David Kirkpatrick

August 5, 2010

Kagan confirmed

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:53 pm

Senate vote came down 63-37 to mostly yawns all around. There was no realistic way Elena Kagan wasn’t going to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

July 4, 2010

Obama gives $2B to two solar companies

As a nation we must find energy sources beyond petroleum. Chiefly because it’s a finite resource and will eventually — and that eventually may be a long ways off — run out. And it is the root of almost every vexing military and statecraft problem the United States faces. The problem is oil, gas and coal are so incredibly cheap and efficient compared to any feasible alternative.

Solar power has seen breakthrough after breakthrough (see the link in the sidebar under “interesting blog topics”) over the last several years, and many of these breakthroughs affect the current solar marketplace so it’s not all pie-in-the-sky activity. One way to ramp up improvements in solar efficiency and lower practical costs is to infuse the R&D process with enough money to not have to pick and choose among untested ideas. This investment from the government will allow Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar Manufacturing to implement large solar installations, create some jobs along the way, and, yes, continue to improve solar energy as a viable alternative to petroleum.

This is good news to blog about on Independence Day. Kudos to President Obama.

From the link:

US President Barack Obama announced on Saturday the awarding of nearly two billion dollars to two solar energy companies that have agreed to build new power plants in the United States, creating thousands of new jobs.

“We’re going to keep fighting to advance our recovery,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “And we’re going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America.”

One of the companies, Abengoa Solar, has agreed to build one of the largest solar plants in the world in Arizona, which will create about 1,600 construction jobs. When completed, this plant will provide enough  to power 70,000 homes.

The other company, Abound Solar Manufacturing, is building two new plants, one in Colorado and one in Indiana.

US President Barack Obama (R) tours a solar energy centre in Arcadia, Florida in 2009. Obama has announced the awarding of nearly $2 bln to two solar energy companies that have agreed to build new power plants in the US, creating thousands of new jobs

June 8, 2010

Anger and ideas for Deepwater Horizon spill

British Petroleum is about to get nailed six ways to Monday by what is safe to assume to be a multi-agency federal offensive. BP is taking a well-deserved public relations hit, and the Obama administration is taking it on the chin as well, because fair, or not, that’s the way these things play out politically.

This quote from the president should have BP quaking:

President Barack Obama said he wanted to know “whose ass to kick” over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, adding to the pressure on energy giant BP Plc as it sought to capture more of the leak from its gushing well.

In an interview with NBC News’ “Today” aired on Tuesday, Obama also said that if BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward worked for him, he would have fired him by now over his response to the 50-day-old spill, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. It was triggered by an April 20 well blowout and rig explosion that killed 11 workers.

BP can’t say they aren’t being offered any solutions, but to be fair there’s no way to reasonably vet even a fraction of these 35,000-and-counting ideas for even a modicum of feasibility.

From the link in the previous graf:

BP has received almost 35,000 ideas in just over a month on how best to clean up the millions of gallons of oil from the biggest spill in U.S. history. So far, only four have made it into testing.

And:

If the ideas—which range from soaking up oil with human hair to enlisting oil-eating microbes—are seen as practical and don’t overlap with proposals already being explored, they’re sent to smaller teams of engineers to see if they can be applied, MacEwen said. About 800 proposals have made it to this stage, with just one-half of 1 percent of those in testing, he said. Most are duplicative or infeasible, MacEwen said.

May 27, 2010

Sestak-Gate

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:25 pm

This is some real inside baseball, but the issue is beginning to really percolate amongst some of the more fact-challenged areas on the right. The “issue” is did the White House offer Joe Sestak a White House position in exchange for quitting the Pennsylvania US Senate Democratic primary against Arlen Specter (a primary Sestak ended up winning), and if the Obama administration did so was that act illegal.

Jon Chait has been doing a bang-up job covering this “scandal” here, here and here (and I probably missed some older posts, that’s just the last three days.)

From the last link, here’s Chait’s very concise summation on why this is a complete non-starter and is being trumped up by those who are either very fact-challenged, or maybe just simply disingenuous:

I’ll keep saying this: A job offer is not a quid pro quo to get somebody out of a race. It is getting somebody out of a race. Accepting one job means you cannot run for another. It happens all the time — the White House appointed John McHugh Army Secretary in part to get him out of New York’s 23rd Congressional District. It offered Judd Gregg a cabinet slot in order to get him out of the Senate. This is completely routine, neither illegal no immoral nor especially unusual. Can’t we wait to appoint a special prosecutor until there’s at least some possibility of underlying illegal behavior?

The constant hammering on demonstrably false or outright wrong “facts” from quite an embarrassing many on the right is what has really turned me off of the GOP and right wing commentary over the last year or so. We need honest political debate in this country right now, not attacks built on misinformation or lies designed purely to score political points with a dwindling base. I thought the Republican Party was on something of an upswing this year, but clearly it’s still just thrashing about in death throes. Any success this November might be the worst possible thing for the long-term viability of the GOP brand and influence.

May 11, 2010

US tax bill at lowest level in 60 years

Kinda punches a few holes in that whole “Obama is out to get everything you own” meme floating around the not-so-rational right.

From the link:

Amid complaints about high taxes and calls for a smaller government, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman‘s presidency, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data found.

Some conservative political movements such as the “Tea Party” have criticized federal spending as being out of control. While spending is up, taxes have fallen to exceptionally low levels.

Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.

“The idea that taxes are high right now is pretty much nuts,” says Michael Ettlinger, head of economic policy at the liberal Center for American Progress. The real problem is spending,counters Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, which organizes Tea Party groups. “The money we borrow is going to be paid back through taxation in the future,” he says.

February 5, 2010

White House looking to end LIFO

Ending last-in/first-out accounting would be a very, very bad idea and would punch businesses — particularly small businesses — in the gut at a time when a drastic tax hit is something no business needs. The economy is still rough sledding all around and unemployment isn’t abating. The Obama administration has been making good noises about helping Main Street. Ending LIFO would do anything but.

From the link:

House Ways and Means members crossed party lines in Feb. 3 budget hearings to criticize the Obama administration’s proposal to raise an additional $59 billion in tax revenues by eliminating firms’ ability to use the last-in, first-out accounting method.

“If we do this, if we end it, what’s going to happen is U.S. small businesses are going to take a big tax hit and their competitors overseas are going to have a terrific advantage over us in the marketplace,” Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) told Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. “There’re some industries that have to hold their inventory for a long time; this is a fair and reasonable way to recognize that and I would strongly urge you to go back and revisit that.”

The practice can reduce a business’s tax liability, particularly in times of rising inflation, because it takes into account the higher costs of replacing inventories. The LIFO method is especially important to companies that maintain large inventories over a period of years, such as wineries and distilleries that need to age their inventories. As a result, shifting to a first-in, first-out accounting practice would have the effect of giving those producers income on which they would have to pay taxes, even though the products they have put into inventory may not be available for sale for several years.

February 3, 2010

White House promotes nuclear plants

A very necessary — and belated for the Obama administration — move to start to wean the U.S. off foreign petroleum-based energy.

From the link:

President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget could provide a significant boost to the U.S. nuclear power industry, which has been stalled for decades. If approved by Congress, the budget would provide $36 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear power plants, opening the way for around seven new nuclear power plants, depending on the final cost of each. The new guarantees are in addition to $18.5 billion in guarantees provided for in a 2005 energy bill.

The increased support for nuclear power marks a change for the Obama administration, which has opposed similar increases in the past. Some policy experts say it is part of a strategy to win Republican votes for a comprehensive climate and energy bill.

December 2, 2009

We all know …

… the 2000s were a fiscal disaster — tough markets, bubbles growing to bursting by the end of the decade and drunken sailor federal spending by a GOP-led government. The party of fiscal conservatism? Hardly.

Things were bad, but look at the longer view to get an idea of exactly how bad using just one indicator — the S&P 500 index (emphasis mine):

With the ’00s about to flip the odometer to the ’10s, there has been a raft of commentary about how lousy a decade this has been. Stock investors can vouch for that: The ten years since Y2K are on track to produce the worst total returns for investors since the 1930s. And, after the roaring ’80s and ’90s, the disappointment of the last decade is all the more galling.

Indeed, it will be hard for investors to wash the taste of trillions of dollars of losses from their mouths.

In both the 1980s and the 1990s, the broad S&P 500-stock index index provided a total return (which includes dividends) of more than 400%, according to Capital IQ, a Standard & Poor’s business. The total return for the S&P 500 since New Years 2000 has been negative 10.8%.

Now the Bush 43 administration and GOP Congress are given a pass on the events of 9/11 and how that disrupted the entire American social structure, including commerce. But that event was over eight years ago, plenty of time for the party of fiscal restraint to get the economy back on track, right? Not so much. And where did the profligate spending go? Into half-assed and outright fraudulent foreign adventures:

Hirsch believes a key factor for stocks in the 2000s was the September 11 terrorist attacks and the U.S. government’s expensive involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Vietnam War hurt stock returns in the 1970s, he notes, while World War II kept the market down in the early 1940s.

Of course Bush inherited what is now considered a highly over-valued market that was ripe for a fall back to earth. September 11 was the balloon bursting sledgehammer and seven additional years of absolutely horrible fiscal policy and economic management has put us where we are right now, and leaving a steaming bag for Obama’s administration that will most likely dominate the bulk of his first term, if not much, much longer.

And right wing media is now happily blaming Obama for the economic conditions on the ground.

November 8, 2009

House of Representatives passes health care reform bill

Final tally of 220-215 for the Affordable Health Care for America Act. Now the show is off to the Senate.

October 29, 2009

Stimulus money going to the power grid

Almost three and half billion dollars of stimulus money in fact. This ARRA cash will be stretched by a requirement for matching private investment.

From the link:

President Obama on Tuesday announced a $3.4 billion federal investment to modernize the country’s outdated power grid.

The money will go to 100 projects in 49 states to add automated substations, digital transformers, electric meters in homes and other high-tech equipment to create a “smart” grid.

“We’re going to create an energy superhighway,” Mr. Obama said when making the announcement at Florida Power & Light Co.’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Fla., one of the country’s biggest solar-power facilities.

October 21, 2009

TARP banks not lending to Main Street

I’ve already blogged on the upside of this issue — that is, the Obama administration is helping Main Street through expanding the lending capacity of the Small Business Administration and letting smaller banks in on some TARP action. The downside of this issue is eight of the top ten TARP recipient banks have cut small business loans since May. And that is disgusting.

From the second link:

The TARP program was set up to recapitalize banks so that they would bolster their lending to consumers and small businesses. In March, as the administration and the SBA took steps to stimulate small business lending, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ordered the top TARP recipients to begin sending the Treasury monthly reports on their small business lending activity.

“We need every bank in the country to do everything in their power to provide the credit that small businesses need to operate, expand and add jobs,” Geithner said as he announced the new requirements. “Given the role many banks played in causing this crisis, you bear a special responsibility for helping America get out of it.”

But in the five months they’ve been sending in those reports, the 22 biggest TARP recipients haven’t increased their small business lending. Instead, they’ve cut their outstanding balances by $8 billion. As of Aug. 31, the 22 reporting banks held a collective small business loan balance of $261.3 billion, down 3% from when they began reporting in April.

Check out this list of shame:

chart_sm_biz_lend.gif

A stimulus by any other name …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:16 pm

… still spends public money.

All jokes and complaints aside, Obama does have an impressive economic team in place working hard to solve a massive and ongoing problem. I may not like the way things are going, but I will defer to experts implementing their plan.

From the link:

You won’t see it all in one neat package. And you won’t hear the White House call it stimulus.

But there’s a good chance lawmakers will decide to extend some of the stimulus measures included in the $787 billion economic recovery package passed in February and possibly create some new ones as well.

On Wednesday, House Democrats are convening a forum of economists to debate the state of the economy, with a specific focus on job creation. And lawmakers are convening hearings on Capitol Hill this week to discuss the economic outlook and the state of the housing market.

A number of ideas on the table are lifeline measures, while some are flat-out incentives to spur economic activity.

October 20, 2009

Why FISA never needed reform in the first place

I’ve already done a post today on this excellent article by Julian Sanchez on the Obama administration and how it’s retaining some of the Bush administration’s overreaching tools for use in the “global war on terror.” So far the Obama administration has been a disappointment in not rolling back the beating U.S. civil liberties took in the Bush administration’s  panicked response to 9/11.

And as it turns out — and that I’ve argued repeatedly — the tools to fight international terrorists were firmly in place before 9/11, they were just implemented with Keystone Kop level competence.

From the second link:

The FISA Amendments Act is the successor to an even broader bill called the Protect America Act, which similarly gave the attorney general and director of national intelligence extraordinary power to authorize sweeping interception of Americans’ international communications. It was hastily passed in 2007 amid claims that the secret FISA Court had issued a ruling that prevented investigators from intercepting wholly foreign communications that traveled across US wires. Former Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell even claimed that FISA’s restrictions had rendered it impossible to immediately eavesdrop on Iraqi insurgents who had captured several American soldiers. The New York Post quoted tearful parents of the captured men expressing their horror at the situation and a senior Congressional staffer who alleged that “the intelligence community was forced to abandon our soldiers because of the law.”

Yet as a Justice Department official later admitted, the FISA law clearly placed no such broad restriction on foreign wire communications passing through the United States; rather, there had been a far more narrow problem involving e-mails for which the recipient’s location could not be determined. And as James Bamford explained in his essential 2008 book, The Shadow Factory, the delay in getting wiretaps running on the suspected kidnappers was the result of a series of missteps at the Justice Department, not the limits of FISA — no surprise, since even when FISA does require a warrant, surveillance may begin immediately in emergencies if a warrant is sought later. (The suspected kidnappers, by the way, turned out not to have been the actual kidnappers.) Yet on the basis of such claims, a panicked Congress signed off on almost limitless authority to vacuum up international communications — authority that we already know has resulted in systematic “overcollection” of purely domestic conversations, and even resulted in the interception of former President Bill Clinton’s e-mails.

Rhetoric v. reality in the Obama White House

Cato and Reason‘s Julian Sanchez has a great piece on the disconnect between what the Obama administration does, and what it says, in restoring balance to D.C. and ridding our government of some of the Bush administration’s overreach and blatant disregard for civil liberties and personal freedom.

To be fair Obama has been in office a total of nine months with a very full plate, and his administration may well be taking a long view in meeting some of these policy goals. If so, that’s great. In the meantime his feet should be kept to the fire on these issues that led many independent voters to pull the lever for him last year.

From the link:

We know the rules by now, the strange conventions and stilted Kabuki scripts that govern our cartoon facsimile of a national security debate. The Obama administration makes vague, reassuring noises about constraining executive power and protecting civil liberties, but then merrily adopts whatever appalling policy George W. Bush put in place. Conservatives hit the panic button on the right-wing noise machine anyway, keeping the delicate ecosystem in balance by creating the false impression that something has changed. We’ve watched the formula play out with Guantánamo Bay, torture prosecutions and the invocation of “state secrets.” We appear to be on the verge of doing the same with national security surveillance.

Update — Here’s another post on this article.

October 6, 2009

Reversing the unemployment trend

Ideas from the White House.

From the link:

President Barack Obama is considering a mix of spending programs and tax cuts to respond to widening job losses that would amount to an additional economic stimulus without carrying that label.

The discussion of the initiatives, including a boost in transportation spending and an extension of an expiring tax credit for first-time homebuyers, comes as the White House is balancing rising concern about unemployment and a budget deficit the Congressional Budget Office estimates will total $1.6 trillion for 2009, and $1.4 trillion in 2010.

Administration officials have told allies in Congress that a broader transportation bill, and extensions of a homebuyer tax credit and unemployment benefits are all on the table, a Senate aide said.

October 2, 2009

Sunset provisions in the PATRIOT Act …

… offer the Obama administration a great opportunity to overturn a set of horrible, privacy-violating and, most likely, un-Constitutional policies. And get back some of that civil liberties mojo many people voted for when they pulled the lever for Obama.

From the Cato Institute (the first) link:

Civil liberties advocates have hastily revived a campaign to support commonsense limits on government surveillance, but with health-care reform dominating headlines and anxieties about the Bush administration’s excesses fading like the memory of a bad dream, precious little attention is being paid to the PATRIOT renewal debate. But if the Senate declines to press for real reform this week, the issue is unlikely to be taken up again for at least another four years — during which those new powers will only become more entrenched, more heavily relied upon, and more difficult to roll back. It’s no exaggeration to say that today may well be the most important day of the Obama administration for privacy and civil liberties — or the biggest squandered opportunity.

July 2, 2009

How is Obama doing on civil liberties?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:16 pm

Civil liberties are a major rock in the foundation of the United States and Obama ran on a group of issues that leaned heavily on civil liberties. Heading into this Fourth of July weekend, and given he’s been in office for over five months now, I think it’s a fair time to take a look at where the Obama administration is vis-a-vis civil liberties.

Not so great. This administration has been more about lip service than action on the civil liberty front. To be fair change in D.C. won’t happen overnight on any set of policies, but to date there doesn’t seem any urgency to many of the civil liberty concerns Obama ran on in the race for the Oval Office.

Here’s Cato’s Doug Bandow on Obama’s dissappointing performance:

It’s fair to say that civil liberties and limited government were not high on President George W. Bush’s priorities list.  Indeed, they probably weren’t even on the list.  Candidate Barack Obama promised “change” when he took office, and change we have gotten.  The name of the president is different.

Alas, the policies are much the same.  While it is true that President Obama has not made the same claims of unreviewable monarchical power for the chief executive–an important distinction–he has continued to sacrifice civil liberties for dubious security gains.

Reports the New York Times:

Civil libertarians recently accused President Obama of acting like former President George W. Bush, citing reports about Mr. Obama’s plans to detain terrorism suspects without trials on domestic soil after he closes the Guantánamo prison.

It was only the latest instance in which critics have argued that Mr. Obama has failed to live up to his campaign pledge “to restore our Constitution and the rule of law” and raised a pointed question: Has he, on issues related to fighting terrorism, turned out to be little different from his predecessor?

March 6, 2009

Obama ends stem cell restrictions

Filed under: Politics, Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:30 pm

Hallelujah, let the light of basic science shine on.

From the link:

President Obama will announce Monday that he is reversing Bush administration limits on federal financing for embryonic stem cell research as part of a pledge to separate science and politics, White House officials said Friday.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama spoke out in favor of stem cell research, so his intention to undo the curbs put in place by President George W. Bush is not surprising. But the decision is nonetheless of great interest, involving a long-controversial intersection of science and personal moral beliefs.

The officials said that advocates of unfettered stem cell research, as well as about 30 Democratic and Republican lawmakers who support it, had been invited to a White House ceremony scheduled for 11:45 a.m. Eastern time, when Mr. Obama is expected to make an announcement.

One person familiar with planning for the event said the president would also speak about a general return to “sound science” in his administration, as a fulfillment of his campaign promise to draw a demarcation line between politics and science. The Bush administration was often accused of trying to shade, or even suppress, the findings of government scientists on climate change, sex education, contraceptives and other issues, as well as stem cells.

Obama appoints first federal CIO

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:00 pm

The U.S. government now has a chief technology officer.

From the link:

President Barack Obama Thursday appointed the District of Columbia’s chief technology officer, Vivek Kundra, as the federal government’s first CIO. The decision to appoint a CIO is an apparent move by the White House to give it more control over the US$80 billion that federal agencies spend annually on technology.

Obama still plans to name a chief technology officer, an appointment he announced early in his campaign for office, but the selection of a CIO was something of surprise and possibly a recognition by the new administration that the CTO won’t have enough authority, alone, to shape federal technology spending.

Of the appointment, Obama said that he has directed Kundra “to work to ensure that we are using the spirit of American innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and lower the cost of government operations,” he said, in a statement. “As chief information officer, he will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible.”

February 22, 2009

Obama sides with Bush on missing email

A disappointing stance from an administration making claims of  transparency in government.

From the link:

The Obama administration, siding with former President George W. Bush, is trying to kill a lawsuit that seeks to recover what could be millions of missing White House e-mails.

Two advocacy groups suing the Executive Office of the President say that large amounts of White House e-mail documenting Bush’s eight years in office may still be missing, and that the government must undertake an extensive recovery effort. They expressed disappointment that Obama’s Justice Department is continuing the Bush administration’s bid to get the lawsuits dismissed.

During its first term, the Bush White House failed to install electronic record-keeping for e-mail when it switched to a new system, resulting in millions of messages that could not be found.

The Bush White House discovered the problem in 2005 and rejected a proposed solution.

Recently, the Bush White House said it had located 14 million e-mails that were misplaced and that the White House had restored hundreds of thousands of other e-mails from computer backup tapes.

The steps the White House took are inadequate, one of the two groups, the National Security Archive, told a federal judge in court papers filed Friday.

“We do not know how many more e-mails could be restored but have not been, because defendants have not looked,” the National Security Archive said in the court papers.

“The new administration seems no more eager than the last” to deal with the issue, said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the other group that sued the EOP.

February 4, 2009

Wall Street Journal hits back at Obama’s exec cap

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:05 pm

Not surprising. Some good points are made here, but the reality is this move is largely symbolic and if anyone thinks C-level compensation will actually significantly fall is deluded.

Base pay may be much lower, but overall compensation will still be there through all the loopholes that are wide open and easy to see already.

From the WSJ link:

The Obama administration had to do something. But capping executive pay at $500,000 at banks needing “exceptional assistance” could create as many problems as it solves.

First, it could distort labor markets. Employees and executives will be tempted to flee troubled banks to subsidiaries of foreign banks or stronger U.S. institutions. That could make the weak even weaker.

Second, the plan caps pay for top employees. It doesn’t yet address the arguably more important issue of generous pay structures lower down organizations. The cap could encourage those in, say, better paying jobs running big departments at an investment bank to shun top positions where pay would be limited.

February 3, 2009

Daschle pulls out as Health and Human Services nominee

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:26 pm

The GOP was going to fight this nominationsince Geither made it through with no problems after announcing his tax issues.

Daschle was going to be the point man on the health care plan. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here. It’s also interesting to see just how many lawmakers have serious problems paying taxes. That right, everyone. These people are our public servants.

From the link:

Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination on Tuesday as President Obama’s nominee to lead the Health and Human Services Department, a decision that came one day after Mr. Obama declared that he would stand behind Mr. Daschle as problems over unpaid taxes were scrutinized on Capitol Hill.

“I accept his decision with sadness and regret,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.

The decision to withdraw his nomination as a member of the Obama cabinet comes as the White House battled across several fronts on Tuesday with tax problems of the president’s top political appointees. Mr. Daschle had expressed regret for not paying about $140,000 in back taxes, but on Monday vowed to press ahead.

The move came as a surprise on Capitol Hill, where Democratic senators had rallied behind Mr. Daschle. It is the highest-level political casualty of the young Obama administration.

February 2, 2009

Obama’s power

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:27 pm

David Frum made a great point today at NewMajority on the strength and confidence Obama has carried into the White House.

From the link:

In three cases, President Obama’s nominees have encountered potentially nomination-wrecking problems. Richardson withdrew, Geithner brushed past all objections, and to date anyway Daschle is benefiting from senatorial courtesy.

So: multiple sloppiness on the part of the Obama vetters? Not impossible, but unlikely. Richardson’s issue was common knowledge; Daschle volunteered the information about his tax difficulties.

The Obama administration went ahead anyway – even though Geithner’s and Daschle’s issues were at least as serious as those that blocked the confirmation of Linda Chavez in 2001 and Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood in 1993.

So why is Obama succeeding where Bush and Clinton failed?

It’s not just that President Obama has the votes in the Senate: Clinton and Bush both started with Senate majorities too. (50 votes plus the vice president in Bush’s case.)

It’s not just that he has the press on board: Clinton started with a favorable press too.

What Obama has that Clinton and Bush lacked is the self-confidence that comes from facing a thoroughly defeated opposition.

Frum analysis is on the money. I’m hoping Obama will make good use of this strength. I voted for him, but at the same time I have concerns any time one party controls the White House, Senate and the House.

I’m not even sure the GOP is offering a true opposition right now. It comes off as much more simple obstructionism than honestly engaging the debate on issues.

January 22, 2009

The fiscal GOP under Bush 43

Not the least bit fiscally conservative. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite. That’s going to be a tough mantle to bear when the next election cycle rolls around and Republican candidates start in on the empty rhetoric of big-spending Democrats and prudent Republicans.

Yes, the current administration and Congress will be big spenders. It’s not going to be surprising. Disappointing maybe, but no surprise. The surprise will be it’s almost impossible that a Democratic White House, Senate and House will outspend the most recent GOP-controlled White House, Senate and House.

Any new-found GOP fiscal conservatism is going to ring hollow for probably a couple of more election cycles, and very maybe much longer.

From the Cato-at-Liberty link:

House Minority Leader John Boehner tells NPR, “I and most Republicans believe that a smaller, less costly government gives us a healthier economy and a healthier society.”

Reality check: How the federal budget grew during the years of President Bush and a Republican Congress:

January 21, 2009

Geithner’s hearing is done and confirmation is expected

A bit of drama here in the opening days of the Obama administration, but confirmation is the correct move here.

From the link:

President Barack Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, though tarnished by disclosures of his failure to pay taxes, is likely too uniquely qualified for Congress to reject amid hopes to contain the worst economic downturn in decades.

A red-faced Geithner will undoubtedly be grilled at his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday about his failure as an International Monetary Fund official to pay tens of thousands of dollars in U.S. taxes, and how that squares with taking the job that includes responsibility for U.S. tax collection.

But barring a glaring slip at the hearing, Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and a key participant in government efforts to prop up financial markets, looks on track to be confirmed as Treasury secretary.