29 January 2010

Throwing NASA Under the Bus

In direct contradiction to his many claims to make objective decisions based on sound science, and in particular, space science, President Obama intends to deliver a budget request to Congress that eliminates public funding of manned space missions, and that limits manned space flight to a mere 'taxi service' to the International Space Station. The Ares rocket is to be cancelled with no replacement program, essentially throwing the money already spent on R&D down the drain. Given the current economy and deficit, one might expect to the have the program delayed or curtailed to some degree, but to completely cancel it with no plan except private funding it ludicrous. Given his earlier stated aversion to using private contractors, and insistence that replacing them would save money, this seems an odd way for him to change his mind.

See Nancy .... Pole Vault?

Apparently, Nancy Pelosi thinks that health care reform is an Olympic sport, rather than a very serious reorganization of 1/6th of the economy.
'“It means, we will move on many fronts, any front we can,” Ms. Pelosi said. “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people, for their own personal health and economic security, and for the important role that it will play in reducing the deficit.”'
The two fences she has to surmount are general public opposition, and more specific concerns by various Democratic factions. Even rah-rah cheerleader, Mary Landrieu, took at shot at the president today. Perhaps if the president were to get serious about bipartisanship, they'd have a way forward, but short of that, it seems unlikely that either the Senate or the House bill can pass as written. The latest proposals center around breaking the bills up into manageable pieces, but as Pelosi's first-up piece has nothing to do with decreasing costs or increasing competitiveness, it's difficult to take her seriously.
'Aides said that a first candidate for a stand-alone measure could be the proposal to eliminate the exemption from federal antitrust law that health insurance companies have long enjoyed. Such a proposal was incorporated in the larger House health care bill.'
I wonder which event Pelosi is competing in?

28 January 2010

Debt Ceiling Raised to $1.9 Trillion

As discussed here three days ago, the debt ceiling has been raised to a whopping $1.9 - trillion, on a strictly party-line vote. The Dems hope they don't have to vote to raise it again before November 2, but they have already signalled that it will be raised again no matter what.

27 January 2010

SOTU 2010 - Continuously updated

UPDATE 20: Final updates.
The text of President Obama's speech is here, and the text of the Republican response is here.
Video on the job (e.g., stimulus bill in hiding) is below:

Video clips and various pundit response from the SOTU are here.

UPDATE 19: The Republican response did a great job of re-establishing what the core values of the party are. President Obama gave a 'super-market' of a speech (Shields on PBS - great line), rather than a 'hand your hat on this' speech. It was a well-delivered, but not very memorable speech.

Interesting - Gov. McDonnell is giving the speech in the VA House Chamber.
Summary of main points:
1. Encouraged by emphasis on jobs, but concerned about the specifics.
2. Wants more emphasis on entrepreneurship, and lack of government interference (quoting Jefferson).
3. Warning against the great, growing, government, debt and deficit. "... restore the proper, limited role of government. Without reform, the excessive role of government limits..."
4. Health Care Reform - yes, we need reform, but not this way. Particularly emphasizing tort reform and increased competition. "And our solutions are 1,000 page bills that no one has fully read, and that were drafted behind closed doors." Solutions.org.
5. Especially likes the first two energy points, and somewhat the third. Hates cap-and-trade. Points out that while the Administration promotes with one hand, it's policies have delayed oil exploration and nuclear development, and that cap and trade limits growth.
6. He agrees with the President on education development.
7. Security: his oldest daughter was an Army PL in Iraq. Agrees with responsible draw down in Iraq and redeployment to Afghanistan. "But we have serious concerns with the recent steps the Administration has taken ..." Quoted Scott Brown: "We should be spending tax-payer dollars to defeat terrorists, not defend them."
8. "Republicans know that government can not guarantee outcomes, but we strongly believe that it [can provide] equal opportunity..." Arguing against intrusive government growth into auto industry, banking sectors, energy companies, etc. "Government closest to the people governs best. And no government program can ever replace caring Americans, freely giving, to one another. As Scripture says, 'to whom much is given, much will be required.'"
9. We're entering better times, and need to work together to make it so.

UPDATE 17: While waiting - compare all the prior SOTU speeches.

Governor Bob McDonnell (VA) will be giving the Republican response.

Going into serious speech mode in the wrap-up. It's hard to assess the effect of this section since I think much of the meat of the speech was internally contradictory, but the language is good. It's far more hopeful and positive (and patriotic for that matter) than I've heard him be in a long time. We'll see how things pan out over the next few weeks. I'm interested in hearing the wrap-up and Republican response.

Calling for repealing 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' and more vigorous enforcement of employment discrimination law.

Haiti: 12,000 Americans in relief and development work.
"For America must always stand on the side of human freedom and dignity." Great line - I wish he had more vigorously and immediately applied it during last summer's Green Revolution in Tehran, even if it didn't help.

Security: In the past year, hundreds of Al Qaeda's leadership captured or killed; affirm good governance in Afghanistan; "responsibly leaving Iraq ... to its people." "By the end of this August, we will have all combat troops out of Iraq." Emphasizing support of troops upon return. "That's why we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in decades - last year."
"The United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest reachings [yes, that was the word] arms-control agreements in two decades." Claiming that sanctions on North Korea are being vigorously enforced - lots of questions here - and that Iran is isolated (umm, no, not really).

"... But what frustrates the American people is the idea that every day is election day. We shouldn't have a perpetual campaign." Err, isn't that what you have Mr. President? While saying that he's speaking to both parties, he clearly is slamming the Republicans, scolding them for "just saying no to everything." "I'd like to being monthly meetings with both Democrat and Republican leadership." I'd sincerely love to see this happen.

"I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars it took to rescue the economy last year." He's getting into the discretionary spending freeze proposal and threatens a veto of bills that don't comply - only works if he's serious. He's also talking about removing tax relief to 'financial managers,' 'those making over $200K,' and other evil people. He will create a Presidential commission on 'debt-relief.' He's being awfully sarcastic and snotty, both in tone and word now - finally got around to the blame Bush canard.
"It's time to finally realize that we face more than a [budget] deficit ..., we face a deficit of trust." Very true, but you seem to fail to realize that some of that loss of trust is in you, your administration and Congress.

"... But if anyone has a better idea to bring down premiums and [reduce costs] let me know." Here are several ideas Mr. President: serious, comprehensive tort reform; eliminate barriers to competition; eliminate incentives for insurance companies to be providers of health care; incentivize responsible consumer decision-making; incentivize MSAs.

Ahhh - there it is. "... to relieve the burden on middle class families, that we still need health insurance reform. Now, let's clear a few things up." (First thought - don't be so snotty). Every poll out there now says that the public is not with him on this - they want reform, but not the way Congress is going about it. Back to the drawing board! It's clear he has no intention of going back to that board, and I seriously doubt Pelosi and Reid have that intention either.

I personally love the idea of paying less on student loans, but how the heck can we afford it? It's fine to say that colleges and universities should reduce costs (and I fully agree - they're completely disproportionate), but again, government can't do this.

Invest in schools: no problems with his emphasis on performance-based evaluation.

'National Export Initiative': "We will double our exports in the next five years. It's totally impossible for government to accomplish this. All government can do is open doors and smooth the path.

1. Safe, clean nuclear power plants
2. New drilling offshore
3. Investment in fuel-alternatives
4. Energy and climate bill

The first three received broad-spread bipartisan applause, while the fourth point received very little (even from the Dems). I agree with this line: "providing incentives for energy efficiency ... is the right thing to do." But, having the government drive a 'green economy' won't lead to an effective, efficient and green economy. This has to be a bottom-up strategy to succeed.

Beat those evil businesses that 'ship jobs overseas.' Never mind if they also contribute to jobs and the economy here, or if there are other jobs coming here.

Implying that the US is not investing in its future. "I do not accept 2nd Place for the United States of America." I'm not sure exactly what he means by this. "It's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth ... I'm not interested in punishing banks, I'm interested in protecting our economy." Punitive fees and taxes punish banks. I agree with the concept that we should separate traditional banking from high-risk investment institutions, but creating yet another layer of bureaucracy won't do the trick.

Tax cuts enacted helped to save money and keep folks employed. Is that why unemployment shot up to 10%? Resorts to the 'saved jobs' canard - no data to back this up, so it's impossible to either prove or disprove.
On track to add another 1.5 M jobs due to the 'Recovery Act' (e.g. stimulus bill) - wow! I thought he'd abandon saying this after all of the controversy over numbers.

Calling for a new jobs bill, stating that the "... true engine of jobs [creation] in this country will always be small business:
1. Loan stimulation at local banks to local business - if done effectively, this could have a dramatic impact.
2. Tax breaks for small and large business - good!
3. Cut capital gains taxes on small businesses - good!
If they could actually pass a bill that focused just on these three components, it could be very effective.

1. Started out telling us what we already know - people are PO'd.
2. Fee on banks to 'recover' the bailout dollars left unpaid. Regardless of whether or not that particular bank took a bailout or paid it back?
3. Don't worry about the raised taxes - we've also cut.

Just before SOTU, the RCP average spread of President Obama's job approval numbers has dropped by 3 points in a twenty-four hour period. Only NBC and CBS show approval at 50%; the remaining polls (NPR, CNN, Gallup, Rasmussen, all have approval ratings at less than 50%. Rasmussen and CNN both show negative approval ratings (-7 and -1 respectively).

Polling Data

PollDateSampleApprove Disapprove Spread
RCP Average1/14 - 1/26--48.746.3 +2.4
NBC News/Wall St. Jrnl1/23 - 1/25800 A5044 +6
NPR - POS/GQR1/20 - 1/23800 LV4948 +1
Gallup1/24 - 1/261547 A4846 +2
Rasmussen Reports1/24 - 1/261500 LV4653 -7
CNN/Opinion Research1/22 - 1/241009 A4950 -1
CBS News1/14 - 1/171090 A5037 +13

See All President Obama Job Approval Polling Data

Tacking Into the Wind

President Obama seems to be wavering between two options for tonight's SOTU speech.

Option 1: Tack to the middle. Moderates in his party are demanding this, and are trying to block efforts to resuscitate the health care bill through reconciliation. Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi seem to realize that efforts to ram through a compromise bill are dead, and the House will not pass the Senate bill without modification.
'Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters, “We’re not on health care now.” As for the schedule to get it done, he said, “there is no rush.”'
  • 'Speaker Pelosi has said House Democrats will not simply vote to approve the health care bill adopted by the Senate on Dec. 24, and send it directly to Mr. Obama for his signature.
  • Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said, “We are not passing the Senate bill period.”'

Option 2: Assume that sinking poll numbers are due to a failure to go populist enough. This seems to be the tack that the President is leaning toward. With this option, he can accept blame for not ramming through his priorities fast-enough, without considering that those priorities may be unwanted or unwarranted.

'When Mr. Obama presents his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening, aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame, for failing to deliver swiftly on some of the changes he promised a year ago. But he will not, aides said, accede to criticism that his priorities are out of step with the nation’s.'

Neither option will win over all of the President's own party, much less the independents who are deserting in droves, but it will be interesting to see which option he chooses tonight. The one consistent lesson this White House seems to draw from setbacks is that it can talk its way out of them. I doubt this, given consistent drops in all polls despite much talk, but he'll certainly try.

24 January 2010

Ceiling? What Ceiling?

Politico reports:
'In a bold but risky year-end strategy, Democrats are preparing to raise the federal debt ceiling by as much as $1.8 trillion before New Year’s rather than have to face the issue again prior to the 2010 elections.'
Of course, they haven't quite succeeded in beating the New Year's deadline, and the loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat to Scott Brown, may change the calculus, but this would be the third time to raise the debt ceiling since President Obama took office. From The Hill:
'Both the White House and the independent Congressional Budget Office last month said that they expect the debt to increase by another $9 trillion over the next decade. Should the Senate follow the House's lead and set the new debt limit at $13 trillion, lawmakers would probably have to raise the limit again next year, when the Obama administration expects to run a $1.5 trillion deficit.'
On Christmas Eve, the Senate raised the ceiling marginally by $290-billion, buying a little more time, but the Senate will raise the ceiling in February. Presumably, they hope that voters are too stupid to notice this come November. Perhaps they hope to stage "Hope - The Obama Musical Story," at the Kennedy Center, by way of distraction.

Team Rubicon in Haiti

Many thanks to Blackfive for promoting Team Rubicon. They are probably one of the most effective med-relief organizations out there, and are doing tremendous work in Haiti. Have an extra $10 to $25? Team Rubicon will use it efficiently and to great effect.

20 January 2010

Tales from the Other Side of the Crypt

As I wrote yesterday, I think it's important that Republicans take care to not over-reach following the the phenomenal win by Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election. Hubris has brought the party low very recently. Nonetheless, the win should clearly signal that the public thinks that the Obama administration and Congressional leadership have moved too far to the left, and is particularly discontented with the health care reform bills, lack of transparency and the economic recovery proposals. Repeated polling, by non-partisan polling organizations, have demonstrated that voters are royally angry at the health care bill, security failures and general direction of the country.

Strangely, some on the left have reached the crazy conclusion that blue-Massachusetts elected a center-right candidate because Congress has not gone far enough left. If the administration buys 'move-left' drive, they may very well drive voters to vote for the GOP out of sheer reactionary anger. Those reaching this conclusion are calling for health care reform to pass through reconciliation, whereby the bill would be passed only on budgetary issues. Such a process would eliminate many of the current special arrangements in the bill, but arguments are being made to re-insert a public option, under the assumption that it could be massaged to (at least in the short term) be fiscally neutral under CBO assessment.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Where does the GOP go from here? Elections over the last four years have repeatedly demonstrated that the voters do not want the extremes from either side. The majority of the country has been for some time, and looks likely to remain, center-right. This can play against both parties, where the tendency is to move to the extremes. Brown campaigned (and his voting record as a state senator bears this out) as a center-right candidate. He effectively captured voter anger over the economy, security issues and the health care reform proposals. He has never suggested that health care reform should be abandoned, but rather that Congress and the administration are going about it the wrong way. The GOP needs to do more than just say no to the left, it needs to formulate successful, well-thought out, counter proposals. If considered, detailed proposals are put up for debate by the public, we will have a much better chance of effectively moving policy, and of gaining seats in November.

19 January 2010

Brown Wins! Results of Massachusetts Special Election - Constantly Updated

UPDATE 7: Highlights from the Brown victory speech: "I bet they can hear this cheering all the way in Washington D.C." That would be the reason you were elected - he does seem to get this. "The independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken ... the independent majority has delivered a great victory." The crowd is chanting "41, 41, 41." Brown - "This Senate seat belongs to no one person, no one political party ... this is the people's seat." Crowd now chanting "seat him now." Sen. Kirk apparently willing to step aside as soon as possible. "I'm ready to go to Washington without delay." Brown is giving fairly gracious praise to Ted and Vicky Kennedy. He clearly understands the independent nature of his state.

UPDATE 6: Highlights from the Coakley concession speech: Martha Coakley concedes by saying that Brown has "... two lovely daughters." Yes, he does, but what does that have to do with anything? She appears to have only her own staffers applauding during her concession speech. "I headed out on the campaign trail for the last two days." That would explain, in part, why she lost by a larger-than-predicted margin.

UPDATE 5: Awaiting Brown's speech. Current results - Brown, 52%; Coakley, 47%; Kennedy, 1%.

UPDATE 4: Fox News is reporting the Martha Coakley has conceded. Scott Brown is maintaining at 53% with 75% of precincts reporting. AP reports the same.

UPDATE 3: With 70% of precincts reporting, the results below remain the same. Even Dems are breaking for Brown to some extent (although turnout for Dems may be low despite pleading from all in the party). Independents are overwhelmingly breaking for Brown, and largely over the health care reform debate.

UPDATE 2: Per Fox News - Brown 53%: Coakley 46%

UPDATE 1: Live blogging with reader feedback @ RealClearPolitics.com: http://realclearpolitics.blogs.time.com/2010/01/19/massachusetts-senate-race-live-blog/.

Preliminary results show Scott Brown holding on to a solid majority of votes. Updates will continue throughout the night.

They're Baaaaaack!

.... and so is the ModCon - just in time for the MA senatorial election. The next person to hold one of the two senatorial seats in Massachuetts will be decided within the hour, bickering not withstanding. While the DNC may be hoping against hope, much of the country is deciding that hope and change lie in different direction than envisioned by the administration. Should Scott Brown (the Republican candidate) win, much of the focus from the left will be on who to blame, while many on the right will focus on resurgence (even with a Brown loss).

But I think that we on the right need to focus on something else entirely. It's quite clear that, while turnout will be important in determining the outcome of the race, it is the turnout among independents that will be the most important. Lost in all the coverage is the blunt fact that the majority of voters in MA, while leaning left, are actually registered Independent. Independents are the ones who have really pushed the Brown campaign forward, and their ire has been raised against Republicans and Democrats alike. Independents were also largely responsible for Obama's win last year, and their dramatic shift away from he, and the Congressional leadership, can not necessarily be attributed to a sympathy with all things Republican. Republicans would do well to take as much of a lesson from the outcome of this election, whatever it may be, as Dems - failure to support economic revival and to protect the country will not be tolerated from anyone, regardless of party.

More will be posted as election results come in.

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