who claim the league …

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Obama steals Lugar’s bad-news thunder

On a day when the political sob stories ought to focus on Dick Lugar, whom Indiana Republicans voted out after 36 years in the U.S. Senate, the bulk of the bad news from yesterday’s primaries instead concerns President Obama:

1. North Carolina is a swing state. Four years ago, Obama won the state by 14,177 votes out of more than 4.2 million cast. Last night, almost 200,000 voters in the state’s Democratic primary voted against him, even though no one else was even on the ballot. A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, publicly opposed by Obama despite the mixed signals from his administration on the issue, passed easily, 61 percent to 39 percent.

2. Wisconsin is generally not considered a swing state — it’s typically been safe territory for Democrats. But 2010 saw the election of Republicans to a majority of the state’s legislative seats and the governor’s mansion. That GOP governor, Scott Walker, currently faces a recall election fueled by labor unions still steamed …

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2012 Tuesday: Should we worry about the primary losses of moderates?

For all the talk of how America is following in the footsteps of debt-riddled Greece, here is one way our politics is charting a very different course: We are not waiting to reach the very edge of the abyss before moving our parties away from the center.

One of the big stories from today’s primaries, which for the most part have been rendered less than front-page news outside the states holding them any given day, will be whether longtime Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar survives a challenge from tea-party favorite and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. A recent poll (there haven’t been many of them) suggests Lugar’s time is up.

The headlines will be about the tea party throwing out a respected member of the D.C. establishment in a fit of ideologically pure pique. Yet, increasingly this kind of result is dog-bites-man news — for both parties.

Last month, Pennsylvania Democrats threw out a pair of “Blue Dog Democrats” from the U.S. House. The Blue Dogs, who tried to push laws such as …

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There’s austerity in Europe, all right — of the taxing sort

The austerity debate is back, with American liberals pointing to shrinking European economies as evidence against the wisdom of cutting government spending here.

Typical is this argument from a column by the New York Times’ Paul Krugman last month: “Europe has had several years of experience with harsh austerity programs, and the results are exactly what students of history told you would happen: such programs push depressed economies even deeper into depression.”

Indeed, nine of the European Union’s 27 member-countries were in technical recession by the end of 2011 or the first quarter of 2012 (not all countries report first-quarter data at the same time).

There’s just one problem: There have been no such austerity programs, at least not of the type Krugman and other liberals warn against.

In five of the nine recessionary countries, governments cut spending in 2011. In four, they didn’t. There were another three European countries in which public spending fell without …

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Poll Position: What will be Michael Adams’ legacy at UGA?

Michael Adams arrived at the University of Georgia at the same time I did, in the fall of 1997. I left four years later. At that time, no one would have guessed he’d still be there in 2012, much less 2013. He was always rumored to have other ambitions, from moving on to other universities to heading the NCAA, or even seeking political office. But it will be June of next year, Adams announced yesterday, when he retires from the job.

At just shy of 16 years, his tenure will have been longer than all but three UGA presidents in the 20th century. And a lengthy tenure often makes for a number of possible ways for a person to be remembered. Oh, how that will be the case with Michael Adams.

Adams presided over UGA during a time of marked improvement in both its students’ credentials and its facilities. The HOPE scholarship and metro Atlanta’s population boom certainly contributed to the former. But Adams capitalized on those advantages in many ways, including the expansion of merit …

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The voters who just might decide the T-SPLOST’s fate

In any election, you’ll hear a lot about each side’s efforts to woo the woo-able. You’ve heard the names before: “soccer moms” and “NASCAR dads.” With that in mind, here’s a label for the group that might settle July’s T-SPLOST referendum: QuikTrip parents.

They live in the suburbs and have the area’s longest daily commutes. This costs them increasing amounts of gas money and family time. If you’ve seen or heard some of the advertisements about the T-SPLOST, the QuikTrip parents are the target audience.

This group may have become even more important this week when the Sierra Club said it was opposing the tax because, among other things, the project list devoted “only” 40 percent of the revenues to mass transit. In a region where only about 5 percent of commuters use transit, the Sierra Club’s stance displays a realism I’d expect from Don Quixote managing Buddy Roemer’s presidential campaign. Yet, I’ve heard the same concern from other pro-transit people.

And then there are …

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Obamacare costs more than advertised, double-counting edition

I’ve written many times about the budgeting/accounting/scoring gimmicks that allowed Democrats to claim Obamacare would reduce federal deficits when the opposite is true. The latest piece of evidence came from Charles Blahous, an economist and trustee of the Social Security and Medicare programs who recently reported Obamacare’s “double counting” of spending cuts and tax increases means the law will actually increase deficits by $340 billion over 10 years (or about seven Buffett Rules).

Blahous, writing with former federal budget official James Capretta in today’s Wall Street Journal, explains double counting by making an analogy to Social Security:

If we generate $1 in savings within that program, then that’s $1 that Social Security can spend later. If we also claimed this same $1 to finance a new spending program, we would clearly be adding to the total federal deficit. There has long been bipartisan understanding of this aspect of Social Security, which is why Congress’s …

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