Archives for October 2011

Former Obama economic advisor on Cash for Clunkers

Austan Goolsbee, who until recently served as Obama’s chief economic advisor, says that he wouldn’t have backed the failed “Cash for Clunkers” program if he had to do it all over again:

Former Obama administration economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said Thursday that if given a second chance he would not have backed the Cash for Clunkers program or the home buyer tax credit passed in 2009 to stave off further economic distress.

“Because we didn’t know if [economic recovery was] going to be short or long,” the Obama administration tried measures to address both scenarios, Goolsbee explained on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“If you look at Cash for Clunkers or the first home buyer tax credit, they were geared to trying to shift [recovery] from 2010 into 2009. Given it’s taken this long [to recover], I don’t think you would do that short-run stuff,” Goolsbee added.

Goolsbee, the former chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the administration misjudged how quickly the country could recover from the economic damage of the 2008 economic collapse.

“It has proved a longer, tougher ride than we thought at the time,” Goolsbee said. “At the time we come in, it’s an awful, awful moment. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month and the economy is in a tough spot. There was a debate, and it continues now, of ‘Can we come back quickly from this?’”

While many apologists of President Barack Obama still defend Cash for Clunkers program, it’s clear that it was a failure and has had adversed effects; including driving up the cost of used cars on the market.

WaPo’s odd hit piece on Marco Rubio

Last week, the Washington Post ran a “gotcha” story attempting to discredit Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who frequently explains how his parents permanently stayed in the United States after the oppressive Castro regime came to power in Cuba. The story is incredibly misleading, as Miami Herald, Rubio’s hometown paper, explains:

The Washington Post just released this interesting story headlined “Marco Rubio’s compelling family story embellishes facts, documents show.” The paper flagged a clear inaccuracy in his official Senate biography that states the Senator’s parents “came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.”

That’s false. Rubio’s parents came to the US before then, in 1956. They remained in the US after Castro took over in 1959. They returned to Cuba for brief stints early on, before the country devolved into Soviet-style totalitarianism.

But the top of the story suggests Rubio himself has given this “dramatic account:” that “he was the son of exiles, he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after ‘a thug,’ Fidel Castro, took power.” (Update note: The story struck the word “dramatic”).

However, the story doesn’t cite one speech where Rubio actually said that.

Obama signs much needed trade deals

President Barack Obama did two things on Friday that I agree with. As noted earlier, Obama announced the withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq by the end of the year (though it was not a principled decision) and he signed recently passed and much needed trade agreements:

President Barack Obama signed off Friday on the first three — and possibly last — free trade agreements of his administration, deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama that could be worth billions to American exporters and create tens of thousands of jobs.

The three deals were years in the making, and the difficulty of bringing them to fruition make it unlikely there will be another bilateral trade agreement during Obama’s current term.

Obama signed them with none of the ceremonial fanfare that normally accompanies such triumphs. Republicans, while supportive of the deals, continue to find fault with Obama’s trade policies. And nearly three-fourths of House Democrats voted against the trade measures.

The agreements will bring to 20 those countries that have free trade relations with the United States.

Given that House Democrats beholden to labor unions overwhelmingly opposed these agreements, it’s a break from a considerable chunk of his party’s base. And as recently noted, the White House also opposes a measure pushed by Senate Democrats that would start a trade war with China.

Another Constitution gaffe by Herman Cain

Coming off a gaffe concerning the issue of abortion where he seemed to take both sides of the issues, Herman Cain made yet another statement showing a lack of understanding of basic constitutional principles:

In an interview with David Brody last night, Cain said he’d sign a pro-life constitutional amendment if it crossed his desk as president.

“Yes. Yes I feel that strongly about it. If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I’ll sign it,” he said. “That’s all I can do. I will sign it.”

The only problem with that statement? Presidents don’t sign constitutional amendments — they’re passed in Congress and then need to be ratified by the states, and the president plays no formal role in the process.

Obama’s approval rating the lowest since Carter

We know that Americans aren’t responding well to the state of the nation, and President Barack Obama’s approval rating is a reflection of the dissatisfaction. Gallup released the numbers for the 11th quarter of Obama’s presidency last week. The decline is certainly significant:

President Barack Obama’s 11th quarter in office was the worst of his administration, based on his quarterly average job approval ratings. His 41% approval average is down six percentage points from his 10th quarter in office, and is nearly four points below his previous low of 45% during his seventh quarter.

Barack Obama's Quarterly Job Approval Averages

These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking from July 20-Oct. 19, 2011. During this time, Obama’s approval rating ranged narrowly between 38% and 43% for all but a few days of the quarter. The 38% approval ratings, registered on several occasions, are the lowest of his presidency to date.

Gallup notes that over the last 50 years (since Eisenhower) only Jimmy Carter has had a worse approval rating at this point his presidency. However, Obama isn’t that far off from Reagan’s 44.4% approval rating in October 1983. So by no means does this serve as an indicator that Obama is on the way out, although it certainly isn’t a good sign for his campaign.

US to withdraw from Iraq…sort of

Coming off what is perceived to be a foreign policy “victory” in Libya with death of Muammar Gaddafi (although our involvement was both illegal and unjustified), President Barack Obama announced on Friday that the military forces would be leaving Iraq at the end of 2011; following a policy put in place by his predecessor:

President Obama will withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, ending a long war that deeply divided the country over its origins and the American lives it consumed.

In a Friday morning video conference, Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to a complete U.S. military departure that will fulfill a promise important to Obama’s reelection effort. The decision drew sharp criticism from his Republican rivals, as well as expressions of relieved support from those who believe it is time for the United States to conclude a war Obama once called “dumb.”

For months, U.S. and Iraqi officials had been negotiating the terms of an accord that would have kept several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq for special operations and training beyond the year-end deadline set by the George W. Bush administration.

Tweaking the economic numbers on the Clean Air Act

Rep. Hank Johnson, who’s probably most famous for his concern about the island of Guam tipping over due to large numbers of military personnel on the island, has made a statement that’s not as glaringly dumb…but it’s not far behind when you look at the numbers.  You see, Johnson was talking about Republican efforts to take a long, hard look at environmental regulations that they claim has caused increases in energy costs as well as the corollary impact on business.

“Since 1970, the Clean Air Act has reduced toxic and health-threatening air pollution by 60 percent while our economy has grown more than 200 percent,” Johnson said, and he’s essentially right.  PolitiFact took a look and found that his numbers are essentially dead on. So what’s the problem?  Well, only that it looks like growth was better before the Clean Air Act.

Johnson’s statement seems to imply that the Clean Air Act did not hurt the economy or even helped it. Wallace wasn’t sure a direct correlation can be made.

She researched GDP 10 years before the Clean Air Act passed and the 40 years since and concluded that the average annual growth was greater before 1970. “It’s kind of difficult to say it’s directly related,” Wallace told us.

Crazy Joe Biden strikes again

If you listen to Vice President Joe Biden, never one to hold back his thoughts (no matter how absurd they may be), unless the so-called American Jobs Act, which includes funding for more first responders and police, more violent crimes will be committed in cities and towns across America: Here’s what Biden said in a recent speech in Flint, Michigan:

Let’s look at the facts: in 2008, when Flint had 265 sworn officers on their police force, there were 35 murders and 91 rapes in this city. In 2010, when Flint had only 144 police officers, the murder rate climbed to 65 and rapes–just to pick two categories–climbed to 229. In 2011, you now only have 125 shields.

The problem with this is, well, the premise of the claim just isn’t true, as Glenn Kessler noted this morning in a fact-check over at the Washington Post:

More important than the raw figures is the rate per 100,000 individuals. Murder did go up—though the rate did not double from 2009 to 2010, as Biden claimed. But rape has gone down. Biden actually asserted it had tripled.
[…]
Interestingly, Flint Police Chief [Alvern] Lock has repeatedly asserted that cuts in staffing had little effect on the crime rate.

Tennessee Reps propose regulatory relief for Gibson

Remember the Gibson Guitar raid, a prime example of how absurd regulations and harrassment by government are hurting businesses? Members of the Tennessee delegation are working to ensure that the portions of the Lacey Act that lead to the raid are amended to avoid this problem in the future:

Members of the House from Tennessee introduced legislation on Thursday aimed at easing a controversial ban on the use of illegally traded wood for musicians and music retailers, several weeks after the federal government raided Gibson Guitar over allegations the company was violating that ban.

The bill, from Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), would make several changes to the Lacey Act aimed at mitigating the penalties imposed on violators. But while the bill is a reaction to the raids on Gibson’s facilities in Memphis and Nashville — two cities with storied music histories — the lawmakers stressed that it would not affect any ongoing cases under Lacey.

The bill, H.R. 3210, is titled the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act.

“In theory, anybody who travels outside the country or even across the state line with an old guitar right now would be in legal jeopardy,” Cooper said. “The RELIEF Act protects guitar pickers and small businesses, and it treats them fairly.”

Blackburn added that the bill fits in with the Republican effort to ease federal regulations, which the GOP says is hurting U.S. job creation.

Using cash for secondhand transactions now illegal in Louisiana

Sometimes I see things that I just can’t believe are true. This is one of those times.

Earlier this year, the Louisiana legislature almost unanimously passed a law that prohibits the use of cash in secondhand transactions.

The story on this one is that the law is intended to create a paper trail when people steal things like copper or other materials from a construction site. Forcing a check, money order, or electronic payment would make it easier for law enforcement to find a thief. I understand that argument, but there are some real problems with this law.

U.S. currency is valid for all transactions. On the front of our currency is the line “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” Prohibiting the use of legal tender is a bit of an oxymoron.

Records of each transaction must be kept for 3 years. When you hear people like me fussing about unnecessary government regulations hindering businesses, this is the type of thing we’re talking about. This law requires businesses to keep very specific records for each second hand transaction so that law enforcement can find people they suspect are thieves.

The information to be collected by the dealer includes: date, location of purchase, name and address of seller, driver’s license or passport number of seller, license plate of vehicle used to deliver the goods, a full description of all materials being purchased.

 
 


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