Wednesday, February 25, 2009

OBAMA’S FIRST SPEECH TO CONGRESS

How refreshing to have such an erudite and honest assessment of the true state of the union, even if it wasn’t called that since Obama has only been president of the union for a little over a month.

I’ve been watching these addresses since I was a kid, and I don’t remember any other one where almost all the applause and standing ovations were bipartisan. There was only once when the Republicans pretty much unanimously sat out an ovation and two other times by my count when a majority of them did.

That’s because Obama put his plans and vision in terms that both parties could accept, even if they have different methods for accomplishing them. But once again he’s proven that he can rise above the usual politics of Washington.

In the rebuttal from Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, he was only speaking to and for the wealthy, because he talked about Obama raising taxes even after Obama made clear that his stimulus package and his budget do not raise taxes on over 95% of us (in fact we get a tax cut, one of the things rightwing Republicans always clamor for, but can’t seem to get behind now, maybe because Obama’s cuts are for working people, not corporations and the wealthy).

Obama made it clear again and again that only if you make over a quarter million dollars a year will you see any increase in taxes, and then only to what they were before Junior’s last bone to the rich.

I have plenty of friends who make more than that, some a whole lot more. The Republicans among them don’t want any tax hike. The Democrats are split between those who don’t want a hike but know it’s necessary to cut the deficit and pay for two wars (that Junior and the Republicans began) and get the economy moving again (that tanked under Junior and the Republicans after creating the largest deficit in our history) so are willing to accept it, and those who actually want a hike because they know they are not paying their fair share.

I only made that much once in my life and ended up paying a lot of it back in taxes because I was single and didn’t own a home. Some rich people I knew tried to make me feel foolish for not finding a good accountant to get me out of paying all the taxes I did.

But I thought about the decades of driving on interstate highways, or the over four years I spent in the service with other guys who didn’t come from money, willing to sacrifice our lives for our country and the benefits I received afterwards, like going to college on the G. I. Bill, something I wouldn’t have been able to do without it, and so much more that the federal government has provided for me over my lifetime, and concluded that all the money I paid in taxes that time I was rich for a short period, was just me paying my dues for all the benefits this country has given me.

So when Jindal said Obama and the Democrats were going to raise our taxes, he obviously was talking about the less than five percent of our fellow citizens who make over 250,000 a year, and was dismissing the rest of us.

But he had already made that clear when he took what his fellow Republicans are calling a courageous stand against the stimulus bill by saying he will refuse money from it that will extend unemployment benefits for workers in his state. But he’ll take everything else. Which means he’ll be taking a little over 3.7 billion dollars from the stimulus package instead of the 3.8 the government marked for Louisiana. How brave.

And as for the media bias and the influence of Obama on the market, I woke up this morning to NPR news, supposedly “liberal” public radio, which offered one phrase from Obama’s speech about emerging stronger from these trying times and then countered with a much longer section of Jindal’s speech about how Democrats in Washington are raising our taxes and after him other rightwing Republican objections to Obama’s plans were cited!

Out of a three minute segment I’d say Obama got thirty seconds and the Republicans got two and a half minutes. And that’s the way it’s been since he took office. Once the hoopla of the inauguration was over, the media has been bending over backward to give every rightwing Republican extra time to criticize Obama’s policies and then blame him for the falling stock market.

What I want to know is how come nobody is blaming the rightwing Republicans for the falling stock market which began it’s descent under them as a result of their deregulation policies and since then has fallen every time they get negative about Obama’s economic recovery plans (when they voted against the original bank bailout, one of the steepest declines yet occurred that day, and since they voted against the stimulus package and have spent every day since dissing it).

I notice that yesterday when Obama’s budget was leaked and Bernake had some positive predictions before Congress the market rose, but I also notice that none of the rightwing Republicans were given much play in the news yesterday because they hadn’t come up with their talking points against Obama’s speech yet, since it hadn’t been fully leaked.

Obama won the election, Obama’s stimulus package passed and is law. Many Republican governors backed it and accept it, and most Republican mayors do too, because they are dealing with real world on the ground problems. The rightwing ideologues in Congress can afford to act only as obstacles to Obama’s policies because they gerrymandered districts when they were in power so that they could be insured of a “conservative” Republican voter base for their reelection. Maybe it’s time to find a fairer way to map the boundaries of Congressional districts, so that the majority of the people can have a government that fully represents them, which according to all polls shows that they reject the Republicans in Congress and back Obama and the Democrats three to one or more.

13 comments:

JIm said...

I find it very difficult to watch Pres. Obama speak, not because he is not likeable, erudite, or commanding in his posture. He is all that. I hate his big government solutions to the detriment of the private sector. I wish we conservatives had a commanding articulate political leader. At this point we do not. I have great respect for Governor Jindal as an executive and a technocrat. He is far more accomplished than Obama was prior to his election. But he is no “Great Communicator”. However substance is important. History has proven that conservative ideals of lower taxes and as little government as possible works best in the economy. I will not go through the litany of conservative successes and liberal failures all the way back to the “Mayflower Compact”, since I have done that many times earlier.

Yesterday Ben Bernanke testified before the Senate Finance Committee. As a post script to his testimony, he was asked to contribute the renewed debate on FDR’s economic policies. He was asked to list anything that FDR did that was positive for the economy. He mentioned two; the bank holiday and the removal of the gold standard in our time of great need. We are still mired in bank problems, but maybe things will get better. I hope. I pray. During the Great Depression there were some truly explosive rallies. From the end of February 1933 to mid July, 1933 the Dow was up 117%. That would be very welcome now, even if had to play defense later.

The DJIA is down close to 200 points this morning. Apparently it was less impressed than you were with the President’s rhetoric.

Curtis Faville said...

Jim:

There is truth in your assertions about what you'd like to call "liberal" policies--specifically those associated with the first two Roosevelt terms. "Prosperity" wasn't restored to the economy until the war materiel machine really got going in the 1940's.

But our current crisis occurred specifically because banks and brokerage houses were exploiting a free-for-all environment. Republicans have supported a fake "free trade" policy, have supported exportation of American jobs and capital investments, have winked at record trade deficits. They've become the party of deficit spending as a policy (Reagan, Bush I and II), and have started two pointless (and unsuccessful) wars. Most of the fiscal problems we're now in could have been addressed, but were not, first by the Gingrich Congress, and then by Smirk the Jerk's administrations.

Personally, I don't think nationalizing the banks, and throwing money at pork projects, is likely to bring us back from a long, though comparatively shallow, recession. But the real battles will be fought over regulation. In the past, a lot of rhetoric has been spent talking about the need for "reform" while everyone on Capitol Hill winks and sniggers.

The corporations have been running this country for the last six decades (at least), and there's little evidence that's going to change. Lobbying (and lobbying money) is the grease that lubricates policy in Washington. Five years from now, when the "rebound" is in full swing, bankers and brokers and tax accountants will still be playing fast and loose, and government will be looking the other way.

If I have any over-riding cynicism, it's that this is just another spin of the cycle. Waste, and more waste, and the rascals living in those big mansions, sending their kids to school in Switzerland, breezing round the world tax free on their foreign accounts.

JIm said...

Curtis,

Banks and financial firms acted irresponsibly with the aid and encouragement of the politicians. Whether you agree with or oppose free trade, history is replete with the adverse effects on economies with restricted trade. In any case, the horse is out of the barn on that one and we must deal with the world as it is. The elimination of Glass Stegal’s separation of bank and investment firms during the Clinton administration had the complicity of both parties. The Left seems to always demonize corporations who really are just people acting in concert to earn money in a free economy. Many people including retirees, teachers, police and fireman benefit when corporations do well, pay dividends and increase in value thus increasing the value of their stocks. A poor economy and anti business high tax govenment policies hurt individuals and corporations alike. Demonization and class warfare are unhelpful in times like these.

I assume your smirk and jerk comment refers to Pres. Bush who attempted along with Greenspan to rein in the GSEs. Democrats Frank and Dodd blocked any reform. Pres. Bush probably should have used the bully pulpit to go to the people, but that was an esoteric subject for an uninformed public. I don’t understand why people on this site insist on offering insults like Smirk and Jerk and Junior. It just demonstrates anger and infantile tendencies. I do not think it would be helpful to a conservative proposition to refer to Pres. Obama as Alfred E. Newman even there is more than a passing similarity.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Whether you agree with or oppose free trade, history is replete with the adverse effects on economies with restricted trade.

It might also be helpful if when you cite “history” you know something about it. Industrial America was built on tariffs, beginning with the Whigs and Lincoln’s Republican Party into the 20th century.

Can there be anything more inane than to speak of a “free market” and “free trade” in 21st century America? In the land of agricultural tariffs, lobbyists writing legislation, Halliburton no bid cost plus contracts, the Pentagon honey pot and $ trillion bailouts for the bankers who are responsible for this mess, where’s the free market?

“Capitalism” does not describe our country, because the very rich - our rulers - risk nothing. Up or down, they win.

JIm said...

The following is to refute the misinformation of Butch, listing the monthly unemployment numbers before and after Smoot Hawley:

Thomas Sowell
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
“Let's start at square one, with the stock market crash in October 1929. Was this what led to massive unemployment?
Official government statistics suggest otherwise. So do new statistics on unemployment by two current scholars, Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway, in their book "Out of Work."
The Vedder and Gallaway statistics allow us to follow unemployment month by month. They put the unemployment rate at 5 percent in November 1929, a month after the stock market crash. It hit 9 percent in December - but then began a generally downward trend, subsiding to 6.3 percent in June 1930.
That was when the Smoot-Hawley tariffs were passed, against the advice of economists across the country, who warned of dire consequences.
Five months after the Smoot-Hawley tariffs, the unemployment rate hit double digits for the first time in the 1930s.
This was more than a year after the stock market crash. Moreover, the unemployment rate rose to even higher levels under both Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt, both of whom intervened in the economy on an unprecedented scale.
Before the Great Depression, it was not considered to be the business of the federal government to try to get the economy out of a depression.
But the Smoot-Hawley tariff - designed to save American jobs by restricting imports - was one of Hoover's interventions, followed by even bigger interventions by FDR.”

Curtis Faville said...

Jim:

There is no such thing as free trade.

If the U.S. lets in Chinese manufactured goods, American companies are not allowed to do the same in China.

Fact: American companies are not allowed a level playing field in China. De-facto tariffs and bureacratic nonsense set up by the Chinese government deliberately to frustrate foreign incursions. The balance of payment problems is directly attributable to the fact that Amercan companies CAN'T sell cars and washing-machines and computers and scrub-brushes and tractors and injection needles in China, because it's a closed economy. I'm sorry, but this isn't free trade. Free trade has become a code word for multi-national corporations exploiting American tax systems, and foreign workers, and foreign governments, to maximize profits, making things "over there" and selling them for enormous profits "here." It's a lie.

At the very time when corporate profits have been rising consistently over the last quarter century, the real incomes of American families have been dropping steadily in real terms. When I was growing up, most families were one-wage-earner units; today most households have two-wage-earners. That's not progress, especially when you consider the COMBINED INCOME of BOTH is LESS than the REAL INCOME of ONE WORKER in 1955!

What's happened is that American capital has been allowed to take the domestic revenue profits, evade most of its nominal tax obligation, and use part of that fat to buy influence in Washington, perpetuating the rip-off.

My wife and I pay a hefty tax bill. Most of the people making over $500,000 a year can afford smart accountants to completely avoid paying any taxes, through loop-holes and foreign account sequestration.

It's time the CEO's and Boards of America's major corporations cinched up their belts and took a big pay cut. No individual is worth 10 million a year, even if he/she "hits 100 home runs in a season." The way American corporate executives have been performing lately, they should be grateful they're not being run out of town on a rail. It's certainly what they deserve.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Rush Limbaugh is an admirer of Sowell's writing and considers him an "honest Thinker". [30] -Wikipedia (citing the NY Times)

Is there a pattern here? Jlm makes a broad assertion based on no evidence. When called on it he answers by cutting and pasting a quote from a discredited source that doesn’t even back up his assertion.

Jlm is offering more of the same shit that got us to where we are.

Cut and paste, cut and paste.

JIm said...

Butch,
In your liberal mind, ideology trumps unemployment figures relative to when the tariffs were passed. Just because Rush quotes Sowell, does not make him a good or bad economist. The unemployment numbers are from another source. I can not vouch for the veracity of it but then again I don't think anyone is calling Sowell a dishonest man.

Curtis,
I can not dispute most of what you say. I agree there are degrees of free trade and there are and have been abuses in Capitalism. The question for our time is, would the US economy do better and recover quicker under restrictive trade policies and higher taxes for corporations and investors or would we bounce back with continued “Freer Trade Policies” and lower or possibly, at least temporarily, zero corporate and capital gains tax. I believe, that relative recent history of tax cuts under JFK, Reagan and George W. suggest the latter would be the better course. What is more important, the Liberal idea of “Fairness” or what works.

PS I believe that Clinton’s 1990’s tax increases were offset by an explosion of economic activity that started before he came to office and raised taxes. But, reasonable men can differ.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Our host might find the following short article interesting. It’s about the economic crises in Ireland, who is going to pay for it, with a special guest appearance of one the great hypocrites of our age.

http://www.counterpunch.org/mccann02262009.html

JIm said...

The Obama administration's war against the American economy continues. US corporations, employees, investors and the general population are suffering and see no relief in the offing. His budget and high tax policy is insanity in a recession trying to become a depression and is remeniscent of the Hoover/FDR mistakes. The Dow is down 4% today with no confidence that we have hit bottom yet.

JIm said...

The "Man Made Global Warming Crowd" continue to have inpecable timing.

"Global warming activists stormed Washington Monday for what was billed as the nation's largest act of civil disobedience to fight climate change -- only to see the nation's capital virtually shut down by a major winter storm."

JIm said...

The Obama administration's tax hyprocracy continues.

"Trade Nominee Ron Kirk to Pay $10,000 in Back Taxes
Ron Kirk, nominated as U.S. Trade Representative in the Obama administration, owes an estimated $10,000 in back taxes from earlier in the decade."

JIm said...

Enemies List!
Isn't nostalgia grand. I have not given the"Nixon Haldeman Years" much thought, but we now have those tactics reimployed with the "Obama Emmanuel Enemies list". So far, it only includes Rush, Rick Santelli and now even Jim Kramer a liberal stock picker/tv guy. They have all had the audacity to disagree with Obama's misguided economic program. It used to be a badge of merit to be on Nixon's list. I suspect the same will be so of Obama' Enemey's list.