Friday, February 27

Bear Market Comparisons 1929-2009

The chart below is a comparison of the current market to all previous bear markets — including Friday’s new low on the Dow.

Fact Checking Obama's Speech

The Associated Press provided a nice fact check of Obama's Tuesday night speech:

President Barack Obama knows Americans are unhappy that their taxes will be used to rescue people who bought mansions beyond their means.

But his assurance Tuesday night that only the deserving will get help rang hollow.

Even officials in his administration, many supporters of the plan in Congress and the Federal Reserve chairman expect some of that money will go to people who used lousy judgment.

The president skipped over several complex economic circumstances in his speech to Congress — and may have started an international debate among trivia lovers and auto buffs over what country invented the car.

A look at some of his assertions:

OBAMA: "We have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages. It's a plan that won't help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values."

THE FACTS: If the administration has come up with a way to ensure money only goes to those who got in honest trouble, it hasn't said so.
Defending the program Tuesday at a Senate hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it's important to save those who made bad calls, for the greater good. He likened it to calling the fire department to put out a blaze caused by someone smoking in bed.

"I think the smart way to deal with a situation like that is to put out the fire, save him from his own consequences of his own action but then, going forward, enact penalties and set tougher rules about smoking in bed."

Similarly, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. suggested this month it's not likely aid will be denied to all homeowners who overstated their income or assets to get a mortgage they couldn't afford.

"I think it's just simply impractical to try to do a forensic analysis of each and every one of these delinquent loans," Sheila Bair told National Public Radio.
OBAMA: "And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it."

THE FACTS: Depends what your definition of automobiles, is. According to the Library of Congress, the inventor of the first true automobile was probably Germany's Karl Benz, who created the first auto powered by an internal combustion gasoline engine, in 1885 or 1886. In the U.S., Charles Duryea tested what library researchers called the first successful gas-powered car in 1893. Nobody disputes that Henry Ford created the first assembly line that made cars affordable.
OBAMA: "We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before."

THE FACTS: Oil imports peaked in 2005 at just over 5 billion barrels, and have been declining slightly since. The figure in 2007 was 4.9 billion barrels, or about 58 percent of total consumption. The nation is on pace this year to import 4.7 billion barrels, and government projections are for imports to hold steady or decrease a bit over the next two decades.
OBAMA: "We have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade."

THE FACTS: Although 10-year projections are common in government, they don't mean much. And at times, they are a way for a president to pass on the most painful steps to his successor, by putting off big tax increases or spending cuts until someone else is in the White House.
Obama only has a real say on spending during the four years of his term. He may not be president after that and he certainly won't be 10 years from now.
OBAMA: "Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day."

THE FACTS: This may be so, but it isn't only Republicans who pushed for deregulation of the financial industries. The Clinton administration championed an easing of banking regulations, including legislation that ended the barrier between regular banks and Wall Street banks. That led to a deregulation that kept regular banks under tight federal regulation but extended lax regulation of Wall Street banks. Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, later an economic adviser to candidate Obama, was in the forefront in pushing for this deregulation.
OBAMA: "In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them. We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use. We will root out the waste, fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas."

THE FACTS: First, his budget does not accomplish any of that. It only proposes those steps. That's all a president can do, because control over spending rests with Congress. Obama's proposals here are a wish list and some items, including corporate tax increases and cuts in agricultural aid, will be a tough sale in Congress.

Second, waste, fraud and abuse are routinely targeted by presidents who later find that the savings realized seldom amount to significant sums. Programs that a president might consider wasteful have staunch defenders in Congress who have fought off similar efforts in the past.
OBAMA: "Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years."

THE FACTS: While the president's stimulus package includes billions in aid for renewable energy and conservation, his goal is unlikely to be achieved through the recovery plan alone.

In 2007, the U.S. produced 8.4 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, including hydroelectric dams, solar panels and windmills. Under the status quo, the Energy Department says, it will take more than two decades to boost that figure to 12.5 percent.

If Obama is to achieve his much more ambitious goal, Congress would need to mandate it. That is the thrust of an energy bill that is expected to be introduced in coming weeks.
OBAMA: "Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs."

THE FACTS: This is a recurrent Obama formulation. But job creation projections are uncertain even in stable times, and some of the economists relied on by Obama in making his forecast acknowledge a great deal of uncertainty in their numbers.

The president's own economists, in a report prepared last month, stated, "It should be understood that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error."

Beyond that, it's unlikely the nation will ever know how many jobs are saved as a result of the stimulus. While it's clear when jobs are abolished, there's no economic gauge that tracks job preservation. The estimates are based on economic assumptions of how many jobs would be lost without the stimulus.

Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Dina Cappiello contributed to this story.

Thursday, February 26

From One of those "Crazy" Right Radio Guys

(I've edited this for space and flow).

In 1996 we had a $1.6 trillion budget.

In 1999 we had a $1.8, 2000 with President Clinton was $1.9.

Then the first budget of Bush was $2.0, then $2.2, then $2.3, then $2.4, then $2.7, then $2.77, then $2.9.

We are now looking at $3.6 trillion, and that's just what's in the budget.

Now, why don't people care? Well, people don't care because 40% of this nation doesn't pay any income tax. They get money. And remember this $4 trillion budget is going to be paid for with just the wealthiest 2% of Americans. That's who's going to pay for it.

So now the top 2% is going to pay for it and nobody will pay a dime more under $250,000. So let's look at that.

Roughly 3.8 million people filed for income tax that make over $200,000. They don't break it down at $250,000, so the closest number we could get to is $200,000. These people paid $522 billion in income tax. Roughly 62% of everything paid in the United States came from the top 2%. 62% paid for by the top 2 percent? They paid $522 billion in income tax.

The richest 1% paid $408 billion, or 39.9% of all income tax. Now the top marginal rate currently is 35%. So far Barack Obama is saying he's going to raise it to 39.6% plus another 2 percentage points hidden in deduction phaseouts.

But it's never what he says it is. You always have to watch the other hand as well, and the other hand is taking two additional. So you are now at 41.6% of your income. 41.6% of your income goes to the federal government. That's not including all of the other taxes these people pay.

So are you going to be able to pay for this? No, you can not pay for it at 42% of your income if you just do the top 2%, but let's not stop at 42 percent . I mean, 42%, big deal. Look how much they made. What about 70%? What about 80%? No, can't pay for it. What about 90%? No, can't pay for it. "These rich people, they caused this. We should take all of their income." 100% of their income, let's take 100% of their income.

That would be $1.3 trillion in extra revenue. Less than half of the 2006 federal budget of $2.7. Gee, we take all of the top 2% income, all of it and we get $1.3 trillion. If you take every taxable dime from everybody earning anything over $75,000, you still don't make it to $4 trillion.

Now let me ask you this. With businesses going out, with recession, these numbers are from 2006. Remember those good days?

With all of the money that was flowing and all of the money that was happening and everybody was rich and making money and your houses had worth, you just keep taking and taking and taking and taking, do you think that their income is going to be the same next year as it was in 2006? The point is you cannot cover it. You can't cover it. What we are doing is we are asking our children -- no, we're not even asking them. We're not even consulting them. We're not even talking about them. We're now to the point where we don't even care.

Thomas Jefferson said it is a crime to do this, to take from the next generation. Think of your child going in and just getting a tax lien. What we're saying is we want healthcare, we want this stuff, we want to bail out people's mortgages and so when your kid turns 20 or 24, they get out of college and getting their feet on the ground. Wait, let's just hold off until they're 30 and they got their feet on the ground and they're just starting to really save up to buy a house and everything else. Your bill, my bill, now comes knocking at their door and there is a tax lien. We're just taking it out of their paycheck. It's reprehensible and it won't work.

from Glenn Beck

Some Interesting Reads

How Radio Wrecks the Right, The American Conservative

The Future of Conservatism, Becker-Posner Blog

Obama's Abortion Extremism, The Witherspoon Institute

links sent to me by P4M readers

Tuesday, February 24

Live Blogging Obama's Speech

I tried my best to capture the President's quotes in real time. I may be a word or more off, but the content should be in the ballpark. Plus, I've added in a few of my own observations...cause that's more fun.

9:17 And we're off...with a shout out to the First Lady. I don't always like all her fashion choices, but I think she looks snappy tonight.

9:19 "We will rebuild, we will recover and then we will emerge stronger than before." (Hey, can we let the man finish the sentence before we stand up).

9:21 "I don't want to lay blame or look backwards" but let me mention how I inherited this deficit at least 300 times during my speech.

9:22 "We're not going to transfer wealth to the wealthy, instead of invest in the future?" What the heck does that mean? Don't people earn their wealth, they aren't given it.

9:23 "I don't believe in bigger government." ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?

"Our plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. Like the 57 police officers in Minneapolis whose jobs were saved by this bill or they would've been laid off." Or is it layed off?

9:26 Biden to lead the oversight effort because "nobody messes with Joe." Excuse me while I fall off my chair laughing. Look at that cheshire cat smile.

9:26 so you can see how your money is being spent.

9:27 "No recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis."

"Your money in the banks is secure." Tim Geitner reminds me of Opie.

9:28 "Credit is the lifeblood of our economy."

9:28 Provide auto, college, and business loans to the people who keep this economy running. Republicans didn't know if they should stand or not

9:31 "We've got the banks' backs." in other words...we'll take them over.

9:31 "We're going to hold these banks fully accountable." Oh, Nancy's putting her program down and getting ready to jump up.

Nancy, where's the red, white and blue?

9:33 No more fun for the corporate muckety mucks. No private jets or fancy drapes for you. (say that with your best soup Nazi impersonation).

"No action is not an option. Not good for economy and I refuse to let that happen."

Obama should've coordinated his tie with the flag behind him. We got a little psychedelic line thing going on.

9:34 Ugly tie on Sen. Specter. He looks sad tonight. I guess he realized this is his last term.

Responsibility. "I will not spend a single penny to reward Wall Street but will do everything for small business and your family."

There's Burris! He looks like he's the cat who ate the canary.

9:36 "Not about banks. About people." cue the music... 'That young family can buy a home, company will hire workers to build it and then those workers will have money to spend."

drive and innovation = good. shortcuts = bad

9:37 "I will submit a budget to congress in next couple of days. It's a vision for America, a blueprint for our future. It does not solve every problem or issue. We all will have to sacrifice...including ME."

What are you sacrificing Obama? That's right, you're not going to take that new copter with the kitchen. You'll just keep that old, dingy copter you have now.

9:39 Now we're having a history lesson.

Budget will invest in energy, health care and education. Everyone stands, except Joe was a little slow on the draw.

9:40 He will double supply of renewable energy in next two years. Is that even possible?

9:43 "carbon based cap" whah? Sorry, my mind wandered, thinking about that bowl of ice cream I want but have sworn off.

9:44 "I think the nation that invented the auto can not walk away from it." Now that is a quote for the books.

9:45 "won't be easy or without cost, but this is America."

9: 46 facts, facts, fast, facts, can't keep up with all the healthcare facts & stats.

11 million children whose parents work full time and earn up to $80,000 now have healthcare. There is so many things wrong with that sentence that I don't know where to being.

9:47 I think Joe's getting tired of standing.

9:48 How is universal healthcare going to bring down the deficit?

"Let there be no doubt health care reform can not wait, it will not wait and must now wait another year."

9:49 Education. facts, facts, facts. Interesting and true. Our education system stinks. He "will insure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education from the day they are born to the day they die." (May I just say VOUCHERS!)

9:52 Expand commitment to charter schools...whoops, Nancy didn't clap for charter schools.

9:53 "If you drop out of school, you are letting your country down. It's not an option, we need everyone's contributions."

"By 2020 we will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world."

9:54 The community organizer has just emerged. Tipping his bi-partisan hat to Kennedy and Hatch.

9:55 Parents..listen up, you're getting parenting advice.

9:56 "I don't want to pass on a debt to our children they can't pay." Republicans go crazy, Obama makes a joke and then he slammed the
Republicans with his "inherited" talk.

9:57 He will cut deficit in half by end of his term. His staff will go line by line through next year's budget and cut out pork. They will end programs that don't work. Already have identified $2 trillion to cut. (MORE ON THIS IN AN UPCOMING POST. SMOKE AND MIRRORS, PEOPLE. SMOKE AND MIRRORS).

10:01 Will end tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas.

Camera cuts away to a guy who looks like he is drunk on Obama.

If you make $250,000 or less, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. Recovery plan provides a tax cut for 95% of working families. It's in writing so it must be true.

10:02 Starting to zone out... but I hear a "finally,"

10:04 "I will find a way out of Iraq and responsibly end the war." Interestingly, McCain stands.

"I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half way around the world. We will not allow it."

10:05 Time for a tour of the peanut gallery to meet all the war heroes and common Joes.

10:06 Closing Club Gitmo. "Living our values doesn't make us weaker, makes us stronger.USA does NOT torture. We're making that commitment tonight." everyone stands.

10:07 "Can not avoid the negotiating table or those who could do us harm."

10:08 "Hope is found in unlikely places, inspiration doesn't come from power or celebrity, it comes from those dreams and inspiration of ordinary Americans who are anything but ordinary."

10:09 Ty'sheoma Bethea, student at school in SC. Wrote to Obama that her school needed help. She wrote, "We are not quitters." I have a tear in my eye. Seriously. Touching moment with Miss Bethea.

"We haven't agreed on every issue thus far, and there will be times in the future we will part ways, but every American sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. It's the foundation where American people expect us to find common ground."

"something worthy to be remembered"

THE END (Why are congressman getting autographs from Obama? Like all of them.)

So now the question is what did the American people tonight? Did he sell his stimulas plan to you? Did you feel he had more hope tonight? Was it a vintage Obama speech?


There is just 12 more minutes until President Obama addresses a joint session of congress. As we all know, even the most diehard at-home pundit gets a little bored during these speeches. So just out this game over at Heading Right. It's OBINGO!!!

Obama State of the Union Address Tonight

President Obama will speak to the people tonight in a nationally televised quasi State of the Union address. Check your local listing for time, but I think it will be at 8:00pm eastern time.

I just hope he brings the hope...I can't take another doom and gloom speech.

Monday, February 23

Obama Taps Biden to Oversee Stimulus Package Implementation

President Obama has turned to his own vice president to oversee implementation of the $787 billion economic stimulus package, part of which will be available this week for state Medicaid programs.

Obama announced his decision before the National Governors Association in Washington on Monday, saying Vice President Joe Biden will help ensure the distribution of the money is not just swift, "but also efficient and effective."

"The fact that I'm asking my vice president to personally lead this effort shows how important it is for our country and future to get this right," he said.


Protecting Children or Endangering our Constitution?

Last week I outlined the provisions of H.R. 45, a bill that will significantly rewrite gun-ownership laws in America. The bill claims its purpose is "to protect the public against the unreasonable risk of injury and death associated with the unrecorded sale or transfer of firearms to criminals and youth."

Sounds noble, right? We all want to protect our children from gun accidents and violence, but rather than providing a solution that will hit at the heart of the problem, another legislator wants to put even more limitations on our second amendment.

There are a lot of factors that work together to bring a person to the point they pick up a gun and take the life of another. Whether they actually have a gun is usually not the tipping point to that decision.

These types of bills are always put forth as a means to curbing violence, in this case, violence against children. The problem is that it is the ordinary, law-abiding citizen who is punished and not the thugs who buy their guns in back alleys and out of trunks of other dangerous thugs. If you're a thug, you are more than likely aren't going to a gun shop to obtain a gun.

So the provisions in this bill become a infringement on the ordinary citizen's privacy (mental records released) and makes it something that may not be accessible to all citizens (associated costs).

The most disturbing provision in this bill is the one that takes away your right to keep a gun in your home to protect your family and your property. While I have no desire to keep a gun in my home, it is a right we have under the second amendment. Which begs the question, how can you have this bill as law and still keep the second amendment?

I have a hard time believing H.R. 45 will ever make it out of committee in this form. But it should concern us that our constitution and one of our basic rights is being threatened. We'll keep our eyes on this and see where it goes.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 22

Recent Headlines

3 GOP Governors Don't Rule Out 2012 Presidential Challenge
Govs. Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty and Mark Sanford never say never although all say they aren't focused on presidential politics right now.

Obama Seeks to Halve Deficit to Half Trillion Per Year by 2013
President Obama is using the coming week to work on a budget for the next fiscal year that puts government in the direction of spending only half as much beyond its means than will be spent this year.

Dodd: Nationalizing Banks May be Needed
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., told Bloomberg News on Friday that banks may have to be nationalized for "a short time."

"I don’t welcome that at all, but I could see how it’s possible it may happen," said Dodd. "I think that’s unfortunate, but it may come to that. I think the administration is resisting it; they prefer not to go that way for all of the reasons that we’re familiar with in terms of the symbolic notion of nationalization of major lending institutions."

Friday, February 20

Leveling the Playing Field - Part 2

It looks like all the flattery didn't buy us a reprise; Jeff's already disputing facts and getting his panty hose in a knot. So for the record, b/c I like to run this ship free of errors (much like the NYT), let me state that Jeff didn't vote for Bush the second time and he regrets voting for him the first time. But it does sound like he'll support Palin in 2012 :)

So why should you care Jeff is my brother? Well, frankly, it doesn't matter. But if you're like me, his comments sometimes make you want to go screaming from the room and jump in a vat of boiling oil. He's that infuriating.

The funny thing is that his wife says that he is this critical of Democrats also. He loves to pin them in corners and argue just as vehemently. Their liberal friends think he's a card carrying conservative while I think he has become a bleeding heart liberal.

So the question becomes is he a Republican or a Democrat? I really have no clue. I do know he voted for Obama and that he likes paying taxes and wouldn't mind paying more if the government could use it to help more of those living in poverty. But he also voted for Bush both times and he supported the war. For a while. Now he's not such a big fan of it. Like a lot of Republicans.

So what is he? I'd say he is something that we are lacking in our country: an independent thinker.

We need more independent thinkers. We need people that aren't locked into boxes with donkeys or elephants on the outside. People that ask the hard questions. People that are innovative and creative problem solvers. People that just don't regurgitate the party platform and blindly support a candidate just because they are part of the big party machine. We need people who are willing to challenge the status quo and not afraid to back down. People who are critical thinkers.

Yes, I'm going to say it: We need more thinkers like Jeff in the world. Now do I always agree with him? Nope. Almost never, in fact, when it comes to political matters.

But I hope he'll stick around and continue to push us to defend our positions and ideals, not so we can make a believer out of him, (b/c that sooo ain't going to happen) but so we can become well-versed in the facts, better develop our positions and then be able to articulate them persuasively.

That's what I notice missing the most from the conservative side of the fence: people who can persuasively articulate their position. We rely too much on our emotions to make our point and we come across as slobbering idiots. If you want to whip a liberal in an argument, you'll never do it with emotion and platitudes. They only respect and respond to fact driven conversations.

Hopefully Jeff is here to stay. I once mentioned he should blog with me and we'd come up with some clever name like "Polar Opposites" or "I'm a little bit Country...And he's a little bit Rock N Roll" but he mumbled something about having a job and supporting his family.


So until he finds religion and decides he was created to be a political blogger, we'll just have to get our kicks from him in the comments.

And, if you ever think Jeff's being too hard on you, just throw in a "Palin 2012" or "the only place I get my news is from Fox News" and I guarantee he'll go running from the room and dive head first into a vat of boiling oil.

So who wants to come over for Easter dinner this year!

Wednesday, February 18

Leveling the Playing Field - Part 1

Let me correct the record to state that Jeff's father-in-law is NOT a Democrat. In fact, it's highly suspected he's a closet Republican. And his mother-in-law is NOT a strong Democrat. She's a moderate Democrat. My apologies...especially to Mr. S. It is no joking matter to be miscategorized as a liberal Democrat. No joking matter whatsoever. But Jeff's wife IS a Democrat and a feminist in the vein of Hillary Clinton. Whatever that means!

One more thing...this story does have a happy ending. So please don't worry about the "outing" of my quasi Conservaberal brother. He ends up a hero. I know, it's all quite disgusting. The next entry will be posted overnight.

I have a confession to make. I've not been entirely upfront about something on this blog.

For those of you who have followed this blog from the beginning, you know that one of our most opinionated commenters is not even a mom. He started as out as an anonymous commenter, then he became anonymous Jeff and now he is just Jeff.

Here's what you don't know about Jeff: He's my brother. At least that's what our parents told us.

Jeff and I were born into a strong Republican family and grew up in a conservative mid-western town. Then we moved to the east coast and both went to the same conservative, Christian college. Following college and a short stint in the business world, Jeff went to law school. If you couldn't tell by his intense scrutiny, questioning, and desire to always have your points documented with sources, preferably sources that are independent and impartial, YES, he's a lawyer.

Ahhhh, now it's all becoming clear, isn't it? Oh, but it gets better.

After practicing law and living in the City of Brotherly Love, where there are more liberals than cheesesteaks, he met his wife. She's from a strong Democratic family---not that there's anything wrong with that---also an attorney, and a modern feminist in the vein of Hillary Clinton. (I have no idea what that means, but it sounded right).

Somewhere in law school, probably the week they began teaching how to argue a case, Jeff started practicing his arguing skillz on his family. His favorite topics are religion and politics. They are also my mom's favorite topics. (Remember, she's the lifelong Republican who has about 12 autographed pictures of Dubya.) Good times.

So we've tried to stay on more neutral topics over the years, especially now that we have an authentic Democrat in the family. And things were going well until I started this blog a year ago. I started noticing anonymous comments showing up that sounded strangely like the arguments I had heard while eating turkey and mashed potatoes across from my brother. After a few more, I knew it was him.

With a strong tongue lashing about proper blog etiquette and how rude anonymous comments are, he finally started signing his name.

Sometime in September, he started twitching, mumbling in his sleep about uniformed conservative robots, and neglected his job, family and eating to set us women straight about the election. Palin's nomination and the conservative love fest that ensued sent him over the edge. That's when an intervention was launched. His wife and my mom both took him aside and said, "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP IT. LEAVE THE WOMEN ALONE."

And he did.

In the end Obama won and Jeff assured his lifelong Republican family that we could expect our unicorn and pot of gold in the mail within the year.

Coming Up...So is he a Republican or a Democrat?

What a Pleasant Surprise

A measure approved by the North Dakota House gives a fertilized human egg the legal rights of a human being, a step that would essentially ban abortion in the state.

The bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended abortion rights nationwide, supporters of the legislation said.

Representatives voted 51-41 to approve the measure Tuesday. It now moves to the North Dakota Senate for its review.

read the rest of the story here...

$50 Billion Needed for Housing Market

According to, these are a few of the provisions that will be announced in President Obama's proposal to bail out the housing market.

  • The price tag is $50 billion -- from the TARP funds -- plus more on top of that from other programs.
  • Government subsidies for lenders to modify loans to homeowners who are struggling to make payments. The government would subsidize the difference.
  • A program through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for homeowners to refinance their mortgages if they owe more than their homes are worth.
  • An effort to make loans more affordable through various means -- extending loans, lowering interest rates, and other ways.
The president will announce the plan from Arizona today unemployment in the state was 6.9 percent in December 2008, and Arizona recorded 117,000 foreclosures in 2008, the third highest number in the U.S.


Damage Control

Last week, I wrote Sen. Arlen Specter two times asking him to NOT vote for the stimulus package. If talk radio was any indicator in Pennsylvania, I was not alone. The people are outraged over his actions.

Yesterday, he sent out an e-mail to his constituents explaining his justification for his actions. The last paragraph is my favorite.

Dear Friends:

As you know, today the President signed into law the "Americans Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009."

The vote on the stimulus package was a very tough vote because of the very large deficit we have and the very large national debt faced by future generations. But the economy is in a desperate situation. Just in the month of January we lost 600,000 jobs, added to the loss of 2.8 million last year. There are millions of people who are having their homes foreclosed. The economists tell us that if we do not act that the current severe recession could well develop into a full-fledged depression like 1929.

The agreement we reached was the best one we could under the circumstances. We were able to cut out $100 billion from the package and include 35% in tax relief in the overall bill. My preference would have been John McCain’s proposal, which I voted for, to have the stimulus package of $421 billion in tax cuts alone. I voted for the Reagan tax cuts back in 1981 and that would be the best course, but in a legislative body you don’t have exactly your own choice.

I was impressed with the position of the United States Chamber of Commerce which was for the bill very solidly. The Chamber of Commerce, obviously, is a very conservative, Republican organization which has its hands on the economy and what’s happening to many, many businesses and they were for it. All factors considered, I thought that action had to be taken.

I voted for it with reservations, as I have commented. One was I didn’t like the speed of the operation. When President Obama came to talk to the Republican Caucus and my turn came for a question I said, ‘Why the haste? Why do you have to move ahead on February 13?’ I reminded him of the bailout package of $700 billion where mistakes were made because the legislature didn’t go through what we call ‘regular order.’ The President responded that there was an emergency and that we had to act. Another factor which concerned me was that there is a good bit in this bill which should be in the regular appropriations process - important healthcare and education projects, but they ought to be in the regular budget where we establish overall spending and then make a determination of priorities.

My vote was cast recognizing the very substantial political peril that I face. I know that there are many on the Republican political spectrum who do not like the vote. I remember, obviously, the tough primary fight I had in the year 2004. But I felt in the final analysis, given the very severe consequences which might befall the country, that my duty was to look out for the public interest and not my own personal political interest.

Sincerely, Sen. Arlen Specter

It's good to know he wasn't concerned about his "own personal political interest," it will make voting him out in 2010 that much easier.

Tuesday, February 17

It's a Done Deal

On Wednesday in Arizona, President Obama will unveil another part of his economic recovery effort -- a plan to help millions of homeowners fend off foreclosure.

photo via

Please make it stop!

Monday, February 16

Who's Blair Holt? And What's He Got to Do With Your Rights to Bear Arms.

Amber wrote and asked what I thought about H.R. 45. To be honest, I didn't even know what H.R. 45 was all about and I'm betting you don't either. So here's a little background:

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., introduced a firearm-licensing bill in January that will significantly rewrite gun-ownership laws in America. The bill claims its purpose is "to protect the public against the unreasonable risk of injury and death associated with the unrecorded sale or transfer of firearms to criminals and youth."

H.R. 45, is also known as "Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009," named after an Illinois teenager killed by a gunshot. According the bill, "On the afternoon of May 10, 2007, Blair Holt, a junior at Julian High School in Chicago, was killed on a public bus riding home from school when he used his body to shield a girl who was in the line of fire after a young man boarded the bus and started shooting."

The bill then argues that interstate firearm trafficking and children dying from gun violence create legitimate cause for the federal government to monitor gun ownership and transfers in new ways. If passed, the bill would make it illegal to own or possess a handgun or any semiautomatic firearm that takes an ammunition clip – without a "Blair Holt" license.

To obtain a "Blair Holt" license, an application must be made that includes a photo, address, all previous aliases, thumb print, completion of a written firearm safety test, and release of mental health records to the attorney general.

The bill also makes it illegal to transfer ownership of a qualifying firearm to anyone who is not a licensed gun dealer or collector. Exceptions to this rule include transfer to family members by gift or bequest and loans, not to exceed 30 days, of a firearm for lawful purposes "between persons who are personally known to each other."

The bill also requires qualifying firearm owners to report all transfers to the attorney general's database. It would also be illegal for a licensed gun owner to fail to record a gun loss or theft within 72 hours or fail to report a change of address within 60 days. And if a minor obtains a weapon and injures someone with it, the owner of the gun – if deemed to have failed to meet certain safety requirements – faces a multiple-year jail sentence.

So that's the bill in a nutshell. You can go here and here and here to read more. Let's chew on it for a day or so and then we'll discuss it.

A Lingering Question

I have a lingering question regarding last week's passage of the stimulus bill.

After all the frenzy to get the stimulus bill passed because "if we don't the world is going to fall off its axis and all our money will self-combust and we'll be wearing potato sacks by Saturday if we DON'T PASS THE BILL NOW, so let's not even take 48 hours to read it or to find out who put the handwritten changes and sticky notes all over it because WE MUST PASS THE BILL NOW.

Then, we can wait four days for Obama to sign it into law.

So why couldn't we have waited until Tuesday to vote on the bill?

Sunday, February 15

President Obama will sign Stimulus Bill on Tuesday

Saturday, February 14

Stimulus Bill Passes Congress

"This morning, I'm reminded of words President Kennedy spoke in another time of uncertainty," President Obama says in his weekly address today. "'Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.'"

The passage of the $787 billion stimulus bill yesterday, however party-line the vote was in the House, and near-party-line in the Senate, is a big victory for President Obama. It is arguably the biggest economic recovery legislation in history. (I believe it amounts to roughly 5% of the GDP, whereas FDR's biggest was about 2% of the GDP at the time.)

Whether it works, of course, remains to be seen.

continue reading ABC News' Jake Tapper's story here...

You can read President Obama's comments about this bill's passage here...

Friday, February 13

House Vote Expected at 1:30PM Eastern Time

Senator Kennedy is too ill to make the vote today. Can the Democrats get their 60 votes??
C'mon Specter! Show some backbone.

I'm Glad the First Lady has Confidence in Her Husband's Plan

Barack Obama's wife quipped that the $600 tax stimulus check could be used for a pair of earrings.

"You're getting $600 - what can you do with that? Not to be ungrateful or anything, but maybe it pays down a bill, but it doesn't pay down every bill every month," she said. "The short-term quick fix kinda stuff sounds good, and it may even feel good that first month when you get that check, and then you go out and you buy a pair of earrings."

From the Washington Times, July 11, 2008

I Hope He's a Speed Reader

Republican Study Committee chair Rep. Tom Price has a special message for you about this final stimulus bill. This is your last chance to ACT NOW.

What a Transparent Obama Administration Looks Like

At the Elkhart, IN rally earlier this week, President Obama said:

"Yesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off.

Sounds like great news for the 22,000 Caterpillar has had to layoff in recent months, right? Well, not so fast.

After the president left, Mr. Owens not only did a turnabout on rehiring; he also suggested there may be even more layoffs. Although he said he continued to
support the stimulus package, it wouldn't result in a reversal of layoffs for anyone: “I think realistically no. The truth is we’re going to have more layoffs before we start hiring again.” In part, Mr. Owens indicated in one of the interviews that he did not want to raise false expectations for people.
I guess it's only taken 3 weeks for Obama to define for us what an "open and transparent" administration looks like. Apparently, it relies on lies and deceit.

You can read the entire New York Times article here.

What's in the News (Yesterday & Today)

Congress Readies Final Vote on $790 billion Stimulus Plan
After a 24-hour delay caused by late, lingering controversy, Democratic congressional leaders say President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill -- a massive, $790 billion package of tax cuts and federal spending -- is on track for a Friday vote in the House.

The Senate could vote on the bill later in the day or over the weekend, sending the measure to Obama's desk and awarding him a crucial victory. He says the measure will create or save 3.5 million jobs, while critics contend the bill is filled with wasteful spending and provisions that won't boost the economy. Continue reading here

Gregg Withdraws as Commerce Secretary Nominee
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew his nomination as commerce secretary Thursday, citing "irresolvable conflicts" with President Barack Obama's handling of the economic stimulus and 2010 census.

"We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy," Gregg said in a statement released by his Senate office. Continue reading here

Will the Stimulus actually Stimulate? Economists Say No
The compromise economic stimulus plan agreed to by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won't stimulate economic activity, according to a range of respected economists.

"I think (doing) nothing would have been better," said Ed Yardeni, an investment analyst who's usually an optimist, in an interview with McClatchy. He argued that the plan fails to provide the right incentives to spur spending. Continue reading here

Wednesday, February 11

Tell Chuck You Care

Instead of kicking your dog or throwing your cell phone out of a moving car, I thought you might want to channel your energies into some constructive dialog. I'll warn you though...apparently poor Chuck's email form has been disabled and his phone lines are jammed. I tried. Go figure.

Schumer, Charles E. - (D - NY) Class III
(202) 224-6542
Web Form:

Hey, Chuck Shumer!

Yes, We Care!

With Love, From the Chattering Class

"It's All We've Got"

"We've got to do something."

Those are two phrases you hear the most when talking with people about the stimulus bill and whether it should be put in motion.

Honestly, I think those are very lame reasons to saddle the American people and future generations with millions, no, billions, wait, ZILLIONS of dollars of debt.

Then to have Treasury Secretary (and tax whiz) Tim Geitner say yesterday he had a new plan but it wasn't guaranteed to work either. He obviously inspired great confidence as was shown with the markets closing down 400 points.

So maybe, just maybe, there is another way that doesn't require us to "settle" for a second rate plan just because that's all we've got. For having scores of brilliant minds to draw upon, I can't believe the only thing we can come up with is to throw the kitchen sink at this problem and see what sticks.

Maybe the answer is actually right under our noses. Maybe it's allowing our free markets to decide who lives another day and who fails. I know some of you feel like that is definitely a more risky proposition and you ask about the people that will become collateral damage? Well folks, neither plan is without collateral damage. The stimulus plan just slaps a big ole Dora band aid on the pain and delays the inevitable for another day. Letting the market correct itself takes all the phony money out of play and puts our economy back on solid ground.

I'm not alone on my call to "do nothing." Here's a smattering of articles from around the Web that are sounding the same alarm:

Let Wall Street Fail

Keep Your Hands off my Shaky Assets

Let Failed Banks Fail

Why a Few of the Financial Giants Should Crash

Leading Experts: Let the Banks Fail

What if we let the Banks Fail

Tuesday, February 10

I'm So Confused

Today, tax wiz extraordinaire and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlined a massive $2 trillion plan today that is meant to stabilize the nation's banking sector and restore the public's faith in the government's ability to handle the crisis.

Oh yeah, that'll do it.

So what the heck is the $838 billion economic stimulus bill for that the Senate passed today?

In case you were wondering, to put $2 trillion into perspective, consider this: That's enough money to outright buy 8 million homes at $250,000 each.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Another Day, Another Tax Problem

President Obama's choice for labor secretary, Hilda Solis, is (surprise!) facing tax questions. A Senate committee's vote on her confirmation is delayed after it learns her husband had $6,400 in unresolved tax liens filed against his business. Solis is a Democratic Representative from California.

Public records show that since 1993, two state and 14 Los Angeles County tax liens totaling about $11,640 have been lodged against Sayyad and his business, Sam's Foreign and Domestic Auto Center. The documents indicate that $6,468 in county liens remained unresolved until Wednesday, when Sayyad paid off the balance, according to the Los Angeles County treasurer and tax collector's office.

Despite her problems, Democrats seem confident she'll still be confirmed. The White House defended her by saying that Solis is "not a partner in that business. So we're not going to penalize her for her husband's business mistakes. Obviously, her husband, I think, has and should pay any taxes that he owes." Although they file their taxes jointly, her husband is the sole proprietor of his business.

I'm All Ears

I'm making no bones that I'm not a supporter of this stimulus bill. But I'm sure there are readers out there who are supporters. Give me you best reasons why this bill needs to pass. Why should I support this bill? Why should I overlook all the pork and nationalization of health care to support this legislation.

I'm all ears. I truly want to understand why the American people should support this bill.

The Time is Now

Despite what you are hearing in the media, there is still an opportunity to stop this stimulus legislation. You can't wait in the wings for others to voice concern over this bill. You need to act. Congress needs to hear from you.

Contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them you aren't happy with the current bill. Tell them you absolutely do not support the health care legislation they are trying to sneak through. Tell them you want them to vote no.

There are three Republican Senators said to be voting with the Democrats. Call Senators Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter and ask them to vote with their party.

Senator Snowe, 202-224-5344
Senator Collins, 202-224-2523
Senator Specter, 202-224-4254

The switchboard number at the Capitol is 202-224-3121. Or, go on line and get the number for your senator's local office in your home state. You can also send an e-mail. Heck! DO BOTH.

Health Care in Stimulus Bill

Tom Daschle may have dropped out of the hunt for a cabinet position, but his handprints are all over the Senate's stimulus bill. Unfortunately, what has been unearthed from the bill in regards to our health care is just the type of thing we have feared.

First, health care is one of those lightening rod topics that should demand lengthy and in-depth deliberation and research before sweeping legislation would turn it on its head. But according to, this legislation hidden within the stimulas bill to avoid just the type of debate.

Hiding health legislation in a stimulus bill is intentional. Daschle supported the Clinton administration’s health-care overhaul in 1994, and attributed its failure to debate and delay. A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”
According to,

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.
One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446).
Unfortunately, for doctors and hospitals who choose to exercise their professional opinion without the blessing of the government strict penalties will be imposed (511, 518, 540-541).

What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.
And if you think that all sounds bad, then just be glad you aren't elderly. Yet. According to Daschle,

Health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.

Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council (464).

This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.

Is this the type of health care system you want in the United States? Do you want a system that doesn't value all members of our society? When you are diagnosed with cancer, do you want some government worker making arbitrary decisions about your care? Do you want the government overriding your doctor's decisions?

If that type of health care is okay with you, then sit tight. But if that type of health care scares the socks off you, then you need to take action now. Read this to learn what you can do.

Is it really a Catastrophe?

President Barack Obama has painted an extraordinarily bleak picture of America’s future if Congress fails to move quickly to pass stimulus legislation, warning that inaction “could turn a crisis into a catastrophe.” He's also said that he's inherited "the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression."

Back in October, Bush used the same type of language to convince us that if government intervention didn't move swiftly our financial world would come crashing down around us. But let's look at the facts.

As bad as the economic numbers are, the unemployment figures have not reached the levels of the early 1980s, let alone the 1930s---yet. A total of 598,000 payroll jobs vanished in January---the most in nearly 35 years---and the unemployment rate jumped to 7.6 from 7.2 percent the month before. The most recent high was 7.8 percent in June 1992.

The jobless rate was 10.8 percent in November and December 1982. Unemployment in the Great Depression ranged for several years from 25 percent to close to 30 percent.

Bad? Maybe. Catastrophic? No.

Monday, February 9

Someone's Gotta Read It

I know how some of you like to see the actual language of the bills so you can make your own determinations. So here is the Senate bill and the House bill. These are the actual bills and not the executive summaries. The House bill alone is over 1500 pages!!

So for you diehards, have at it. If you find any interesting pork, leave a comment and let us know!

Why He Supports the Stimulus Package

For better or for worse, Sen. Arlen Specter is my Senator. He's also one of three Republicans who were instrumental in working with Democrats on a "compromise" to the stimulus plan. To hear that he helped to craft the bill and that he plans to vote for it are absolutely no surprise to Pennsylvanians. Specter is what we like to call a Rino (Republican in name only).

So I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from the good Senator yesterday that outlined his rationale for supporting this bill. If there is one thing I've learned about Specter, it is that he doesn't often feel the need to explain his position. But he did acknowledge in a speech on the floor of the Senate that his office is being inundated with e-mails and phone calls from Americans not in support of the stimulus package. I even heard a poll this morning that said over 90 percent of polled Pennsylvanians would not vote for him in the next election is he voted yes for this bill. So he's feeling just a tab vulnerable right now.

The e-mail he sent contained an op-ed piece that was in Friday's Washington Post. I was hoping to link to his piece, but its not available. So I'm going to re post it right here and you can make your own determination about one of the three senators who have reached across the aisle to try and make this bill something palatable.

Why I Support the Stimulus
By Arlen Specter

I am supporting the economic stimulus package for one simple reason: The country cannot afford not to take action.

The unemployment figures announced Friday, the latest earnings reports and the continuing crisis in banking make it clear that failure to act will leave the United States facing a far deeper crisis in three or six months. By then the cost of action will be much greater -- or it may be too late.

Wave after wave of bad economic news has created its own psychology of fear and lowered expectations. As in the old Movietone News, the eyes and ears of the world are upon the United States. Failure to act would be devastating not just for Wall Street and Main Street but for much of the rest of the world, which is looking to our country for leadership in this crisis.

The legislation known as the "moderates" bill, hammered out over two days by Sens. Susan Collins, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman and myself, preserves the job-creating and tax relief goals of President Obama's stimulus plan while cutting less-essential provisions -- many of them worthy in themselves -- that are better left to the regular appropriations process.

Our $780 billion bill would save or create up to 4 million jobs, helping to offset the loss of 3.6 million jobs since December 2007. The bill cuts some $110 billion from the $890 billion Senate version, which would actually be $940 billion if floor amendments for tax credits on home and car purchases and money for the National Institutes of Health are retained.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the proposed cuts "do violence to what we are trying to do for the future," especially on education. Her objections are a warning to conservatives that more cuts would be unlikely to win House approval. They are also an admission of the high price that moderates have been able to extract for their support of stimulus legislation.

If a stimulus bill doesn't pass, there won't be any money for Title I education programs. The moderates' bill provides marginally less money for Title I than the House and Senate bills. But while it's less than supporters want, this proverbial half a loaf beats no loaf by a mile.

In health funding, both the House and Senate bills contain billions of dollars for wellness and prevention programs, including for smoking cessation, prenatal screening and counseling, education, and immunization. The moderates' bill, regrettably but necessarily, cancels this funding on the grounds that such programs are better left to the regular appropriations process.

"In politics," John Kennedy used to say, "nobody gets everything, nobody gets nothing and everybody gets something." My colleagues and I have tried to balance the concerns of both left and right with the need to act quickly for the sake of our country. The moderates' compromise, which faces a cloture vote today, is the only bill with a reasonable chance of passage in the Senate.

Wednesday, February 4

The Tax Man Cometh

I'm sorry.

I reeled you back in and then I left you hanging here for a few days. What can I say...I got busy clinging to my guns and religion. Oh, and I was doing my taxes because that's what good Americans do according to Vice President Biden: We pay our taxes. All of them. Without complaining.

Apparently, some of Washington's finest need to be paying a little more attention to their taxes as we learned this past weekend. You could say this is old news by now, but I think it's important to recap.

First, we had Timothy Geithner confirmed as Treasury secretary despite belatedly paying $34,000 in income taxes. After saying about 1 zillion and two times that he was very, very sorry, he got a 'pass' and was confirmed as Treasury secretary.

I mean, he WAS sorry. It was probably just a fluke because we all know that it's our patriotic duty to pay our taxes. And he was sorry.

Then, there was Nancy Killefer who was nominated to be the first Chief Performance Office. When her selection was announced by Obama on Jan. 7, The Associated Press disclosed that in 2005 the District of Columbia had filed a $946.69 tax lien on her home for failure to pay unemployment compensation tax on household help. She withdrew her candidacy Tuesday.

Hmmm, I'm noticing a pattern here.

And finally, but probably not lastly, we learned that Tom Daschle had a little tax problem. I really don't know how you can not pay more than $130,000 in taxes when you have a bevy of lawyers, financial planners and other advisers who do all that work for you. It's not like Daschle is sitting at his kitchen table surrounded by crumbled receipts trying to peck the numbers into Turbo Tax. But President Obama told reporters he "absolutely" stands by the former South Dakota senator.

Today? Not so much. Daschle withdrew his nomination for health and human services secretary on Tuesday. Would've been cheaper just to pay the $130,000.

Could we throw some money into that stimulus plan for professional tax help for the Obama administration? Better yet, why don't we do a full tax audit of every Representative, Senator and high up muckety muck in Washington. We might just find enough money in back taxes to pull us out of this economic slump.

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