Friday, March 13, 2009

Obama Speaks to “Print Brethren” on Economics and Border Control

In a recent meeting with regional newspapers President Obama plead his case for the pork laden Omnibus Spending Bill( Text Here) by attacking opposition to the Bill by the GOP. Apparently, the President feels that Republicans should be saying “Yes” to whatever Congress throws at the Public, because “Saying No is Easy”. The assertion that Republican’s were the only one’s saying “No” to the massive budget is patently false. In a recent show of true bi-partisanship, Bayh (D), joined DeMint (R), in vocal opposition to the budget Further, the fact that Republican solutions existed, and were not heard – but blocked by Speaker Pelosi, has been reported.

The President then made a direct appeal to reporters to come to his aid and peddle his agenda to the people:

"all of which we name in the hopes that our dear readers will support the efforts of these great institutions in these difficult times for the country, and for our print brethren.
"I think that we can always do a better job" in communicating his administration's approach to fixing the financial mess, the president conceded.

It was time to deflect and move past the economic questions, therefore, Obama focused briefly on the newest rumor regarding his placement of U.S. Military on the Mexican Border, due to escalating violence creeping over the border from Mexico. In his initial remark, Obama noted that deployment of National Guard troops was a possibility, and closed with: “I’m not interested in militarizing the border.” (ABC) Further, CNN is reporting that the Pentagon has not received a request for border troops.

The problem with placing Troops on the border is twofold, one it would stop the flow of drug and gang traffic into the United States, thereby reducing Mexico’s GDP further, and two, it would prevent additional illegal entry by those who are still interested in crossing the border to the States. Additionally, Obama is not a fan of closed borders, rather he prefers immigration reform. (Otherwise known as open borders.)
The “press conference” was attended by reporters from the Birmingham News, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Dallas Morning News, Albuquerque Journal, Denver Post, Kansas City Star, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Des Moines Register, Orlando Sentinel and Cleveland Plain Dealer. With more scrutiny being placed on the administration by the press, it is questionable whether his message will play in any of those regions.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Watching the Numbers – Obama - 37% Now Strongly Approve Performance

Rasmussendaily tracking poll showed a slight decrease in President Obama’s scorecard, losing 4 points in a week, down from 41% on March 6. Meanwhile, Congress is enjoying a “resurgence” with 18% strongly approving performance – representing an increase in the past two weeks, where it stood at 12%.

What’s in a poll? One has to question the conventional wisdom of adding “leaner’s” (those who somewhat approve or somewhat disapprove”) into the final poll numbers, as is done in all pollsters analysis. Those that are “sitting on the fence”, should be factored into separate categories; not doing so leaves a false impression that the poll subject is either doing more poorly or much better than reality dictates.

In analysis over the drop in President Obama’s strongly approve numbers, one can point to several factors that are the driving force (including those shifting from somewhat approve to strongly disapprove) behind this startling decline in favor in less than two months of taking office. The economy is a factor, there is no doubt, but it is less the economy than the reaction to the “crisis” that is a problem. The daily insistence that the economy is in dire straits and will be for some time to come, not only affects the average voter, but the forces that drive the markets. Additionally, the lack of transparency, and the continued “business as usual” in regards to pork barrel projects, has the nation up in arms. The Spending Bill, signed into law yesterday, was done so without much ado (and also without great fanfare – see Stem Cell Reversal signing to compare), and contains pork spending that has seen no equal to date. Alternately, news stories abound about the rather opulent lifestyle that is being led in the White House, while most in the nation are being told to “tighten their belts” by the main occupant.

Is it no wonder, therefore, that comparisons are being drawn to former president Jimmy Carter? – It is so not much the similarities, (although some are eerily similar), it is that Carter’s popularity among the voters dropped significantly, due to his left of center approach to governing, and the appearance that certain decisions he made were not all that swift. (For lack of better phraseology). One has to take into consideration that the majority of the country is either moderately conservative or committed conservative, leaving a scant one third that identify themselves as “liberal”. It follows that, a backlash will occur, especially in this age of impatience. Speculation on 2010 elections has begun, and pollsters will be busy - one thing that is constant in government and this Republic – is the perception that the head of a Party is responsible for each party member, and therefore, a party “brand” can become damaged, regardless of an individual Congressional office holders performance. That was true in 2006 and again in 2008, and will, in all likelihood, repeat the performance in 2010.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Poll Shows Trouble in the Nutmeg State for Chris Dodd - Other 2010 DNC Trouble Spots

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac and Released on March 10 , shows long time Democrat Senator Chris Dodd with his “Fannie” in a sling. In a match up with a virtual unknown Republican congressman, Rob Simmons, Dodd is running 1 point behind. Dodd, who has racked up unfavorable ratings due to problems with mortgage issues, (at least that is what is assumed vis a vis this poll), believes this is a temporary set-back. However, voter registration in Connecticut State resembles that of neighboring Massachusetts, where independent or unaffiliated voters are in the majority.
One has to recall that this is the same state that recently gave the boot to New York Times Endorsed Ned Lamont in favor of Lieberman who is viewed as a centrist. Lieberman, ousted by his own Party, ran as an independent. It was the independent vote, with the help of the minority Republican Party that put Lieberman back in the saddle.

What is most interesting is that, this early in the game, a candidate unknown outside of his own district, will beat an incumbent, regardless of party. Should the RCN kick it up a notch (and there is reason to believe Michael Steele will put a focus on the Northeast), then Chris Dodd and Harry Reid can spend some quality time together in the not too distant future.

Other Democrat Senate Seats in play, but not necessarily of interest at this point due to lack of any data;
Blanche Lincoln, AR, Barbara Boxer, CA, (Logic dictates she should hold that seat as long as Bob Byrd has held his), Michael Bennet CO, Daniel Iouye HI, Roland Burris ILL (this one should be fun), Evan Bayh, IN (see Boxer), Barbara Mikulski, MD (see Burris), Kristen Gillibrand, NY (see Burris), Chuck Schumer, NY (See Boxer), Byron Dorgan, ND, Ron Wyden, OR, Pat Leahy, VT, Patty Murary, WA, and the leftist of the Senate (seriously), Feingold, WI.

In a related article by the LA Times entitled: “GOP sees its 2010 chances improve -- thanks to Obama”, the point: vacancies left by Senators taking Cabinet positions have left an opening for the GOP, and further notes that should the economy not improve, the GOP will be given an added boost.

The economy, although some analysts are hoping for a 2009 rebound (calling a 5% increase in one day of trading a "bear market" may be premature), may not turn around quite as quickly, and burgeoning Federal Programs, bloated budgets and regulation being put into place should push the rate of inflation higher than the current unemployment rate. (A Jimmy Carter scenario). It is, as of this writing, too late for Democrat incumbents to battle history, and the increasingly impatient general public, who demands instant results (rightly or wrongly ), leaving any incumbent now affiliated with Donkey brand in a position where they either play nice with conservatives and vote for fiscal restraint or stand in danger of losing their seat (Again, see Bayh one of three Democrats to oppose the massive pork-ridden Omnibus spending bill.) Either certain Democrats are horrified the concept of tax and spend, or an election is looming. Voting against massive spending at this point, may be too little too late. After all, 2010 races were being planned across the country immediately following the 2008 races (and possibly before), events in 2009 will shape the races in 2010, and should the economy in 2010 improve only slightly, the probability of shift in Washington party power is increased.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So Long Harry? – Speculation growing for 2010 Romney Nevada Senate Run

Photo Ethan Miller from Zimbio

Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and 2008 Presidential Candidate is rumored to be positioning himself for a run at Harry Reid’s Nevada Senate Seat – and these “rumors” are not without some credence. Romney was a virtual unknown in Massachusetts prior to his run for the Governor’s Office and it was “rumored” that Romney was “brought in” to take the top job. Additionally, at that time, there were questions raised by Massachusetts Democrats and the New York Times, about his residency in Utah. Republican’s do win in Massachusetts, known as the “bluest state”, but it takes a well-funded candidate, running against a troubled incumbent or, in Romney’s Massachusetts case, a less competent Democrat candidate, to win an election. (Watch for a competent G.O.P. candidate to run against embattled Gov. Duval Patrick in 2010.) Romney worked well within Massachusetts Political circles, keeping the Democrat controlled statehouse in check (as best he could), the budget in line, all the while straddling a fence between being “too liberal” and “too conservative” – no mean feat.

The speculation began with an article in a weekly newspaper, the Pahrump Valley Times. A local doctor, Frank Toppo, had received tickets from Harry Reid to attend Obama’s inauguration, and while there, he apparently was given a tip on Romney’s Nevada designs.

Frank Toppo passed along some political scuttlebutt from inside the Beltway: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is planning to move to Nevada to challenge Sen. Reid for his seat in the 2010 election.

This story was followed by an article in the Reno, NV, News Review

Online columnist Sally Denton (a Nevada native and author of a book on Nevada politics): “Rumors swirl in Las Vegas that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in the process of establishing residency in Nevada with his eye toward unseating his fellow Mormon.”
David Bernstein in the Boston Phoenix in Romney’s home state: “Mitt vs. Harry Reid? If you’re looking to sell a palatial estate in Nevada, I think I might know somebody who’ll be looking to buy soon. … Hint: Mormonism is an asset in Nevada. (Reid is Mormon, in fact.) Romney, you might recall, campaigned hard in Nevada and won the caucuses there, helping to blunt his loss in South Carolina. The genius of running against Reid is that, win or lose, Romney becomes a hero to the GOP just for taking it on. I think he’s planning to do it. Of course, he doesn’t actually live there, but that’s easily fixed.”

Once again, a tip, and a rumor are merely circumstantial, that said, the circumstantial evidence is beginning to pile up. From February, 19th, Boston Globe comes an article outlining the Romney’s selling two of their properties, a home Belmont, Massachusetts and a ski lodge in Deer Valley, Utah, with a combined estimated sale value of $8.25 million. A spokesman for the Romney’s insists that the former Governor is downsizing and intends to buy a condo in the Bay State.

Romney, who recently won the straw poll at the recent CPAC convention, is being held up as a candidate for 2012 by members of that organization. That said; the same organization pushed the 2008 Romney candidacy, which was less than successful. CPAC, is a Conservative PAC with a fiscal conservative bent. Roughly 7,000 people attended the last convention, where Rush Limbaugh was the keynote speaker. In other words, CPAC is holds a “conservative” convention rather than a GOP convention. (Yes, there is a difference.) “Romney for 2012” enthusiasts are confident that the “rumors” of a Nevada senate run are false. They may, once again, be mistaken.

Facts: Mitt Romney is an avid campaigner, has no qualms about moving into a state in order to take a high office, has the funds to do so, and will have the backing of the Nevada RNC if he does choose to run against Reid. Reid, is facing a tough road in 2010, regardless of who the opposition may be. Not to go unnoticed, Romney has also put in three appearances in Nevada with new Nevada State GOP Chair, Sue Lowden.

Romney as party loyalist, would have the honor of knocking off an incumbent Democrat Senate Majority Leader (Daschle), he would find himself in an immediate leadership role within the Senate Republican ranks, given that he has strong GOP contacts in both Nevada and neighboring Utah – this “speculation” may be more fact than mere “rumor”. What to watch for? An established Romney Presence in Nevada by the end of 2009.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Analysis: Obama Blame Game Revisited - No to More TARP Funds, Let GM & CITI restructure

The situation with bailouts, via the “Taxpayer”, has grown to scandalous proportions, with fiscal conservatives stating that the bailouts should end. John McCain and Richard Shelby, (R. AL) made strong cases while making the Sunday Talk Show circuit. (From AP)

“Close them down, get them out of business. If they're dead, they ought to be buried," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "We bury the small banks; we've got to bury some big ones and send a strong message to the market. And I believe that people will start investing in banks."
The faltering giant Citibank—the government recently increased its stake in the New York bank to more than 30 percent—has always been "a problem child," Shelby said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said administration officials have erred in not dealing more specifically—and harshly—with banks and the lending crisis.
"I don't think they've made the tough decisions. Some of these banks have to fail," McCain said on "Fox News Sunday."

Meanwhile, the Administration, via budget director, Peter Orszag, suggested that patience in order, suggesting that the current crisis should be laid squarely on the shoulders of the Bush Administration, and that any remedy will take time.
TARP did originate during the final months of the Bush administration, that said, the institution that created the original “crisis” was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, lenders that were deeply connected, in both lack of oversight and politically to the Democrat Party since its creation under Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938. additionally, when these two mortgage giants faltered, it affected the entire industry, and the housing bubble burst. Back in July of 2008, when it was discovered those two partially government run agencies were in trouble, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said "Senate Democrats stand ready to work with the administration to quickly and effectively address the situation currently facing these institution."
Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, speaking with reporters before the plan was announced, said he favored congressional action to shore up the housing market, as well as legislative consultation about any taxpayer dollars used to support the mortgage companies.”

It would make perfect sense to the Democrat Party to save an institution created by one of their most valued historical figures, Franklin D. Roosevelt. What did not make sense was that; as this problem did not occur overnight, those who were asking for oversight (John McCain, for one), were brushed aside by the Democrat Controlled Congress and Senate, and did nothing further to follow up (shame on them). The scenario was on in which the fox was guarding the henhouse and the watchdogs lost their bark.
By November, 2008 calls for release of information on how that TARP money was being spent by those who had received the initial installment, were summarily dismissed by none other than Barney Frank (D-MA) and then New York Fed Chair Timothy Geithner. Both of these financial geniuses believed they were “pretty sure” all was well.

“I talked to Geithner, and he was pretty sure that they’re OK,” Frank told Bloomberg.
We’ll all no doubt sleep easier knowing that our government has loaned $2 trillion to potentially troubled financial institutions and the guardians of our economy are “pretty sure they’re OK.”
Frank added that revealing the collateral would give people clues as to the value of those assets.

In December, when it was found that it was “pretty clear”, there were problems with TARP funds, GAO began to call for oversight.
It was not, therefore, eight years of Bush economic policy, as suggested by Orszag, rather the core root of this problem, is a 70 year old institution conceived and run by past administrations. What can be laid at the feet of the Bush administration was a mistake in attempting to work with a congress and senate from an opposition party during an election year, in what, one can only believe, Bush felt was in the best interest of the nation.
One must understand that the government can lock the henhouse and stop the bleeding of taxpayer dollars by allowing these institutions to simply fail. In a column by George Will over the proposed auto bailouts, Will offered the following:

“But why the corporate welfare for GM, Ford and Chrysler? Ford's assembly plant in Louisville, Ky., is participating in that company's struggles. The Toyota plant in Georgetown, Ky., is flourishing in the other American auto industry: It is located largely in the South, employs 92,000 Americans and is not in the toils of the cost structure Ford and GM negotiated with the United Auto Workers. Lemon socialism – the subsidization of the weak – is supposedly needed lest a U.S. automaker file for bankruptcy, causing the sort of disorder and social chaos that accompanied the disappearance of Studebaker, Packard, American Motors and others.”

Although Will was speaking to the auto industry, the same can be said of any industry in this country, be it a bank, or retail outlet; historically, where one fails, another takes it place. As the Obama administration addresses a myriad of issues, including finding a new Bush to hate (Rush Limbaugh), the rest of the country is not only losing patience, they are no longer amused. It is, at this point, ridiculous to play “Monday Morning Quarterback” and for those of opposing political parties (specifically the one now in charge) to point fingers (in light of an historical trail of evidence to the contrary), rather, it is time to cut the fat from both the pork (Omnibus) and additional bailouts, and focus not on going back to failed economic playbooks, but to pull up some bootstraps, work with Wall Street (see dwindling 401k’s, that affect workers across the economic spectrum), and pump some money into the private sector, through real tax cuts (both corporate and individual), with limited regulation on those industries that are critical to the economic survival of the country.

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