Day: November 29, 2009

Obama’s Challenge As He Nears A Year In Office

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!

Sad Commentary: Rising Food Stamp Usage, Especially By Children

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!

Are Private Sector Experiences A Plus For A President’s Cabinet?

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.