Archive for November, 2009
The Obama Administration has been attempting to promote bank modification of mortgages, cutting monthly payments so that the foreclosure problem, which is at an alarming rate, can be resolved in a way that allows homeowners to keep their properties.
The problem is that the banks benefit from foreclosures, and have been reluctant to negotiate with homeowners to modify their loans to more equitable monthly payments. So the government is increasing pressure for positive action covering many more homeowners.
If the banks do not help, after having gained taxpayer support on bailouts in the past year, then they would face sanctions and fines by the Treasury Department. So the government is working toward being tougher toward the banks, which is long overdue. Of course, many conservatives will say it is not the government’s job to tell the banks what to do, but I say that since the banks were saved from bankruptcy by taxpayer funds during the last months of the Bush administration, and this year by the Obama administration, it is their responsibility to do what is the right thing: keep as many homeowners in their properties as possible!
President Obama enters the month of December with two challenges that seem overwhelming: to prod the Senate to pass a health care bill after weeks of debate starting Monday; and convincing the nation that deeper involvement in Afghanistan is for the national interest, and will not be a disastrous cause that will bankrupt us over many years and cause thousands of lost American lives.
These challenges, along with the climate summit he will be attending; the jobs summit he is hosting this Thursday at the White House; and the new challenge of Iran developing more uranium enriching facilities and refusing to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency are enough to drive any normal human being bonkers.
How in the world is he to accomplish all of his goals, with united GOP opposition to his domestic initiatives and expected fury by his liberal supporters at his move to increase troop involvement in Afghanistan and face the challenge of Iran where diplomacy is not working?
All Americans need to step back and take a deep breath and wish that, somehow, Barack Obama has the wisdom and the courage to meet the challenges ahead because they will affect all of us for many years to come!
The Food Stamp program, often seen as a sign of the scorned word “welfare”, has become a lifeline in these difficult times for one out of four children in America, and overall, one out of eight Americans.
Conservatives once tried vigorously to wipe out the program, but now all kinds of people, not just the chronically poor, are utilizing the program desperately. This is a safety net program that has survived, no thanks to the conservatives who don’t care about hunger in America. They see the situation as Social Darwinism as first enunciated in the late 19th century Gilded Age.
In 239 counties, a quarter of the population or more subsist on food stamps for basic staples. This includes big cities and rural pockets hidden from most Americans. People of all ages and races and different social class backgrounds are victims of the crisis.
Major urban areas such as St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati face major portions of their population needing this aid. Many surburban areas in Florida, California and other once prosperous areas now burdened with foreclosures have also seen a tremendous rise in food stamp use. In areas of white Appalachia, on Indian reservations, and in Eskimo inhabited areas of Alaska, more than half of the people are on food stamps.
A study shows half of the American people at some point by age 20, at least briefly, are forced onto food stamps, but African American children have a rate on food stamps at some point by age 20 of NINETY percent!
28 percent of African Americans, 15 percent of Latinos, and 8 percent of whites depend on food stamps, and there are certainly many who are still too proud to ask for help, although many reluctant people in the past have given up their pride and asked for help.
But the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group, can only criticize and say food stamps are a “fossil of the war on poverty” and should include a work requirement.
Where are the Republicans calling for action on this issue? They are, not surprisingly, silent, as they have always been, but never saw a weapons program they would condemn.
How can we be proud of our nation as we see many politicians refusing to see a crisis that ultimately undermines us more than any external enemy can possibly do on their own? This situation is a national disgrace that calls for strong action, instead of stale Social Darwinism rhetoric!
A J.P. Morgan research report traces the private sector experiences of presidential cabinet members since Theodore Roosevelt’s time.
The study examines secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy and Housing and Urban Development, in an attempt to see what impact these cabinet members had on economic advice to presidents.
Predictably, Republican Presidents had higher percentages of private sector cabinet members, with Eisenhower the highest at close to 60 percent, with Reagan, Bush II, Richard Nixon, and Bush I close behind at over 50 percent each.
The highest percentage for a Democrat was Woodrow Wilson, with just over 50 percent. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman are exactly at 50 percent Close behind in mid to high 40s are Harding, Coolidge, Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford respectively.
Herbert Hoover is exactly at 40 percent, followed by William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton in the high to mid 30s.
Jimmy Carter is just over 30 percent, with John F. Kennedy, surprisingly, in the high 20s at the bottom, except for the fact that our present incumbent of the White House, is WAY DOWN at under ten percent of the cabinet members mentioned above having private sector experience.
So the question is whether it is good that most Presidents had a large percentage who had private sector experience, or rather that those Presidents who were lower, benefited from more public sector experience of their cabinet officers. And, of course, is it good that Obama is almost without any private sector experienced advisers?
I would argue that private sector experience IS important, but should not be as high a percentage as under Eisenhower, Reagan, Nixon and the Bushes. Rather than 50-60 percent being a norm, it is best that the percentage be between 30-45 percent, so that the majority are from public sector background.
It is clear that Obama has way too low a percentage of private sector experience, and it is hoped that the percentage will grow to be in the 30-45 percentile over time.
The Republican party is very effective at attacking President Obama and the Democrats on deficit spending and a growing national debt, conveniently having amnesia about the fact that the majority of the national debt occurred under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
They are ready to condemn “wild” government spending on a health care plan that we “cannot afford”. But at the same time, when the suggestion is made that if we are to escalate our involvement in Afghanistan, that maybe we should have the American people pay a “war tax”, as we always paid during every past war except those under the second President Bush, then suddenly their answer is “NO WAY!”
If it is so important that we continue to make a commitment to Afghanistan for many years, then why not expect that the sacrifice of the American people, who face no draft but have a responsibility to those who fight for us, should be to pay for the cost of the war, rather than hand it on to our children and grandchildren?
In the past, while maybe many citizens were unhappy over paying higher taxes during our various wars, they did so with a sense of patriotism and loyalty to the cause of freedom. Why cannot we expect that same level of commitment from the American people now?
Again, the GOP is quick to send our sons and daughters over to fight for us, but not to demand from the people that they do their fair share in the war effort! In other words, this is total hypocrisy!
One often thinks the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is simply that the GOP is overwhelmingly conservative, and the Democrats are strongly liberal.
That is oversimplifying the issue. A new poll shows the problem of what is called “enthusiasm”. 81 percent of Republicans are “enthusiastic” about voting next year in the midterm elections, while only 56 percent of Democrats have the same passion. Independents, by the way, are at 65 percent level of “enthusiasm”.
The Republicans are always more unified and committed, as evidenced by this poll, while the Democrats tend to split and divide and fight more often, and are far less committed to voting and general involvement in the election campaigns and issues.
Last year, the Democrats were more united and committed and therefore, their turnout led to victory. But if this poll follows through, they could be in trouble for 2010 and 2012.
Will Rogers said in the 1920s that the Democrats were a disorganized group of competing factions, and here we are nearly 90 years later, with the Democrats still as always since 1932 the leader in voter registration, and yet having to be concerned about their ability to win in future elections.
An independent group has formed, attempting to draft former Vice President Dick Cheney to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
The argument is that Cheney has the experience, the knowledge, and commitment to conservative values needed to lead this country, and that he far outshadows any other GOP potential nominee for the White House.
In a purely realistic sense, the group is actually correct. There is no one with the background and expertise that Cheney gained in eight years in the White House, intimately involved in many of the Bush Presidency decisions, and believed by many to be either an informal “co President”, or even wielding presidential power at several points of the Bush term.
Also, Cheney had great experience and skills gained from being Secretary of Defense under the first President Bush, being a leader of the GOP in the House, and being a very young Chief of Staff to President Ford.
It is not an issue of qualification or ability to do the job that is the center of the matter.
Rather, very much like Richard Nixon, it is a question of who would want a person of Cheney’s personality and manner to be our President. Like with Nixon with many people, the thought of a Cheney Presidency is terrifying!
Cheney represents all the worst instincts a leader could have: no concern about domestic affairs except for the interests of the wealthy upper class; a confrontational attitude in foreign and military policy committed to war overseas; an arrogant, secretive personality who does not care about the media or public opinion; a willingness to violate civil liberties and promote torture and crack down on any social progressivism; and an alliance with the most right wing extremist movements that exist in the nation, and are right now attempting to make impossible any success for the Obama Administration.
Dick Cheney is a mean, grouchy, nasty leader who has no concern about how he is perceived, and a Cheney Presidency would be the ultimate abuse of power, and with a GOP Congressional majority possibility, would be a regression back to the Gilded Age and the 1920s!
God forbid such a scenario could emerge!
It is good news to hear that the Democrats on Capitol Hill are planning a multi billion dollar jobs program to deal with the severity of the Great Recession we are suffering through.
With unemployment over ten percent, and about 17 percent if one includes part time workers and those who have stopped looking and no longer get unemployment benefits, it is essential that Congress and the Obama Administration create a program, as suggested in an earlier blog entry–a CCC, PWA, WPA type jobs initiative.
This is important not only for the obvious reason, to promote more employment, but also for the long term survival of the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and the future of the Obama Presidency.
There will be, of course, heated debate over deficit spending, and it certainly is a problem, but right now the first priority is JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!
President Obama has decided to show up in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the beginning of the Climate Change Summit next month.
This is an important step on the road to changing our energy policy to deal with the reality of global warming.
Obama will be in Copenhagen the day before he receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.
This is a significant symbol to the world that the United States intends to deal finally with the environmental problems the world faces. President Bush refused to face the problem in a practical way during his term of office.
Obama’s goal is to reduce emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels over the next decade, and the long range goal is to reach 83 percent decline in emissions by the year 2050. Let’s hope the US Congress will come to grips with this in the next few months as a follow through on the President’s commitment!
President Obama has made it clear he is not afraid of doubt, and is comfortable with uncertainty. He uses his head, not his gut, and is very analytical. Such is his decision making style.
He is deliberative, methodical, and measured in his approach to decisions. He has held nine meetings with his cabinet, military advisers, and staff on Afghanistan over a period of two and a half months, and does not worry about criticism.
His approach is diametrically the opposite of the Bush-Cheney technique, described as Texas and Wyoming frontier cowboy and secretive.
Considering the disasters that the Bush-Cheney administration perpetrated, it is comforting that Obama is NOT using emotion to make decisions.