Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pork-laden Bailout Bill is Very Bitter Pill

I was relieved to see the House swallow hard and pass the bailout. The bailout is a bitter pill, but unfortunately it is necessary medicine to keep our ailing economy from dying. (See my post: Congress Should Pass the Palson Plan)

What disgust me in this whole mess, is that the bailout did not pass until it was sweetened with billions in pork. (I’m not mixing my metaphors; this is some very sweet pork.) It is disgusting that some in Congress had to get their favorite project included before they would support it. These congressmen would not pass it because it was the right thing to do but because they were bought.

Consider the following amendment to the bailout bill:

Sec. 503. Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children.

Current law places an excise tax of 39 cents on the first sale by the manufacturer, producer, or importer of any shaft of a type used to produce certain types of arrows. This proposal would exempt from the excise tax any shaft consisting of all natural wood with no laminations or artificial means to enhance the spine of the shaft used in the manufacture of an arrow that measures 5/16 of an inch or less and is unsuited for use with a bow with a peak draw weight of 30 pounds or more. The proposal is effective for shafts first sold after the date of enactment. The estimated cost of the proposal is $2 million over ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, Oregon’s senators were the sponsors of the above provision which is a $200,000 benefit to a single company, Rose City Archery in Myrtle Point, Oregon. (read more)

Other sweeteners in the bill according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle (link), included the following:

Racetracks: Earmark would allow auto racetrack owners to depreciate their facilities over seven years, saving the industry $100 million over two years.

Rum: Offers rum producers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands a rebate on excise taxes worth $192 million over two years.

Wool: Reduces tariffs for U.S. makers of wool fabric that use imported yarn, worth $148 million over five years. The measure was pushed by Reps. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Melissa Bean, D-Ill.

Exxon Valdez: Plaintiffs in the suit over the 1989 oil spill could spread their tax payments on punitive damages over three years, cutting their tax bill by $49 million. The measure was backed by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

American Samoa: Allows certain corporations to reduce their tax liability on income earned in American Samoa, at a cost of $33 million over two years.

Even Hollywood got something out of the Senate bill: renewal of a tax incentive worth nearly $48 million a year for film and TV producers who produce their work in the United States.

At a time when I did not think my contempt for Congress could get any lower, it just did. John McCain says he will change the culture of Washington and curtail pork barrel spending. I think it is possible to curtail it, but difficult. Congress needs a basic change in their operating rocedures to make pork barrel spending more transparent. One should not have to load a deserving bill with goodies, like hanging ornaments on a Christmas tree, in order to get it passed.

I served eleven years in the Metro Council of Nashville and years ago I served as a student intern with the State legislature for about three months. In both the State Senate and the Metro Council, one could not have a bill that was broader than the caption. That was a rule. That is not to say that there is not wasteful spending by both the Metro Council and the State government, but a bill could not be amended to include spending for a project totally unrelated to the topic of the bill. On a bill to authorize the issuance of tax increment financing bonds for the construction of a sports arena, one could not include funding for new sidewalks in Woodbine.

There was still wastful spending and deals were still make, but this rule made it more diffilcut to do than it would have been without the rule. Sometimes we need rules to keep us honest. Currently, the way Congress operates, holding a bill hostage and loading it with pork is encouraged. I believe that If Congress would adopt a rule that the body of a bill could not be broader than the caption of the bill, we would see a drastic decrease in spending such as was included in the bailout bill.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

The Crowds

On television today a Democratic operative pointed out that when Obama holds a rally 25-30,000 people show up, whereas when McCain holds one he only draws 10-15,000.

The Republican spokesman replied, "That's because McCain's supporters are at work."

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The Biden-Palin Debate


She was charming, articulate, knowlegable, sharp-witted, folksy, and quick. No deer-in-the-headlight look, no awkward pauses, no wrong answers. The only criticism I would have of her is that she had a tendency to answer the question she wished she had been asked rather than what was asked. However, I don't think that did her any harm. I had some anxiety about her ability prior to this debate. She held her own. No, she did better than that: She won.

I also was concerned that Gwen Ifill may not be a fair moderator due to her financial interest in an Obama victory and her stated admiration for Obama. She was fair.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

HOPE for Homeowners

Detailed Program Eligibility Requirements Announced

WASHINGTON – The Bush Administration today unveiled additional mortgage assistance for homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The HOPE for Homeowners program will refinance mortgages for borrowers who are having difficulty making their payments, but can afford a new loan insured by HUD’s Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

“For families struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments, this program will be another resource to refinance into a loan they can afford,” said HUD Secretary Steve Preston. “FHA remains a safe and affordable alternative to the high-priced mortgage loans that threaten homeowners’ ability to retain their homes. We strongly encourage borrowers to work with their lenders to determine if HOPE for Homeowners is the right program for them.” (read more)

This program just became available today. This is one more tool to help people avoid foreclosure. If you are behind on your house payment or in danger of falling behind on your house payment, please do not allow your home to foreclose without getting help. If you live in the middle Tennessee area call me at 850-3453 and I will help you. I am Director of Housing Services for the Woodbine Community Organization, a HUD-approved housing counseling agency.

If you live elsewhere, call a local HUD-approved housing counseling agency, or if there is no local HUD-approved agency in your area, call the HOPE hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE.

I am amazed at the number of people who loose their home when they could avoid doing so, if they would only seek help and be proactive. Many, many people let their hope get foreclosed when tools are available right now that could help them keep their home. Believe it or not, mortgage companies want to work with you; they do not want to foreclose. However, often the homeowner does not know how to approach the mortgage company and present their case. Also, mortgage company representatives may not know all of the options available. A trained counselor, will evaluate your situation and look at all the options for keeping your house or if keeping the home is not possible or is not in your best interest, help you get out of the house while avoiding foreclosure.

If you know of anyone who may be in danger of losing their home, tell them there is help available. Daily, I negotiate workout plans with mortgage companies on behave of my clients. I have kept about 100 people from losing their home this year. Some of the workouts were easy and some of them were difficult to achieve. Some of the clients who did lose their home could have saved their home if they would have followed up and followed the Action Plan we developed. If someone just sits by and lets their home get foreclosed without fighting to save it and without seeking help, they have no one to blame but themselves.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sara Palin is Qualified

Fred Thompson, Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When John McCain selected Governor Sarah Palin, as his running mate, the Democrats and their far-left constituency let out a primal scream that could be heard from sea to shining sea. How dare he choose someone that they and their pals in the media had not had a chance to vet (i.e. libel, slander, and otherwise and otherwise eviscerate). Ah, but it was not too late. These seekers of “a new kind of politics” poured torrents of malicious abuse upon her and her family. ...Read more.

More comment to follow, maybe. This is some quick thoughts: I am having anxiety about tom morrow's debate. Joe Biden may think that TV's were widely in use in American Homes in 1929 and may not know who was President when the 1929 stock market crash occurred, but he is probably a walking encyclopedia of foreign affairs. He probably knows who is the leaders of most of the worlds countries and heads of the opposition parties. He can probably tell you the details of every important treaty for the last 25 years. I have seen Biden on C-span. No doubt about it, he is informed and sharp.

On the other hand, Biden can be a smart-ass. I remember during the confirmation hearing of John Roberts, he kept addressing Roberts as "Judge." While that is OK, I guess, Biden seemed disrespectful and almost like he was trying to get Roberts to loose his cool and debate with him. In those hearing Biden struck be as somewhat of a jerk. However, I have seen Biden in other hearing where I thought he was just a plain spoken, no BS kind of guy who was trying to get honest answers from equivocating bureaucrats. So, while Biden is knowledgeable if he comes across as condescending and a bully, Palin may win.

If I was giving advice to Palin it would be, don't be afraid to say, "I don't know." Don't try to fake it. If you don't know the GNP of Azerbaijan, I want hold it against you. If you get asked a complex question I think you can say, "I would ask somebody in the state department to brief me and then do I would do the right thing." Or, you may say, "I have not been keeping up with all the details of that issue, and would have to learn more details and give it thoughtful consideration before responding." Don't just blurt out an answer.

The format should favor Palin. There is no time for Biden's long rambling answers. Watch for bias on the part of Quin Ifill. She is not an objective journalist. In a book she wrote, she exposed herself as a fawning fan of Barack Obama. On the other hand, she may bend over backwards to be fair to compensate for her bias.

The above article is by Fred Thompson, a man I admire and respect and who I would like to see become President. He give thoughtful consideration to the issues of Palin's qualifications and concludes she is qualified.

In a recent post I wrote that "I was seduced by Sarah Palin." If I was seduced, I guess I am still seduced. I like her. I saw her parents interviewed on a news program. I like her parents. She seems level-headed, smart, and energetic. I have been a little embarrasedembarrassed by some of her answers in interviews, however, I think she has the skills, principles and values we need. The experience and knowledge will come. Plus, I just like watching her. I feel good when she speaks. Irrational as that may be, I like to "connect" with a person. I really hope she does well in the debates.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

VP Candidate Shows Lack of Knowledge

Biden got it all wrong. The stock market crashed in 1929 and Hoover was President. Television was not in use in homes until the 1950's. FDR who was elected in 1932 talked to the nation by radio.

Maybe Biden is not ready for the office of Vice President. Biden can get facts so wrong and no one blinks an eye. No columnist are calling for his resignation. Comics are not mocking him. What would be the response if Sarah Palin had said this?

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Monday, September 29, 2008

I was seduced by Sarah Palin.

While I have followed events closely this political season, I was late developing any excitement for the upcoming election. For one thing, I have had a sense of defeat. With Bush’s low popularity and an unpopular war and bad economic news, I thought no matter whom the nominee was; this is going to be a Democratic year. It would almost take a miracle for any Republican to win, I reasoned.

Also, I was simply disgruntled. I felt that the Republican Party had gone off track in many areas. I was disappointed about Bush leading us into an unnecessary avoidable war, was disappointed that Republicans had become the party of reckless spending, and was disgusted by the Jack Abramoff scandal. I have also been disappointed that many rank and file Republicans are still skeptical of global warming and have displayed a downright mean spiritedness regarding the immigration issue. I felt estranged from the Republican Party. I felt like the party was in a four way tug of war between the isolationist Paleo-conservatives, the Ron Paul Libertarians, the Neo-conservatives and the Holy Rollers and I did not feel at home in any camp. Nevertheless, I was still a Republican and did not see myself becoming a Democrat, but I could not get excited.

Initially, I supported Fred Thompson for President, but he did not seem to have any fire in the belly and he did not generate a lot of excitement in me. I did send him a campaign contribution and put his ad on this website but could not get real excited about his candidacy. Following Thompson’s withdrawal, I supported McCain. There was not even a close second choice. I liked McCain’s support for immigration reform and his environmental record, two issues where I think the base of the party has simply got it wrong. I admired his integrity, his mainstream pragmatic conservatism, and his service to our country. Still, I could not get very excited.

The Republican convention fired me up. I was anxious about how the Party could ignore a sitting President. I am so disappointed by the Presidency of George Bush that I was not in the mood to see thousands of cheering Bush fans. Thank God for Gustav! Watching the convention you may have not even known this was the convention of the Party of Bush and Cheney.

The nomination of Sarah Palin excited me. Many pundits say Sarah excited the Party because she appealed to the social conservatives. I am pro-life and I oppose gay marriage so I guess that makes me a social conservative, but I do not feel comfortable with many on the religious right. The way I see it, these are the kind of people, who if elected locally, would want to keep wine out of the grocery stores and close all the strip clubs. They often come across as puritanical, self-righteousness, and intolerant and that makes me uncomfortable. Sarah Palin’s appeal to me was not because I was a dissatisfied social conservative. One reason Palin excited me was because she was “none of the above”. I liked her because she was not Lieberman, or Romney or Huckabee.

Palin also has a compelling story and I liked the reform, maverick image. I also liked her due to some social class connection I felt. Even though she is not southern, I felt the same connection I would feel with a southerner. When some journalist contemptuously said she would get the redneck vote, it made me like her that much more. I often get the feeling that the people in New York and Los Angeles look down on the rest of the nation. I felt like she was one of “us.”

Now, it is confession time: I am a sucker for an attractive woman. If you want to get me to support your cause or buy your product, send a pretty woman to talk to me. A pretty woman does not even have to be all that bright. Where I might challenge a man who says something that lacks logic, I let a pretty woman get by with it. I will let a pretty women waste my time, where I might cut a man off. A woman may talk rubbish but if she is pretty and a little flirty, I enjoy it. Call me sexist because I have different standards for men and women, but I’m a guy. I can be charmed and Sarah Palin is charming. I was seduced by Sarah Palin.

Like a lot of relationships build on superficial attraction, after a time you began to see the flaws in the other person. I still like Sarah, but I am not as enamored. The more I have seen of her, the more I have come to doubt that she is that qualified to be President.

I think she was mistreated by Charlie Gibson in the interview where he asked her the question about the Bush doctrine without clarifying his question. I felt that that was a trick “gotcha” question. (I hate to see a pretty little women mistreated.) In addition to the Gibson interview, I was outraged to see the mocking tone many used when speaking about her. I was angered by the long list of lies circulated about her such as the book banning charge. The claim that she wanted evolution taught in school was even repeated by a so-called responsible journalist. I defended her.

Since the Gibson interview there have been other interviews where she did not perform that well. Unfortunately, Sarah Palin does not seem that knowledgeable about economics or foreign policy. Look at the videos at the bottom of this page. This is not terrible but she looks like someone who is in over her head. I keep watching, hoping she doen't say something stupid. She cannot make a coherent argument. She seems unsure of her reasoning. No doubt she will get better over time. And, if McCain is elected, hopefully he will remain in good health long enough for Sarah to get some on-the-job training.

I know, some will think this is a sexist remark, but I think it is reality: If you have been busy having and raising five kids, you probably have not had a lot of time to read important books, read good newspapers, do Internet research or watch C-Span. With kids to go to Hockey practice and needing help with the homework and needing fed and changed and comforted when they skin a knee, Palin may not have had the time to sit at her computer and educate herself about the crisis in Darfur. She may not have had time to reflect on the issues of the day. True, I would not make the same assumptions about a male politician with five kids, but fathering is different than mothering.

In addition to her apparent lack of knowledge and inability to answer a question coherently, the unanswered questions about whether or not she used undue influence to settle a family feud with her brother-in-law and her acceptance of over $25,000 in gift from those seeking state favors during her 20 months as governor have tarnished her image.

No doubt Sarah Palin made a good small town mayor. She might be a good governor of a sparsely populated state. I would love to sit next to her at a Hockey game. I am not sure she is ready to be President. Given the choices we face, I am still certainly voting for McCain-Palin but the romance with Sarah Palin is almost over.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Palin Accepted $25,000 in Gifts, Alaska Records Show

By James V. Grimaldi and Robert O'Harrow Jr. Washington Post Staff Writers, Friday, September 26, 2008; A08

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has made a crackdown on gift-giving to state officials a centerpiece of her ethics reform agenda, has accepted gifts valued at $25,367 from industry executives, municipalities and a cultural center whose board includes officials from some of the largest mining interests in the state, a review of state records shows.

The 41 gifts Palin accepted during her 20 months as governor include honorific tributes, expensive artwork and free travel for a family member. They also include more than $2,500 in personal items from Calista, a large Alaska native corporation with a variety of pending state regulatory and budgetary issues, and a gold-nugget pin valued at $1,200 from the city of Nome, which lobbies on municipal, local and capital budget matters, documents show. (read more)

This does not look good. This does not look good at all. This is depressing news. Maybe there was full disclosure and it is all perfectly legal, but for someone who bills herself as a reformer, she should be above reproach. Accepting gifts from someone seeking favors from the state certainly does not pass the smell test. I don't have too much of a problem with a lobbist buying a poltician a meal, but a $1200 gold nugget pin is a little much. Unless there is a very good rational why this was not a conflict of interest, this could be very damaging to the McCain campaign.

I just now discovered this news item and it was published on Friday. I am surprised it has not made a bigger news splash. There was nothing in our local paper about it and I have not heard it mentioned on any news program. So, maybe it is not such a big deal. I hope that this does not derail the campaign but part of the appeal of the McCain-Palin ticket is that they are reformers and will change the culture of Washington. I want to really believe that. Even if there is no political fallout from this, I still find it disappointing. Call me naive, but I would like to think that there really are honest public servants who have high ethical standards.

With Obama's long time connection and financial dealings with the Chicago slum lord and shady character Antoin "Tony'' Rezko, the Obama campaign is probably reluctant to start comparing ethical records. Nevertheless, this is disappointing. I would like to hear an explanation.

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