Archive for May, 2009

Owning GM is troubling

On Monday it’s expected that General Motors will file for bankruptcy. In as little as 60 to 90 days, Government Motors will emerge, 72.5 percent owned by taxpayers and 17.5 percent owned by our Big Labor partners whose intransigence and greed helped to destroy the industry.

There is so much to fear about this evolving relationship between politicians, the constituencies that regard them as essential to their well-being and the private sector. The takeover of General Motors, and the temptation to use that ownership stake to pursue political agendas ­ — the elimination of big “gas-guzzling” SUVs, for example ­— is temptation social planners of the left will find irresistible. And, as with government agricultural planning and programming, every action has consequences that trigger the need for more planning and regulation. Eight decades later we still can’t get that right.
Politicians will, of necessity, wall-in America, regulating automobile, truck and parts …

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On homes, green space, rhetoric

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

  • Some of the prettiest homes in all of metro Atlanta are the small brick houses with picture windows that Lockheed jobs built near the plant in Cobb County. I love the add-ons and the revisions that are signs of a family’s American Dream coming to fruition. “There were homes that were bought and tables that were set, thanks to Lockheed,” James Breeden, who started there in 1953, told the AJC’s Mark Davis. Thousands of homes and tens of thousands of tables.
  • Reading of all the attractive possibilities for buying green space in a down economy, I’m sorry my home county of Cobb has but $40 million to spend. Now’s the time to buy. In another decade, it won’t be affordable. Buy, hold and then dispose of the mistakes if need be.
  • Oh, shoot fire, don’t make such a to-do over the Atlanta Police Union guy who got carried away with his rhetoric and said something injudicious — well, stupid, really — about hitting …

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The harsh lessons of California

California is lined up, hands extended, palm up, imploring the Obama Administration to guarantee its debt –  a guarantee as inconceivable as state ownership of General Motors once was. 

 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger projects that California will create a deficit of $23.4 billion over the next year, a deficit bigger than Georgia’s entire budget. Voters this month rejected higher taxes and borrowing from future lottery proceeds to fund current consumption, prompting California officials to go hat-in-hand to Washington.  More immediately, Schwarzenegger is proposing dramatic cuts.  He would, for example, eliminate welfare and would end non-emergency health care for illegals. He’d also whack the California version of Georgia’s PeachCare health insurance program for children in families with too much income to qualify for Medicaid.  He’s eliminating some future grants for college students,  ordering unpaid leaves for state employees, and giving one-year early releases to …

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Union wins, investors lose in bailouts

One of the problems with the on-going negotiations involving the automobile companies, government and the union that helped destroy General Motors and Chrysler is that, when it’s all over, the union ends up in the driver’s seat.

The United Auto Workers, an extension of the Democratic Party, will wind up with a controlling stake in Chrysler.  General Motors bankruptcy filing is imminent and expectations are that the UAW will wind up with as much as 20 percent of the surviving company in exchange for wiping out $10 billion of the $20 billion that GM owes the union’s health care trust.  Bond-holders, meanwhile, are being asked to swap the $27 billion they’re owed for 10 percent of the company.  The government would get 50 percent for wiping out half of the $19.4 billion GM has gotten in bail-out money.  Shareholders would be left with 1 percent.

Bond-holders understandably balk, pushing GM to bankruptcy.  In the future, investors should and will be extraordinarily leery of …

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Sotomayor nomination: No smoking gun


  Some commentary has a longer shelf life than others.  An earlier posting lasted minutes before President Barack Obama announced the appointment of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to fill the David Souter vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

 She’ll attract considerable debate, largely because of a speech she made in 2001 where she seemed to express the opinion that a Latina woman and a white man would reach different conclusions when ruling on the law.  Said she:  

   “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”  She was speaking at a University of California diversity lecture.

She will also draw fire because of a statement she made in 2005 that the U.S. Court of Appeals, where she served, “is where policy is made.”  Those are the words of an activist judge.

A fuller reading of her diversity remarks leaves her thoughts open to interpretation.  I …

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Any standard-issue liberal for the court.






It’s granted that Barack Obama will appoint a liberal to replace David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Democrats in the White House are far better than Republicans at recognizing potential justices who share their interpretation of the Constitution.  Too, the politicization of the nominating process has worked in the liberal’s favor. 

George H.W. Bush picked Souter because he wanted a non-controversial nominee. Souter lacked a paper trail, an advantage at the time since abortion rights advocates were determined to make the appointment solely about whether Roe v. Wade would be overturned.  Boy was Bush wrong.

Obama’s appointee to replace Souter may well come this week.  It will be a liberal and, as such, won’t change the 5-4 balance on the Supreme Court, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote.   The President has said he wants a nominee who has “empathy” and “a little bit of a common touch”  and “a practical sense of how the world works.”  …

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Gwinnett deserves better

Almost half a century ago, the nation — starting in New York — embraced a sweeping regulatory strategy as the solution to rising health care costs.

The approach was to keep costs down by controlling hospital beds and equipment. Before expanding or buying expensive new equipment, providers had to prove “need.”

Mostly the rigidly anti-competitive regulatory system didn’t work and, under President Reagan, the federal requirement for a “certificate of need” (CON) was repealed. But just as American taxpayers still, under New Deal regulation, pay wealthy farmers not to grow crops, the remnants of failed health care cost containment persist today.

Just ask Dr. Manfred Sandler, chief of cardiology at Gwinnett Medical Center. Or state Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford. Both are furious at a legacy regulatory system that continues to make Gwinnett — population 814,215, up 350 percent between 1980 and 2000 — the largest county in the nation without a hospital with a license …

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Tattoos, not ring; credit cost shifts

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

  • Jermaine Dupri is committed enough to Janet Jackson to tattoo her image along his lower right side from chest to waist — but they’re not committed enough to marry. Such is our culture.
  • No need to waterboard Joe Biden. If he knows, you know. Real torture’s when he’s forced to remain silent. Where’s the doomsday bunker, Joe?
  • Juvenile Court Judge Sammy Jones was the judge you’d want on the case whether you were the crime’s victim or the errant youth’s parents. Straight up and a top-notch guy.
  • So Atlanta’s finances look good when compared to Detroit; New York; Philadelphia; Chicago; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles and Phoenix, all of which have larger deficits percentagewise? But we don’t live there. New slogan suggestion for Atlanta: “It’s not our fault.”
  • Evidence that Georgia’s low-and-fair-tax approach to business creates jobs is contained in a new nationwide study. Georgia led all states in new …

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Gitmo detainees here? Not on your life.

    An overwhelming bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate  did something Wednesday that would elicit overwhelming bipartisan support in communities across America.  They voted 90-6 to prevent the transfer of terrorists and those who aided them, now in confinement at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S. mainland.  And, further, they denied the Obama Administration $80 million the President sought to close the Guantanamo holding facility by January.
   The vote came as FBI Director Robert Mueller warned that bringing the bad guys here presented risks that ranged from “concerns about providing financing, radicalizing others” to increasing “the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States.”  And, of course, somewhere there breathes a federal judge who will seek to begin the process to release them, even here if no other nation will take them.
  U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), responding to public concerns, has introduced legislation called …

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Will U.S., Inc., acquire California?

The President of Chrysler-Government Motors may soon create a public sector subsidiary to acquire failed states, starting with California.   Voters on Tuesday rejected a package of tax increases, mushy spending caps and borrowing from future lottery revenues to balance the budget.  The only measure approved would ban raises for legislators and statewide office-holders when the state runs a deficit.

As with Rick Wagoner, the former president of General Motors, who was ousted when his company was taken over by the President of United States, Inc., California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may be toast.  He’s asking the same source for a $7 billion guarantee for loans that would be issued by the defunct State of California, which has seen its general obligation debt grow from $37 billion to more than $70 billion under Schwarzenegger.

Californians won’t cut spending and won’t vote taxes.  It is la-la land, with a worsening budget deficit and no will to do anything about it.  …

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