Category Archives: Opinion-Editorial

Or Does it Explode? Inside the Home Foreclosure Crisis

Arianna Huffington, on her website The Huffington Post today demanded, “It’s Time to Treat America’s Homeowners as Well as We’ve Been Treating Wall Street’s Bankers”. But is it?

As the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) readies to launch a nationwide protest and will begin training thousands of people in civil disobedience as part of its “Home Defenders” campaign this weekend, the push for “Free Houses” looks to become a major issue in the coming weeks. The ACORN “Home Defenders” program has planned simultaneous events in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, Houston, Orlando, Baltimore and Tucson where protester are refusing to move out of their homes despite foreclosures.

The line at the Bailout Soup Kitchen gets longer and longer, as both the revitalized TARP program and the expanded Auto Industry Bailout loom on the horizon, and numerous other industries come hat-in-hand to Washington D.C.

Most economists agree that the collapse of the US Financial System can be rooted to the wide proliferation of defaulting sub-prime home mortgages, which had been packaged together in inherently risky financial products and traded between the biggest firms worldwide. Since this meltdown started in earnest in September of 2008, the increase of foreclosures and loans in threat of default have risen to unprecedented levels.

ACORN, a group that President Obama worked closely with in his community organizing days in Chicago, has been a leading proponent of the “Fairness In Lending” and “Tenants Rights” movements, and in fact has had profound nationwide and localized influence in the increase of sub-prime home mortgages that banks approved, including using political and legal extortion to force lending institutions to lower their credit standards.

Ethically, we must ask ourselves, what sort of measures can the Obama Administration and Democratic Congress actually take that won’t be unfairly slanted to persons in the process or threatened with being in the process of foreclosure now, when so many foreclosures have already taken place? The “bad bank” for toxic assets that seemed to be the plan that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was leaning towards has now been apparently scrapped, so how will the purported $50billion for home-owner relief in the recently passed and soon to be signed Stimulus Bill be administered?

Even if the flood of foreclosures and ensuing chaos can be sealed off, what about all the people who have already lost their homes? What about the people who lived within their means and satisfied their debts? What about all the people who have lost the entirety of their savings and retirement nest-eggs due to the overwhelming collapse of the US Financial Market caused by all the subprime borrowers who negligently duped lenders, and now tax payers, to subsidize their lifestyles?

The central core issue here, even beyond just the subprime borrowers, were the millions of Americans who used their homes as ATM’s, taking out second and third mortgages, buying consumer goods on credit, spending lavishly and saving nothing, and when the economy took a downturn, cannot satisfy their contractual financial obligations. Why do they get a bailout?

The behavior of the average American, no matter their level of the economic strata, contributed to the expansion and burst of the US Housing Bubble. The few responsible Americans, the handfuls that were responsible and lived within their means, are going to end up equally shouldering the burden all of the people who relished the time of “irrational exhuberance” and destroyed not only the US Economy, but the Worldwide Economic System.

All those questions, if improperly handled by the Obama Administration and Democratic-Majority Congress, could be an igniting point in what is already a simmering firestorm in this Country and Economy. The Systemic Risk to this country and out way of life has never been greater as we approach this problem. The defining point of achieving a full-scale command socialist economy or reverting to the free-market capitalism the USA has always advocated and been the bright-and-shining-light of has never been in a more tenuous position as it stands today.

*This was originally published February 17, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network

We Take Nothing by Conquest–Automakers Ready for Second Round of Begging Uncle Sam

The Big 3 are starting to be reminiscent of that relative or friend we all have that no matter how much money or help you give them, they always come back asking for more, shamelessly, without pride.

The United Auto Workers walked out of talks on Friday and Saturday with the Big 3 (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) United States and Detroit-based Automakers because they did not like the conditions of the reorganization that was presented to them.

Fancy that, huh? Imagine that the UAW thinks that they are in a position of great strength considering they got their friend and benefactor, President Obama, in the White House now. Wasn’t it UAW President Ron Gettelfinger who told Senator Bob Corker after the Senate-backed Auto Bailout failed that “we’ll just hang in and see what Obama and the Democrats will do for us…”?

The funny thing is, without the Bush Administration backed diversion of $13billion in TARP money to GM and Chrysler, neither of the two organizations would still be viable or solvent today (both adjectives that can arguably be erased from their description), and now all three of the Big 3 claim they need more help (Ford heroically did not accept a government bailout back in December). Not to mention the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, also doing business as “The Parts Suppliers”, want $20.5Billion for themselves.

The first phase of the GM/Chrysler reorganization–as in, the first draft of “The Plan”–is due Tuesday, but like the geniuses in Detroit are known for, they failed to even begin working on “The Plan” until last week, and the UAW has not made negotiations for concessions any easier, as they realize the time constraints now allow them to simply stall and delay, for which GM and Chrysler could very well pay dearly later this week.

Apparently GM is not confident in their chances to secure additional government funding, as they are already consulting on the next phase of their existance, tentatively titled “The Collapse”, which will include swift and immediate bankruptcy. If the US Government is not happy with the (lack of any clear) progress made in the “reorganization” of Chrysler and GM, they could be forced to repay the $13Billion in TARP funding they have already received, at 5% interest to begin with, and going up to 10% if they default. The move to go directly to bankruptcy if “The Plan” is not well-received means that GM is already planning to try and swindle the US Taxpayers out of the money they have already taken from us, in true moocher and looter style.

In November and December of 2008, the case was made that GM/Ford/Chrysler was so important for the US Economy that there was no way that we could endure the loss of jobs and economic impact of their collapse. Ron Paul had a very interesting take on that assesment, “In bailing out failing companies, they are confiscating money from productive members of the economy and giving it to failing ones. By sustaining companies with obsolete or unsustainable business models, the government prevents their resources from being liquidated and made available to other companies that can put them to better, more productive use. An essential element of a healthy free market, is that both success and failure must be permitted to happen when they are earned. But instead with a bailout, the rewards are reversed – the proceeds from successful entities are given to failing ones. How this is supposed to be good for our economy is beyond me…. It won’t work. It can’t work… It is obvious to most Americans that we need to reject corporate cronyism, and allow the natural regulations and incentives of the free market to pick the winners and losers in our economy, not the whims of bureaucrats and politicians.”

GM has a monthly cash burn of more than $3Billion. They have not made one step forward in reducing this incredible to fathom cost overage, they have not restructured their debt/equity/legacy situations, nor have they been able to reach a concensus with the UAW.

We should just let these dinosaurs die. They have proven time and again over the course of the last 30 years that they are unwilling to change even the most basic of their business practices, and everyone who would suffer from the collapse, including every single member of the UAW, is to blame for their ineptness.

As Gary Ackerman asked on November 19th, 2008, “Maybe you can tell us what you’re actually going to do to sell cars people want.”

Or, the more pressing question as of this time, let us echo Michael Capuano’s statement, “My fear is you’re going to take this money and continue the same stupid decisions you’ve made for 25 years.”

(*This article was originally published February 16, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)

Where is My Free House?

Henrietta Hughes gets a new house, because she was planted as a media shill at a “Townhall Meeting” in Fort Myers, Florida, but many American’s are asking–“where is my free house?”.

Henrietta Hughes and her son Corey are professional system moochers. They have lived off of grants for education, welfare, public assistance, faith-based charity, and at the same time owned property in at least 3 different states, drive a $30,000 truck, have nice designer clothes, and turn down almost-free housing when it doesn’t jive with their monthly budget for Gas, Insurance, Food, lottery ticketsĀ and doing nothing. What the hell? Where is my free house?

Is Henrietta Hughes even satisfied with the house that the Thompson’s of Florida gave her? I doubt it.

In a local TV interview given just after Henrietta Hughes’ “heart-touching” performance at the Townhall Meeting, Henrietta Hughes asked first for the government to return her previously foreclosed house because it had just been put on the market for sale again by the people who bought it from the bank after her foreclosure, and then asked for cash so she and her son could “go back to school”. Enough is never Enough.

President Obama has asked for and is enabling an entire sub-culture of Entitleists and Scammers to clamor for “help”.

Looters and Moochers have taken over government and our society, and Atlas needs to shrug now or forever hold his peace.

(*This article was originally published February 15, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)

Less Than a Month in Office, Obama Takes Expensive Vacation While Rest of Country Teeters on Economic Collapse

After a hard week of talking down the economy, watching as his genius Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner single-handedly plunged the markets with his “make it up as we go” TARP plan, extorting Senators and engaging in Pay to Play schemes, and finally, giving away free houses to system-mooching scumbags, President Obama, the United States first African-American president, took a much needed vacation back to Chicago after being in office for a little less than a month.

President Obama spent $170million of taxpayer money on his “historic” inaguration, then, in his presidential address, told the rest of Americans that they would need to sacrifice. “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

Airforce One has a staff of up to 26 people, all of which were not home for Valentine’s Day, thanks to the Obama’s $68,000-per-hour romp to Chicago. Forget those people.

Forget that President Obama railed so harshly at “corporate greed”, and that the actions of CEO’s who received TARP funds then paid out bonuses and went on company-paid-for vacation. “Shameful”, Obama said, “the height of irresponsibility…part of what we’re going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility.”

“Let them eat cake,” Michelle Obama said as she left the swank Table 52 in uptown Chicago that the Obama’s dined at on Valentine’s Day, “I’ll bring them some home in a doggie bag.”

Forget that the Democratic Congressional Caucus went on vacation to an expensive Virginia spa for a weekend immediately after passing the first Stimulus Bill. That was only the taxpayers, those lowly people who will one day have to fork over the $1.3Trillion, that paid for that vacation. And it’s only the taxpayers who are paying for Obama’s little love sojourn to his hometown of Chicago.

Just last week President Obama was repeatedly reminding the American Public that if the Stimulus Bill was not passed, 5 million jobs would be immediately lost, the worldwide economy would collapse, and baseball season would be cancelled. Congress worked at such a quick clip that they could not even read the Stimulus Bill once it exited Conference Committee, so pressed were they to get it to President Obama’s desk for signing, but alas, now America will have to wait for his return from vacation.

Drunken Sailor Spending can save America, as long as it is President Obama doing the spending. The American Public will have to make due on their $8 per hour.

(*This article was originally published February 14, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)

What the Stimulus Plan Really Means for You

Right now, with the current Stimulus Bill, known officially as American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, that is in debate in the US Senate, and if passed, in Conference to set to define a final bill to send up to President Barack Obama, I will explain what it really means for the US Taxpayer.

For every person in the United States, roughly, given the population estimates and division, every American will be in debt an extra roughly $2700 due to the Stimulus. This is on top of the $2400 that has already been added for TARP. According to the National Debt Clock each American already owes $35,097.16. Essentially all of this money is credit, and continues to increase when we fail to pay down on the principal–or increase the size of the principal, but can be brought down to essentially 0 minus even just a few years operating cost of the Government, even a surplus when Government is working in a profitable sense, which is probably hard to imagine but was done during Clinton. When President Bush took office the national debt was $5,727,776,738,304.64. Today it is $10,717,998,123,287.70. An increase of 46.5%.

Even in the best of economic times, it would be an ideal situation for the government and all of it’s agencies operated at cost.

In theory, this must be the objective, philosophically right or wrong, that comes with an idea such as The Stimulus Plan. To revive and protect the economy to such a state as we can reverse the tide of increasing national debt, refine the operations of the government so that it will not be operating at a deep loss each year, and for some people, expand the role of government to provide additional services.

President Obama very clearly articulated the goals of his vision for the growth of government in his recent Op-Ed piece, “The Action America Needs”, stating, “Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process. Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years. Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans. And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.”

Are these too many goals for $800billion dollars? Could they not all be done individually, over time, or do we have to swallow them all at once? What about the other 13 yearly spending bills that work has not even begun on yet? Will there be another TARP?

I can see it, if only breifly, in flashes, the Vision that President Obama has–I like it, if it is above the level, if it is what it says it is, if it can accomplish all of those things, if we can swallow this pill economically, and somehow the second half of TARP succeeds where the first failed(and managed to misplace $78Billion). Can this be done?

The Audacity of Hope.

(*This article was originally published February 7, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)

Nothing to Hope but Fear Itself

The stakes must be really really high–Obama has already traded “Hope” for “Fear”, “Change” for “Catastrophe”, and it is becoming more and more readily apparent to the millions, possibly hundreds of millions of Americans, that heralded this new “Age of Obama” that we are ourselves powerless to stop the combined force of a Democratic Party led House of Representatives, Senate, and Executive Administration. Most specifically, they can shove every single bill they want to pass down our throat.

The Minority Party, the Republicans, the “Grand Old Party”, have not proven themselves very adept at being the Minority Party in as long as I can remember, and find themselves in the unenviable position of having to take all of the blame for the failures of the Bush Administration, fair or not, all the failures of past fiscal policy, fair or not, and, even as they try and articulate the resounding dissent that the American Public have began to raise with the force of a hundred million anguished screams, are easily discounted by the Democrats who like to drive the point home, and that point is, “We won”.

While our founding fathers had in mind a “check and balance” to keep each branch of government from over-reaching their responsibility, but what we have are the Legislative Majority and Obama Administration working hand in hand to coordinate a theft from taxpayers equalling by all totals over $800Billion, which, with interest, will put it somewhere closer to $1.2Trillion.

While analyzing the situation, why don’t we consider this: “That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful,” Obama said on January 29th, 2009. “And part of what we’re going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, show some discipline, and show some responsibility.”

Let us look at that last sentence and reword it, keeping in mind that the members of the US House of Representatives Democratic Caucus are on retreat at beautiful Kingsmill Resort and Spa in Virginia.

Part of what we’re going to need is for the Members of Congress to show some restraint, show some discipline, and show some responsibility”

But that would be ridiculous, because apparently the Democrats have a massive mandate, President Obama in particular, to do whatever they want, because “They Won”. And quite a mandate it is, because when we look at the numbers, let us see how many people sided with “Change We Can Believe In”.

Total Votes Cast for Obama in 2008

69,456,897

Percent of Votes Cast for Obama in 2008 Election

53% Percent of Eligible Citizens (> 18 yrs old 223,655,582) Who Voted for Barack Obama

31% Percent of Total U.S. Population (305,303,885) Who Voted for Barack Obama

23% Percent of Total U.S. Population (305,303,885) Affected by Obama’s Policies 100%

In an e-mailed statement, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo told Bloomberg News that “The question here is whether Wells Fargo is spending taxpayer money to bankroll Las Vegas junkets…the American people deserve to know because this is their money.”

The difference between Wells Fargo is that they are involved in a business model that, in theory, has the opportunity to subsidize their activities with revenue earned by their employees.

The only activities that Congressmen and Women have to pay for excursions and vacations are their personal income, contributions from party donors, or taxing the US Taxpayer.

Which one of these do you think is paying for Kingsmill Resort and Spa?

If it is their personal income, then good for them, they get paid and work plenty hard enough (in theory) for the American Public. For some reason, and maybe it is just my personal skepticism, but something tells me they did not pay for this out of their own pocket. They could have, and I will take back this entire supposition if it can be proven otherwise.

Otherwise, we are left with one of two choices: Party Donors and/or the US Taxpayer.

I am not certain, and I am not a lawyer, but I am almost positively assured of the fact that using Party Donations for anything other than “election activities” constitutes a crime, presuant to “Pay-to-Play”, however indirectely–and that is a stretch assuming that “Pay-to-Play” via campaign donations is not in itself unethical and a criminal enterprise (ask former Governor Blagojavich). So if the Democratic National Committee, or individual party donors, or a collection of some amount from the re-election funds of each member of the Democratic Congressional Caucus, if any such donation was used for this Kingsmill Resort and Spa junket, then there needs to me an immediate and thorough investigation by a Special Prosecutor.

But this leaves us a third option, which would be the US Taxpayer. Again, it may be my natural skepticism, by I tend to lean toward this assumption—and I am willing to take the responsibility for this being an “assumption”, and not a proven fact—that it is us, the US Taxpayer, who is paying for this little holiday at Kingsmill Resort and Spa. Just after successfully passing a bill to lift $819Billion from the US Taxpayer, the Democratic Congressional Caucus makes their way to Kingsmill Resort and Spa, on our dime, as if we haven’t given up and won’t be giving up so much more as time passes.

Part of what we’re going to need is for the Members of Congress to show some restraint, show some discipline, and show some responsibility”

And, to paraphrase and slightly reword what Mr. Cuomo said regarding Wells Fargo, “The question here is whether Congress is spending taxpayer money to bankroll Resort and Spa junkets…the American people deserve to know because this is their money. (and if it is not their money, they deserve and need to know where it is coming from)”

The first evening of their holiday, President Obama flew out to address the members of the Democratic Congressional Caucus, and it was here that the politics of bipartisanship and “Hope” were replaced with “Fear” and partisanship. “So then you get the argument, ‘well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.’ What do you think a stimulus is?” Obama said with a firey rhetoric reminiscent of his campaign, but something even more perhaps, “That’s the whole point…Americans did not vote for the false theories of the past, and they didn’t vote for phony arguments and petty politics. They sent us here to bring change.”

In his recent Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post titled “The Action America Needs”, President Obama strikes the tones of fear, not hope, when he threatens (emphasis added), “Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse…our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We’ve seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail. Every day, our economy gets sicker — and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.”

Interestingly, just as when President Obama famously stated “economists from all across the political spectrum agree on the need for massive government spending to stimulate the economy,” and a few days later over 100 economists disagreed, including Nobel Laureates and other prominent scholars, and signed a statement to that effect that appeared in the Cato Institute’s newspaper ad in Rollcall, the widely read Capitol Hill insider newspaper, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has said recently that the assertion that “the House and Senate bills will help in the short term but result in so much government debt that within a few years they would crowd out private investment, actually leading to a lower Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years than if the government had done nothing.”

Many economists, in fact, agree that the fundamental causes of the current economic crisis–billions, even trillions, of poorly managed loans and investments back by these loans and mortgages simply need to work their way through the system, through foreclosure, through write-downs, and that artificially propping up Institutions and pushing the losses on the US Taxpayer is a disservice to the economy, and potentially a recipe for further disaster down the road.

A simply bit of math also illustrates the level of non-job centric spending in this “stimulus package”–that for every job purportedly that will be created, the cost to the taxpayer will be $250,000.

Democratic Lawmakers and President Obama continue to rail at the American Public, stressing the point that the current economic situation is too dire to allow time to analyze and model all the effects that the largest single infusion of government spending in the history of the world might have, that the common weeks and sometimes months of debate and outside council are not available because catastrophe due to inaction is directly around the corner, like a sleezy-car salesman that is trying to sell a lemon before the buyer has time to look under the hood.

Vice-President Joe Biden even left room for error, stating recently, “If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, there’s still a 30% chance we’re going to get it wrong.”

House Speaker Pelosi joined in the fear-mongering, stating, “Washington seems consumed in the process argument of bipartisanship, when the rest of the country says they need this bill,” oblivious to the growing cacophony of the American Public decrying what common sense is telling more and more Americans:

Part of what we’re going to need is for the Members of Congress to show some restraint, show some discipline, and show some responsibility”

Sources:

2008 OFFICIAL PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS

Associated Press,“Obama ratchets up the rhetoric on stimulus plan” by Charles Babington

The Washington Times,“CBO: Obama stimulus harmful over long haul” by Stephen Dinan

The Wall Street Journal,“Biden Urges Passage of Stimulus Despite Voter Backlash” by Susan Davis

Politico,“Pelosi dismisses bipartisanship calls” by By Glenn Thrush & Patrick O’Connor

(*This article was originally published February 7, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)

Pork by Any Other Name is Still Stimulus (An Ode to Highway Robbery)

Let’s face it–a $1,000,000,000 here, a $1,000,000,000 there, what’s a Billion Dollars among friends?

The newly elected 111th Congress, led by the most assuredly competent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is utterly frustrated that their plus-$1Trillion stimulus bill has been facing scrutiny from the minority Republicans and unrest by the American Public.

“We won,” They like to say, almost as if still in amazement, “So why can’t we do whatever we want?”

The schoolyard taunt, first uttered by President Obama at a luncheon with Republican House members last week, has become a mantra that has prevailed during the endless debates in The House and Senate.

President Obama has promised the American Public that the Stimulus Bill would be sans-earmarks, but this is a promise that neither he nor his party-members in Congress have no intention of upholding.

First I would like to point out a hypocritical duality that proves that The Democrats trust their awe-inspiring genius to save an economy that is derailed worse than an Amtrak Train.

Last year direct stimulus checks to American Taxpayers were viewed as “less than successful”, so there has been no serious consideration given to this move. However, TARP has been so successful that we are now saddled with the almost certain probability of ANOTHER economic stimulus plan that will total well over $1Trillion dollars (TARP has added a debt of $1.2Trillion to the National Debt thus far). Not only that, but a second TARP seems to be offing in the near future, once this pork-barrel plan has been successfully shoved down the throats of American Taxpayers.

The rationale, on inspection, is this: The Economy is composed of over 70% consumer spending. But consumer spending has been curtailed due to the lack of consumer confidence (income+easily available credit). Because the consumer confidence has been in decline (insecurity with employment and inability to borrow money on credit), the only way to increase consumer confidence is to pass the largest single collection of government-directed spending, pet political projects, and overt political pay-back to party supporters ever in the history of mankind. Then, in theory, consumer confidence will once again rise up to pre-Wall Street Crash levels, financial institutions will once again begin lending money to consumers so that they can purchase things they can impulsively buy on the hope and expectation of future income, and a new bubble will grow in some region of the economy that not even the best of economists can yet foresee, but the American Public, in our glee to invest and speculate in the vast American Ponzi Dream, will again recklessly make the same mistakes we oh so enjoy making, cycling again from recession to, as Alan Greenspan would say, ” irrational exuberance”.

The plus-$1Trillion Pork-Barrel Stimulus bill is supposed to be the equivalent of every holiday, every birthday, every citizen winning the lottery, and every home sports team winning a world championship simultaneously.

That the American Public might be skeptical of such a plan, that we are not quite clear on the idea itself, that we may not see eye-to-eye with the expertise of our Congress in being able to wave a magic wand and return the United States, and in fact, the World Economy back to how it was even just a year ago, is beyond the pale of their understanding.

While the Republican Minority Congress has been trying to pick it’s battles on some of the more glaringly obvious and irresponsible spending measures in the current version of the Stimulus Bill, the Democrats and President Obama have been trying to demonize the opposition, using the Politics of Fear and Anger to turn the American Public against its best common sense instincts.

Apparently, we are supposed to think, when we hear a Republican Lawmaker say on any one point taken from the 1,400 pages of the proposed bill, “How does this measure have any ability to create even one job or stimulate the economy?”, “Wow, the Republican who is saying that is really just mad those tax dollars are being taken by someone other than himself”, or worse, the best argument that the Democrats have when they are not trying to rely on the Politics of Fear is reminding us over and over again, whether the assumption is true or not, that we have no one to blame for the American Economic Collapse other than the Bush Administration, the irresponsible and greedy fat cats on Wall Street, and the Republicans in Congress.

Let us look deeper at the campaign to frighten and anger the American Public into supporting a growing-by-the-minute Stimulus Bill.

On Wednesday, February 4th, President Obama and Timothy Geithner, even though delaying what they have been promising as their “wide and sweeping framework” for the spending of the second half of the $700billion TARP program, announced that, because the actions by the companies that received the first half of the TARP–executive bonuses, spending sprees, gross financial negligence, etc–citing anecdotal going back as far as early 2008, late 2007, that executive compensation for companies that are in “exceptional assistance”; i.e., that they are on the verge of collapse without the help of TARP, would be coming.

President Obama stated, “This is America. We don’t disparage wealth. We don’t begrudge anybody for achieving success. But what gets people upset – and rightfully so – are executives being rewarded for failure. Especially when those rewards are subsidized by the U.S. Taxpayer.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reiterated that sentiment, saying, “There is a deep sense across the country that those who were not….responsible for this crisis are bearing a greater burden than those who were.”

The American Public’s anger with the failure and administration of the first half of the TARP is indeed justified, and so far, unmitigated, because as it stands in the current moment, there has been absolutely no accountability for the use and distribution of the TARP, then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson knew that he was on his way out of government and is likely to get his cushy Wall Street job, or Washington D.C. lobbyist job, so who knows what back-room dealing was in fact involved with every move he made with TARP.

Something that any American Consumer who has ever borrowed substantial amounts of money at one time knows: A person can not go out and borrow $150,000 for a house, then turn around and spend that money on $150,000 worth of Jello. So if there can be contractual stipulations and language to ensure the uses of the money that we use as consumers, why did it prove so hard for Hank Paulson and his Treasury Department to provide the same accountability in their actions?

There is no doubt that the populists President Obama and Geithner are correct in their assessment of a certain strata of the anger that has been spreading like a prairie wild-fire across the country, but the method by which they proposed to redress this are miniscule, at best. Because only the “most distressed” institutions would be held to this standard, not all recipient companies of TARP funds, nor companies that had already received funds from the first half of TARP (AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, among others) would be held to this standard–and all are most likely already past the point of being in need of continued “exceptional assistance”, which is not to say they will not be holding their hand out again, just that they can make the case that they are no longer in need of “exceptional assistant”–the salary restrictions and complex stock-option rules are not likely to be enacted in anything other than the most severe and ongoing cases, such as the Detroit Big Three. There is a loophole present, however, for “generally healthy” companies that receive TARP assistance, which begs the question–“why would a “generally healthy” company receive TARP funds, but this has yet to be seen. That Geithner and Obama are taking extraordinary steps that were not even attempted by Paulson and his, at best, incompetent and at worst, criminally conspiratorial regime, is commendable.

The timing of these measures, however, has to be put in question, and especially in consideration of the release of the TARP funds, which were authorized for the new Administration even before President Obama’s inauguration, and the continued delay in the roll-out of the restructured TARP program in relationship to the “emergency stimulus package”.

If the reorganized TARP program is successful in unfreezing the credit markets, and this is successful in getting the consumer markets and consumer spending back on the road to recovery, then what good will the Stimulus Package have in additional economic recovery?

The likely answer–it is not even aimed at this goal. A close examination of the more than 1,400+ pages of the current Stimulus Bill shows that the vast majority of programs and initiatives involved are nothing but vast Government Spending Programs, de facto earmarks in support of political pet projects and payback to Democratic Party Donor Constituencies. There has been no demonstratable or wide-ranging essential “jobs programs”, as is the perception that is trying to be sold to the American Public, a perception that the Republican Minority, largely themselves demonized as the cause of the current economic crisis, are not in a position to effectively combat.

Today, President Obama released an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post, titled “The Action America Needs”, in which President Obama refers to the politics of fear to try and quiet the public outcry that has been rising throughout all segments of the American Public.

“By now, it’s clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression. Millions of jobs that Americans relied on just a year ago are gone; millions more of the nest eggs families worked so hard to build have vanished. People everywhere are worried about what tomorrow will bring…Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.”

Indeed, millions of jobs and nest eggs are gone. Is pork-barrel spending going to bring them back?

Sources:

Associated Press, “Obama caps executive pay tied to bailout money”By Jim Kuhnhenn

Washington Post, “The Action America Needs” by President Barack Obama

(*This article was originally published February 5, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)

Now It’s BiPartisan, More Nominee Problems Surface

Another day, and the Obama Administration hit by more Nominee Scandals.

For the Democrats, it was a good day on that front, as they hit .500, with the Republican Nominee for Commerce Secretary, Senator Judd Gregg, being contacted immediately after his introduction at the White House by the Justice Department and told that a former staff member was under investigation for receiving inappropriate gifts-for-favors from lobbyists. Gregg was informed that he is not currently being investigates as part of the probe, but the staffer, Kevin H. Koonce, received more than $10,000 in meals, drinks and sports tickets from Jack Abramoff, who in turn received favorable action from Gregg’s office for his clients. Abramoff is currently serving time in Federal Prison for crimes related to improprieties in his activities as a lobbyist.

Can the honest, untainted politicians in Washington please step forward? Obama is already tapping Republicans, who are obviously faring just slightly better than his Democratic appointees in demonstrating uncompromised associations and ethical behavior. Perhaps Washington D.C. will prove to be too corrupt to redeem, and another lofty ideal from President Obama’s campaign will be tossed along the wayside.

President Obama claimed during his post-Daschle-Withdrawal media blitz and meaculpa that “I don’t want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards, one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks who are working every day and paying their taxes.” A very nice soundbite. Which might have had a lasting, resounding effect if not less than two days later if his Nominee for Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, was not married to a Tax Cheat and herself previously employed as an unregistered lobbyist for a Labor Lobbying Firm.

For anyone not yet seeing the trend, “Change We Can” has, indeed, turned into an Audastic Hope. Politics as usual from our new Administration. Same old players, same old games, same old schemes, crooked relationships, ties to big-money, big-business, big-labor lobbyists.

Indeed, even President Obama’s appraisal of his “screw up” in picking former Senator Tom Daschle due to his tax problems and previous employ as an unregistered lobbyist, and his insistance that there are not “two sets of standards” does not even extend out of his own remaining cabinet, from already confirmed and working Timothy Geithner, who President Obama still insists “was a solid pick”, to Hilda Solis, who has not removed herself from consideration and is likely to face stiff opposition in her confirmation process, which was postponed today at the request of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Yesterday Hilda Solis’ husband paid more than $6,400 to settle 16-years of Tax Liens against his business.

Of more concern to the Senate Committee tasked with her confirmation hearing was her position on the board of the pro-labor organization American Rights at Work. The pro-labor organization, according to their website, states that their mission is to “inform the American public about the struggle to win workplace democracy for nurses, cooks, computer programmers, retail cashiers, and a variety of workers who we all depend on every day. Our vision is a nation where the freedom of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively with employers is guaranteed and promoted.”

Sources:

The Washington Post, “Former Gregg Staffer Under Investigation” by James V. Grimaldi

The Washington Post, “Obama Defends Treasury Chief” by Michael D. Shear and Anne E. Kornblut

The Washington Post, “Solis Senate Session Postponed in Wake of Husband’s Tax Lien Revelations” by Michael A. Fletcher

http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/

(*This article was originally published February 5, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)

Daschle Out, Panetta In, the Revolving Door Spins Again

Change We Can?

Maybe we could, but it’s not taking place. Politics as usual, the return of former government officials who have since become Lobbyists–whether in name or otherwise–and retreaded Clinton Era beauracrats, Obama is falling far short of his lofty goals to radically change the political landscape in Washington D.C.

Former Senator Tom Daschle had to remove his name from consideration after persistent criticism directed at the Obama Administration, with even the left-leaning New York Times calling for his resignation or the appointment being withdrawn.

Troubling for the Ethical Framework that Obama and his people are supposed to be imposing on the Capitol is the fact that Obama had been aware of Daschle’s tax problems for over a month, and decided to stand by his appointee, even after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner faced an uphill climb in being confirmed by Congress.

So far this makes three Obama nominees that have had tax issues, two of which having to resign their appointments. The other was Nancy Killefer, who quietly withdrew a few hours before Daschle, both citing their desire to not become “distractions” for Obama’s young Administration. Killefer was Obama’s pick for “Performance Czar”, and Daschle was slated to become Health and Human Services Secretary, so neither tax issue was necessarily as glaringly hypocritical as Treasury Secretary Geitner, who will in fact be overseeing the very beauracracy that would have, in theory, been the one to punish him for his offenses. Let us not forget Bill Richardson, who had to withdraw his appointment when allegations of bid-rigging during his current tenure as Governor of New Mexico surfaced.

Geitner’s excuse–that he did not understand the tax code or how to properly operate the highly popular computer program “TurboTax”–seems to go counter to the rationale that many on the both sides of the aisle applied to the urgency and necessity in confirming Geitner, that being, “He is the best man for the job, a brilliant Economist with ideas to save this country”. Really? This country might be in a lot of trouble if everyone missed their guess.

The good side, for both Geitner and Daschle, and in the end, probably Killefer, is that none of the three have had to pay penalties or interest on their unpaid taxes, which the average citizen would be forced to do to rectify the situation.

The Era of Responsibility in Washington is off to a dashing start!

President Obama’s appointee for the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Leon Panetta, has been outed as a corporate shill who took over $700,000 in speaking and other fees from some of Wall Street’s biggest players in 2008 alone–or former players it should be said, as two of his biggest clients were Merrill Lynch and Wachovia, both of which imploded late in 2008. A third firm, the secretive Carlyle Group, has long been under public suspicion for its heavy investments in the US Arms Industry, lucrative Government Defense Contracts, and influencing officials in capacities in the Executive Branch, Congress, and at The Pentagon. In addition to these relationships, Panetta provided “Consulting Services” to the Pacific Maritime Association, and received payments from Fleishman Hillard, a massive Public Affairs and Lobbying firm.

So, President Obama’s pick for “Head Spook” is himself variously tied to Lobbying and The US Arms Industry.

President Obama’s first day in office, when he made a sweeping series of Executive Orders, one of which, titled “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel” has four items that were themselves quite promising on first blush, but seem to have been tossed on the wayside almost as soon as the ink dried.

“2. Revolving Door Ban All Appointees Entering Government. I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.

“3. Revolving Door Ban Lobbyists Entering Government. If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 2, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment:

(a) participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment;

(b) participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls; or

(c) seek or accept employment with any executive agency that I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment.

“4. Revolving Door Ban Appointees Leaving Government. If, upon my departure from the Government, I am covered by the post employment restrictions on communicating with employees of my former executive agency set forth in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, I agree that I will abide by those restrictions for a period of 2 years following the end of my appointment.

“5. Revolving Door Ban Appointees Leaving Government to Lobby. In addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 4, I also agree, upon leaving Government service, not to lobby any covered executive branch official or non career Senior Executive Service appointee for the remainder of the Administration.

Sources:

thedailybeast.com, “What Really Did Tom Daschle In” by Mark McKinnon

Wall Street Journal Online, “CIA Nominee Panetta Received $700,000 in Fees” by Glenn R. Simpson

Whitehouse.gov, Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel

(*This article was originally published February 4, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)

President Obama’s First Broken Campaign Promises

One of President Obama’s most enduring campaign promises was the “Sunlight Period” that he would impose, stating that no bill would be rushed through Congress and signed before the American Public had five-days to review The Bill and comment on the White House website.

Not surprisingly, this promise was quick to disappear, almost immediately upon President Obama taking over the reigns of government.

The first law passed and signed in the Obama Presidency was the “Lilly Ledbetter Law”, which repealed restrictions on an employee’s right to sue employers over pay discrimination–and it was signed by President Obama without the five-day waiting period, or the ability to publicly comment on the bill on the White House website.

“Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them,” Obama’s campaign Web site states. “As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.”

After Obama signed the law into being it was posted for the first time on the White House website, where it was available for public comment–after the fact.

Obama also promised the end to the Government-to-Lobbyist revolving door and in his first Executive Order signed into being a sweeping change to the rules that would prevent anyone from working in the Obama Administration in any capacity for which they had previously lobbyied within the previous two years, and prevent them from lobbying for two years after leaving public service.

But wait–exclusions! Former Senator Daschle, Timothy Geitner, and William J. Lynn, have all been excluded from such rules. Daschle, the nominee for Heath and Human Services Secretary, has earned over $5 million in the last few years lobbying for the Health Industry since being defeated in a close election and losing his Senate Seat. William Corr, another Obama appointee, has previously worked as a lobbyists for anti-smoking organizations on Captiol Hill. Lynn, the appointee for Deputy Director at The Pentagon, has ties with the Arms Industry and has worked as a lobbyist since the end of the Clinton Administration.

(* This article was originally published February 4, 2009 on the Yahoo Contributor Network)