Friday, February 27, 2009

Mark Salter Comments on Governor Jindal Speech

Jindal’s Pursuit of Happiness Leaves Country Wondering...

Last year, I had the pleasure of watching Governor Bobby Jindal participate in a town hall meeting with John McCain, and was deeply impressed with his command of complex policy issues, and his easy fluency in communicating his views to voters. It was an exceptional performance, which I was reminded of watching the Governor’s recent interview on Meet the Press. Regrettably, those talents were not on display in his nationally televised response to President Obama’s address to Congress.

Granted, it’s not easy following Barack Obama, whose communication skills, especially his appreciation of the physicality of memorable speechmaking, have no equal in politics today. But Jindal is a better speaker than he gave evidence of last Tuesday, and much better at communicating conservative principles and policies in a winning way.
The over thought staging of his speech (he should have appeared at seated at his desk or in an armchair rather than attempt to imitate a presidential stroll into the East Room), and the curiously emphatic and singsong enunciation of certain words in his address suggest too much coaching. That said, I doubt one missed opportunity will seriously cloud this promising young politician’s future, and I still look to him as one of a few prominent Republican officeholders with the talent and vision to help lead the Party out of the political wilderness it now finds itself in.

More disappointing than Jindal’s delivery was the address itself. It failed to offer worried Americans compelling alternatives to the sweeping proposals offered by the President, which considered together, promise the greatest government growth and intrusion into areas of private responsibilities since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Instead, Jindal offered an anodyne recitation of Republican opposition to government spending and high taxes. Americans, even those who are not in danger of losing their jobs or homes, want to know their government has a feasible plan to get us out of the economic mess that has ravaged savings for their retirement and their children’s college education.

Jindal spent a considerable portion of his address decrying government incompetence, using the example of the federal government’s woeful response to Hurricane Katrina as a reason not to trust it to do anything. But in these times, Americans aren’t satisfied with an alternative that only opposes and doesn’t propose solutions to the myriad problems confronting us from ruinously expensive health care to inadequate public education to crumbling infrastructure. They are looking for leaders with ideas for making government do better what it must do. Jindal has a reputation for innovative and effective policy ideas for many of the most pressing public concerns. He should have discussed a few of those Tuesday night as alternatives to the Democrats’ insistence on spending more on government programs that have already lost the confidence of the American people.

Although it would have put considerable pressure on the Governor and his speechwriters, they should have considered drafting his remarks after they viewed an embargoed copy of the President’s remarks. A hurriedly written and less rehearsed rebuttal to some of the President’s proposals that offered and explained conservative reforms that would, for instance, make health care more affordable and accessible or offered dissatisfied parents more educational opportunities for their children or stimulated small business job creation or spent wisely on necessary infrastructure improvements would have made a greater impression on voters than another boilerplate denunciation of government’s many inadequacies.

The argument Republicans should make, and Governor Jindal is well equipped to make, against the ruinous spending and tax increasing proposals of the President and Democrats in Congress is that government can play a competent and efficient role in helping Americans decide for themselves how to pursue happiness rather than President Obama’s bold but arrogant conviction that government should determine what happiness is and who deserves more of it and who deserves less. That is a response to this new age of Obama led government activism Americans will embrace.

Submitted by ASO member: Mark Salter

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Take a look at today's cartoon of the day. A look at the Administrations desire to be perceived as centrists...

Congressman Pence Writes...

The American people love a fair fight and so do I, especially where the issues of the day are debated. In a free market, fairness should be determined based upon equality of opportunity, rather than equality of results. Some voices are calling for Congress to enforce their idea of “fairness” on our broadcast airwaves. But our nation should proceed with caution whenever some would achieve their “fairness” by limiting the freedom of others.

The so-called ‘Fairness Doctrine’ is an Orwellian Federal Communications Commission rule that beginning in 1949 required radio and television broadcasters to present controversial issues in a fair and balanced manner. But there's nothing fair about the Fairness Doctrine. To avoid administrative costs and hours of paperwork and legal fees, broadcasters opted to offer noncontroversial programming. As a result, talk radio, as we know it today, simply did not exist.

Putting unelected FCC bureaucrats back in charge of rationing free speech would be dangerous to democracy in America. The free marketplace of ideas – not a government bureaucracy – should determine the content of broadcast media. As a former radio talk show host, I know what the reinstatement of the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ would mean – effectively muzzling American talk radio.

Recognizing the chilling effect that the regulation was having on broadcast freedom, the FCC began to revoke the Fairness Doctrine in 1985. The FCC stated, "the intrusion by government into the content of programming occasioned by the enforcement of [the Fairness Doctrine] restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters ... [and] actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and the degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists.” That statement is just as true today as it was then. Following repeal of the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ and President Reagan’s veto of attempts to reinstate it, the results have been dramatic.

The lifting of the Fairness Doctrine opened the public airwaves to a free and vigorous discussion of controversial issues that never existed before its repeal. When Rush Limbaugh began his legendary career, there were 125 talk radio stations in America. Today, there are 2,000. While Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and other conservative giants dominate the national syndicated market, many moderate and liberal programs succeed admirably at the local level.

Sadly, some of the most powerful elected Democrats in America have said that Congress should bring back this outright censorship of the American political debate. Should the liberals succeed in their effort to reimpose the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ or anything like it they will inflict great damage on the First Amendment and send talk show hosts—left, right and center—packing. Freedom of speech and of the press are cherished pillars of our society and nowhere would their loss be more keenly felt than on our airwaves.

During my years in radio and television, I developed a great respect for a free and independent press. Since being in Congress, I have been the recipient of praise and criticism from broadcast media, but it has not changed my fundamental belief that a free and independent press must be vigorously defended by those who love liberty lest the frank and informative discussions now blossoming on the airwaves of America should one day fall silent.

Together with Congressman Greg Walden, I have authored the Broadcaster Freedom Act, a bill to make permanent the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine by taking away the FCC’s power to reinstate it without an act of Congress.
If the Broadcaster Freedom Act is brought to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, we have every confidence it will pass, because when freedom gets an up-or-down vote in the People’s House, freedom always wins.

Submitted by: Congressman Pence

Fairness Doctrine Prohibited

Today the Senate adopted an amendment to the DC voting rights bill offered by Senator DeMint and other GOP Senators that would prohibit the Federal Communications comm. from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine that was abolished in the late 1980s. The so-called Broadcasters Freedom Act in the form of the DeMint amendment., was supported today by 46 members of the Democratic side of the United States Senate chamber. The vote to support the DeMint amendment was 87 to 11. This action is welcome news for those who fear the reinstatement of the Fairness doctrine in various forms via the FCC. This strong vote should be a indication that if the FCC were to try to impose various versions of a fairness doctrine through programming limitations and the such, that those 46 Senators, both Democratic and Independent, will once again support overturning those such regs if they do in fact take shape later in the Congress.

The 11 Democratic and Independent Senators that did not support the DeMint amendments are: Bingaman (D-NM), Conrad (D-ND),Dorgan (D-ND),Feinstein (D-CA),Harkin (D-IA),Johnson (D-SD),Kerry (D-MA),Reed (D-RI), Rockefeller (D-WV),Sanders (I-VT), Whitehouse (D-RI)

Pentagon Reverses Itself, Will Allow Photos Of Returning War Dead

But only if the slain soldier's family agrees to allow the photos to be taken.

The AP has the details.

Senate Prevents F.D. Revival

From FoxNews...

The Senate approved an amendment Thursday that would outlaw the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," an off-the-books policy that once required broadcasters to air opposing viewpoints on controversial issues.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's amendment passed by a wide margin of 87-to-11. The South Carolina senator had attached his proposal, called the Broadcaster Freedom Act, to a bill to give the District of Columbia a voting representative in the House.

It's unclear whether the amendment will survive as Congress debates the voting rights bill. But the measure served to effectively put the Senate on record as opposing a revival of the Fairness Doctrine.

However, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin also won approval for an alternate amendment that would order the Federal Communications Commission to encourage radio ownership "diversity."

A DeMint aide said Durbin's measure will "impose the Fairness Doctrine through the back door by trying to break up radio ownership."

The aide called the Durbin proposal "an attempt to break up companies like Clear Channel and hurt their syndications and therefore putting many local radio stations out of business that depend on those syndicated shows for revenue."

The measure passed by a vote of 57-to-41.

The media control doctrine is a policy created decades ago but abolished in the late 1980s that required broadcasters to provide opposing views on controversial issues of public importance.

Though President Obama remains opposed to any effort to renew it and the Federal Communications Commission claims it is not in any talks to revive the policy, a few Democrats have voiced strong support for the media control policy in recent weeks. Republicans like DeMint in turn pushed legislation to forestall any move to bring back the doctrine.

"We need to make it a law that the FCC or this Congress cannot implement any aspect of the Fairness Doctrine," DeMint said.

Obama: "We Must Add To The Debt In The Short Term"

Obama lays out his budget this morning, which suffers from a $1.75 trillion dollar deficit.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

A humorous look at capitalism and our administration...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Help President Obama crunch the numbers...

Congress Should Ignore the Fairness Doctrine Distraction

Date: February 24, 2009 Contact: Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x22 or (703) 517-6273

WASHINGTON -- Today, Free Press released The Fairness Doctrine Distraction, a policy brief that explains why Congress should ignore any attempts to revive the legislative debate over the long-defunct broadcasting regulation.

The controversy over the Fairness Doctrine heated up recently after a handful of Democratic legislators publicly entertained its return, though no legislation to bring it back has been introduced in Congress. Despite President Barack Obama's statement last week reaffirming his longstanding opposition to the Doctrine, bills have been introduced by Republicans in both the House and Senate to prohibit the FCC from reinstating the regulation.

The Fairness Doctrine Distraction argues that the public interest is not served by revisiting an outdated policy that was taken off the books in 1987. The policy brief notes that it is untenable for the government to regulate political speech. It also points out that the Fairness Doctrine is unlikely to produce viewpoint diversity and would likely be overturned in court. Finally, the brief dispels assertions falsely equating the Fairness Doctrine with other media reform policies such as ownership limits, localism and Net Neutrality that have nothing to do with content regulation.

"There is so much that can be done with broad bipartisan support to promote free speech and diverse viewpoints in our media marketplace," said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press.

"We encourage Congress and the administration to ignore the Fairness Doctrine distraction and pursue media reform policies that matter."

Read The Fairness Doctrine Distraction:

Ugly, Democrats Seek Billion More For 2009

The Democratic Congress (with a lot of Republican help) is seeking a 6.7% budget increase over 2008.


Politico has the full story.

Tonight Obama Addresses Joint Session Of Congress

Politico has a preview of what to look for in Obama's speech at 9 pm ET tonight.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Take a look at today's Cartoon of the Day. Stock markets....

I'm just not that into you.

I’m just not that into you.

I’m weary of reading about all the provisions in the stimulus/spending bill. It makes my stomach hurt in that angry-but-helpless way. I’m irritated by politicians of all stripes who think they should decide how MY money is spent and how MY life should be lived.

So, I want to tell the leaders in Washington, DC, en masse:

“I’m just not that into you.

“I mean, I know you mean well, or you think you mean well. And I’m sure that some countries would be thrilled to have you as their significant other. But, honestly, you just make me feel smothered. Please stop calling me and asking for more money. Please stop promising to do things for me when it seems like I’m always the one paying the bill. Stop boasting about the decisions you’re making to change my life. I don’t think my life is so bad!

“I’m really looking for a government that isn’t in my face all the time. A government that gives me my space. One that respects my individuality and ideas. One that doesn’t judge me or talk down to me. But you… you aren’t that government. So. I’m sorry, but I’m just not that into you.”

Submitted by ASO member: Jean Card

'And now for something completely different, please'

From an article in the Washington Times today:

As CPAC begins in the nation's capital later this week, the conservative movement has much to contemplate as it attempts to reestablish itself as a dominant force in American political life.

Actually, "relevance" may be a more reasonable short-term goal.

The timing of the yearly Conservative Political Action Conference could not be better suited for evaluating the strategies of the standard bearers of free markets and limited government as free-spending and nanny statist Obamaism runs amok with nary a media check or a legislative balance.

Click here to read more.

Nancy Pelosi Blocking Obama's Plans For Entitlement Reform

According to the New York Times, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to stop President Obama's plans for Social Security reform.

The article may be found here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Take a look at today's Cartoon of the Day. A humorous look at how our legislature operates.

Governor Bobby Jindal Interview

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was on NBC's Meet The Press this morning. On the show, Governor Jindal explained why he planned on turning down a portion of the federal stimulus money currently allocated to go to his state:

The full interview is worth a look and may be found here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Case For Nationalization?

The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday about New York University economics professor Nouriel Roubini and Mr. Roubini's case for a government takeover of American banks.

An excerpt:

Mr. Roubini tells me that bank nationalization "is something the partisans would have regarded as anathema a few weeks ago. But when I and others put it in the context of the Swedish approach [of the 1990s] -- i.e. you take banks over, you clean them up, and you sell them in rapid order to the private sector -- it's clear that it's temporary. No one's in favor of a permanent government takeover of the financial system."

There's another reason why the concept should appeal to (fiscal) conservatives, he explains. "The idea that government will fork out trillions of dollars to try to rescue financial institutions, and throw more money after bad dollars, is not appealing because then the fiscal cost is much larger. So rather than being seen as something Bolshevik, nationalization is seen as pragmatic. Paradoxically, the proposal is more market-friendly than the alternative of zombie banks."

In any case, Republicans must now temper their reactions, he says. "The kind of government interference in the economy that we saw in the last year of Bush was unprecedented. The central bank -- supposed to be the lender of the last resort -- became the lender of first and only resort! With our recapitalizing of financial institutions, and massive government intervention in the markets, we've already crossed a significant bridge."

So, will the highest level of government be receptive to the bank-nationalization idea? "I think it will," Mr. Roubini says, unhesitatingly. "People like Graham and Greenspan have already given their explicit blessing. This gives Obama cover." And how long will it be before the administration goes in formally for nationalization? "I think that we're going to see the policy adopted in the next few months . . . in six months or so."
The whole article is worth a read.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Friday Laugh

"Loewe Sound"

A funny and clever commercial.

Happy Friday ASO community!

h/t Sullivan

Rush Limbaugh Says "Barack Obama Should Not Impose Fairness Doctrine on Talk Radio"

Dear President Obama:

I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as "local content," "diversity of ownership," and "public interest" rules -- all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?

You have singled me out directly, admonishing members of Congress not to listen to my show. Bill Clinton has since chimed in, complaining about the lack of balance on radio. And a number of members of your party, in and out of Congress, are forming a chorus of advocates for government control over radio content. This is both chilling and ominous.

Read more here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Matt Drudge Highlighting CNBC Clip Of Chicago Traders' Disgust With Obama Mortgage Plan

The video clip may be found here.

Fairly incredible footage.

Meghan McCain Discusses The GOP's Use Of The Internet

On her blog at Daily Beast.

As a blogger and daughter of the 2008 Republican Presidential candidate, Ms. McCain knows of what she speaks.

The post is worth a read.

The Intolerance of Ideas and Bipartisanship

Because of near unanimous opposition to the poorly planned and poorly developed economic stimulus bill many Republicans are facing the ire of the Democrats and some in the media who have decided that their opposition equates wanting America to fail. Editorials to this affect suggest that believing the economic stimulus bill is wrong, is un-American. Instead, the ridiculous expectation that some Americans must concede their beliefs and support this bill is not bipartisan; it is intolerant of our principles.

Instead, the real news should be the ridiculous notion that if this Administration reheats and rehashes the archaic and misguided policies of the FDR and Carter presidencies the results will be different this time around. And while this Administration, like FDR’s, was not responsible for the economic mess it inherited, they will be held responsible for prolonging an economic crisis through poor policy. Remember, this is not the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and those comparisons amount to nothing more than fear-mongering for the purpose of passing a bill.

Furthermore, the idea that Republicans should not oppose the stimulus because of the fiscal irresponsibility on their watch is preposterous. Someone, anyone, especially an elected public official who is salaried by the American taxpayer has the duty to stand in the way of fiscal irresponsibility. And while it may be the case that W. and the Republicans turned left in a crisis, the logic of following fiscal irresponsibility with more fiscal irresponsibility is incoherent.

So what amounted was a stimulus bill that was not bipartisan, and President Obama’s efforts in that regard were a failure. But to hold Republicans responsible for the lack of bipartisanship on this bill reminds me of a good quote from The Audacity of Hope:

"Genuine bipartisanship assumes an honest process of give-and-take, and that the quality of the compromise is measured by how well it serves some agreed-upon goal, whether better schools or lower deficits. This in turn assumes that the majority will be constrained – by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate -- to negotiate in good faith.

"If these conditions do not hold -- if nobody outside Washington is really paying attention to the substance of the bill, if the true costs . . . are buried in phony accounting and understated by a trillion dollars or so -- the majority party can begin every negotiation by asking for 100% of what it wants, go on to concede 10%, and then accuse any member of the minority party who fails to support this 'compromise' of being 'obstructionist.'

"For the minority party in such circumstances, 'bipartisanship' comes to mean getting chronically steamrolled, although individual senators may enjoy certain political rewards by consistently going along with the majority and hence gaining a reputation for being 'moderate' or 'centrist.'"

Thanks to the WSJ for drawing attention to this, it is shocking that this is not a quote from a bitter Republican complaining about the stimulus bill, it is President Obama, suggesting that he understands bipartisanship and would understand why his stimulus was nowhere close to being bipartisan.

And so, in all likelihood, the rest of this Administration will follow suit: blame for the promise and failure of bipartisanship does not belong to Republicans, the past few weeks are evidence that for all their noise they have no power, but to Democrats. It is misguided to believe a genuine hand of bipartisanship was extended only to be met with a clenched Republican fist; instead, the Republicans were offered an accomplice’s role to which most, finally, displayed some principles. The Democrats responded not with tolerance, but with claims of a mandate from the American people.

The idea that the American people gave the Democrats authorization to repeat the failures of past administrations neglects the reality that over 46 percent of Americans did not vote for Obama, none of us voted for the Stimulus (none of us even had the chance to read it), and, for perspective, only .15 percent of American voters voted for Nancy Pelosi, hardly a mandate. For Congressional Leaders to feel empowered by the American people is a crime, the Congressional approval rating recently skyrocketed from 19 percent to a whopping 31 percent (from historically poor, to a mere pathetically low), meaning, of course, that 7 of ten Americans don’t believe they gave Pelosi and her cronies any type of mandate. And while this is the reality of the American Republic, it illustrates the illusions of grandeur with which some politicians are dealing. Someone should send Pelosi and the President the writings of John Stuart Mills, because this is the tyranny of the majority in a very vulgar form.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Obama's Silver Lining

For all the criticism of the early Administration, President Obama should be commended on one thing, his opposition to the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. If only his own party would listen to him as Democratic leaders and figures have supported reinstatement of the FD. The list so far includes: Speaker Pelosi, Sen. Schumer, Sen. Stabenow, Sen. Harkin, and former President Clinton.

Obama's War On Terror Is Starting To Look A Bit Like Bush's War On Terror

The more things change, the more things stay the same?

Obama Administration To Host Fiscal Responsibility Summit

The summit will be next week at the White House.

The New York Times has the preliminary details:
The White House is finishing plans for what it is calling a “fiscal responsibility summit,” a three-hour bipartisan wonk-fest. Invitations are going out this week to 90 people: 30 members of the House, 30 senators and 30 scholars and representatives of advocacy groups such as AARP, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The afternoon session is not expected to yield any policy decisions, but to “underscore how big the problems are” and to air potential solutions, this person said. Administration officials have put out the word that the summit will not be the occasion to announce a task force on keeping Social Security solvent for the long-term, as they had considered, though such a panel may be formed eventually.

After Mr. Obama opens the summit, the assemblage will break into six groups. Each will discuss separate topics that encompass the range of fiscal challenges that would exist even without the current recession and will endure once the economy recovers. The topics include health-care costs, Social Security, tax reform, defense procurement and the federal budget process.

From Congress, invitees include House and Senate leaders of both parties, the Democratic chairmen and senior Republicans on several committees, and representatives of some caucuses, including the fiscally conservative Democratic “Blue Dogs” in the House.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Fairness and Localism

O'Reilly and Beck clip on the Fairness Doctrine and Localism: Goes Live

The Obama Administration's website for tracking stimulus dollars has gone live.

Another Example Of The Unequaled Sophistication Of President Obama's Communications Operation

The White House today released a photo slideshow telling, they claim, the story of the stimulus debate.

And everyone knows that a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Monday, February 16, 2009

“Labor – rather than the nation’s quantity of gold and sliver – is the cause of increase in national wealth.”

“Labor – rather than the nation’s quantity of gold and sliver – is the cause of increase in national wealth.” This phrase was postulated almost 300 years ago by an odd-looking Scot named Adam Smith, the father of political economy. Smith, along with David Ricardo and a few others, taught us that labor combined with production are the basis of creation of the real wealth of a nation.

Recently Smith’s writings came back to me as I was waiting in my dentist’s office scanning an issue of a certain auto magazine. The article that caught my eye was about the best new cars in America today. A table of the best car brands was a true shock. Out of 30 brands listed, only five were brands from U.S. auto makers.

Yes, our automakers are in a terrible shape, but I believe that we are facing another more serious challenge. It is not the threat of global terrorism, or the rise of fundamentalism, or Roe vs. Wade, or anything else the media would like us to believe. The name of our challenge is the decline of American industry through the loss of manufacturing and production to overseas suppliers, which is leading to an increasing reliance on a service economy to be the engine of growth of the United States.

Just like Adam Smith, I believe that the production of goods is a key element of the economy of any nation and no economy can survive without it in the long run. Production is the only activity that actually generates surplus (therefore value) which can be shared and distributed to others. You may argue that our agriculture is highly productive and a leader in the world, but we can not survive economically as an agricultural society. Just ask Paris Hilton how she enjoyed life on the farm.

We are a global economy and we do want to help people around the world and lift them out of poverty, but we need to think strategically as to our own economic future. Our policy makers need to focus on major restructuring of our economic and fiscal policies to support growth of the U.S. manufacturing industry. Recent economic indicators (unemployment, loss of manufacturing orders) are absolutely frightening and we must act to restore our global leadership in manufacturing and production. Let’s hope that the new stimulus bill supports this position.

Submitted by ASO member: Frank J. Safertal

Friday, February 13, 2009

No Time to Read?

It was so important to get this Stimulus Bill passed and have it on the President’s desk by the Inaugural. So important that if it wasn’t done by then the sky would fall. Then it was not done, the sky was still in the sky, and it became absolutely imperative that the bill got done or it would spell certain catastrophe. So the bill is about to pass and it is only the second phase of a litany of “emergency” opportunistic legislative efforts by a Congress with a 12 percent approval rating to capitalize on “Change.” Even the President’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel admits that the best time to get other unrelated agenda items done is during times of crisis.

So since the sky is falling and the United States teeters on the precipice of doom, what exactly are the life-raft provisions in the bill that will save us all? The answer should shock every American. Nobody knows. When members of Congress were asked if they had a chance to read the largest spending bill in the history of mankind, and one that borrows from our future generations to pay for our current economic discomfort, they almost unanimously replied that there won’t be time. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg indicated, “No, I don’t think anyone will have a chance to [read the entire bill].” Please God tell me you’re kidding. Ever heard the adage don’t sign something you haven’t read? Well don’t vote for something that will plunge our children’s children into debt without reading it. It seems to me that if the stakes are legitimately high, and if it’s true that the sky hinges on falling, it might be worth while to spend an extra day making sure the contents of the oh so important bill are what they should be for the good of the Nation.

Remember, Not One Member Has Read This Bill!

The Friday Laugh

The Fixer

Right now, folks throughout the country are viewing on television the massive political machinery of Washington, D.C. and by that, I mean the press conferences in the high-ceilings of the Capitol, the panicked meetings in the Treasury Department’s “Cash Room” (classic name, classic place), the hasty comments from important people in hallways. Members and Cabinet officials speak earnestly, tearing off to crucial appointments amidst all this tumult and uncertainty. And always, there in the corner or trailing behind the pack of notables, are the harried staffers -- they’re holding folders and charts, looking serious, grimacing, wound tight as a drum.

Folks, these are the real players in Washington. These are the people with the most important job in Officialdom: Making the trains run on time. I know. Because I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of them. In fact, it’s the one skill I’ve developed in my long political lifetime – aide-de-camp, special assistant, bagman, guy in a dark suit, white shirt, and rep tie. There’s a name for it – they called me The Fixer, and here’s how it worked:

Imagine a drab office in a drab federal building. The chief of staff to a senior Cabinet official looks at me and says simply: “We need him back in the building at 1.”

“Will do,” is my terse response.

I’m accompanying my boss to a meeting with a group of non-profit folks – each individual imbued with some ideals, genuine smarts, political skills, and whole lot of gabbiness. My mission: keep him on time, away from the gabbmeisters, and steer him through the labyrinth hotel hallways to the front door and into the car and back to the bureaucratic mother ship.

Sound and look familiar? I’m that guy who is trailing after powerful and prominent people -- always with Him or Her wherever He or She might be, ensuring that they have the correct speech, the special award to be presented, the phonetic spelling of “Adznanyvir Schlappaduchesski” on a note card, checking to ensure the principal doesn’t get lost or stolen and gets what they want, no matter how outrageous. Today you’re seeing these guys all the time on television – behind the Important Person is that brainiac geek who carries around bulging binders and knows the details of Section IV, subparagraph 2 of the Hopelessly Complex Legislative Act of 2005.

Tallinn, Estonia: It’s near midnight in a bleak, barely functioning ex-Soviet state. “Hmmmm,” says my boss, a regal Deputy Secretary of State in charge of foreign aid, “I think it would be simply grand to honor Prime Minister Grmylbk’s wife with a bouquet of 100 splendid flowers to symbolize the next 100 years of harmony between Estonia and America." I don’t even blink but reply, “Gotcha. On it.”

Next thing you know, I’m hustling off into the shadows of a deserted street after whispered conversations with a greasy concierge and a cop, brand new US dollars are flashed, there’s a cab ride halfway to Latvia, a greenhouse run by a World War II German generator, a screaming ride back to town, and I’m in the hotel lobby with two huge bunches of fresh flowers at 7:30 a.m.. “Here you go, sir.” “I thank you for your prodigious efforts.”

This skill was honed at an early age. I distinctly recall an incident when I was 7-years-old; my father, a gracious guy, was being given the hard sell by some earnest furniture salesman. The guy was talking bonus this, half-price that. My father looked pained as he listened to the shtick. I instinctively knew what to do: I grabbed my dad’s hand and urgently said, “Dad, can you take me to the bathroom? I really gotta go bad.” The salesman shot me a dirty look, my dad smiled with relief, and I realized a career was born.

House Floor, U.S. Capitol: The Member stands there clutching colored graph paper and rolled up survey maps, talking to my boss. “Chairman, I really need this project …local mayor’s banging on me…only 13 million bucks….improve a lot of lives…economic development…reelection..” “Sure, Joe. Give the info to Jeff here and he can follow up with your people.” The Fixer swings into action. “I’ll take that,” I say matter-of-factly, grabbing the paraphernalia out of the startled Member’s hands. “Now let me get with the Army Corps hydro team and run the numbers on the levee option,” I add as the two men smile and drift away.

It’s not that these men and women can’t fend for themselves – they can. It’s just that the demands on them are such that it’s better to save the important stuff for guys like me. I call it the Hierarchy of Needs: these folks are high on the hierarchy and the Fixer takes care of their needs, or something like that.

Downtown Washington, prestigious think tank: A speech given by my boss on the weighty subject of health care, the dire situation facing the country, the financial sacrifice, generations fighting one another for resources, poor people, sick kids, the whole ball of wax. Afterwards, my boss strides out, serious reporters from major national publications gather round for additional Wisdom and the air hangs heavy with Meaning. Before anyone can get a word out, some elderly guy in shorts, t-shirt and a ball cap darts in and says, “Hey there, fella. I hear you run that big agency. See, I’m having trouble getting someone there to pay for this chiropractor for my back pain and I bet you could call your boys in billing and—"

I know how to handle this guy. See, the Fixer has to come through in any situation, no matter if it’s Estonia or the Capitol or K Street. There are countless challenging circumstances and one must adapt with instinct and poise.

I step up to the senior and say, “Sir, let me help you with that” and try to outflank him from the reporters and my boss. He protests, “What do you know about it, son? You’re not on Medicare.” “But I will be someday,” says the Fixer cheerfully, taking the man’s shoulder and arm and gently steering him away from the crowd.

Submitted by ASO member: Jeff Nelligan

Understanding the “Need” for the “Government” Stimulus

As a few easily-duped Senate Republicans were used like chips in a poker game on Friday evening to strike a deal to send this Nation $1.3 trillion (when considering all amendments to the bill) more in the hole, and to borrow from our children’s future to pay for our current “needs,” this irresponsible act should beg the question to all of us, how was this so-important bill written, and what is so magic about the number “$800 billion” set by the President and Vice President as necessary to stimulate the economy.

After spending eight years as staff in the U.S. Senate, it is beyond alarming how politics almost always trumps policy, and how thoughtless our policymakers have become. Make no mistake, this bill is random in its provisions and correlates little to the need for economic stimulus. It is a wish list of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the committee chairmen from the Democratic Caucus across Capitol Hill. It is a purely partisan bill that was crafted by Congressional Democrats over a period of a month in secret staff meetings, and exclusive of any Republicans. It is the product of a backwards effort to “hit” the President’s randomly-selected target of $800 billion. It is merely a passing of the plate in search of pet projects, an effort designed to garner enough support and to fill the $800 billion tank. A target based not on analysis, but rather on an over-self-inflated bank account of political capital.

Why now? Why so fast? Because the President can get away with it. A month, six months, a year from now, he may no longer be able to jam a massive social welfare and union payoff bill down taxpayers’ throats. He must strike now and fast while the American drones that elected him still have their glazed eyes and hopeful hearts. After all, soon to come is another round of Troubled Assets Relief Program – or TARP to bailout irresponsible businesses, a huge Omnibus appropriations bill, then an enormous federal highway bill, and yet a third TARP bill right behind that. This Congress is on track to spend an amount equal to the entire U.S. gross domestic product ($14 trillion) – all in one year!!!

Let’s look at the warning signs for this bill. The Congressional Budget Office indicates in its February 4, 2009, report that this bill will create between roughly 1.3 and 3 million new jobs. On the low and high ends, that’s $600,000 and $200,000 per job, respectively. Sustainable jobs? No. But jobs that will exist long enough to get Mr. Obama and his Congressional leaders re-elected, and then start to disappear just in time for a new Administration to take the blame for the demise. Republicans and economists who are supportive of taking action argue aggressively that this bill will not stimulate the economy as its being sold. If the President truly is for small businesses, wouldn’t it be more of a stimulus to this economy to simply zero out taxes from small businesses for the next two years with tax incentives to hire new employees? Instead, by mortgaging the future, CBO indicates that this bill will have an adverse effect on these same businesses as taxes will have to be raised to support the future debt.

This bill is not “needed.” There is no doomsday around the corner for the economy if billions are not spent on painting school hallways, building a Frisbee golf park in Maine, or helping to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases. There is no doomsday if we fail to send billions to federal agencies to combat climate change, or buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. There is no doomsday if $650 million more federal dollars are not given to Americans to switch from analog to digital television. While some of these are things we should invest in for the long term, they are not things that will break our economy in the short term.

So, Mr. President, it’s time to hit the “start over” button on this process. If you truly are a figure that transcends politics and wants Washington to work in a new way, here is how you should work to stimulate the economy: First, take a breath. You control both Houses of Congress and the White House and have the luxury of a thoughtful process. Your race for passage of this bill screams that is not in the best interest of the Nation. While you have momentum from your election to implement your agenda, it is not your agenda that is being implemented with this bill. This Nation is $11 trillion in debt, and with future obligations to Social Security and Medicare, we are heading quickly toward bankruptcy. This is not the time to put politics before policy. It is time to come together as a People, and make the most effective and efficient investments. You won the election because of your temperament, mostly. Exercise it and slow down this process. TARP 1 was done as you are proceeding with this and Americans expect that you will learn from that.

Second, sit with leaders from both parties and talk through a list of priorities that directly stimulate the economy in the short term and long term. Be completely clear to them that the list should only include non-parochial priorities. You took a good first step by calling for no earmarks in the bill, but by ceding the drafting of the bill to a Congress with a 12 percent approval rating you lost control of the process and failed to lead. You should appear on television and walk through what is in the bill and why each provision is important enough to borrow from the future to pay for today. Talk about the Alternative Minimum Tax fix, explain your investment in new technologies, and other necessary provisions.

And, third, you should stop paying back constituencies that contributed to your election. You made it clear during your campaign that you were not beholden to lobbyists or special interests. Well, your words speak louder than your actions of late, and this needs to change.

We are a diminishing country, Mr. President, and there are major and very severe consequences for spending more into debt. Stop this. Government is not the engine that has made this country great. In fact, it was excessive government that served as the catalyst for the American Revolution and the formation of this great Land. We cannot spend ourselves to freedom and prosperity, but we can harness the power of the American people and let innovation and development take hold. But with crushing debt on our shoulders we cannot be anything but servants to your bureaucracy in perpetuity.

Submitted by ASO member: Ken Nahigian

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Free Speech under Attack in London…

Dutch member of Parliament and EU Citizen Geert Wilders was denied entry into Great Britain today upon his arrival at Heathrow airport. Mr. Wilders was invited to attend a showing of his 17-minute film, Fitna, at the House of Lords by a member of the British Parliament.

The film describes how verses in the Koran are used to incite violence by extremist followers of Islam.

A Home Office representative, Lord West defended the arrest and expulsion, stating: “Under European law a member state of the European Economic Area may refuse entry to a national of another EEA state if they constitute a threat to public policy, public security or public health.”

The Times of London has the complete news story.

The Times also published an editorial supporting Mr. Wilders today.

Submitted by ASO member: Jeter

CBO Pegs True Cost Of Stimulus Bill At $3.27 Trillion


And very, very expensive.


Remember in November when politicians were scrambling with a gun to their head to pass BAILOUT #1 (now sometimes referred to as TARP) that the original problem was the collapse of the housing sector in the U.S.? It is a little hard to remember at this point, because no one is talking any more about what needs to be cured as the genesis of this financial cancer, they are just giving a pill for every symptom while the disease spreads because no one is addressing the underlying problems that would indeed if addressed, cure the cancer in our financial sector. American "standard" medicine is a failure because it spends more time and money than any other country "ruling out" all the diagnoses that you don't have before it even comes close to diagnosing what you do have. It's wasteful of resources, inefficient & expensive for society and most importantly, time-consuming, painful & costly for patients. No common sense is used any more in just cutting to the chase of the problem either in medicine or bailouts these days and both are running up a tab on American taxpayer's backs that will likely never be paid off. Politicians are selling the future generations of Americans mostly off to foreigners (whichever countries national treasuries and individual investors or corporate investors will still have them) via Treasury securities. All politicians and heads of Wall Street are thinking about now is, "Get the band-aid, get the band-aid, get the band-aid and put it on ME!" They want an instantaneous solution to a cancer that has been growing since the Clinton administration with the relaxation of Federal Housing policies. These policies were fed by G.W. Bush's dream and corresponding relaxation of policies so that every American could own a home. The cancer grew.

Obviously given this diseased state of the U.S. economy, you cannot cure the cancer without attacking it at its origin and cutting that off first. By doing that you will have the exponential uptick in the economy just as we have lived through the erosion these last several months as it fell out in many ways.
We've been hearing a lot of talk and analysis over the past several weeks both from President Obama and the Democrats as well as their Republican counterparts. Essentially the differences in the two perspective simply boil down to this: the Republicans want to continue the Bu-sh-it policies of cutting taxes as a way to stimulate the economy & the American financial sector while the Democrats want to finance government projects, jobs and programs to stimulate the economy. Neither will achieve any of the goals of truly making the economy & financial sector fundamentally any different NOR DO THEY AT ALL ADDRESS THE ORIGINAL PROBLEM FOR WHICH WE WERE CALLED UPON TO FORK OVER CURRENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS OF MONEY.

I assure you that forking over a trillion more dollars to the Baby Boomers in charge who mismanaged and ruined our economy and finances in the first place is by no means worthy period. They failed in the first place as they disregarded the balance sheets and shareholders of the very institutions they were charged with a fiduciary duty to run. They failed in the second chance with the first bailout by misusing American taxpayer funds for their own personal gain. Now, Americans at the hands of our Congressmen and Senators and President Obama and his staff are about to sell out countless future American generations underneath the Baby Boomers financially by endebting them endlessly for yet another foreseeable unsuccessful set of partisan programs that benefit the same captain of industry who RAPED AND PILLAGED AMERICAN SOCIETY IN THE FIRST PLACE UNDER THE BUSH REGIME? Grow up! Even with the best of intentions on their side, this BAILOUT #2 is ill conceived, rushed, and misdirected piece of legislation that should die now!

What needs to happen now is what needed to happen before, those who wrote bad mortgages and profited from them, need to write the interest rates down to current levels and the homeowners and investors who bought the homes at artificially inflated prices need to suck up their personal losses, not socialize these losses on society while they keep all the profits when they make winning financial bets. It's very simple. This is a private problem that needs a private solution between the two parties involved. The FBI should investigate and prosecute all those involved in the LIAR LOANS who took enormous fees on the front side of those mortgages just for origination and seize their personal assets to pay for the costs. This is theivery pure and simple. So is using taxpayer money by Wall Street executives for boondoggles as they are called in finance. Pay for your own offsite golfing. Pay for your own AIG spa treatments. Pay for your own transportation to work just like the rest of America does-we'll see how many executives commute from Chicago to NYC on private jets at that point. Pay for your own meals, don't charge the firm for the after-tax cost & the American people for the tax deduction. Pay for your own escorts. Wall Street attitude of entitlement has grown well beyond cancer and the propsed new legislation for bailout #2 doesn't address it. Fair tax and other regulation of the financial services sector and enforcement will go along way. Let the institutions fail-no one is lending anyway. Get a huge clawback clause and seize the assets of all the employees involved not just the top 5 executives and give the money back to the American taxpayer to who it belongs. Why is it that we have such a hard time in America calling a crime a crime and seeing right from wrong when using other people's money? Cure the cancer and stop the bailout package. We need to rebuild an economy based on fundamentals, not try to sustain or reach again to the height of the illusions of where our economy was before. So any package that tries to restore America to what it was before the crisis is going to fail. We need to treat the cause, and the symptoms will then dissipate. If we go forward with bailout #2 amd treat only the symptoms, you might see some illusory improvement in some areas where the economy is hurting, but the fundamental erosion will still continue to proceed underneath the illusion. Let's start practicing medicine and finances in America that make sense.

Submitted by ASO member: Kimberly Wilcox

"Where's the Hope?"

It was just 21 days ago that our newly inaugurated President spoke the following words: "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord." Apparently, memory is the first attribute to go after entering the Oval Office, as President Obama contradicted himself just days later with another dramatic quotation in the face of Senate defeat: "A failure to act, and act now [on the bill], will turn crisis into a catastrophe." If you ask me, it is time our Commander in Chief makes up his mind. The position he has earned and embraced within the last month does not take kindly to playing both sides of the aisle. You cannot promote hope to get elected then swiftly drop the hammer of fear once colleagues begin to show they disagree with your proposals.

If the President was more focused on promoting the good things that this bill will produce (if any) instead of saying how bad things will get if we don't pass it, the American people and the stock market might be more willing to embrace it. Regardless, it looks like this bill will pass, and hopefully it will help. My concern (beyond the likelihood of the bill actually working) is how often will President Obama stray from the path that got him elected and got so many Americans excited about voting again -- i.e., change, hope, etc.

Submitted by ASO members: The Philadelphians

Obama Donor Starts Anti-Stimulus Campaign

Editor's Note: AmericaSpeakOn is tracking how President Obama's stimulus package is being received around the country. We are encouraging our readers to send us local newspaper articles and share them with the greater AmericaSpeakOn community.

This Union Leader article was sent to us this morning from a ASO reader in Concord, New Hampshire:

A GRASSROOTS EFFORT. Fred Tausch of Nashua is a frustrated, well-to-do businessman who got tired of watching politicians of both parties spending taxpayers' money. And so, spending $100,000 of his own money, he's trying to do something about it.

In full-page ads today in this newspaper and others, in radio advertisements and on a new Web site, the 37-year-old entrepreneur and investment manager emerges onto the political scene to provide an avenue for others upset about the size of the stimulus package and likely more spending measures on the horizon.

Tausch is a registered independent who, after voting Republican for most of his life, supported Barack Obama in the last election, even contributing $2,300 to the cause.

Tausch said he "got excited about his message. There was not a lot of fiscal discipline in either party, and I thought that when Obama talked about change, he was including that he would be more cautious about how we spend money. And that's just not the case."

Tausch says the federal government should have a limited role in trying to turn around the economy. He supports tax cuts for "working class" families and government purchase of government-backed securities to stabilize the mortgage industry and "keep people in their homes."

But he said he considers much of the spending in the stimulus plan excessive and fears it will have "a profound effect on the American economy. We're responding to a bad financial situation by borrowing a tremendous amount of money and spending it in a way that I don't think will help the economy very much."

Tausch said he wanted to do something to express his opinion and provide a place for people to talk about government fiscal policy, regardless of their political leanings.

He started up an organization he is calling STEWARD, an acronym for Stimulate the Economy Without Accumulating Record Debt. Not the most streamlined group name we've ever heard, but unique.

The site contains a blog, a link to an explanation of the stimulus and several other sections including an "ideas center."

"If I can get people to participate in the process and help provide a voice to people who are concerned, maybe we can help those who represent New Hampshire understand that we care not only about this package but also about what will probably be continued dramatically increased federal spending in the future," he said.

Tausch said he has no interest in running for office, but is just "trying to play a role in the process."
Mr. Tausch's website may be found here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tax Cuts: Not the Problem

Okay. I have an issue with the ongoing implication by the president that it was tax cuts that got us “where we are today.” Here’s what he said in his weekly address over the weekend:

“Let's be clear: We can't expect relief from the tired old theories that, in eight short years, doubled the national debt, threw our economy into a tailspin, and led us into this mess in the first place. We can't rely on a losing formula that offers only tax cuts as the answer to all our problems…"

In contrast, I’ll just offer what I think is a better explanation of “how we got here” from the president’s own Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, in his speech yesterday..

“I want to explain how we got here. The causes of the crisis are many and complex. They accumulated over time, and will take time to resolve.Governments and central banks around the world pursued policies that, with the benefit of hindsight, caused a huge global boom in credit, pushing up housing prices and financial markets to levels that defied gravity.

Investors and banks took risks they did not understand. Individuals, businesses, and governments borrowed beyond their means. The rewards that went to financial executives departed from any realistic appreciation of risk.

There were systematic failures in the checks and balances in the system, by Boards of Directors, by credit rating agencies, and by government regulators. Our financial system operated with large gaps in meaningful oversight, and without sufficient constraints to limit risk. Even institutions that were overseen by our complicated, overlapping system of multiple regulators put themselves in a position of extreme vulnerability.

These failures helped lay the foundation for the worst economic crisis in generations.

When the crisis began, governments around the world were too slow to act... When action came, it was late and inadequate. Policy was always behind the curve, always chasing the escalating crisis. As the crisis intensified and more dramatic government action was required, the emergency actions meant to provide confidence and reassurance too often added to public anxiety and to investor uncertainty.

The dramatic failure or near-failure of some of the world's largest financial institutions, and the lack of clear criteria and conditions applied to government interventions caused investors to pull back from taking risk.”

This is complicated, yes, but more accurate and therefore more responsible than the cheap-shot implication that tax cuts caused the current recession.

I think that Geithner stayed away from the Obama implication that tax cuts are to blame because he knows that our current situation has nothing to do with tax cuts – because tax cuts aren’t bad. They are good. They help stimulate the economy, especially when they are given to job creators like small businesses!

I give Geithner credit for mentioning small business several times in his speech, too. I’m glad they are being remembered when it comes to access to credit.

See this link for more specifics (i.e. a payroll tax holiday and increased expensing) on how to help the economy by helping small business.

Submitted by ASO member: Jean Card

Senator Harkin: 'We need the Fairness Doctrine back'

Just this morning, I reported that Sen. Debbie Stabenow has backed off on the idea of holding hearings for radio accountability, something she discussed last week with liberal radio host Bill Press (leading to an uproar on conservative talk radio over the Fairness Doctrine). Well today, Sen. Tom Harkin appeared on Press's show and came out in favor of the Fairness Doctrine.

BILL PRESS: And, thanks for your leadership, thanks for your good work, it's great to have you there Senator. And, great to have you on the show. Appreciate it.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Well, anytime – just let me know Bill. I love being with you, and thanks again for all you do to get the truth and the facts out there. By the way, I read your Op-Ed in the Washington Post the other day. I ripped it out, I took it into my office and said 'there you go, we gotta get the Fairness Doctrine back in law again.'

BILL PRESS: Alright, well good for you. You know, we gotta work on that, because they are just shutting down progressive talk from one city after another. All we want is, you know, some balance on the airwaves, that's all. You know, we're not going to take any of the conservative voices off the airwaves, but just make sure that there are a few progressives and liberals out there, right?

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Exactly, and that's why we need the fair -- that's why we need the Fairness Doctrine back.

BILL PRESS: We'll work on that together. Hey, thanks, Senator! Always good to talk to you.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Thanks Bill, see you, bye.

Click here to read more and to watch the video.

Orson Swindle: Featured Blogger

Remember the tale about the Pied Piper?

In 1284, the town of Hamelin is suffering from a terrible plague of rats. The town council tries everything to get rid of them -- without success. At last, the Mayor promises 1000 florins to the one who can put an end to the plague.

A stranger dressed in bright red and yellow clothes shows up and says he can rid Hamelin of the rats. At night, the stranger starts to play a soft tune on a flute, luring all the rats out of the houses and barns towards the river Weser, where they drown.

The Mayor refuses to pay the piper: "Playing a tune on a flute is not worth 1000 florins. Get out of Hamelin!"

But the piper returns on a Sunday morning, when all the grown-ups are at church. Again he starts to play a tune on his flute. This time, all the children follow him, as he walks out of the gate to the mountains. Suddenly, a cave opens in the mountain. The piper walks into the mountain, still followed by the children, and the cave closes again.

The children were never seen again in Hamelin. Read here:( )

In the Robert Browning poem, to which many of us were introduced, the Pied Piper is selling his talents to the Hamelin city council,

``Please your honours,'' said he, ``I'm able, ``By means of a secret charm, to draw ``All creatures living beneath the sun, ``That creep or swim or fly or run, ``After me so as you never saw! ``And I chiefly use my charm …”

Beware of charmers!

Combine difficult times, a sense among many (stoked by the President and the media) of impending doom, an incredibly effective orator, a swooning press and deceit and you have a formula for the disaster with which we are being threatened. Ever the charming Pied Piper, Obama lied to the Country last night. Just a few examples:

No pork in the stimulus package --- click here and draw your own conclusion --- he lied.

(A friend of mine, a financial businessman in NY, offered this upon seeing one piece of the largess granted to NY --

"An ‘earmark’ requires a member of congress to make a specific request for funds. So, this plan to bail out a developer's failing plan to build a new arena to house the New Jersey Nets isn't technically an "earmark" because the funds will be directed by Democrat Governor Patterson and Democrat Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. (There might be more pork than (at) a South Carolina BBQ, but don't you DARE call it an earmark!) Doesn't it give you a nice feeling to know that "yes we can" uses eminent domain and government debt to deprive citizens of their private property so that "we" can advance the private interests of the politically connected? After all, that's what "change" was all about, wasn't it."

Worst economic situation since the Great Depression -- I guess Obama has forgotten the Carter Administration conditions of inflation over 12%, 21% interest rates and unemployment topping 11% -- he lied.

No willingness by Republicans to work with Dems on a consensus bill -- he lied.

Bush policies led to the mess we are in -- We know there is plenty of blame to go around to the greedy, arrogant and deceitful operatives of the banking, investment and finance crowd; to the Congress for failing to enforce regulations; and to consumers and lenders for abandoning prudent home purchase and mortgage decisions -- he lied.

4 million new or saved jobs --- there is not a person living who can detail how or predict whether that will be accomplished --- he lied.

Most economist support his economic stimulus plan -- many, many do not (read here) -- he lied.

But, he does it so smoothly. Hope you heard MSNBC's Chris Mathews and his expressions of ecstasy over last night's performance by Obama. America, we are in deep trouble.

Elections have consequences and like the children of Hamelin, many are hearing the Siren's Song, that enticing and deceptively alluring plea from The One.

This “economic stimulus” package of the Democrats (and only three Republicans) is loaded with ineffective spending to accomplish the stated goal of jump starting the economy and creating (or saving) 3-4 million jobs

The Senate Republicans offered an alternative for half the price with tax cuts and spending mechanisms far more likely to stimulate the economy right now. But, so much for negotiations with those hell bent for socializing our government and economy.

Consider the list below of one attempt to put the details on the table -- an updated list of wasteful and non-stimulative spending contained in the text of the Nelson-Collins (amendment to the Senate Bill) “stimulus” compromise.

The list contains more than $15 billion worth of spending that would exclusively benefit federal employees, such as renovations for new offices, hybrid cars and workplace safety.
One of the more egregious provisions in the bill would be a $1,500 tax credit to anyone that purchases “neighborhood electric vehicles,” which are actually golf carts. Additional benefits are available for motorcycles and three-wheeler purchases. (Section 1151 of the Nelson-Collins amendment) hybrid cars

$3 million for purchasing “neighborhood electric vehicles” (golf carts)
$5.5 billion for making federal buildings "green" (including $448 million for DHS HQ)
$650 million for the Digital Television (DTV) transition coupon program
$1.2 billion for summer jobs for youth
$200 million for workplace safety in USDA facilities
$200 million for public computer centers at community colleges and libraries
$75 million for the Smithsonian Institution
$750 earmark for the National Computer Center in MD
$224 million for International Boundary and Water Commission – U.S. and Mexico
$198 million to design and furnish the DHS headquarters
$10 million to fight Mexican gunrunners
$850 million for Amtrak
$100 million for lead paint hazard reduction
$39 billion slush fund for "state fiscal stabilization" bailout
$275 million for flood prevention
$65 million for watershed rehabilitation
$255 million for "priority procurements" at Coast Guard (polar ice breaker)$650 million for abandoned mine sites
$1.3 billion for NASA (including $450 million for "science" at NASA)
$100 million to clean up sites used in early U.S. atomic energy program
$10 million for urban canals
$1.5 billion for carbon capture projects under sec. 703 of P.L. 110-140 (though the original section only authorizes $1 billion for five years)
$300 million for hybrid and electric cars for federal employees
$500 million for State and local fire stations
$180 million for construction of Bureau of Land Management facilities
$500 million for wild land fire management
$110 million for construction for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
$522 million for construction for the Bureau of Indian Affairs
$412 million for CDC headquarters
$500 million earmark for NIH facilities in Bethesda, MD
$100 million for constructing U.S. Marshalls office buildings
$300 million for constructing Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office buildings
$800 million for constructing Federal Prison System buildings and facilities
$307 million for constructing National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) office buildings
$1 billion for administrative costs and construction of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) office buildings
$160 million for "volunteers" at the Corp. for National and Community Service

Submitted by ASO member: Orson Swindle

Orson Swindle served for eight years with the Reagan Administration, the last four as Assistant Secretary of Commerce, and recently, over seven years as a Commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission. A career Marine Corps officer and fighter pilot, he was a prisoner of war in Hanoi, Vietnam for over six years.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First Try at the Bully Pulpit?

Last night, President Obama held his first primetime press conference for a full hour of valuable all network coverage. American Idol it was not; but for those of us interested in serious political discourse and open questions it did provide a first glimpse at the new President’s style and rhetoric, now that the governing is beginning.

Sadly, President Obama repeatedly built false Republican straw men to tear down, and was intellectually dishonest in his description of Republicans as supporting “no government response” to the current economic crisis, or “tax cuts alone.” Jay Cost at RealClearPolitics provides a complete analysis.

Here’s hoping the new man with the bully pulpit doesn’t turn out to be slick-suited bully…

Submitted by ASO member: Jeter

An Antietam Moment for Obama

Content and intent of the stimulus bill -- soon to be passed by Congress, continues to baffle the average American. The term “average” is not meant to insult anyone or infer anything – but rather, the term describes all Americans – not better or worse than our fellow citizens, everyone created equal. To put a finer point on it, we’re all riding on the good ship USS USA together, for better or worse. But every ship has a control bridge, and for the moment, it is the leadership up on the bridge that worries us “average” taxpayers.

Down below decks, we are the engine room mechanics, meal cooks and stewards. We are coal shovels, painters and carpenters. We are the ones who wear the overalls and get dirty. Up on the top deck, wearing their starched whites, are our commanding officers who we hope know what they are doing. Amongst the crew, we wonder out loud of their abilities. Do we want them to be aggressive, passive or just plain competent?

A recognized hallmark of effective leadership is excellent communication skills. Aboard the USS USA, that means White House and other administration officials communicating clearly with each other and with the taxpayer – clearly explaining why the ship is on a particular course. And, God forbid the ship is damaged, telling us precisely what actions they plan on taking. Americans don’t contemplate giving up the ship and we never will – but we have always required adequate and informed leadership.

In these early days of the Obama administration, the telephone lines that run from the bridge to the crew spaces below deck are jammed with mixed messages. It is not enough to say “ladies and gentleman, we’re going to sink and it’s going to be horrible”. Americans respond, “Yeah, so what are we going to do about it?”

The overstatement and soaring hyperbole on the size of the hole in our bottom has so far been the troubling hallmark of White House messaging. The last thing the crew needs to hear as the ship founders is “we’re in a hell of a mess” followed two minutes later by “we’re still in a hell of a mess.”

As the water pours into the ship, or, as is the case currently, billions of dollars flowing out of the taxpayer’s coffers, not one person in the entire administration is able to explain clearly what the devil is being done with the billions of dollars we are being asked to kick in. The money is flowing out of the ship like so much engine oil. The crew hears broad generalities about infrastructure repair, job creation, highway repair and such but absolutely no specifics as to how these pieces fit into the big picture. Remember the AIG bailout money? Yes, that money was pumped out during the last administration, but the current gang on the bridge admiring their gold braid is repeating the same mistake. They are suffering from a case of “the slows”, as President Lincoln like to call it.

Lincoln canned General McClelland after the Battle of Antietam for his “slowness”. Lincoln wanted results, not equivocation. Possibly this president will show the same fortitude of the man he constantly quotes and instill some aggressiveness in his “best and brightest” that have promised great things to the crew.

Captain, we’re waiting.

Submitted by ASO member: Matthew E Crowe

Monday, February 9, 2009

Stimulus Clears Hurdle

From CNN....

The Obama administration's $827 billion economic stimulus plan survived a key vote in the Senate, putting a compromise version of the bill on track for passage Tuesday.

With the help of Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter, the Democrats locked in the votes needed to end debate on the bill.

The final vote was 61 in favor, 36 opposed.

The bill is expected to survive a full vote in the Senate on Tuesday, setting up a battle with the House as the two chambers try to iron out differences between their versions of the bill.

Click here to read more.


$1.6 billion of your taxpayer bailout money has gone to failed bank executive's pockets this year. In mid-December 2008, well before "normal" bonus time on Wall Street, the Associated Press reported that "$1.6 billion of YOUR TAXPAYER BAILOUT MONEY went to bailed-out bank executives." This $1.6 billion was in salaries, bonuses and other benefits an Associated Press analysis reveals and hurried along to be paid out before Congress could actually wake up and act to limit the executive compensation in the TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program). Remember, originally, TARP was designed to buy up the bad debts from the balance sheets of these banks, so according to some, "it wasn't foreseeable that this compensation abuse issue would arise." I wrote about it for another publication in detail in the early FALL of 2008 when the whole issue first arose and warned each of my Congressmen, Senators and their staffers that the first thing that would happen with out taxpayer bailout money is that the executives would pay themselves royally. Yet, still, no safeguards were put in place for your FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVES to act in a good fiduciary role with regards to YOUR money. And, so NOW, in February 2009, we have a new president, Obama, who has shown the light after the fact on the situation and chastised these greedy executives on Wall Street.

I hope that the American people, Red or Blue, Black or White or Brown, all have a problem with this. Let me explain. The fundamental issue at hand initially was that Wall Street was crying after the failure of Bear, Sterns and Lehman Brothers that URGENTLY they were going to be out of funds for operation and go belly up within seconds, hours, days...if they didn't get their share of TARP money ASAP. So, they threatened that ALL of Wall Street would be unemployed imminently and America would be in further financial crisis PLUS an unemployment level unprecedented in the last 20 years. OK, so Congress and the Senate let the then Treasury Secretary dole out funds to these Wall Street Guru Lobbyists who told us that giving them this bailout money would start lending in the USA again, preserve jobs across the board of industries in America because lending would again be free flowing, and that would be the end of the need for bailout money and the solution to the Holy Grail.

DID YOU BUY THAT LIE??? Our then Secretary of the Treasury, himself a former Goldman Sachs senior executive, INSISTED that this would be the answer. And so it was......the first bailout tranches have all been spent. So, do YOU have a clue where that money went? Below are some details provided by AP researchers from Federal Documents about how the first bailout was spent.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages. The AP review of federal securities documents found that these benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, health club benefits, and, get this, FINANCIAL PLANNING!

"The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines. The AP compiled total compensation based on annual reports that the banks file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 116 banks have so far received $188 billion in taxpayer help. Among the findings:

The average paid to each of the banks' top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses and benefits.

Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $54 million in compensation last year. The company's top five executives received a total of $242 million."

The AP also reported that this year, Goldman will forgo cash and stock bonuses for its seven top-paid executives. They will work for their base salaries of $600,000, the company said. Facing increasing concern by its own shareholders on executive payments, the company described its pay plan last spring as essential to retain and motivate executives "whose efforts and judgments are vital to our continued success, by setting their compensation at appropriate and competitive levels." Goldman spokesman Ed Canaday declined to comment beyond that written report. Goldman, a New York-based company on Dec. 16 reported its first quarterly loss since it went public in 1999. It received $10 billion in taxpayer money on Oct. 28.

Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D. Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corp., took a $1 million hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $17 million in stock options. The McLean, Va.-based company received $3.56 billion in bailout money on Nov. 14.

John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year. Thain, a former chief operating officer for Goldman Sachs, took the reins of the company in December 2007, avoiding the blame for a year in which Merrill lost $7.8 billion. Since he began work late in the year, he earned $57,692 in salary, a $15 million signing bonus and an additional $68 million in stock options. Like Goldman, Merrill got $10 billion from taxpayers on Oct. 28. Oh, let me add that John Thain was recently thrown out on the "Street" by his new boss, Bank of America and because of Thain and other Merrill executives' compensation packages which were quickly dished out prior to the close of the B of A merger. Merrill sucked so much out of the company that they drove into the ground that Bank of America came back to the taxpayers and got another $20 billion dollars worth of rescue money from YOUR TAXPAYER PIGGYBANK to make up for Thain's boys payout day. We won't even talk about the close to $100,000 renovations Thain did recently to his Merrill executive office as that is old news by now. According to press sources, he now says he'll now pay back the renovation costs. Show us the check, we'd love to see it!

The AP review comes amid sharp questions about the banks' commitment to the goals of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a law designed to buy bad mortgages and other troubled assets. Last month, the Bush administration changed the program's goals, instructing the Treasury Department to pump tax dollars directly into banks in a bid to prevent wholesale economic collapse.

The program set restrictions on some executive compensation for participating banks, but did not limit salaries and bonuses unless they had the effect of encouraging excessive risk to the institution. Banks were barred from giving golden parachutes to departing executives and deducting some executive pay for tax purposes. The AP reports that, "Wells Fargo of San Francisco, which took $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money, gave its top executives up to $20,000 each to pay personal financial planners." AP also reports that, "at Bank of New York Mellon Corp., chief executive Robert P. Kelly's stipend for financial planning services came to $66,748, on top of his $975,000 salary and $7.5 million bonus. His car and driver cost $178,879. Kelly also received $846,000 in relocation expenses, including help selling his home in Pittsburgh and purchasing one in Manhattan, the company said." Further review of the federal documents showed the AP that, "Goldman Sachs' tab for leased cars and drivers ran as high as $233,000 per executive. The firm told its shareholders this year that financial counseling and chauffeurs are important in giving executives more time to focus on their jobs. And, JPMorgan Chase chairman James Dimon ran up a $211,182 private jet travel tab last year when his family lived in Chicago and he was commuting to New York. The company got $25 billion in bailout funds. Banks cite security to justify personal use of company aircraft for some executives."


1. You have the financiers from Wall Street who bought up pooled bad assets without questioning them and traded and bought for their own accounts, derivative products that few of their employees even truly understand without ever analyzing the underlying assets, as the ones dictating to the Treasury what exactly it will take to get everything back on course? Do you allow a candy thief back into the candy store to be in charge of it and dictate its policies?

2. Americans should seriously question whether our Treasury Secretary, Paulson, and his assistant in charge of executing the program, both former Goldman employees can have "clean hands" and "unbiased intentions" while handing out ENORMOUS chunks of money to their former, and perhaps again future, colleagues as they quickly execute this free-for-all at the end of the Bush administration without many if any Congressional guidelines within which to operate.

3. Without guidelines for use of these bailout proceeds, it was obvious to me that the Wall Street "save me first" mentality would be predominant, and was. So, the shored up the capitalization of their firms and overcompensated their executives yet again. After all, wouldn't it have been reasonable to expect that EVERY employee left on Wall Street at a firm that received bailout funds would have the grace and pleasure of getting paid ONLY his/her regular salary in light of the fact that they came with hats in hand begging to the taxpayers for money?? Gee, there's a thought. After all, Wall Street Lobbyists came begging saying that if they didn't get the bailout funds, ALL these gurus would be unemployed. So, seems reasonable that having a job and having a salary and using the bailout funds for LENDING again would have been very clearly the MANDATE in this situation, right? How come, Joe Average is the only one who sees it this way??? Ethics are so warped in this entitlement atmosphere of Washington and New York City that without very clear guidelines, no money should have been given in this bailout.

4. What's the worst case scenario if these banking institutions failed? Your bailout money would have been used to pay the new $250,000 level of FDIC claims on individual banking deposits. In addition, money would have been left over to be lent to those needing working capital in QUALIFYING small and medium businesses that really need it to legitimately stay in business to turn a profit. Money would have been there to lend to QUALIFIED homebuyers, not to LIARS with LIAR LOANS NINA's).

THE REALITY IS THAT AMERICA NEEDS A NEW PARADIGM FOR ITS ECONOMY. BAILOUT NUMBER ONE WAS A PREDICTABLE FAILURE. BAILOUT NUMBER TWO IS SO FAR OFF THE MARK OF ANYTHING THAT CAN KEEP YOU OFF THE UMEMPLOYMENT LINE OR OFF WELFARE OR FROM BEING WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE THAT IT IS A FORESEEABLE, MORE EXPENSIVE FAILURE. WE CANNOT ASPIRE TO GO BACK TO THE IMAGINARY LEVEL OF DRUNKEN PROSPERITY THAT WAS PURCHASED WITH DEBT AND THEREFORE NEVER A REALITY! BUYING WORTHLESS ASSETS AND MAKING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEM STILL SHOULD NOT HAPPEN. LET THE LOSING BANK BUSINESSES FAIL -if these Wall Street executives are so knowledgeable and so capitalistic, they would not be CAPITALIZING ALL THE PROFITS AND THEN SOCIALIZING ALL THEIR LOSSES UNTO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. SORRY BOYS, YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. Either you are a capitalist, in which case you should receive no bailouts and fail on your own merits according to Adam Smith's doctrine, or be socialized and let the Federal Government lend the money directly so at least it doesn't line the undeserving failed guru pockets while leaving Americans worse off. As a capitalist, I think they should fail. Capitalist doctrine is Darwinistic in its belief that successful economic paradigms will sustain themselves without government intervention. If they fail, I predict that many of the Wall Street gurus will form their own firms and market the next new capital markets product to the unaware just like they did when they left major firms to start hedge funds. While it is simply wrong to reward failure according to American work ethic, but it is criminal to do it with taxpayer money and all funds that were awarded personally to these failed employees, not just executives, should ALL be clawed back into the American people's Treasury.

Submitted by ASO member: Kimberly Wilcox

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Leader Boehner: Featured Blogger

“Stimulus” Should Unleash America’s Potential – Not Government’s Appetite for Pork

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more troubling news that the American economy is falling deeper into recession. In January, nearly 600,000 Americans lost their jobs, bringing the unemployment rate to 7.6% and the total number of jobs lost since the recession began to 3.6 million. These are troubling numbers. American families are hurting, businesses are closing, and more jobs are in jeopardy. The American people are looking to Washington for leadership to get the economy moving again – and so far, Congress has let them down.

When President Obama called on Congress to produce bipartisan legislation focused on immediate job creation and fast-acting tax relief, the Democratic controlled Congress responded by passing a trillion-dollar spending bill focused on slow and wasteful spending that won’t create jobs. In the end, the only thing bipartisan about the bill the House passed was the opposition to it. All 177 Republicans and 11 of our Democratic colleagues voted against the “stimulus” package.

Republicans and Democrats have asked questions about the “stimulus” package that the Democratic leadership has been unable to answer:

How is $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts or $650 million for digital-TV coupons going to move Americans out of the unemployment line?

How will spending $20 million for the removal of fish passage barriers, or $85 million for polar icebreakers, or millions of dollars for global warming research put struggling workers back to work?

Some estimate that nearly three-fourths (70 percent) of the spending in the House-passed bill is “non-stimulative” and won’t create jobs. The Congressional Budget Office says that most of the money in the $1 trillion bill won’t be spent until after 2010, when many economists believe the economy will already be on the road to recovery.

And of course there’s a more fundamental question: how are we going to PAY for all this new spending?

The metric that the President’s Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Summers, has used to describe what a successful economic recovery package would look like is one House Republicans agree with: it should be “timely, targeted, and temporary.” Congressional Democrats have failed on all three counts. In baseball, that would be a strikeout.

Between the “stimulus” spending package and other spending ambitions held by the Democratic Party, “it seems likely that the deficit for this year will approach $1.7 trillion,” American Enterprise Institute scholar Kevin Hassett notes. “If your family income in 2006 was between $75,000 and $100,000, the extra taxes that you will have to pay at some point in the future [as a result of the additional borrowing by Congress] add up to about $14,000,” Mr. Hassett says.

The hundreds of billions of dollars Washington is borrowing to finance this pork-barrel monstrosity will come from our children and grandchildren. This is not “stimulus” – it’s generational theft.

On the opening day of the 111th Congress, I pledged that the House Republicans wouldn’t just be the party of “opposition,” but the party of “better solutions.” The President asked for Republican input on his proposed “stimulus” initiative. In response, I asked Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Republican Whip, to convene a “solutions group” on the economic recovery effort to craft some recommendations that could be considered by the President.

The Cantor-led solutions group came up with a “smarter, simpler” plan. Our plan would create twice the jobs at half the cost as the Democrats’ “stimulus.” It has five components: 1) Immediate Tax Relief for Working Families, 2) Help for America’s Small Businesses, 3) No Tax Increases to Pay for Spending, 4) Assistance for the Unemployed, and 5) Stabilizing Home Values.

Our solution is quite different from the plan written by Congressional Democrats. It recognizes that the engine that drives the American economy is the American people – not government spending. Freeing up Americans to invest, save, and spend more of their own money is at the core of our proposal.

As I said on the opening day of the current Congress, America’s potential is unlimited; government’s potential is not. We must not confuse the two. We can’t simply spend our way back to prosperity. Our responsibility as elected leaders in a flagging economy is to craft policies that allow our country’s potential to be unleashed. America runs on freedom. It’s the fuel of our economy and the fuel of our democracy. The more we spend and borrow, the less freedom we and our children and grandchildren will have left.

Our nation is in recession. Families are struggling. We owe the American people a responsible, bipartisan bill that will protect and create American jobs. To date, Congress has failed to get the job done.
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