Obama’s Keystone XL Decision – A Triumph of Good Sense

Jennifer Rubin, on her “Right Turn” opinion page at the Washington Post says that “Keystone XL decision hands the GOP a gift.”  She must be in a lot of pain to be so detached from reality.

I won’t get into everything that she says, suffice it to say that I think she is wrong for SO many reasons.  First and foremost, job numbers, the primary focus of proponents of this monstrosity, would be minimal, (approximately 6,000) most of them short-term construction jobs, not the “hundreds of thousands” of jobs that John Boehner seems to dream of.

Laughable. Talking jobs benefits Obama, not Republicans (see graphs below). Solyndra, mentioned by both Rubin and Boehner, is also not an Obama problem as Solyndra was approved under Bush and was less than 2% of the energy loans from 2005 and the only one that has gone bad. Solyndra’s guaranteed loan was for ~$500 million, not the billions that went into later bailouts of both auto and finance. The stimulus was not a failure; without it the recession would have been a depression. The debt accumulation, well that will be argued until the end of time — when did it start, who increased it, etc. Needless to say, we went from a debt surplus at the beginning of Bush to a record deficit at the end of Bush, largely to his putting two wars on the country credit card, and it took a whole lot of congressional enabling from both sides of the aisle to make that happen.

Rubin also brings up entitlement reform but I assume she is referring to the favorite conservative buzzwords of social entitlements such as health care, food stamps, social security, unemployment, etc. If not, please forgive me for making such assumptions, I’ve been conditioned by the Republican debates. If you are talking inclusively about all entitlements, you include such things as corporate and individual tax loopholes (see today’s news about Mitt Romney’s offshore tax havens), corporate subsidies, forgiven FDIC loans in addition to social entitlement. I’m not so sure Romney is going to look like such a pretty boy when you examine him through that lens.

Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, again leads the way in good sense. From Politicusa:

In December, Senator Sanders urged Obama to call the Republicans bluff on Keystone XL. President Obama did more than call their bluff. He let the Republicans kill Keystone XL for him.

Republicans set themselves up for this one when they demanded that the 60 day deadline be included in the payroll tax/unemployment benefits extension. Republicans are already trying to spin Obama’s decision as a refusal to create jobs, but the truth is that Keystone XL project would only create 6,000 or so jobs. Most of the full time jobs would not be filled by locals, and the other jobs would be temporary construction.

The Keystone XL project is not a job creator, or a path to energy independence. The oil that would come from the project was destined to be sold on the global market. If anything, Keystone would open up all US production to the international market. A point that Republicans never seem to understand is that oil drilled in the United States [belongs] to the oil company, not the country where it was extracted from.

Incidentally, the US would not have received any tax revenues for the Canadian oil.  We would be merely a conduit for their dirty oil and the revenues produced without keeping either.  The oil would go to the Houston refineries to be processed then shipped out to international markets.  All tax revenues would bypass the U.S. because we are in no way a partner in the sale of the oil.  Refineries would be paid for cleaning up and refining the extremely dirty oil but otherwise we just take the risk of a pipeline spill right in our heartland and get the refinery pollution.

Finally, if John Boehner, Mitt Romney and the Republicans want to talk about jobs,I bring you JOBS, JOBS, JOBS (“The Progress Report,” Jan. 6, 2012, Think Progress) with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

2…the number of years of consecutive employment growth in manufacturing, after not one single year of growth between 1997 and 2010.

8.5 percent…the unemployment rate, the lowest since February 2009 just after President Obama took office.

22…the number of consecutive months of private sector job growth.

12,000…the number of public sector jobs lost in December of 2011 alone.

212,000…the number of private sector jobs created in December of 2011 alone.

280,000…the number of public sector jobs lost in 2011.

315,000…the number of health care jobs created in 2011.

673,000…the number of private sector jobs lost during the entirety of the eight-year Bush presidency.

1,080,000…the number of net jobs created during the entirety of the eight-year Bush presidency.

1,600,000…the net number of jobs created during 2011, after accounting for job losses in the public sector.

1,900,000…the number of private sector jobs created during 2011.

IN TWO  SENTENCES: In either of the past two years alone, President Obama created more private sector jobs than President Bush did during the entirety of his eight-year presidency.  While today’s jobs numbers are a promising sign, it’s no time to get complacent when 14 MILLION Americans are still out of work.

 

Advertisements

A Defender of the Tea Party. Me???!!! Good Grief!

I just read an article in TPM about the political effect of the recent yes/no/yes vote on the payroll tax cut.  If you are unaware of this discussion, I want to go wherever you have been, because it is indeed a disconnected place.  The payroll tax debate has been the “Grinch” of Christmas 2011.

This article, and many preceding it, blame the recent payroll tax fiasco and much of congressional gridlock, on the Tea Party.  Although I do think that the Tea Party, basing their position on the fact that they were actually elected, has effectively hijacked the entire Republican party in their ideological direction, I think this is particular bucket of blame is undeserved.  John Boehner, for example, is not considered part of that group, but is the Speaker of the House, the ‘main man’ for all House Republicans, and he supported the entire Republican unification againstthe payroll tax cut extension.  ALL Republicans, regardless of Tea Party preference or not, voted against the extension.

Don't you just love the "trickle down" idea?

The silly things that Boehner has said in justification of that “no” vote exemplifies politics today:  PARTY above ALL else. It wasn’t the  Tea Party caucus only that voted against the extension and effectively FOR a tax hike for working Americans, it was ALL Republicans.

Let’s track the discussion to make sure we know the who, what and when of it all.

We start with the President.

Dec. 8:  Obama says, no payroll tax cut, no Christmas break. source

Moving to the House:

Dec. 13:  Passes a bill extended the cuts for a year, but see what else their Bill contained:  source

  • —Extended expiring long-term unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless through 2012, but shortened the maximum length of coverage from 99 to 79 weeks. Required anyone receiving benefits who does not hold a high school diploma to seek a GED; let states test applicants for illegal drug use (I thought the GOP was against big government and govt. intervention?).
  • —Prevented the 2012 scheduled 27% cut in Medicare payments to doctors (purpose of the cut was to eliminate unnecessary and wasteful costs).
  • Blocks Obama administration rule curbing pollution from industrial boilers; extends tax break for businesses buying equipment for 2012 (Do we hear special interest calling?).
  • —Requires the President to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline within 60 days unless he declares the project would not serve the national interest (Again, special interest whispering sweet nothing).
  • —Price tag, over $180 billion.

Now to the Senate;  the pre-House bill proposal in the Senate had initially been to pay for the tax cut extension with a 1% increase in taxes paid by those making over $1 million.  That proposal was ejected based on House Republicans saying absolutely not.  Here are the main points of the Senate:

Dec. 17:

  • —Extends payroll tax cut through Feb. 29.
  • —Renews current unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed through Feb. 29, no other changes in program (I actually like the idea of maybe not a GED/degree requirement but rather a vocational training requirement for the extension of benefits.).
  • —Also prevents 27% cut in Medicare payments to doctors; extends other health care fees through Feb. 29 (What about that ‘let’s eliminate hidden, wasteful costs thing again?).
  • —Same provision on Keystone as House (Democrats listen to special interest as much as Republicans).
  • —All this would be paid for by increasing home loan guarantee fees charged to mortgage lenders by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration by one-tenth of 1 percentage point. The fee is passed on to home buyers and will apply to many new purchases and refinancings starting Jan. 1 (Wouldn’t this work against the home buyers market?  It also means that home buyers are subsidizing unemployment, doctors and all who benefit from the Social Security payroll tax cut?  This basically means that middle class Americans are still covering the bulk of everything.).
  • —Price tag $33 billion.

The next step was to send the Senate bill that passed to the House and they vote on that one.

Dec. 20:  House votes “no” on the Senate bill (229-193).

What ensued next was a general disbelief by the President, Senate and American public that the House would effectively raise payroll tax cuts to the previous level and decrease take-home pay of working people.  Boehner went public, accusing Obama and Senate Democrats of causing the gridlock and playing partisan politics.  It takes a lot of nerve to do that when it was the House Republicans that attached the “poison pill” (aka Keystone pipeline) to their bill.  They knew that would never pass the Senate and had Obama’s promise of a veto.

Enter public outcry, Senate Republicans, press editorials across the country and POLLS showing Obama was getting a political bump from the juvenile behavior of House Republicans.  See again the TPM article.

And today we have concession.

Again I say, don’t blame the Tea Party, this frat party disaster was a combined effort of ALL House Republicans.

Gotcha?

The Couric interview with Palin and McCain has provided some great insights into these two people, one of which could possibly be the leader of the free world and the other just a “heartbeat” away.

Here is Howard Kurtz (WaPo) talking about one interesting interchange between Couric and John McCain.

Sarah Palin isn’t the only one scrambling for answers. What is the difference between “talking with a voter” and “in a conversation with a group of people and talking back and forth”? Did anyone see the exchange being argued here? I’m sure there was a camera somewhere that caught the moment when Palin was either “talking with a voter” or “talking back and forth.” Send me the link, please!

A personal note to John McCain: I think you’d better talk to Sarah about her watching Obama. It is obvious to us that she is, after making some of the most unbelievably dumb campaign statements we’ve ever heard, watching Obama to get his take on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border issue. Why else would she have agreed with what he has said and contradicted you?  Two last points:  1) Do you realize that people don’t particularly care for your jokes about about your age?  We know how old you are.  2)  Your condescentious manner is not working; not toward Obama during the debate and not with Katie Couric during your Monday interview.  Lastly, John, it was NOT “gotcha journalism”, unless that is what you call it when she says something that contradicts something you have said and someone notices.

What is it Really? Separation of Church and State, or Separation of Church and Taxes.

Apparently there is a loose coalition of churches that feel that because the government is not being run the way they think it should that they don’t have to obey the laws any longer. One church leader, Rev. Ron Johnson Jr. told his flock that voting for Obama would be the equivalent of “severe moral schizophrenia.” For more details, read “33 Pastors Flout Tax Law With Political Sermons.”

I’m not sure if they realize the full implications of getting their way, challenging the 1954 tax law that specifies that non-profit, tax-exempt organizations, which includes churches, may not “participate in, or intervene in . . . any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.” Just think — now our churches will pay taxes on what we give them and we, the members of those righteous flocks, will lose the deduction for charitable donations to that church because, well, those churches will no longer be tax-exempt.

There is a positive side, however. ALL who work for one of these organizations, be it a church itself or an organization that is owned by the church (e.g. church-owned university) will be free to speak our political minds. No longer restricted by the “no political campaigning” restrictions imposed by the tax law, a dean at a church-owned university or a Bishop or someone like the above Rev. Johnson can now become politically involved and become an advocate for a political persuasion. Just think! We can begin having political lobbying by all sorts of religious organizations: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, etc. You weren’t assuming, were you Rev. Johnson, that only evangelical Christians will take advantage of this newfound opportunity to speak openly? Are you positive, Rev. Johnson, that leaders of all churches agree with the 33 of you? Do you really believe that everyone has the same political opinion as you? Or do you think that perhaps there are just as many or more who think that Senator Obama is the answer to prayer for our nation?

I think most religions, Christian or not, teach their believers to help and support each other, have tolerance and compassion for all, leave the ninety and nine to search for the one. I personally believe that I am responsible for my actions, that I am should love others as myself, that my beliefs are my own and that I can be as conservative as I want in my own actions, my own personal standards, but that I do NOT have the right to impose my standards on anyone else. I also believe that goes for everyone else, too.

“Bitter”??

Is this a joke? The campaign news being pounced on today is that Senator Barack Obama referred to some Pennsylvanians as “bitter” that they’ve been forgotten or neglected by their government. For having made such a reference he is now paying the price — “Elitist!” shouts John McCain with disdain, “that’s not my experience,” smugly says Hillary as she smiles and shakes hands with those folks who have been paying the price for failed domestic economic policies for the last two decades (one over which Hillary’s husband called the shots).

Where’s the truth and honesty in all this? Who isn’t bitter? I’m bitter that the people of this country elected a man to be president who, with his pack of cronies, should be examined under a war criminal microscope. I’m bitter that there are millions of poor in this country who cannot get health care or many so-called basic needs because they don’t have a strong enough financial portfolio to put them in the tax-favored bracket. I’m bitter that we are in a war that should have never been engaged in, invaded and are occupying a country that had nothing to do with September 11th and have been endlessly lied to by our government about the war that never ends. I’m bitter that many of the leaders of our country have dragged us into the moral whirlpool of torture. We must, rather than merely being bitter, look forward. We must admit the bitterness that is here, realize where it has come from and move forward with the hope for change that OBAMA offers.

Speeches:

‘A more perfect union’ – full transcript of Senator Obama’s speech on race as prepared for delivery

Democratic National Convention, July 27, 2004