Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Political sweeps week starting early

According to several news media outlets, President Obama has requested a joint session of Congress to be called on September 7 for the purpose of announcing a new jobs plan.

We have mixed reactions to this news.

As to the fact that the President is purporting to do something about the fact that there are about 14 million Americans out of work: good.

As to the fact that the plan will undoubtedly do little to address the real problems underlying unemployment, while possibly adding to the national debt: bad, but in fairness we'll keep an open mind until we hear the speech.

As to the fact that it will have taken him about 960 days into his presidency to take action on the most pressing domestic issue: pathetic.

As to the fact that the President is looking to make the announcement on the same day as a planned nationally-televised debate between candidates for the Republican nomination to replace him: curious. Objectively, we admit it would be difficult for the President to schedule anything these days without claim that there is at least a tinge of politics to what he's doing. On the other hand, are we seriously supposed to believe this was the only time in four years that the President was available to announce a jobs plan?

As to the opportunity facing Republican candidates in the face of this news: enormous. Basically, President Obama is giving them fodder to use against him in the debate. He's teeing it up perfectly. The candidate best able to make the case against the President and his plan will replace him in January, 2013.

We can't imagine that this news is sitting very well with the people over at NBC (the network hosting the GOP debate) or with Speaker Boehner. Here's hoping that NBC proceeds with the debate as planned, and that Speaker Boehner says a majority of the House is planning to be busy that night listening to other people who may actually have credible ideas to grow jobs (but that the President is, of course, welcome to use the room).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Weatherproof Politicians Get The Best of 'Irene'

As Hurricane Irene blasted the East Coast this weekend, Newark Mayor Cory Booker took to Twitter:

"CoryBooker Stopping at Barringer High shelter now with pizza, soda & water. Forgive me Michelle Obama, not the healthiest late night snack."

"CoryBooker If u have problems finding diapers please DM me your # so we can talk. @darkangel1321"

"CoryBooker Incredible. My chief of staff just went 2 get a woman from Court St out in storm selling papers. I told him 2 buy her out &get her 2 shelter"

He masterfully used the social media network to reassure and inform residents about shelter locations, street closings and the dangers of driving during the storm.

He even mixed in some storm humor to keep spirits high:

"CoryBooker JFK Rec Center shelter is pet friendly. I met a nice dog there earlier. He wasnt that talkative but I could tell he liked his accommodations"

His Tweets were so personal and so around-the-clock — and with the occasional typo — that he received more than one Tweet asking if it really was him at the keyboard.

His response:

"CoryBooker I got bout 2hrs sleep & its really me wet and wired on caffeine RT @LizaTulip Have u been up all night? Is this truly you, Mayor?"

But Booker wasn’t just Tweeting from some waterproof command center. He was out and about during the height of the storm, going door-to-door to talk to city dwellers about evacuating, delivering pizzas to shelters and first-responders and talking to the media.

His response to Hurricane Irene was impressive and just-right, and it was just one example of the real leadership we witnessed this weekend from state and local officials who seemed to know just what to say to keep people safe and prepared while minimizing panic.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie started early and declared a state of emergency on Thursday before the storm, mobilizing the National Guard and now-famously directing people to “get the hell off the beach.” His I’m-not-fooling-around stance had to have made residents think twice before sticking around to check out the waves.

In New York City, Mayor Mike Bloomberg presided over the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of New York City residents and a shutdown of the city’s subway. It was a risky move, and there will always be Monday morning quarterbacks who say it was an over-reaction. But it was the right thing to do.

As we learned from Hurricane Katrina, there’s no way to predict exactly what Mother Nature has planned. If Irene had been just a smidge more intense, the residents of New York City would have been in grave danger had they stuck around.

When the storm passed, Bloomberg Tweeted that "#Irene has brought out the best in NY’ers. Our city took it seriously and rose to the occasion."

We think the same could be said about many of our East Coast mayors and governors, including some of our own officials here in Massachusetts, including Governor Deval Patrick and New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang.

Whether you believe in big or small government, most everyone wants to feel that their public officials are looking out for them when disaster strikes, or threatens to strike. We want to know that they are in the trenches with us.

Most of the time, it’s easy to criticize political figures for not rising to the occasion. But in this case, they did exactly what they are elected to do.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Barack's Buffett Bathtub Bailout

Warren Buffett has been a political supporter of President Barack Obama for a long time.

Buffett endorsed Obama's 2008 candidacy early on. He's advised the President on economic policy and ways to promote investment in the American economy, reportedly as recently as this past Monday while the President was on vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

And, Buffett reportedly plans to hold a $10,000-a-ticket fundraiser for Obama's reelection campaign next month. (Read more here...)

Buffett's support for Obama is certainly not unique. But today, Buffett did what virtually no other American could do to support Obama's chances for reelection in 2012 - he personally stimulated the economy by making a $5 billion personal investment in Bank of America.

Is this an Obama bailout straight from Buffett's bathtub?

The motive is clear. Recently, Buffett wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in which he lamented Washington's "coddling of the rich." It was plainly in support of oft-used Obama talking points about the need for the wealthy and large corporations to "pay their fair share." Now, it seems, Buffett is literally putting his money where his mouth is, and he's doing it at a time when Obama most needs support.

Not that there's anything at all wrong or improper with that, of course. There isn't. Like every other American, Warren Buffett is free to invest his money where and as he pleases.

We just think it's curious that one of America's wealthiest citizens would choose to make this investment in Obama's political future now. History shows it's a bad bet to bet against Warren Buffett, and we have no doubt he will reap a hefty profit from Bank of America. But, when it comes to backing Obama in 2012 - a president with high disapproval ratings, high unemployment and skyrocketing national debt - we think this might just be one investment where Buffett takes a bath.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Warren appears on NECN to discuss GOP presidential race

Meredith Warren made several recent appearances on New England Cable News (NECN) to discuss Republican presidential politics.

On Thursday, Warren was interviewed by NECN reporter Alison King regarding the upcoming Ames, Iowa straw poll.

And, on Friday, Warren appeared as a guest commentator on NECN's Morning Show opposite host Bridget Blythe. The topic was Thursday night's Iowa GOP presidential debate.

Warren's comments on the debate also appear in today's Concord, NH Patch.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The debt ceiling debate - it's all about "me"

Wanting to watch the debt ceiling vote live last night without too much commentary from the talking heads, we tuned in to C-SPAN’s streaming online video about 10 minutes before votes were cast.

If you are familiar with C-SPAN’s coverage, you know that they fill time before major votes and press conferences taking calls from average voters from around the country.

These days, there are three different lines available – Democrat, Republican and Independent.

Sadly, based on what we heard, C-SPAN really only needed one line – Entitled.

A majority of callers – from all three lines – stated that their main concern about the debt ceiling debacle was that they wanted to make sure they received their “check,” whether it was Social Security or disability or something else. Very few called to say they were concerned about our country as a whole, or the future generations who would be paying the bill for those checks and all of the other debt that is continuing to grow by the second.

We get that there are many Americans who need government assistance – especially in today’s world. We don’t begrudge them that help.

What bothers us – and what the debt ceiling debate has laid bare to – is the way so many in America feel they are “entitled” to be taken care of by someone else. For some, it’s their government check. For others, it’s a re-election unmarred by a second debt ceiling debate (we’re looking at you, President Obama) and a way to go on summer vacation without having a thorny issue hanging over their heads.

The debt ceiling debate should have been about the fact that our nation finds itself drowning in debt and with a population of unemployed workers that's greater than the population of many states. The generation that comes after Generation Y and Generation Z is poised to be Generation IOU. However, these concerns ultimately got drowned out by a prevailing attitude of, "I want what's mine, right now, and let the chips fall where they may after that."

This sense of entitlement is exactly what the Democrats preyed on to win support for raising the debt ceiling. Congressional Democrats scored points emphasizing the danger of default as a way to force a deal, and they made appeals to their base that things like entitlement spending should not fall victim to suspension by way of default or to long-term budget cuts. These factors ultimately forced a deal, showing that people are susceptible to scare tactics and class warfare. In the aftermath, to those outside their base, Democrats look like they are unwilling to make the serious cuts needed to balance the budget and reduce the debt long-term, and that one of their main goals is to raise taxes to support gluttonous federal spending. And, to those inside the Democratic base who want entitlement spending preserved, there are concerns that the final compromise gave up too much.

Congressional Republicans emphasized the broader context of the budget, the danger of out-of-control entitlement spending, and the threat of tax increases. They pleased their base by making the issue about America borrowing too much money overall instead of about America not being able to borrow enough money under the current debt ceiling. They pushed their "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan forward despite Senate disapproval. However, in the aftermath and to those outside their base, Republicans look uncompromising and willing to sacrifice the stability of the economy for their own conservative principles. And, portions of the Republican base (particularly the Tea Party) are disappointed that the party ultimately relented too easily to an increase in the debt ceiling (to over $16 trillion) that far eclipses spending cuts (worth only $20 billion or so in 2012).

Ultimately, the final resolution of the current debate happened because neither side wanted the blame for a default pinned to them going in to the 2012 election cycle. After weeks of each side holding out for what they said they were unwilling to compromise, the one thing they were most unwilling to give up was their own political future. Almost universally, members of Congress are complaining about the bill that is being passed and lamenting how difficult it was to vote for or against it. Again, the issue is all about them and not the greater good of the country. If they were actually concerned about the state of our finances, would they be leaving today for a five-week break?

Digging deeper into the "all about me" file, we come to President Obama. We think he exhibited a profound lack of leadership and overwhelming selfishness on the issue. Throughout the debate, the President's public message was one of encouraging "compromise." But, it's apparent that he had one mission in mind: to secure a deal to raise the debt ceiling past his own reelection campaign. He offered few plans or suggestions of his own, choosing instead to act as some sort of "Broker-in-Chief" to bring Congressional leaders together in time. His failure to do so across weeks of time leaves him looking as if he is incapable of deal-making with Washington's real power brokers and that he has few ideas of his own. And, his progressive base appears as if it's starting to abandon him. The President seems to have accomplished no real victory in the debate except for having it go away for awhile and being able to peacefully celebrate his birthday in Chicago tomorrow.

As the President signs the debt ceiling bill into law later today, America will still find itself with an unemployment level over nine percent, a debt of $14 trillion skyrocketing to $16 trillion soon, and with a more than $1 trillion year-to-year budget deficit. Our collective "me, me, me" attitude remains intact and survives as the prism through which we approach political problems these days. Members of Congress and the President are slapping each other on the back, congratulating each other for saving the world, while we're now two steps away from falling off the cliff instead of one. Meanwhile, the only thing future generations will be "entitled" to is a big fat bill.