Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category

More of the same in Obama’s SOTU; Rubio hits the right notes in GOP response

Toward the beginning of his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama said we need a “smarter government,” not a “bigger government.” He then proceeded to request a long wish list of new government programs that make clear that, in his mind, the only smarter government is a bigger one.

So, we would have the federal government providing everything from universal pre-K to a network of manufacturing hubs to rebuilt bridges to refinanced homes — none of which is a bad thing, but also none of which require the involvement of a federal government already well beyond its ability to pay for the things it already tries to do. His assertion that this wish list would not add “a single dime” to the deficit didn’t pass the laugh test, particularly when administration officials after the speech declined to provide cost estimates for the new programs.

One can only guess his proposals won’t add “a single dime” to the deficit because they would, instead, add many billions if …

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Who says there’s no common ground in Washington anymore?

Tonight, President Obama will try to kick-start his legislative priorities for his second term in his State of the Union address to Congress. Much is being made, as is the case every year, of what the president is likely to say. Most of the guesses so far have him focused on the economy, while also mentioning gun control, immigration reform and climate change. There are bound to be a surprise or two, and I’ll have it covered for you here tomorrow morning.

Much less effort is given to predicting what the Republican response from Sen. Marco Rubio will be — or, for that matter, the “tea party response” from Sen. Rand Paul. But Ira Stoll has taken a crack at writing what he thinks Rubio ought to say, and I think it’s rather clever on his part.

Because “our nation’s challenges are too great” for partisanship, Stoll advises Rubio to say, “first thing tomorrow, I will introduce legislation in the Senate called the Barack Obama Campaign Promise Implementation Act of 2013.”

That …

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Obama: Why, we can’t cut spending by 2.3 percent!

Today, the Congressional Budget Office projected this year’s deficit to be $845 billion. It would be the first time during Barack Obama’s presidency that the deficit could be measured with only a 12-digit number. Hooray?

CBO expects higher tax revenues, including the tax increases included in the Jan. 1 deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, to contribute $259 billion toward deficit reduction. (Here, I repeat my standard disclaimer that CBO almost always over-estimates the increase in revenues that comes with higher tax rates because it does not even attempt to consider how people will change their behavior to avoid paying higher taxes.)

Yet, also today, Obama said he does not want to see spending cuts of just $85 billion due to the sequester take effect.

For those keeping score at home, the cuts he opposes equal (take your pick):

  • just 2.3 percent of all federal spending this year;
  • just 10.1 percent of even this year’s deficit;
  • a mere $1 for every $3 in deficit reduction …

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Stock gains don’t make up for continued sluggishness in economy, job market

The Dow Jones Industrial Average today briefly touched the 14000 mark, before falling slightly. As I write, it’s hovering right around that level, the first time it’s done so since late 2007. The broader S&P 500 is at a five-year high, about 3 percent off its all-time peak in October 2007. The Nasdaq is at a 10-year high, though it’s significantly lower than its tech-bubble peak. In all, though, these major indices finally are back to roughly where they were before the housing crash and Great Recession (as long as we don’t adjust them for inflation, that is).

Yet, earlier today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the unemployment rate had ticked upward to 7.9 percent even though more people had stopped looking for work than found a job. At January’s rate of job growth (157,000 net jobs created), it would take until at least 2025 to regain pre-recession employment levels. At the rate for all of 2012 (an upwardly revised 181,000), it would take “only” until 2022, a decade …

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Obama’s second inaugural (updated)

There were, I think, three main elements to President Obama’s second inaugural address (other than its brevity at just 19 minutes, which was the only truly surprising thing about the speech):

First, there was his identification of what — or who — is at the root of our problems:

  • “The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few …”
  • “For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”
  • “We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few.”

In case you didn’t catch his drift, I’ve supplied some emphasis. There are just a “few” people who are keeping the rest of us from … what exactly? Does anyone actually believe only a “few” Americans (even granting the president poetic license to mean a “few” as a relative share of a nation of more than 315 million people) are happy? Or enjoy freedom? Or experience …

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GOP can cut spending without delaying debt ceiling

As I write, President Obama is about to announce the gun-control proposals his administration has been drafting since the Sandy Hook school massacre (although some of them almost certainly were on his wish list before he ever entered the White House). We’ll discuss that here after they’ve been made official and we’ve had time to digest them.

In the meantime, and of a more time-sensitive nature, we march on toward next month’s trio of fiscal deadlines: the expiration of temporary funding measures for the federal government, the end of a two-month delay in the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, and the end of the administration’s authority to borrow more money.

That last issue, popularly known as the debt ceiling, has drawn the most attention, with Democrats accusing the GOP of holding the economy hostage by insisting on spending cuts if they are to raise the ceiling. We’ve seen this movie before, in the summer of 2011. It didn’t end all that well.

It did, however, …

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Louie Giglio and ‘the right to hold differing views’

I’ve never been to Louie Giglio’s church. But I drive past it every Sunday on the way to the church I do attend.

Passion City Church meets in a building that once was home to a Home Depot Expo and a PGA Tour Superstore. If you aren’t familiar with the site, one thing you ought to know is it has the kind of enormous parking lot you’d expect for a mega-box store and that it’s filled to capacity each week as volunteers and traffic cops direct the flow of motorists, pedestrians from the nearby Lindbergh MARTA station, and the shuttles that ferry still more worshippers to Giglio’s church.

You also ought to know that, for a couple of months last year, there were fewer parking spaces available than usual. That’s because part of the pavement was occupied by a gigantic statue of an arm and hand reaching skyward — I’m talking about 103-feet-tall gigantic — with, among other messages, “Indifference Is Not an Option” written on it.

“Indifference” to human trafficking and slavery, that …

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Al Gore: Another guy who’s not ‘patriotic’ by Obama’s standard

Ira Stoll notices a timely little nugget in the New York Times’ story about the sale of Current TV, co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, to Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera did not disclose the purchase price, but people with direct knowledge of the deal pegged it at around $500 million, indicating a $100 million payout for Mr. Gore, who owned 20 percent of Current. Mr. Gore and his partners were eager to complete the deal by Dec. 31, lest it be subject to higher tax rates that took effect on Jan. 1, according to several people who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But the deal was not signed until Wednesday. (emphasis added)

Hmmm. Does this mean Gore is not one of the “well-to-do Americans, patriotic Americans, who,” according to President Obama in a campaign speech back in August, “… are willing to do the right thing, willing to do their part to make this country strong” by paying higher taxes? One of those people who has “made enough …

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Fiscal cliff ‘deal’ represents everything wrong with Washington

Only in Washington, D.C., do people raise taxes and fail to cut spending from what they were just a day earlier and call it the “American Taxpayer Relief Act.”

That more or less summarizes what I think about the itsy bitsy deal struck in the Senate earlier this week to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

I’m not going to rehash all the details of the deal. Nor do I plan to argue about whether we should consider the deal a) a tax cut for most people, because income tax rates were scheduled to go up this year and now will not, possibly resulting in a lower tax bill than many Americans were set to face in 2013 even after payroll taxes rise by 2 percentage points; or b) a tax increase, because the deal does not mean anyone will actually pay less in taxes in 2013 than they did in 2012, and many people will pay more.

It’s a rather stupid debate to have — not least because some of the same people who argue it’s a tax cut because taxes would have gone up anyway are also trying somehow …

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Why the fiscal cliff debate is like a poker hand — and the GOP is losing a lot of chips

Here’s how I see Speaker John Boehner’s failure to pass his own Plan B tax plan in the House last night:

Some people liken these fiscal-cliff negotiations to playing chess or checkers, as one unnamed, senior House Republican did in this excellent write-up of the post-failure mood in the House by National Review’s Robert Costa. Assuming I understand correctly why and how that metaphor is being made, I think it’s inapt because it suggests this debate is proceeding in isolation from everything else Congress has done in the past and will do in the future.

I think it’s much more like one hand in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, with the chips representing political capital. With both poker chips and political capital, having more means you have more leverage — because those who have less than you don’t have as much margin for error. They have to play it a bit safer.

This particular game of poker, in which House Republicans face President Obama and the Senate Democrats, has been going on …

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