Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama pulling troops out of Iraq in 2010

Today president Obama informed congress that he plans on removing troops out of Iraq in 2010, 3 months past his expected 16 month removal plan. He will be leaving 35,000-50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq for support. All troops will be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011 due to an agreement former president Bush made with the Iraqi government.

It is about time somebody takes action on ending this war. I personally don't think it even matters if Obama is three months off of his expected removal date simply because he is actually taking the initiative to remove the troops AND giving us a set date, something I never saw Bush do (correct me if I am wrong as Bush might have given an exact date). I think there is a large difference between giving an approximate time to remove our troops and giving an exact date, and it is better to be precise in my opinion.

What job would you take to survive?

I read this interesting article today about a family that went "from Beverly Hills to shoveling manure on a farm". This article struck my interest after we had our discussion in class about what jobs you would work at to make money. It made me think about how much some people must suffer to survive in today's economy and just how drastic this crisis is. To go from making over $100,000 a year to shoveling manure for far less takes a lot. In class, when we discussed some of the more disgusting jobs that people would work for to make some money, and there was always a choice. For this families life, however, it was not a choice; they were forced to transfer to a less than flattering job to keep their family going. 

This article struck me as shocking due to the fact that I had no idea somebody as well off as the man in the article may be could go from everything to almost nothing, hanging by a string. I was convinced that anybody who was making enough money would suffer some common luxuries, but never have to suffer to the point of losing an ideal lifestyle for a 28-year old.

I believe the moral of this story is to not take things such as your job or financial security for granted.

"The Simpsons" sets a world record

This probably has nothing to do with economics or government, but Fox has announced that the station is going to renew "The Simpsons" for two more seasons. This means that "The Simpsons" will be the longest-running scripted prime-time TV series. Right now, the show is tied with "Gunsmoke," a western from back in the day; this record is 20 years.

But that's not all. The show will be premiered in Great Britain for the first time in its 20-year history this St. Patrick's day.

I'm not a huge fan, but I think that after 20 years, there is a possibility of running out of subject matter. I've been looking around, and it seems like many people are, if not excited, at least positively receptive to the new seasons, relishing the stability that comes with the sameness of the plot lines, the one-liners, and Homer Simpson.

So congratulations to "The Simpsons."

Fun Fact

Just a fun fact: Today I realized that US Presidential elections always coincide with the Summer Olympics!

Plus I thought that this was an interesting piece of news:
The First Summer Youth Olympic Games will be held in 2010 (not an election year) in Singapore. It was announced a year ago, but I just found out about it today, and I don't know if it's something that I just missed, or if it's something that a lot of people don't know about. The Youth Olympic Games (YOG for short) are meant to bring together the world's best young athletes, aged 14-18... which is kind of funny since many of the participants in the Olympics this last summer were in that age group. The purpose is to prepare these young people for participation in the actual Summer Olympics in the future.

I thought that this was really cool... but there is only one problem. Nothing makes me feel more like a bum than when I see people of my own age (and younger) set world records, make history, and win gold medals. I can only wish I was talented enough to do the same!

Possible Republican Nominees for 2012

Today in Washington, D.C., a poll was conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) regarding the next presidential election. Those who attended the conference were asked to answer a questionnaire, and one of the questions was: "Thinking ahead to the 2012 Presidential election, who would you vote for as the next Republican nominee for President?"

Here are the top choices:
(1) Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, (2) former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, (3) former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, (4) former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, (5) Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, (6) Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, (7) Texas Rep. Ron Paul, (8) Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, (9) former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and (10) South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

Some are familiar faces, like Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney. Some are newecomers, like Bobby Jindal. By the way, both he and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford rejected money from President Obama's stimulus (partially)... is there a connection? Tim Pawlenty doesn't seem like an awful choice, but I'm not so sure about Newt Gingrich.

I cannot fathom why Sarah Palin is on this list; frankly, I thought that Sarah Palin mania ended a long, long, long, long time ago, and that she went back to obscurity in Alaska...but I guess not.

I also think that it was interesting that people are already making plans about the next presidency when Obama's just barely got started...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Just for Max...

Obama's State of the Union Adress

http://2008caucus.blogspot.com/2009/02/barack-obama-state-of-union-transcript.html
This is for those of you who, like me, were unable to watch the speech and wanted to see it for yourselves.

Plus, here is a video of the , Ty'sheoma Bethea, on ABC's Good Morning America. She was referenced by President Obama in his speech, and even sat next to Michelle Obama. The reference may have been cheesy, but she seems to have a good head on her shoulders.

video

California to legalize marijuana?

This is a fun and interesting little find. Apparently there has been a bill proposed to legalize the sale and consumption of marijuana in the state of California for people of ages 21 and over. It would be monitored and regulated in similar ways to alcohol. They believe that making marijuana a legal and taxable operation will improve our economy. Not only will it be taxed, circulating more money through the government, but it will also cut back on the large amount of money invested in the drug war (billions of dollars in law enforcement costs). Marijuana, according to the news report has become a cash crop--more so than fruits, nuts, hay, cotton, and other various crops combined.

Some of the concerns with this bill is the predicted rate of smoking. It is estimated that smoking will increase a total of 32-40%. It is also argued that the "cost to society would be a lot more" if the bill was passed. The inherent concerns of whether or not we need yet another drug legalized is brought up as well. 

I personally believe this bill is a smart idea. I have been an advocate and supporter towards this opinion for quite some time now for various reasons. In a nutshell, I believe that although this bill will increase smoking and drug use, it will benefit society in the long run due to aspects such as health, how people act while on the drug, etc. (for the sake of not coasting off into a tangent about the morals of marijuana and whether it is ultimately good or bad, I ask that everyone tries their best not to preach an opinion about said topic or criticize anybody else's on theirs).

If anybody wants to see the video of this report, click the link of my blog post and it should redirect you. If not, it should be on the front page on CNN.com

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A bit of the expected GOP pessimism towards Obama's speech

Just found this link addressing the Republican response to Obama's speech.

Louisiana Governor Bob Jindal responded to Obama's speech fairly negatively, although he pointed out some interesting aspects of Obama's proposed package. Jindal did a good job at pointing out some of the possible pork barreling within the package, such as $8 billion in high-speed rail projects, $300 million to buy new government cars, and $140 million for spending on volcano monitoring. As much as I am a firm believer that Obama's package will greatly improve our problems, Jindal makes a good point. However, Jindal's assertions seemed a bit nit-picky and childish to me. He never really addressed any of Obama's stronger points, just those that tended to drag behind the proposed package as seemingly arbitrary additions.

Obama's optimism towards the economy

Today, President Obama asserted in his speech his optimistic viewpoint towards our economic issues and the stimulus plan he proposes. He plans on correcting the economy, or helping to correct the economy, through improvements on energy, health care, and education. Obama has pointed out that he already sees "$2 trillion in government spending cuts that can be made over the next decade." Through his stimulus plan, Obama predicts that within three years, America will have doubled its supply of renewable energy and have invested $15 billion into technological advances in green technology. In terms of health care, Obama has made large predictions. He believes that, if the bill goes as planned, we will have either found a cure for cancer or be far down the road to getting there (perhaps a bit of a farfetched prediction, but one that most of us would like to see happen). Many excellent goals were proposed in Obama's speech and hopefully we will see most of them happen.

This is a refreshing take on our current issues. It is nice to see in a president such dedication to the improvement of the lives of America's citizens. Even though I believe a few of his ideas tend to be a little "out-there", I praise him for his substantial magnitude of optimism and the fact that he has the confidence to believe that we as a nation can fight our problems and pull through.


What an awful cartoon


The New York Post apologized for publishing the cartoon above. Many who found it offensive interpreted it as comparing Barack Obama to the violent chimpanzee who mauled a woman and was shot in Connecticut. They found it a racist depiction of Obama's African American heritage; the New York Post has responded by stating that the intent behind the cartoon was purely satirical. I don't know: it is an awful cartoon, but we are dealing with the New York Post, and I think it is safe to say that the newspaper often seeks controversy. I do not approve of the cartoon, however; I can only say that I pity the fool who dares to compare me to a monkey. Or a chimpanzee.
Interestingly enough, the New York Post actually endorsed Obama during the election; should the cartoon have been published for satirical purposes, I think that the New York Post did not step out of accordance with past history. Maybe I can't see clearly, but I am not finding much satire... I just think it is a stupid cartoon, I don't know how much thought went into creating it.
Furthermore, the New York Post was hesitant about adressing questions presented by the NAACP. Who knows how sincere this apology is?

The Economics of Health

I found out today that just one alcoholic drink a day can increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Men, however, don't have to worry so much. Women have a greater amount of fat in their bodies than men, and alcohol can't be diluted by fat tissue. As a result, women have to be a bit more cautious and have to meet with their physicians more often regarding this issue

Well, due to the economic recession, many people are probably not meeting with physicians very often... But an economist from the University of North Carolina, Christopher Ruhm, thinks differently; he believes that a failing economy can actually lead to better health. He states, "Health is complicated. People think it's determined by medical care, and obviously that makes a difference, but it's not the primary thing. There are all these lifestyle factors, all these other things that are not well understood."

I take this to mean that people, in a recession, make thrifty decisions that end up being beneficial to their health. For example: rising gas prices will ideally lead to less car use, and, as a result, less pollution in the air and therefore we inhale less nastiness.

However, I don't know if Ruhm's theory is perfectly accurate, since healthy food, especially organic, can be especially pricier than the unhealthy, high-fructose corn syrup-containing junk that is packed on all of the shelves in most grocery stores. Just think about how expensive Whole Foods is...

I think that during times of economic recession, people put their health on the back burner; the choices that they begin to make will indirectly affect their health, but they do not make their choices based solely (if based at all) on health concerns. Even though the body is a temple. Even though health is important. Even though good health is necessary to live. In a recession, I think that the attitude of many people is perhaps to look at the short-term effects rather than the long-term benefits, and I think that this is manifested by the way people treat their own health.

Monday, February 23, 2009

American ist

Amidst the global economic crisis, the first US citizen to be confirmed as a ` er. Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized US citizen from Minneapolis, was discovered to have participated in attacks in Somalia this last October. "It appears that this individual was radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota," stated by FBI director Robert Mueller. In effect, he was recruited in the USA. What's more, the FBI suggests that the situation in Somalia may soon contribute to "the global jihad," that extremist groups in Somalia may soon merge with Al Qaeda. Well, ok... if you say so...

Shirwa Ahmed participated in extremist activities, but it was not directed against the United States; the United States is fighting a War on Teror. Can we really call it treason? Did Ahmed essentially bite the hand that feeds him? It is hard to determine, since there doesn't seem to be any hatred directed towards the United States. Nor are Somalia and the US close allies: the U.S. Embassy in Somalia has been closed since 1991.

I don't approve of the extremist activities in Somalia, but I wonder if the FBI is being too cautious. It kind of seems like they are trying to lump together two different groups, too quick to jumpt to conclusions. I don't know what to think, actually.

GOP Governors to Reject Stimulus Money

Republican governers have been split on accepting money from Obama's multi-billion dollar stimulus. The stimulus, backed by three Republicans, is also being rejected by three republicans: Southern governors Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. The governors stated outright that they would accept no money regarding unemployment insurance. Are these decisions based on ideology or partisan politics? I think partisan politics definetely played a role: Jindal, at least, is a potential GOP presidential candidate. Should the stimulus fail, he will be able to say that he was smart enough to oppose it from the beginning, and therefore appear as a good leader.... But what if the stimulus succeeds?

Our own Arnold Schwarzenegger, however, is more than happy to comply: he is willing to accept any and all money offered. It is probably a good idea: in California, we need all of the money we can get.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Facebook Scare

Although this is not directly related to economics, I thought it was important because I know that most everybody in our class has a facebook. Apparently, two weeks ago, facebook changed its “terms of service” for its users. It wasn’t until the beginning of last week though that people were really made aware of it thanks to the blog The Consumerist. What exactly was the change?

“Facebook basically told its users that when they posted personal information to their Facebook pages (including photos, the music they were listening to at the moment, or their favorite movies), Facebook owned that information forever and could use it in just about any manner the company wished”.

Now I know everyone is intelligent enough to not put things up on facebook that they wouldn’t want anyone or everyone to see, but still! That is just disconcerting. Forget worrying about GPS chips in your cars when facebook is pretty much claiming they own your soul. And what makes matters worse is that they did this change very under-the-radar obviously realizing the uproar it would cause. But before you get too freaked out, don’t worry, they got rid of the new “terms of service” and went back to the old ones. It seems there was a HUGE commotion made about it, and well there should’ve been.

Even though this incident won’t necessarily deter people from getting facebook accounts, or make them stop using the ones they already have, it’s still good to just realize that no matter how many privacy settings you have turned on, facebook will still be watching you…

UC Funding Cuts

California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently signed the state budget adopted by the Legislature for the rest of the 2008-2009 year, and the 2009-2010 fiscal year. The budget plan includes tax increases and spending reductions as well as other things. But the thing that we graduating seniors should be concerned about, is the $115 million new permanent funding cuts for the University of California system included in this plan. These cuts will impact the UC’s by a $450 million shortfall (including the $115 of new cuts), $122 million in under funded enrollments, and $213 million in unfunded mandatory costs for utilities over a two-year period. Although the effects from this may not affect the seniors hoping to get into the UC system this fall, it is something to be concerned about. A lot of the UC are already impacted, and cutting their funding just adds to the problem.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Obama Wants To Halve Budget Deficit

President Barack Obama wants to cut his country's massive deficit in half by the end of his four-year term in office.
He will try to achieve that lofty goal by cutting back spending on the Iraq war and raising the taxes of the U.S.'s wealthiest citizens, an administration official told The Associated Press.
The official said Obama's request for the budget year that begins on Oct. 1 should put the country on track to cut the deficit within a four-year timeframe.
Obama's budget request will be delivered to Congress on Thursday, with a full summary of the massive document to arrive in April.
Obama inherited about a $1.2 trillion deficit from former president George W. Bush.
Earlier on Saturday, Obama said nearly all working families in America will benefit from the tax cuts included in his US$787 billion economic stimulus package within six weeks.
In his weekly radio and web address, the president said 95 per cent of working families will see more money coming home from their weekly paycheques by April 1.
"I'm pleased to announce that this morning, the Treasury Department began directing employers to reduce the amount of taxes withheld from paycheques," Obama said. "Meaning that by April 1, a typical family will begin taking home at least $65 more every month."
"Never before in our history has a tax cut taken effect faster or gone to so many hardworking Americans," Obama added.
According to The Associated Press, the incoming tax cuts, known as the "Making Work Pay" tax break, will save eligible individuals $400 throughout the rest of the year. Couples should see up to $800 in savings.
The president thanked lawmakers, his colleagues and his fellow Americans for supporting his efforts to speed ahead with "the most sweeping economic recovery plan in history."
"I'm grateful to Congress, governors and mayors across the country, and to all of you whose support made this critical step possible," Obama said.
Like in previous addresses, the president cautioned that although he was pleased that his recovery plan had been signed in to law, it would not be enough to fix all of America's problems by itself.
"No single piece of this broad economic recovery can, by itself, meet the demands that have been placed on us," Obama said.
But the president said he was optimistic that the U.S. was on the right track.
"I am confident that we, as a people, have the strength and wisdom to carry out this strategy and overcome this crisis," he said.
"And if we do, our economy -- and our country -- will be stronger for it."

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Mortgage Crisis Explained...


The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Tax the Gas, Not the Mileage

President Obama, to many motorists relief, will NOT adopt the policy to tax people based on how many miles they drive. Here are some arguments in favor of continuing to tax the gas and not the mileage:

• The best reason is that it will get rid of the incentive of people to drive more fuel-efficient cars. People are concerned about global-warming, the environment, and drilling for oil, but not everyone is. The people who aren’t would probably not even consider fuel-efficient cars if gas was no longer taxed.

• In order to know how many miles someone has driven to be able to tax them the correct amount, GPS chips would have to be installed in cars. The cars movements could then be tracked. Some feel that this is a violation of their privacy.

I like the first argument, but the second one I don’t think holds up that well. Some cars already have GPS chips in them, and most new ones will anyways. I also doubt that the government is going to sit there watching your car’s every move as indicated to them by the little blinking red dot on the screen in front of them. And so what if they do? I mean, if you aren’t doing anything illegal in the first place, what’s it to you if they watch you go to the grocery store? And even if you were doing something illegal, you would obviously be aware of the chip in your car and take the necessary precautions before driving your car somewhere, such as taking the chip out and sticking it on another car, or just leaving it in your garage.

Those Swiss

One may not normally consider the Swiss to be sneaky; I usually associate chocolate with them. But apparently they have earned their stripes for covert operations. The Swiss bank UBS AG helped about 52,000 Americans (the real number is not yet known due to the bank’s refusal to hand over their records) evade taxes on a combined sum of $14.8 billion dollars. That is a lot of money, especially when our economy can use all the help it can get! This was also no feather operation, the bank made sure all sides were covered for their clients: they had 24/7 hotlines that would offer advice in case their clients ran into trouble, and their clients had laptops with a “generic UBS PowerPoint presentation” to show in case of a border search. And just in case that wasn’t enough, (this is my favorite part), they “allegedly staged training sessions so that ‘client advisers’ could travel frequently to consult with secret U.S. customers without attracting the attention of tax agents or law enforcement officials. They were told to keep ‘an irregular hotel rotation’ and falsely claim on customs forms that they were in the U.S. on pleasure, not business.” They sure went through a lot of effort to cover up their naughty deeds. Well I guess it was all for naught now because the IRS is breathing down their backs and doing all they can to get their hands on the bank’s clientele records. If you’re interested in reading more about the ways the bank helped to conceal their operations, click here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Trade and War in Canada

President Barack Obama stepped cautiously in his first foreign trip Thursday, refraining from asking Canada to rethink its plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and saying changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement can wait.
In a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
, Obama acknowledged that he has said NAFTA does too little to protect U.S. workers and the environment. Canada, the United State's largest trading partner, is leery of changes to the deal.
Robust trade helps both nations, Obama said. Noting that NAFTA has side agreements on labor and the environment, he added: "If those side agreements mean anything, then they might as well be incorporated into the main body of the agreements so that they can be effectively enforced." He said he hopes there eventually will be a way to do so "that is not disruptive to the extraordinarily important trade relationships" between the two nations.
Both leaders said that as economies around the world face challenges, it's important for the U.S. and others to resist calls for protectionism.

In Afghanistan, Canada plans to pull its 2,500 combat troops from the volatile south in 2011, following the loss of more than 100 troops killed in the country since 2001. Obama is headed the other direction, dispatching 17,000 more U.S. troops to the war zone.
Obama said Thursday he did not press Harper to reconsider. He said he praised Canada for its sacrifices and for making Afghanistan its largest recipient of foreign aid.
Turning to U.S.-Canada border security and the fight against terrorism, Harper said any threat to the United States is a threat to his country, too.
The prime minister said Canada has made "significant investments" in security and in border protection since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.
But he said there's a "real challenge" in increasing border security in a way that doesn't limit commerce and social interaction.
Obama said he believes the ties between Canada and the United States will grow even stronger over the next four years. The men took questions from two Canadian reporters and two U.S. reporters in a room adorned with numerous flags of the two nations.
Obama later made a surprise visit to a downtown market in Ottawa leaving fellow customers stunned.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Signs That Things Are Getting Better

Here's what to watch for to tell whether the stimulus package is actually working, and when the economy might start to mend.

  • An improvement in the unemployment rate. Of all the economic indicators, this is probably the single most important. But you might want to avert your eyes for awhile.
  • More stable home prices. The realestate boom and bust is what torpedoed the economy in the first place, and the economy won't start to recover until the housing bubble fully deflates.
  • A consumer confidence rebound. Since consumer confidence closely tracks the job market, the dismal numbers of the last few months probably won't improve by much until late in 2009, or 2010. Homeowners have lost more than $3 trillion worth of value in their homes over the last three years, and investors have seen their stock portfolios shredded. So even people who feel secure in their jobs are dour.
  • A less volatile stock market. Every investor hopes that beleaguered stocks will come roaring back in 2009 and regain some of the ground lost since the peak in 2007 - when the S&P 500 stock index was nearly 50 percent higher than it is today. But a better indicator of economic health would be a steady recovery - without the manic swings that seem to come from every hint of undisclosed trouble at some big bank or rumor of new government intervention.
  • Economic growth turns positive. By economic standards, the current downturn has already lasted longer than the typical post-World War II recession.

Jobs That'll Come Looking for You

Within the next few years, jobs will outstrip demand in some professions. Some employers may even woo you with incentive bonuses, well-paid salaries, and good benefits packages. So, instead of preparing for a career where the job search process is long and grueling, why not find a career where prospective employers practically come knocking on the door?
  • Accountant
  • Computer Software Engineer
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Elementary Teacher
  • Environmental Science and Protection Technician
  • Nurse
  • Personal Finance Advisor
  • Physical Therapist Assistant
  • Skin Care Specialist
  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor
  • Veterinary Technologist and Technician

I just found this really interesting

Questionable Politlcal Cartoon

The New York Post published a political cartoon by Sean Delonas today (you can see it in the video below) depicting two officers and a dead monkey with bullet holes in it, one of the officers is holding a smoking gun, while the other is saying "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." Obviously, the controversy is that the monkey could represent Obama, and that he is being shot. However, Delonas has called this controversy "absolutely friggin' ridiculous" and said that the cartoon is strictly about the stimulus bill, although going off of what the officer in the cartoon is saying, that may not be entirely true. Source.

Also, here is a video about it from youtube, featuring Chris Matthews - the guy who wrote that - fun - book we read over summer.

Economists Agree!?!

This is a rather lengthy excerpt from Greg Mankiw, who teaches economics at Harvard and has written one of the standard econ textbooks used to teach macroeconomics at the college level. Note the caveat to #4 below, and that Congressional Republicans complained bitterly about provisions in the stimulus package that amounted to the idea behind #13 ("why should people who don't pay taxes (income taxes) get tax relief?" they complained. Um, because 79% of economists and Ronald Reagan agree that it is good policy?). Mankiw once served as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Bush. He's no liberal, and his academic reputation is beyond reproach.

In chapter two of the book, I include a table of propositions to which most economists subscribe, based on various polls of the profession. Here is the list, together with the percentage of economists who agree:

1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)
2. Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
3. Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%)
4. Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%)
5. The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
6. The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85%)
7. Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85%)
8. If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%)
9. The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85%)
10. Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84%)
11. A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy. (83%)
12. A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers. (79%)
13. The government should restructure the welfare system along the lines of a “negative income tax.” (79%)
14. Effluent taxes and marketable pollution permits represent a better approach to pollution control than imposition of pollution ceilings. (78%)

If we could get the American public to endorse all these propositions, I am sure their leaders would quickly follow, and public policy would be much improved. That is why economics education is so important.

Note that the proposition about fiscal policy (#4) does not distinguish between taxes and spending as the best tool for purposes of macro stabilization. Maybe that question should be added in a future poll. I doubt, however, that the answer would make it onto this list of widely agreed upon propositions.


Mankiw's blog can be found here. Well worth bookmarking!

An Even Bleaker Future

Today the Federal Reserve issued new projections about the performance of our economy this year. The short version – bad. The previous projections claimed that the unemployment rate would rise to between 7.1 and 7.6 percent for this year, but now it seems the percent has increased, sitting somewhere between 8.5 and 8.8 percent. This year has barely even started and already unemployment has increased by a possible 1 percent! Our economy keeps falling and it seems that the ground is nowhere is sight. When will this all end? How much “change” is it going to take to get us back up on our feet? At the moment, the only thing it seems we can hope for is that when we do finally hit the ground, we hit it running.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fortess of Melted Brick

Now, I know this has nothing to do with politics or economy, but it's something interesting to end the day with. It's a fortess of brick that was later used by the Russian military to test the effects of napalm inside of brick houses. The temperatures got so high that the bricks melted like ice and became brick colored icicles

Let's Stimulate!

Today Obama signed a huge stimulus package and got a $50 billion "foreclosure rescue" ready to help the many Americans that are in danger of losing their homes.  Even with this reassurance Auto makers are shutting down and the stock market isn't doing much better. the Dow Jones dropped a reported 297.81 points.  Through all of this Obama's focus was on the $787 billion stimulus plan composed of federal spending and tax cuts. He made sure to say "Non of this will be easy.  The road to recovery will not be straight.  We will make progress, and there may be some slippage along the way."  Other than the word slippage  our new president seems to know the American people very well.  We are an antsy group that wants rapid change and it may not be as fast as we need.  But I can appreciate that something is being done so that I won't have to wait in line for bread.

Oil's Cheap, but Gas Isn't

It seems they're inversely propotionally. Oil prices have hit a new low, but it looks like gas prices are going for a new high, trying to beat last year's $4 per gallon, oh my god. "The recession in America has dramatically cut demand for crude oil, and inventories are piling up. So prices for West Texas crude have fallen well below what oil costs from places like the North Sea, Saudi Arabia and South America." It's not like that's going to help us much though without building new billion dollar pipelines over the next few years while oil just continues to flip flop and frustrate people. Not to mention all of the space it would take up, the wildlife it would destroy, and the uselessness of it once we actually stop using oil, either because we've become independent of it or because we've used it all up. But maybe this'll help us get to our future goal of being a nation not dependent on oil. Hopefully things'll work out for the best, because I know that personally, I'm getting sick of having to go pump up my tank and seeing that it costs me almost $10 more than last time.

President's Day

I figured being as yesterday was President’s Day that it would be appropriate to tell a little back-story behind the day. President’s Day is actually the federal holiday in celebration of Washington’s Birthday. Its celebration began in 1880, but the holiday was originally only implemented for governmental offices in the District of Columbia. It wasn’t until 1885 that the holiday was expanded to include all federal offices. Also, the holiday was originally celebrated on February 22, Washington’s actual birthday, but in consequence to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act the holiday is now celebrated on the third Monday in February. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act, what is that? Some may ask. Well it is an act of Congress that was passed on June 28 1968 and took effect on January 1 1971, which established that the observance of certain federal holidays would always take place on a Monday. Nifty ain’t it? It seems us kids are not the only ones who enjoy a nice long weekend. And now to include the economic outlook on the holiday! Apparently, supporters of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act liked the idea of moving all of these holidays to a Monday because it would promote business, and seeing as President’s Day is known to many shoppers as a day of sales, those congressmen may have had an ace up their sleeve besides just the desire to have an extra day to hit the green. Question: What is the opportunity cost of moving all holidays to a Monday?
I’m curious though what the other 42 presidents would say about not having a holiday on their birthdays. (Cleveland was both the 22nd and the 24th president and I very much doubt that his birthday changed between his two times in office). (One could also argue though that it would be the other 41 presidents because Lincoln is often celebrated on President’s day as well).

The Stimulus has been signed

President Barack Obama signed the stimulus package into law today and readied a new $50 billion foreclosure rescue for legions of Americans who are in danger of losing their homes. Obama focused on the $787 billion stimulus plan, an ambitious package of federal spending and tax cuts designed to revive the economy and save millions of jobs. Most wage-earners will soon see the first paycheck evidence of tax breaks that will total $400 for individuals and $800 for couples.
Unemployed people will find their first $2,400 of benefits is untaxed, and they may qualify for reduced health-insurance premiums through their former employer's group plan, or Cobra.
There's the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers who buy between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, 2009 -- this credit doesn't have to be paid back, unlike the $7,500 perk available in 2008. I think that this could either be a very good thing or a very bad one, but I'm not seeing a medium coming into play, though I do support Obama and am hoping for the best. We're just going to have to sit back and see how things play out, don't you think?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

New Military Program: Fast Pass to U.S. Citizenship

There is a new way for immigrants to receive citizenship of this country. The U.S. military is going to start granting temporary immigrants the chance to become permanent citizens within as little as six months if they enlist in the war. The only requirement is that they had to have lived in the U.S. for a minimum of two years without leaving for longer than 90 days. They also must pass background checks that make sure there is no prior criminal record. This plan will start by recruiting immigrants who speak 35 different languages, with the exclusion of Spanish, along with 300 medical professionals. The program will start off with only 1,000 open military spots, but it could end up with close to 14,000. In order to become a citizen, language experts will have to serve 4 years, and medical professionals will have to serve 3. If they do not complete these terms, their citizenship may be revoked.

The military sees this as beneficial, because temporary immigrants often have better foreign language skills and education than many of the Americans who are already enlisted. By having people familiar with other languages enlisted in the army, the military can “accomplish the missions with more accuracy.” Also, it is difficult for the army to attract doctors and language experts, so by allowing temporary immigrants to enlist, the number of these professionals in the military could expand greatly.

Opposition to this program believe that this will bring too many immigrants into the country when we already have a large enough population with many living in poverty as it is. Immigrants may only increase the problem. Another concern is that this may be a way for terrorists to infiltrate the American military.

What do you think? Will this program be a great addition to our military system, or could it ultimately be detrimental to our country?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stimulus Plan Revised, Awaits Obama's Signature

The stimulus plan we have all been hoping will work (as in if it doesn't work, we're screwed) has been approved by Congress and now all that is needed is Obama's signature - which should be given on Monday. The plan was originally at $838 billion, but a couple of hooligan Senate moderates wrought some witch craft and brought it down to $787 billion to help the plan get more votes. I don't know what difference 51 billions make when you're dealing with about 800 of them, but I guess when one deals with so many billions, one's thought process gets a little boggled - mine is, and if yours isn't, think harder.

If you don't believe me that $787 billion is a big number, take it from senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): "This is one of the most expensive pieces of legislation that Congress has ever approved...it adds up and it has to be paid back." See? I'm always right.

Votes for the economic stimulus plan were mostly divided along party lines. Republicans voted against it, Democrats voted for it. The exceptions were seven Democrats in the House who voted against the plan, and in the Senate three Republicans and two Independents voted for the plan. In the Senate, the stimulus plan needed all the help it could get - it passed with the minimum number of votes: 60-38.

Now if you're thinking that $787 billion is a lot and that we will just spend it and see how it works out, you're not thinking like Obama. President Obama says that this stimulus plan is only the beginning - another $700 billion will be needed for a financial industry bailout.


Less than 30 days in office and Obama has already passed some legislation that will go down in history. Obama doesn't mess around.


HOWEVER, if these government officials were actually smart, they would just give me all this money so that I could single handedly jump start the economy. Now THAT is a good idea! I should run for president.

Sources 1 and 2.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Congressional Vote for Washington DC?

Yesterday, the Senate decided to approve a bill to give Washington DC its first voting member in Congress. The district already has representation, but its representatives are not given a vote. If the bill is passed in both houses, the House of Representatives would permanently increase by two members (another will be given to Utah.) People in agreement with the addition of a House member claim that the people of DC should have a say and be represented in government. People in opposition to the expansion of the House to include a voting member for Washington DC claim that the Constitution would have to be amended in order for this to happen. The Constitution currently states that "No Person shall be a Representative...who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen." Because Washington DC is a district rather than a state, the constitutionality of allowing DC a voting member is being debated. The issue revolves around whether or not there should be a loose or strict interpretation of this clause in the Constitution. Should the people of DC have a voice in Congress, or because they are not a state and are a smaller group of people, should their opinions be ignored?

A-Rod and Steroids

Earlier this week it was revealed that during the 2003 season Alex Rodriguez had tested positive for performance enhancing steroids.  This is only only one person out of the hundred names that could be on a list of athletes that use these drugs.  but now that the team, the union, and the fans know what is to be done?  it would be easy to say that we simply must move on because it is in the past but it seems now that all the records that he set are tainted by this release of information.  Should any legal action be taken? Or do we simply let these details be remembered by the fans?

Obama's Speech on Economic Stimulus Plan

On February 9, President Obama gave a speech in Elkhart, Indiana advocating the proposed $800,000,000 $800,000,000,000 economic stimulus plan. Why a place like Elkhart - a place that pays 2.25% less sales tax and has 58% the population of San Mateo[1], might you ask? Obama should like us more! Why doesn't he give a speech here in San Mateo?! Well, the reason is that the people over in Elkhart have it bad: Elkhart is a major manufacturer of recreational vehicles, namely RV's, and because of the economic crisis and since nobody wants RV's anymore, the unemployment rate in Elkhart rose from 4.7% to 15.3% in a year[2]. Dang.

Obama's stimulus plan should greatly help cities like Elkhart that have been badly affected by this economic downturn. If Obama is as successful with this campaigning as he was with his election campaigning, he should have more than enough support for the plan to pass. According to a recent Gallup poll, he is already working his magic, and has already boosted support on Tuesday from 52% to 59% from a week back (as in this recent Tuesday the 10th, approval was 59%, and the Tuesday before that it was at 52%)[3]. If it takes Obama a week to raise support by 7%, he probably won't have too much to worry about, in terms of support for the stimulus plan at least.

- OR -

Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan is funding for a secret government mind beam to allow Obama to know what we are thinking - it IS abbreviated ESP.


Sources:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Who Gave Them Money?


A new site has popped up that discloses information on who donated to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. The information for this site is attained by California state law. The California's Political Reform Act of 1974 made it state law for all contributions of $100 or more to be made public. The goal of this law was to expose large businesses who might be trying to seek influence in big projects or political figures. The information was collected and now this site has put the information on google maps. Anyone can now look up people in their area who donated to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. Not only do you see their first and last name but you also see their occupation and how much they donated to the campaign.

The people who donated to the campaign are now receiving hate mail, being harassed and their businesses are being boycotted. Some people have received death threats and some received a white substance in the mail. One college professor from USF supported civil unions for gay couples but didn't want to change the traditional definition of marriage. His donation went on the website and he received e-mails that were also sent to his colleagues and supervisors.

The question this raises is, is this helping the democratic process or hurting it? People may want to stop participating in the political process because they don't want the possibility of being harassed. The information being provided has been magnified by the Internet and is widely available, many groups can easily find this information and target voters one by one. But the information also gives the public more knowledge of who is donating. The law was intended to make the political process transparent, not blocked off to the public.

Two solutions that have been proposed, one is to raise the amount of money that requires donors information to be public. This would protect the anonymity of smaller donors. Another idea is for people who want to access this information must provide identification, then the information will go both ways.

What do you think?
Here is the link to the website that provides the prop 8 donation information.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Pirates



The pirates that are attacking the ships are mainly from Somalia. They are young men and usually pretty ragged and poor, but they have experience from working on merchant ships and they have made many attacks on boats. Somalia is going through a civil war right now and the government doesn't have the means or resources to prosecute the pirates. The attacks are happening in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, as well as the Straits of Malacca and the Nigerian coastline. The hijackings have escalated to smaller fishing ships to large merchant ships and supertankers. The latest in these attacks was the Saudi owned Sirius Star, which carried $100 million worth of oil. The ships that are being attacked are paying thousands, even millions, of dollars for ransom.

Muammar Gaddafi, the new chairman of the African Union, defended the pirates saying that their actions are defensive. He says that the pirates are trying to defend themselves from western nations that are illegally fishing in these regions and are exploiting Somalia.

I think the pirates are really cool, but maybe that's because I watch to much Pirates of the Caribbean. But in this case, pirates aren't as cool. I think that organized crime like this is really easy in a country like Somalia where there isn't a great government set up yet. Unfortunately this is one of the many problems in that region. It kinda makes our problems a little bit more high class.

Senators Reach Agreement on $$

The bill that the senate came up with amounts to around $900 billion. They are also cutting money, 20 billion for new construction for schools, 8 billion to refurbish federal homes to make them more energy efficient and 1 billion for the early childhood program. It was hard to get Republican support for this bill, when at first no Republican in the House voted for the bill, but with some of the changes there is some what of a compromise. Some Republicans are ok with it, saying that it is the best we can do at the moment. Others, like Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, said that the stimulus bill will not give as big of a boost that the economy needs. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said that he is worried about "the crushing debt that we’re levying on the backs of our children, our grandchildren and, yes, their children". John McCain is becoming one of the main opponents to this bill, saying that he "wants to stimulate the economy, not mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren by the kind of fiscally profligate spending embodied in this legislation". But many are trying to rally the Republicans and get them behind this bill in order to give out aid faster. This is coming after it was released that in just January alone there were 598,000 job cuts. This is steeper job loss then there has been in a long time and there are just going to be more losses to come. It is urgent at this point to get something to Obama and to get it to him soon.

My thoughts is that there are smart people who know how to spend money, they should be in charge and then fix it. But I know its much more complicated then that. To me it looks like there are two different opinions on how to fix it, the Democrat way and the Republican way. For this problem, I feel like any solution would be a good one. The Republicans seem mad that they don't have a majority so the first big thing they can oppose, they will. Also, it is unlikely that there will be a major rise in the economy in the next 2, 4 or 6 years so I'm thinking that these Senators are looking for an easy argument for re-election. "See, I told you it wouldn't fix it. Vote for me!" But anyways, were not looking to good now so lets try and get past politics and do what you were elected to do.

Friday, February 6, 2009

US must rethink policies for reconciliation

Currently ,the U.S is becoming more concerned about Iran’s nuclear program which Obama fears is being used to develop atomic weapons. However, Iran has claimed that its aims are not at all like that, they are strictly peaceful. In response to this concern, the U.S. administration told iran that they will only make negotiations with iran if they reached a settlement for this nuclear crisis. Iranian parliamentary speaker responded that "In the past years, the U.S. has burned many bridges but the new White House can rebuild them" if it "accepts its mistakes and changes its policies,". He condemned Washington's backing for Iraq in its 1980s war against Iran and its support of Israel by stating that the policies put upon them failed to root out terrorism. Many say that President Obama is “stretching out a hand if Iran would unclench its fist” but it seems to me that this reconciliation is going to take a long time since it seems like neither of them trust each other.

The Path to Energy Efficiency

Obama met with the Energy Department on Thursday and ordered that appliances and light bulbs soon become more energy efficient. Obama claims that “This will save consumers money, this will spur innovation and this will conserve tremendous amounts of energy.” He also adds that “We’ll save through these simple steps over the next 30 years the amount of energy produced over a two-year period by all the coal-fired power plants in America.” The new products to be improved will include ovens, vending machines, microwave ovens, dishwashers and light bulbs. These new appliances will cut energy use and decrease the amount of heat that gets trapped in the ozone and cause global warming. And by 2014, congress has already ordered the “phasing out of the traditional incandescent light bulb.”
I think that these new improvements are a really good start for the energy efficiency plan. I believe that we will really benefit from it. Not only will it save households and businesses a lot of money, it will also help our environment.

Obama Demands Immediate Action

At a ceremony in the White House, Barack Obama discussed the importance of immediate action for his economic recovery legislation in Congress. During the ceremony Obama reminded his audience that some 3.6 million Americans had lost their jobs as the economy has gone into a free fall and that “the package is the right size, it is the right scope, and it has the right priorities to create 3 to 4 million jobs.” Well this sounds like good news, but we still have to wait for Congress to pass this stimulus package. I would have assumed that Obama’s economic recovery plan would have been passed quite quickly since America is in a deep economic crisis. Obama is frustrated about the inaction of Congress and he warned that “inaction would only deepen the problems.” Obama really wants to help America through this crisis and wants to do so quickly. During the ceremony Obama also said that “it is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction, delay or politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of work” and “now is the time for Congress to act.” It’s calming to see that or President is adamant about progress and change, but it seems like Congress is only delaying him from passing his proposals quickly.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mistake Saying Mistake?

Obama said, in a sweep of interviews, that he "screwed up" when choosing some his nominees. His reason for his screw up was that he didn't want to set different standards for different people, and letting the people who haven't paid their taxes off would set a bad precedent. President Obama's reason for admitting his mistakes were to show the "latest series of change-the-tone signals" that were meant to show the contrast of this administration to the last couple. The buzz about Obama's admittance is that it wasn't that he just admitted to the mistake but that he took responsibility for it, something that the Bush and Clinton administration rarely did. But there are reasons why these past administrations haven't lightly said that they made mistakes, and that is because admittance will sometimes "undercut" the power that the presidency has. If he keeps admitting mistakes it will fuel the arguments that Republicans had during the election about him not having enough experience. David Axelrod, one of Obama's senior advisers said, "in the interest of trying to get our policy goals, lost sight of how important the other piece is- which is don't break faith with the principles that he believes in".

I think that this is a first couple weeks of the administration fluke. Admitting something early on shows that he is willing to take responsibility, but I agree with the article, that the more he admits them the more doubt will pile on. I just hope he doesn't make any mistakes that way he won't have to admit anything more. :]

Child Health-Care Bill Signed

In hopes of making health coverage available for all Americans, Obama signed a bill that extends health insurance to low-income children. In contrast to our previous administration, in which two similar bills were vetoed by bush, child health care is now becoming a priority. This bill is the beginning of Obama’s health reform policy, and “While this bill is short of our ultimate goal of health reform, it is a down payment, and is an essential start” said Henry Waxman. The bill includes dental coverage and it requires states to provide equal coverage of mental and physical illnesses. I also agree that this is a good start for Obama, because the fact that he was able to implement his policy effectively is a sign of how he is bringing the “change” he always talked about during his campaign.

Affirmative Action... WWOD (what will obama do)

Two articles in the San Francisco Cronicle proposed to different stances on where Obama should stand on affirmative action. The debate is whether Obama should support affirmative action or not.

Cecil Brown wrote the article supporting affirmative action. Brown says that if he didn't have affirmative action that he would never been able to afford Columbia, the same school president Obama went. Obama has stated that he does not know if he received some form of affirmative action but said he wouldn't be ashamed if he did. Brown is quoted saying "He is not for affirmative action- he is affirmative action." Brown argues that after prop 209 passed, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race or gender in state institutions, "black enrollment dropped and a hostile racial climate blanketed campuses". Brown also quoted Greg Jones who is on the African American Advisory Committee supported by the California Board of Education, who said that some African American student have "low expectations among themselves". The purpose of the African American Advisory Committee is to figure out why 43% of blacks are failing to graduate from high school. Brown says that Obama gives inspiration to young minorities and that it will inspire the generation. He says that affirmative action will help young African Americans who are motivated by the success of Obama.

Victor Merina writes about the other side of affirmative action, mostly talking about Ward Connerly. Connerly has made many attempts, some successful and some not, on getting rid of affirmative action. He has helped pass measures in California, Washington state, Michigan and Nebraska, that prohibited affirmative action for gender and race. This article comments on Obama's disdain for McCain, who supports Connerly, and says that Obama does want some kind of affirmative action for low income students. Connerly thought that in Obama's inaugural speech he was "looking beyond race" and that this will be a new push against affirmative action. But if Obama doesn't do away with affirmative action Connerly will be back with the same arguments.

My opinion is that affirmative action for race and gender is tricky, but I agree with it. I'm a little biased because I researched the affirmative action cases on the side of U of Michigan, but I think that diversity is important in education. I think that in the first article they went a little overboard saying that without affirmative action there is hostile relationships in schools but I think the more people around you that are different the easier it is to understand and appreciate people and their differences.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hamas Steal UN Food aid from Gaza Warehouse

Armed Hamas police broke into a Gaza warehouse in Gaza City Tuesday evening and confiscated 3,500 blankets and over 400 food parcels ready for distribution to 500 families. The U.N. demanded the items be returned, but Hamas refused to return them.
They were armed and took the items by force. Ahmad Kurd, the Hamas official in charge of the ministry, did not deny the aid was seized. Kurd said the U.N. was giving the aid to local groups with ties to Hamas opponents. Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor at the Fatah-linked al-Azhar University in Gaza City, said Hamas probably took the supplies to distribute them more widely than the U.N., which supports only refugees. This is a very unfortunate situation for many who were counting on receiving aid from the UN. The UN is accepting donations to help those families in need and expecting the Hamas to return the items.

Obama Hope Poster Causes Controversy

Apparently the image of Obama used in the hope poster created by Shepard Fairey, a Los Angeles based Street artist, is copyrighted by the AP, the world's oldest and largest newsgathering organization. This image was very popular throughout the campaign and remains to be so. The image was taken by Manny Garcia on assignment for the AP at the National Press Club in Washington. The AP wants credit and compensation for the image, something that Fairey disagrees with. Anthony Falzone, Fairey’s lawyer, argued that they “believe fair use protects Shepard's right to do what he did here.” Fair use is a legal concept that allows exceptions to copyright law, based on, among other factors, how much of the original is used, what the new work is used for and how the original is affected by the new work. However, Fairey has a longtime history of breaking rules and said he found the photograph using Google Images. He released the image on his Web site shortly after he created it, in early 2008, and made thousands of posters for the street. I think the AP deserves credit for the original image and Fairey deserves credit for the poster. However, I do not think that the regular image would have sold as much as Fairey’s poster.

The scoop on the economic stimulus package

Plan includes:
-$275 billion in tax relief
- $90 billion for infrastructure
-$79 billion for school funding
-$198 million for U.S. military benefits for Filipinos who fought for the U.S. during WWII
- $75 million for "smoking cessation activities"
- $87 million for the "design of a new polar icebreaker"
- $335 million for HIV/STD screening
- $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees
- $6.2 billion for home weatherization
- $50 million for port modernization and water and wastewater infrastructure needs in Guam
-$100 million for children to learn green construction

Hypocrisy of the Highest Order



I suppose a certain amount of hypocrisy is inevitable in politics as politicians try to make everyone happy and end up promising too much, but it is still aggravating. Case in point: the recent choice of Michael Phelps. READ THIS hilarious send-up of the hypocrites.

Obligatory disclaimer: the writer of this rant describes himself thusly: "I’m a former policy analyst with the Cato Institute, now a senior editor for Reason magazine. I’m also a biweekly columnist with FoxNews.com. I’ve been published in lots of places, from Playboy to the Wall Street Journal, and have done lots of TV and radio interviews (see resume or published writing). My work has also been cited in a Supreme Court opinion, helped get a guy off death row, and I’ve testified before Congress a few times."

So yeah, drugs are bad. Smoking is bad for your lungs. Stoners are lazy and forgetful. But if you hadn't figured that out by now...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Economic Stimulus Debate

Obama’s economic stimulus plan, which includes a combination of spending and tax cuts that aims to get millions of unemployed Americans back to work, has reached the senate and it is now the center of debate. The plan includes huge increases in federal spending, education , public work projects, and temporary increases in unemployment benefits. However, many wonder if the $885 billion dollar plan is excessive.
Many senate republicans are hoping to make a variety of changes to make the plan more acceptable. Since the house bill passed it has consisted of one-third tax cuts ($325 billion) and two-thirds spending ($560 billion), it was previously criticized by senate democrats who argued for more spending and by republicans who want deeper tax cuts. Republicans may find it really hard to pass the additional income tax cuts since the senate is predominantly democratic.
Hopefully, this debate will be resolved soon and have a good outcome. In addition, this plans seems to have good aims. However, I also think that it’ll be a little too much money.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-na-stimulus3-2009feb03,0,5557017.story

Obama Interviews


Today Obama did a sweep of interviews with some main news stations. Most presidents don't do multiple interviews unless there is a big announcement, but Obama talked with these news anchors about the issues he is dealing with in the oval office. He talks about mortgage crisis, his cabinent appointees and his economic bill, which is a nice change. I think that hearing from a president make Americans feel like he has nothing to hide. He is representing America and there shouldn't be too much going on behind close doors. These are some of the things he talk about in his interviews.


NBC interview with Brian Williams: Willams ask President Obama about the home mortgage crisis and who is to blame for it. Obama replies that there are some people who need to take responsibility for it, but he never assigns blame. He says that loans were given to people who couldn't afford them unless the housing market kept going up and that this is because of "looser standards" from the appraisers and mortgage brokers. Williams also asks about the frustration level that Obama experiences in the white house, with the long hours and constant traveling. Obama replies that he has been able to accomplish a lot so far, much more then the normal standards, but that it is hard being away from his family. He says that he got to go to a soccer game, and take his girls to school, and has attended parent teacher conferences but he knows that he has missed a lot.


I think that this gives me, if it is even possible, a higher level of respect for Obama. I think in the first issue, health care, by explaining what happened but not assigning blame was a respectable thing to do. There is no use blaming, only learning from our mistakes and moving on. With regards to his family, I think that his answer shows how he is a real person. He misses his family but he is doing this job "because it is worth it".


CBS interview with Katie Couric: Couric begins by asking President Obama about his choices for cabinet appointees, in particular Tom Daschle who withdrew his name because of tax issues. Obama says that he still believes that Daschle would have been a great person for the job but that there can't be higher standards. He say that he doesn't want to promote "two sets of rules: one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes every day". Couric also asks him about his other appointees and asks whether there is something wrong with his vetting process. He says that the vetting process isn't wrong but that he "messed up". He said that he really wanted to give health care to the people but didn't "recognize the perception" of his giving someone the spot who didn't pay his taxes when everyday people are paying taxes all the time.


I think that this is the greatest thing I have heard him say, well almost greatest. The fact that he can admit that he messed up is something that I, personally, never thought a president could say. Recognizing that he made a mistake and that he is sorry for it makes Obama look like someone who really is trying to do good. When he realizes that he made a mistake he tries to fix it, not just staying there and keeping going on with it for years and wasting American lives and tax dollars and... oups. Little rant just then. But really, kudos to you Mr. Pres for admitting you were wrong.


ABC interview with Charles Gibson: There has been controversy on Obama's economic plan. Gibson asks him about this plan and Obama explains his motives. He wanted a big stimulus package, his 800 billion dollar bill. He wants to "create jobs and lay the infrastructure for long term economic growth" one way, by creating green jobs. Gibson then asks if he did this too much too quickly. Obama says that the economy is desperate and that he won't do the same things that "landed" us in this economy to begin with. He also says that he want bipartisanship and wants republican support not just for the politics of it but because he wants the bill to work for the American people has a whole, but he also doesn't want to wait to create new jobs.


This is another great interview. Obama is working for the people, not for the political system. He is upholding his promises and defending his ideas with logical and persuasive argument. He isn't spending money just to spend it, but to help the people. He truly is serving the people, and I think he shows this here.


All in all, President Obama hit a home run today with the interviews. The people are getting the information straight from him, no roundabouts or spin. GO OBAMA!


P.S. Each interview section has a hyperlink to the website with the full interview and more!


Tax Break for New Car Buyers

Sen. Barbara Mikulski led the successful effort to allow many car buyers to claim an income tax deduction for sales taxes paid on new autos and interest payments on car loans. This bill will help declining auto industries and it will hopefully create new jobs for the unemployed. The provision was attached to the economic stimulus bill of Obama's economic recovery plan, but the passage of the bill is controversial. Obama will have to do his best and cross party lines to get republican approval of this bill. Republicans are skeptical about the effectiveness of the bill and do not believe that it will create many jobs, but further devastate the economy. There are also some democrats that want the $900 billion price tag of the bill reduced. The bill will be ready for Obama’s signature by mid-month. I think that this bill is a good idea to get new jobs, but I have to agree that it is too costly. Below is a link to the article.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090204/ap_on_go_co/congress_stimulus

Monday, February 2, 2009

Obama in Action

Obama seems to be off on a good start. Today Obama called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to congratulate them on the provincial elections held over the weekend. Obama wished them both the best and planned options for removing U.S. troops from Iraq. Obama had vowed during the presidential campaign to get combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office. He also wants to redirect some of those troops to Afghanistan to shut down a resurgent Taliban and al-Qaida. I think Obama’s commitment to bring back the troops shows how much he is dedicated to fulfilling his promises to the American people. It looks like Obama is on the right path since the elections in Iraq were rather peaceful. Also today, Obama called South Korean President, Lee Myung-bak, concerning the U.S.- South Korea alliance. Both Presidents agreed to work towards eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons and programs. The presidents also discussed the current financial crisis and other global issues. Obama seems to be very proactive about international issues and hopefully he will reach his goals.

Holder is Confirmed Attorney General

With a senate vote of 75 to 21, Eric H. Holder Jr. was confirmed as the new attorney general of the United States. He will also become the first African American to hold this position which will definitely be a plus for minority groups. In addition, this choice is a huge relief for those who were critical of the justice department under the bush administration, during which Alberto Gonzales was attorney general. Many hope that confidence in the justice department will be restored with this new appointment since many critics argue that the justice department has become weaker in its law enforcement. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said that the “…strong, bipartisan vote in favor was a statement that members from both sides of the aisle recognize that Mr. Holder has the character, integrity and independence to be Attorney General.” We will have to wait and see if Holder will change our view of our previous justice department.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Welfare Aid Not Growing as Economy Drops Off


As the economy drops so does welfare. 18 states had to cut their welfare programs last year. Michigan's unemployment rate dropped 9% and its welfare was cut 13%. However, Rhode Island's welfare decline 17%, which is one of the largest declines in the nation. The welfare program works as it was designed when the bill was passed in 1996. Some believe that it is time for a new system. “There is ample reason to be concerned here. The overall structure is not working the way it was designed to work. We would expect, just on the face it, that when a deep recession happens, people could go back on welfare” said Ron Haskins, a former Republican Congressional aide who helped write the 1996 law overhauling the welfare system. The new bill in Congress right now is gives $2.5 billion to states with caseload expansions. However, the new bill has some people concerned because they believe that the poor would suffer.

A State With a Wish List for Stimulus Spending

Experts say that the success of the stimulus package will rely on its effectiveness in California. According to the article, "The infrastructure and energy projects, high-tech job creation, rural outreach and low-income benefits included in the proposal make the state a proving ground where nearly all the plan’s potential benefits, and pitfalls, converge." Various counties, rural, urban, agricultural, low-tech, high-tech, and more, have already drawn up and proposed their plans for the federal money they will receive from the stimulus bill. Many of the plans revolve around infrastructure projects, like repaving a part of the Vasco Road in Contra Costa County. The stimulus package will also help out Silicon Valley and the growing "clean-tech sector", which includes projects like solar equipment, energy-efficient cars and smart energy grids. The money could also help many rural counties gain broadband internet access, which would increase the number of "green-collar" workers; thus helping the unemployment issue.

However hopeful these plans are, critics argue that the stimulus plan might not be enough to create much of a difference for the economic problems here in California. And although the stimulus bill calls for federal tax cuts, some states, like California, are considering tax increases. In addition to all of these issues, California has been quite politically unruly. The deeply partisan culture in Sacramento makes it more difficult for the state's leaders to reach an agreement on closing the budget gap this year and on spending money marked by Congress as discretionary. With so many problems, the stimulus bill will definitely be put to the test the hardest here in California.

E-mail to Obama is symbol of elite access

Now few people can send e-mail to Obama due to security reasons. Anthony Lake was one of Obama's principal counselors on foreign affairs during the campaign and emailed him regularly, but now he does not have Obama's e-mail address. Only a select few have it now. They include Vice President Biden, Obama's chief of staff, his top advisors, and some of his old friends from Chicago. A senior White House adviser under Mr. Clinton comments, “This is the 21st-century version of the same special access that certain people are always granted to the president.” Obama now has a new BlackBerry that is a more sophisticated, encrypted variation. He also has agreed to limit the number of people he would email with on his computer. Obama joked about the exclusiveness of his e-mail list at a dinner, “How exclusive? Everyone look at the person sitting on your left. Now look at the person sitting on your right. None of you have my e-mail address.” To minimize any risks, it is impossible to forward messages that are from the president or send him attachments, and his email address will be frequently changed. I think it's good that they're taking so many precautions with Obama's email, since it could be a big security risk. Palin's email was broken into during the campaign, so hopefully with these precautions, the same thing will not happen to Obama while he is president.

Democrats Indicate Areas of Compromise on Stimulus

As the economic stimulus package is going through the Senate, Democratic senators have shown signs of considering Republican amendments to the bill, specifically in the portions of housing and infrastructure spending. One Republican proposal Democrats are considering is instituting a $15,000 tax credit for all home buyers, raising it from its original $7,500 tax credit. Senator Charles E. Schumer (Democrat-New York), a member of the Finance Committe, said he was also interested in lowering mortgage rates to 4.5 percent, but also said that that might go into the next part of the bailout measure approved by Congress last year, not this stimulus package. Senators of both parties also said that they expect to add a large amount of money, approximately $20 billion to $30 billion, for infrastructure spending, such as for roads and bridges. The Obama administration and Democrats have already struck two parts of the bill passed by the House, which was $200 million to fix up the National Mall and millions for family planning that Republicans claimed financed contraceptives.

However, there are still numerous disagreements. Senator Jon Kyl (Republican0-Arizona) criticized the Obama administration's $500 tax credit to working families, which some economists say will not result in sufficient additional spending. He also criticized the creation of numerous new government programs and giving billions of dollars to the states. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (Republican-Texas) wanted cuts on "social spending provisions" that total around $200 million in the bill. She, and some fellow Republicans, feel additional tax cuts would be more effective than large-scale government spending programs. Senator Kyl warned that Republicans will not support the bill until there are "major structural changes to it."

Now, Super Bowl time!

Iraqis Step Forward as U.S. Pulls Back

After rather peaceful elections in Iraq on Saturday, U.S. troops are finally starting to step back. In the days before the elections, people were able to drive safely from the Turkish border in the north to Baghdad and south to Basra without seeing an American convoy. In the Green Zone, the primary PX is set to close and Americans have returned to their embassy compound.

Most Iraqis are ready for Americans to leave. Many feel that they can handle problems on their own and that American involvement has only made some matters worse and more confusing. The American military is worried about security in the provinces of Nineveh and Diyala, where counterinsurgency operations are still going on, and where there are signs of activity by Sunni extremist groups. However, the military also sees this as a test of Iraq's political stability, to see whether Iraqis can handle and resolve their sectarian and ethnic tensions.

However, no matter how much the U.S. pulls back, Iraq and the U.S. will always be interdependent. The Iraqis still need U.S. troops to lessen terrorist activities, and protect them from their neighbors, Syria and Iran, while the U.S. still needs Iraq as "a strategic prize close to the Middle East flash points of Israel, Lebanon and Syria as well as Iran and the oil-rich Persian Gulf countries." The Iraqi Parliament and the U.S. settled a security agreement in November that sealed the date of departure: by the end of 2011.