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President Obama requested $5.1 billion to provide disaster relief to communities struggling to recover from recent hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and wildfires. The request includes $500 million in emergency funds FEMA needs to continue to operate effectively through the end of September.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, whose home state of Virginia was hit by an earthquake and Hurricane Irene, is demanding more partisan spending cuts in exchange for approving the request. From Politico:
But a spokesperson for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) signaled late Friday that the GOP is likely to insist on offsets for the $500 million in emergency funds Obama requested for 2011…
“The House has passed $1 billion in disaster relief funds that is fully offset, which we will look to move as quickly as possible.”
The funds referenced by Cantor’s spokesperson are contained in the House Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which is adamantly opposed by Senate Democrats. Why? The “offsets” contained in the bill are actually massive cuts to first responders. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) explains:
The House bill slashes funding for grants to equip and train first responders by 40 percent. This is on top of the 19 percent cut in FY 2011. The House defense appropriations bill provides $12.8 billion to train and equip troops and police in Afghanistan — yet the House provides only $2 billion for first responders here at home.
Their proposal also slashes the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s operations by 6 percent at a time when the agency has never been busier. Does it really make sense to pay for response and reconstruction costs from past disasters by reducing our capacity to prepare for future disasters?
In December, Cantor opposed a bipartisan bill “to improve health services and provide financial compensation for 9/11 first responders who were exposed to dangerous toxins and are now sick as a result.” Now, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Cantor is pushing for further cuts to first responders in exchange for disaster relief.
Cantor and his staff continue to insist “There will be no delay in meeting the president’s request and providing people the aid they need.” But they have yet to support any such request absent more partisan spending cuts.
If you purchase from China, there is one thing you have noticed: prices are going up, often by 10-25% a year. The reason is not that manufacturers are increasing their margins, but that their costs are rising very fast.
Yet, these same factories are under more and more intense pricing pressure from their customers.
Which manufacturers will survive and turn out a profit over the next 10 years? Those who increase their efficiency (by reducing waste in their operations or by increasing throughput) and/or who raise their production quality.
What will it take for them to reach these goals? I see 7 obstacles they will need to address:
1. Short-term focus
Right now, most exporters are focused on surviving, and if possible on getting enough for the boss to get a new car (or for his wife to buy another apartment).
But there also seems to be an aspect of Chinese culture that pushes every one to focus on the short term. It makes it extremely hard for companies to sustain a long-term investment aiming at improving the organization.
2. No pride of workmanship
Why are they in business? For money, of course. Very few manufacturers here care about a nice workmanship, a new design, or a defect-free production run.
It is very frustrating to explain to factory technicians that products must look better, and to realize that people nod politely (if at all) and actually don’t care. All they want to know is “what is the absolute lowest effort we can make?” Not a great customer retention strategy…
3. Focus on “making production”
Go inside a factory building, and you will see everyone trying to get the products out of the door. In 95% of cases, the shop floor is an absolute chaos.
The problem is, no one wants to stop the line when they notice bad quality, since they are paid by the number of pieces they make. As long as this attitude subsists, quality will be inconsistent.
4. No respect of workers
Ten years ago, it seemed like the Chinese workforce was endless. Unskilled workers were easily disposable. Fear was an effective motivator (“follow the rules, or you are out”).
The problem is, the situation has changed much faster than managerial methods. Training the operators and retaining them should become one of the top objectives.
5. Compartmentalization of activities
It is very common for factories to prepare prototypes in one place, and to produce the corresponding order in another floor (or to subcontract it to a different company). But development, engineering, and production should work hand in hand.
Another problem is the young and aggressive salespeople who say ‘yes’ to all requests, in their search for new orders. In the end, customers are disappointed and look for another source.
6. No analytical accounting
To reduce costs, it is important to know where they come from. Not only don’t most Chinese companies use analytical accounting tools, but their tax evasion tactics often deprive them of any accurate accounting!
They have no idea how much non-quality (rework, re-order of components, discounts, lost customers) costs them, for example. So why make an effort?
7. No interest in best practices
Most factory bosses have copied the way another manufacturer — often a previous employer — was organized. To them, the way to make money is to grow up, while keeping costs down… and occasionally screwing a few customers.
They are usually not interested in running experiments or purchasing software/machinery to improve their organization. If there is one thing that makes me pessimistic about Chinese manufacturing, it is this lack of curiosity in new methods.
I guess my 7 “deadly sins” are related. But where does it start? Probably by seeing good examples and copying them. Or maybe by starting new factories from scratch, with better management?
The New Yorker:
A few hours before President Obama presented his new job-creation plan to Congress last week, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, made a less ballyhooed appearance, before the Economic Club of Minnesota. Bernanke reminded his audience that it has been exactly three years since the financial crisis that attended the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Then he pointed out that the recession that Obama had inherited from his Republican predecessor was even more calamitous than had previously been thought. Recent revisions to government statistics show that, between the end of 2007 and the second quarter of 2009, the Gross Domestic Product declined by more than five per cent—the deepest drop since the Second World War.
Obama didn’t refer to Bernanke’s update, but knowing the true magnitude of the collapse is critical to understanding the economic and political context in which the President spoke: nine per cent unemployment (sixteen per cent if you include people who have given up looking for a job, and those who can find only part-time work) and a widespread belief that the Administration’s first stimulus package, the seven-hundred-and-eighty-seven-billion-dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was a failure. To quote Governor Rick Perry, of Texas, in last Wednesday’s Republican debate, Obama “has proven for once and for all that government spending will not create one job.”
The record demonstrates no such thing. A chart showing fluctuations of the G.D.P. over the past few years indicates a modest recovery beginning in the middle of 2009, just as the stimulus dispersals were kicking in; the recovery continuing at a decent clip for more than a year; and a severe tapering off toward the end of 2010, by which time most of the stimulus money had been spent. A visiting Martian looking at the chart might well conclude that but for the stimulus things would have been much worse, and that conclusion would be justified. Based on estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, by the end of 2010 the stimulus had created close to three million jobs, which is not far off the outcome that White House economists predicted in early 2009. The problem is that those economists, working with the figures available at the time, grossly underestimated the collapse in spending and hiring which the country was facing, and the scale of government action that would be needed to offset it. They rashly claimed that the stimulus would prevent the unemployment rate from rising above eight per cent—an error that the Republicans have been gleefully exploiting ever since.
President Obama didn’t go into this history. During his admirably crisp and punchy speech, the word “stimulus” didn’t cross his lips. But make no mistake: that is what he was proposing. If Congress were to pass the American Jobs Act without amendment (a fanciful thought), the federal government, over the next year, would inject into the economy roughly two hundred and fifty billion dollars in tax cuts, sixty billion in extended unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work for more than six months, and a hundred and forty billion in additional spending on teachers, schools, and transportation projects.
All told, the proposals add up to four hundred and fifty billion dollars, a considerable sum. But more than half of that outlay is necessary merely to make policy comply with an economic version of the Hippocratic oath: Do no harm to the bottom line. Why is that? In December, with the stimulus fast running down, the White House and Congress extended unemployment benefits and cut the employee portion of the payroll tax. If these policies are allowed to expire at the end of this year, which is what some Republicans have been calling for, American businesses in 2012 will face a spending shortfall of roughly two hundred and fifty billion dollars. With the economy already teetering, that could bring on another slump.
It took the President a long time to acknowledge such a danger. Rather than heed the advice of Christina Romer, the former head of his Council of Economic Advisers, that the economy needed additional support, he pivoted toward deficit reduction. In his 2010 State of the Union address, he said, “Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same.” As a political slogan, this little homily has its attractions. As a guide to policy, it is potentially disastrous. It is precisely because households are reining in their expenditures that the government needs to spend more than it takes in. If the government tries to balance its books prematurely, the most likely outcome will be another downturn. That is what happened in the United States in 1937; in Japan in 1997; and in the United Kingdom in 2010-11.
The President has finally changed tack, promising to pay for his largesse with subsequent spending cuts and tax increases, some of which he will lay out next week in a long-term deficit-reduction plan. The combination of short-term stimulus and long-term fiscal consolidation is precisely what the country needs, and just what congressional Republicans, cheered on by the Tea Party, have previously ruled out. Judging from comments by House Speaker John Boehner and others, however, they may be changing their minds. With polls showing that voters care more about jobs than about any other issue, it seems quite likely that the Republicans will agree to more cuts in payroll taxes and an extension of unemployment benefits.
New spending on schools and infrastructure will be a tougher sell, and that is unfortunate. Investments of this sort create more jobs than tax cuts of equivalent cost, and they add to the economy’s productive potential. A new highway or high-speed rail link between two major cities can boost trade and commerce for generations. But such projects, because they appear in the part of the budget labelled discretionary spending, are usually the first to be cut in a period of austerity. In this area, Republican obstructionism seems certain to continue.
Still, in returning to the practice—if not explicitly the theory—of stimulus spending, the President has taken an important step in the right direction. The fate of the economy still depends on many things that aren’t under his control: oil prices, more monetary stimulus from the Fed, and a resolution of the European debt crisis. (On Wall Street, reaction to Obama’s speech was overshadowed by the resignation of a member of the European Central Bank.) But, going into an election year, the President can say that he has presented a credible proposal to create jobs and give the economy a boost. Which Republican candidate can make the same claim? Perry, with his support for a balanced-budget amendment? Mitt Romney, with his fifty-nine-point plan to slash federal spending, make a bonfire of federal regulations, and impose trade sanctions on China? Herman Cain, with his “9-9-9” plan? As far as the unemployed are concerned, the answer is clear.
A White House official says President Barack Obama will send Congress his new $447 billion jobs bill Monday and speak in the Rose Garden to call for swift passage.
Obama is also preparing to travel the country to build public support for the package he unveiled last week. He’ll visit Ohio Tuesday and North Carolina Wednesday to ask voters to pressure lawmakers to pass the bill.
The centerpiece of the plan is lower Social Security payroll taxes for individuals and businesses. There’s also new spending to hire teachers and rebuild schools, among other things.
Teachers, police officers, firefighters and others will join the president in the Rose Garden to call for passage, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s remarks.
In a decade of frenzied tax-cutting for the rich, the Republican Party just happened to lower tax rates for the poor, as well. Now several of the party’s most prominent presidential candidates and lawmakers want to correct that oversight and raise taxes on the poor and the working class, while protecting the rich, of course.
These Republican leaders, who think nothing of widening tax loopholes for corporations and multimillion-dollar estates, are offended by the idea that people making less than $40,000 might benefit from the progressive tax code. They are infuriated by the earned income tax credit (the pride of Ronald Reagan), which has become the biggest and most effective antipoverty program by giving working families thousands of dollars a year in tax refunds. They scoff at continuing President Obama’s payroll tax cut, which is tilted toward low- and middle-income workers and expires in December.
Until fairly recently, Republicans, at least, have been fairly consistent in their position that tax cuts should benefit everyone. Though the Bush tax cuts were primarily for the rich, they did lower rates for almost all taxpayers, providing a veneer of egalitarianism. Then the recession pushed down incomes severely, many below the minimum income tax level, and the stimulus act lowered that level further with new tax cuts. The number of families not paying income tax has risen from about 30 percent before the recession to about half, and, suddenly, Republicans have a new tool to stoke class resentment.
Representative Michele Bachmann noted recently that 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income tax; all of them, she said, should pay something because they benefit from parks, roads and national security. (Interesting that she acknowledged government has a purpose.) Gov. Rick Perry, in the announcement of his candidacy, said he was dismayed at the “injustice” that nearly half of Americans do not pay income tax. Jon Huntsman Jr., up to now the most reasonable in the Republican presidential field, said not enough Americans pay tax.
Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and several senators have made similar arguments, variations of the idea expressed earlier by Senator Dan Coats of Indiana that “everyone needs to have some skin in the game.”
This is factually wrong, economically wrong and morally wrong. First, the facts: a vast majority of Americans have skin in the tax game. Even if they earn too little to qualify for the income tax, they pay payroll taxes (which Republicans want to raise), gasoline excise taxes and state and local taxes. Only 14 percent of households pay neither income nor payroll taxes, according to the y Center at the Brookings Institution. The poorest fifth paid an average of 16.3 percentof income in taxes in 2010.
Economically, reducing the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit — which would be required if everyone paid income taxes — makes no sense at a time of high unemployment. The credits, which only go to working people, have always been a strong incentive to work, as even some conservative economists say, and have increased the labor force while reducing the welfare rolls.
The moral argument would have been obvious before this polarized year. Nearly 90 percent of the families that paid no income tax make less than $40,000, most much less. The real problem is that so many Americans are struggling on such a small income, not whether they pay taxes. The two tax credits lifted 7.2 million people out of poverty in 2009, including four million children. At a time when high-income households are paying their lowest share of federal taxes in decades, when corporations frequently avoid paying any tax, it is clear who should bear a larger burden and who should not.
[…] How much do we rely on California for fruits and veg? With its rich soils, variety of microclimates, long growing season, and huge geographical footprint, California should be a major ag producer—certainly a regional food-production hub for the western US. But its sheer dominance of U.S. fruit and veg production (numbers from the theCalifornia Department of Food and Agriculture (PDF)) is dizzying.
The state produces 99 percent of the artichokes grown in the U.S., 44 percent of asparagus , a fifth of cabbage, two-thirds of carrots, half of bell peppers, 89 percent of cauliflower, 94 percent of broccoli, and 95 percent of celery. Leafy greens? California’s got the market cornered: 90 percent of the leaf lettuce we consume, along with and 83 percent of Romaine lettuce and 83 percent of fresh spinach, come from the big state on the left side of the map. Cali also cranks a third of total fresh tomatoes consumed in the U.S.—and 95 percent of ones destined for cans and other processing purposes.
As for fruit, I get that 86 percent of lemons and a quarter of oranges come from there; its sunny climate makes it perfect for citrus, and lemons store relatively well. Ninety percent of avocados? Fine. But 84 percent of peaches, 88 percent of fresh strawberries, and 97 percent of fresh plums?
Come on. Surely the other 49 states can do better. And they will likely have to do better—California’s fruit-and-veg empire rests on a foundation of highly subsidized and increasingly scarce irrigation water. And that situation will only worsen as climate change makes droughts more prevalent in the western US, as this excellent Grist article by Matt Jenkins demonstrates. It makes sense to think of California’s bounty as a kind of bubble puffed up by a history of cheap and unsustainable irrigation-water access—a bubble that will sooner or later have to burst.
But as the explosive recent growth in farmers markets nationwideshows, people are increasingly looking for seasonal produce that emerges from their own food-sheds, not from California’s teetering industrial-vegetable complex.
The effort is even getting a boost from urban agriculture, especially in rust-belt cities where abandoned land is plentiful. According to a newstudy from Ohio State researchers, people in Cleveland are already spending a cool $1.5 million on fruits and vegetables grown within the city. I visited Cleveland in the summer of 2010, and what I saw was a beautiful city teaming with robust community gardens and even commercial farms.
According to the Ohio State study, if Cleveland’s citizens and government made a concerted effort to utilize its vast base of abandoned land for growing food, it could dramatically ramp up production—and not just of fruits and vegetables, but also meat, eggs, and honey:
The first scenario utilizes 80 percent of every vacant lot for growing produce and raising chickens, with beehives being kept on 15 percent of those unoccupied lots. This arrangement, the study found, can meet between 22 and 48 percent of Cleveland’s fresh produce demand, 25 percent of its poultry and shell egg needs, and 100 percent of the honey consumed in this city of almost 400,000 residents.
And if if just 9 percent of residential lawn property is brought under the roto-tiller, and some commercial-building roofs are devoted to agriculture, Cleveland could become nearly self-sufficient in fruit, vegetables, chicken meat, eggs, and honey, the study concludes. And in doing so, as much as $115 million in food expenditures would remain within Cleveland, building wealth inside the city instead of leaking out to shareholders in large grocery and fast-food chains.Detroit, which I also visited in summer in 2010, has a similar situation with regard to growing its own food.
Meanwhile, reports The New York Times, the depressed economy is inspiring a vegetable-gardening resurgence in rural and urban areas alike:
It is not just eastern Kentucky. Vegetable gardening has been on the rise across the country, according to Bruce Butterfield, research director at the National Gardening Association, driven by rising food prices and a growing contingent of health-conscious consumers. Garden-store retailers have reported increased sales over the past two years, he said, and many community gardens have waiting lists.
“Our sales have skyrocketed,” said George Ball, chief executive of Burpee, one of the largest vegetable-seed retailers. The jump, he said, began around the time Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, when anxiety about money started to rise.
I mention all of this to make the point that yes, we are way too dependent on California’s water-challenged agriculture; but moving away from it need not mean scarcity and poor diets.
Although a special prosecutor decided not to bring criminal charges in the June 13 altercation between two state Supreme Court justices, a disciplinary panel continues to investigate.
But even if the Wisconsin Judicial Commission recommends discipline in the case involving Justices David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley, the members of the court may have a conflict of interest that could prevent them from deciding the matter, experts in judicial ethics say.
The state’s Code of Judicial Conduct specifically prohibits judges from presiding over cases in which they are witnesses in the matter under dispute. Six of the seven justices were present when the argument erupted just outside Bradley’s office, culminating in Prosser putting his hands on Bradley’s neck. Justice Patrick Crooks was the only justice absent.
Cindy Gray, director of the Center for Judicial Ethics, said she can’t foresee any scenario in which members of the high court could preside over a disciplinary case arising from the altercation. Even Crooks could need to step aside since he is privy to information about the incident that may not be introduced in court, Gray said.
“None of them can sit,” she said.
But other experts said members of the court could decide to stay on any matter stemming from the commission’s investigation, since they are the only ones under the state constitution who can discipline judges. Discipline can range from public reprimand to suspension to removal from the bench.
“There is an ancient doctrine called the ‘rule of necessity,’ which provides that you need judges to decide cases and … it would be worse to have no one there to decide the case than to have otherwise disqualified judges do the deciding,” Indiana University Law Professor Charles Geyh said.
Some states have mechanisms allowing or requiring judges outside of their highest courts to determine discipline for members on those courts, but Wisconsin does not. Marquette University Law Professor Chad Oldfather said the justices conceivably could create a temporary “alternate supreme court” to hear any disciplinary case.
“This happened a decade or so ago in Minnesota,” Oldfather said. “The supreme court there had a case in which one of the parties was a close relative of the chief justice. All the members of the court recused themselves, and the case was heard by a court made up entirely of former justices.”
Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has another solution: Allow the court to appoint judges at random to fill in for Supreme Court justices who disqualify themselves from cases. That proposal is on the agenda for discussion at the court’s administrative conference on Thursday.
The court has encountered similar problems of justices sitting in judgment of their colleagues. Two justices — Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman — have faced discipline in the past four years, adding tension to an already fractious court.
Ziegler was reprimanded after she acknowledged having a conflict of interest when she sat on cases involving West Bend Savings Bank because her husband served on the bank’s board of directors. Gableman avoided discipline after his colleagues deadlocked 3-3 along ideological lines on whether an ad he ran against Justice Louis Butler violated the prohibition against judicial candidates making false statements about their opponents’ records.
“To have the Supreme Court be the final arbiter in these types of judicial misconduct cases (involving Supreme Court justices) is problematic in the extreme,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which filed the complaint against Ziegler.
In that case, McCabe said he believes the process worked — up to the point of deciding what discipline to impose. “They went with the weakest possible option — reprimand,” he said. “I believe that a minimum suspension was in order.”
Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, which filed the complaint against Gableman, said it’s time to change how justices are disciplined.
“I think it’s becoming very clear the very divided and contentious court can’t police itself at all,” Kraig said. “There needs to be an independent mechanism, I think, that is seen as impartial and not controlled by the justices.”
Wisconsin Judicial Commission Executive Director James Alexander said the commission will continue its probe and fulfill its duty under the law to investigate judicial misconduct, even though it’s possible any recommendation for discipline would be dead on arrival at the Supreme Court.
“The commission has no authority to solve that problem,” Alexander said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
If sanctions are recommended, Geyh said, the best scenario would be for the justice or justices to agree to them. The other options aren’t pretty, he said.
“If they do nothing, they look bad,” Geyh said. “If they do something that’s clearly divided, they look bad.”
Morality drives policy. Too often, progressives have tried it the other way around, then looked on in dismay as conservatives led with their moral view and won one policy fight after another, even when polling showed most Americans disagreed with conservative policies!
On Thursday night, President Obama didn’t make this mistake. Instead, he spoke to our better angels, confidently, forcefully and inclusively. He seized the moral authority with his grammar and demeanor: “Pass this jobs bill” is an imperative sentence; it attributes authority to the speaker. The repetition is a reminder of moral authority.
The speech was remarkable in many ways. It was plainspoken, Trumanesque. It focused on the progressive moral worldview that has from the beginning been the life force of American democracy. In virtually every sentence, it was a call for cooperative joint action for the benefit of all.
Let’s look at the way Obama articulated the progressive moral worldview that recognizes both personal and social responsibility. He said:
Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world.But there has always been another thread running throughout our history — a belief that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation…
Ask yourselves — where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?
No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. Members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.
Here’s what we said in a piece back in July:
Democracy, in the American tradition, has been defined by a simple morality: We Americans care about our fellow citizens, we act on that care and build trust, and we do our best not just for ourselves, our families, and our friends and neighbors, but for our country, for each other, for people we have never seen and never will see.
American Democracy has, over our history, called upon citizens to share an equal responsibility to work together to secure a safe and prosperous future for their families and nation. This is the central work of our democracy and it is a public enterprise. This, the American Dream, is the dream of a functioning democracy.
That is the progressive moral view Obama used to such great effect Thursday night. However important particular policy prescriptions may be, they do not automatically evoke this moral view. No listener moves from Obama’s talk of extending the social security tax holiday to the heartfelt understanding that we are responsible for one another.
Obama showed us he understood that policy flows from morality. That is why he articulated the morality behind his recommendations at the climactic moment of his speech. From this morality, he said, all else follows.
There are other things to note in the speech. One of those was his choice to say, “You should pass this jobs plan right away.” The unusual imperative formulation is “right away.” Typically, a politician would structure the imperative around the words “now” or “immediately.” Such language, however, wouldn’t fit the morality Obama hoped to embody Wednesday night.
“Do it now,” is strict parent or authoritarian language. It is, “Do what I say.” There’s no less urgency in “right away,” but there is a sense of “join us on this righteous path.” The reason is that “away” is a spatial word that traces a path from where we are in a forward direction, a path of action toward the achievement of an accepted goal. It is inclusive and welcoming, while also indicating the urgency of the request. By using “right away,” Obama skillfully communicated that we all in this together.
The president also explicitly rejected the conservative moral view of personal responsibility without social responsibility: the idea that no one should have to pay for anyone else, that paying for a government that helps fellow citizens who require help is immoral.
But what we can’t do — what I won’t do — is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe we can win that race.In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own — that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.
If you look at policies alone, policies that have been proposed by both Democrats and Republicans, you miss the main event. The very idea of working together for the good of fellow citizens in need of help is a progressive idea; it is the idea behind the view of democracy that has sustained America from its beginning.
Conservatives are not going to like cooperating on Obama’s jobs plan. The very idea contradicts much of what they believe.
Meanwhile, the president put them in a bind. If they co-operate in helping their fellow citizens, they violate their code of personal responsibility without social responsibility. If they don’t co-operate, they look callous and irresponsible.
After we honor the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we need to leave the day behind. As a nation we have looked back for too long. We learned lessons from the attacks, but so many of them were wrong. The last decade was a detour that left our nation weaker, more divided and less certain of itself.
Reflections on the meaning of the horror and the years that followed are inevitably inflected by our own political or philosophical leanings. It’s a critique that no doubt applies to my thoughts as well. We see what we choose to see and use the event as we want to use it.
This does nothing to honor those who died and those who sacrificed to prevent even more suffering. In the future, the anniversary will best be reserved as a simple day of remembrance in which all of us humbly offer our respect for the anguish and the heroism of those individuals and their families.
But if we continue to place 9/11 at the center of our national consciousness, we will keep making the same mistakes. Our nation’s future depended on far more than the outcome of a vaguely defined “war on terrorism,” and it still does. Al-Qaeda is a dangerous enemy. But our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies.
We asked for great sacrifice over the past decade from the very small portion of our population who wear the country’s uniform, particularly the men and women of the Army and the Marine Corps. We should honor them, too. And, yes, we should pay tribute to those in the intelligence services, the FBI and our police forces who have done such painstaking work to thwart another attack.
It was often said that terrorism could not be dealt with through “police work,” as if the difficult and unheralded labor involved was not grand or bold enough to satisfy our longing for clarity in what was largely a struggle in the shadows.
Forgive me, but I find it hard to forget former president George W. Bush’s 2004 response to Sen. John Kerry’s comment that “the war on terror is less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement operation.”
Bush retorted: “I disagree — strongly disagree. . . . After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got.” What The Washington Post called “an era of endless war” is what we got, too.
Bush, of course, understood the importance of “intelligence gathering” and “law enforcement.” His administration presided over a great deal of both, and his supporters spoke, with justice, of his success in staving off further acts of terror. Yet he could not resist the temptation to turn on Kerry’s statement of the obvious. Thus was an event that initially united the nation used, over and over, to aggravate our political disharmony. This is also why we must put it behind us.
In the flood of anniversary commentary, notice how often the term “the lost decade” has been invoked. We know now, as we should have known all along, that American strength always depends first on our strength at home — on a vibrant, innovative and sensibly regulated economy, on levelheaded fiscal policies, on the ability of our citizens to find useful work, on the justice of our social arrangements.
This is not “isolationism.” It is a common sense that was pushed aside by the talk of “glory” and “honor,” by utopian schemes to transform the world by abruptly reordering the Middle East — and by our fears. While we worried that we would be destroyed by terrorists, we ignored the larger danger of weakening ourselves by forgetting what made us great.
We have no alternative from now on but to look forward and not back. This does not dishonor the fallen heroes, and Lincoln explained why at Gettysburg. “We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground,” he said. “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” The best we could do, Lincoln declared, was to commit ourselves to “a new birth of freedom.” This is still our calling.
Dan Balz, Washington Post:
[…] It was given credit for the Republican takeover of the House in November and for the gains the party made in other races in the midterms. There is truth in that, particularly in the movement’s success in nationalizing the election.
But evidence of the tea party’s ability to sway individual House races is far more questionable. A tea party endorsement appears to have had no special impact on a candidate’s success in 2010. (In some high-profile Senate races, tea party support probably cost the Republicans victories.)
Those conclusions are drawn from the work of a number of scholars whose findings were presented at the American Political Science Association’s recent annual conference in Seattle. The papers illuminate a debate about the significance of the tea party’s place in today’s politics while providing a clearer picture of its followers and what they believe.
That the tea party sprang to life during Obama’s presidency should have been less surprising than it was. According to Alan Abramowitz of Emory University, “The tea party movement can best be understood in the context of the long-term growth of partisan-ideological polarization within the American electorate and especially the growing conservatism of the activist base in the Republican Party.”
Over the past three decades, the size of the base within the party has grown significantly. At the same time, those activists were becoming more and more conservative in their views — and more and more hostile in their evaluations of the opposing party. When these activists were asked to rate Democratic presidential candidates on a thermometer scale of 1 to 100, the average fell “from a lukewarm 42 degrees in the late 1960s to a very chilly 26 degrees in the 2000s,” Abramowitz said.
In other words, the Republican base was primed to dislike Obama as president. In fact, it already did before he was ever sworn in. “People attending the tea party events that began early in the Obama administration expressed the same vehement hostility toward Obama first observed at campaign rallies for John McCain and Sarah Palin” in the fall of 2008, writes Gary Jacobson of the University of California at San Diego.
They were also predisposed to oppose his agenda, whether it was his big stimulus package or his health-care proposal. Those measures helped galvanize the group that became known as tea party activists or supporters, but as Jacobson notes, “The tea party movement conferred a label and something of a self-conscious identity to a pre-existing Republican faction that already held strongly conservative views on both economic and social issues.” […]
Both Abramowitz and Jacobson drill down into survey research to analyze the demographic and ideological makeup of those Americans who call themselves tea party supporters. That group constitutes about a fifth of the adult population, although active participants in tea party rallies are a much smaller fraction of the population than movement sympathizers. (Abramowitz estimates it at no more than 5 percent of the adult population.)
New York’s 9th Congressional District isn’t the likeliest place for a national political referendum.
Vice President Al Gore won it with 67 percent of the vote in 2000, and Barack Obama carried it by 11 percentage points eight years later. It has been held by a string of high-profile Democrats — including Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) — for decades.
And yet, the special election set for Tuesday in the Brooklyn and Queens areas between state Assemblyman David Weprin (D) and businessman Bob Turner (R) — a race occasioned by the scandal and subsequent resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) — is surprisingly close, the result, many observers suggest, of the toxic national political environment and Obama’s low poll ratings.
“Obama wins no popularity contests here,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic consultant in New York.
In a Siena College poll released late last week, Turner held a six-point edge over Weprin. Obama’s approval rating stood at 43 percent, with 54 percent disapproving.
“Certainly Obama job approval in the 40s as opposed to 50s depresses the Democratic base,” said one Democratic consultant who is monitoring the race, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the election frankly. “And in a small-turnout electorate, this has consequences.”
Republicans — and even some Democrats — are painting the race as an Obama referendum. Ed Koch, a Democratic former mayor of New York, endorsed Turner and likened the impact of his possible victory to that of Republican Scott Brown in 2010 in the special Senate election in Massachusetts. A vote for Turner, Koch said, would “register a protest against the positions of President Obama and the Republican leadership on a number of key issues.”
Even Weprin has been loath to embrace Obama.
“I will probably not refuse to endorse him, because I think I will be more effective by supporting him, but at the same time being very strongly against him on some of his policies,” he told the Jewish Press recently.
Putting all of the blame on the president, however, tells only half (or less) of the story, because the Democrats’ situation wasn’t caused by any one factor.
Although the district is Democratic territory, it is trending toward Republicans. It has a large Orthodox Jewish population that is not thrilled with Obama’s positioning on Israel, as well as large pockets of conservative Catholic voters. (It was the site of the single largest point swing between the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections; after Gore won 67 percent in 2000, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts took 56 percent in 2004.)
And Weprin is something (well) short of a star candidate, a sort of last-man-standing pick after many preferred candidates took a pass. New York’s congressional delegation is shrinking by two seats because of slower population growth than the national average over the past decade, and many Empire State political observers expect this district to be eliminated in short order.
Weprin, then, was perhaps the only man who wanted the job. But his lack of campaign skills — he guessed that the national debt was $4 trillion (it’s $14 trillion) and oddly dropped out of a debate at the last minute, citing Hurricane Irene — has created a gaffe-prone image that has further complicated Democrats’ efforts in the district. That he can be linked to the unpopular state capital of Albany — and that he voted in favor of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legislation that legalized same-sex marriage in the state — only compounds the problem.
“It was a perfect storm of horrible,” said one Democratic operative who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly sum upthe situation.
National Democrats, sensing the momentum hit the party could take if Weprin loses, have rode to the rescue in recent days — spending nearly $500,000 on television ads designed to turn the tide.
But there is genuine skepticism that the race can be saved, and an acknowledgment that a loss would create an even more complicated political environment through which Obama — and his newly announced jobs plan — would have to navigate.
Losing a seat such as this one — despite all of the reasons for such a defeat, outlined above — probably would have a chilling effect on the willingness of Democrats running in vulnerable districts and states to support any aspects of the president’s agenda between now and 2012. And that’s the last thing an embattled White House seeking political allies needs right now.
Is the program that Barack Obama introduced last night popular? Actually, that’s probably the wrong question to ask. What really matters is what will get passed, and whether it will work.
Nate Silver has an excellent examination of the polling relevant to Obama’s jobs bill , and it’s definitely worth a look (see too Suzy Khimm’sanalysis) . Short answer: the details probably poll better than the overall bill, but question wording will be even more important than usual. And that’s interesting, and probably will be somewhat predictive for how things play out in public opinion over the next few weeks. The mistake, in my view, would be to try to unpack all of that in an attempt to figure out what people “really” think about the jobs bill. That’s because what the contradictory and confused polling is really telling us that people don’t really have strong opinions of what particular program would be a good idea. That’s not surprising; most of us aren’t economists. Most of us don’t really have any firm idea of what would work. So, instead, we wind up having a mixed-up set of things that we’ve heard that seem to make sense, combined with the slogans that we’ve heard from opinion leaders we like and trust. That, by the way, is why Greg Sargent’s deficit feedback loop can work; if politicians say that deficits are a problem, supporters of those politicians will tend to say that they agree. But all of these sorts of preferences are only on the surface, which is why question wording makes all the difference.
What’s real, and therefore almost impossible for politicians to manipulate, is the underlying preference for economic growth – and with it, jobs. We know that’s real because the election models based in large part on economic growth work really well.
So leaving aside what Republicans will do – that’s a whole different set of incentives — what politicians who are inclined to support the president but are unsure of the political risks involved should think about isn’t how the bill polls. They should think about how they believe the president’s program will actually affect the economy. This is very much a case where if the policy works, the politics will follow.
It’s too soon to say for sure, but a recent poll gives us some clues. The Washington Post, together with the Pew Research Center, conducted a poll last weekend looking at Americans’ views on the major job-creating proposals on the table. Infrastructure spending was the most popular idea overall. But business tax cuts, budget cuts and income tax cuts weren’t too far behind:
All of these ideas were in Obama’s jobs plan in some form or another, which could give his “all of the above” approach some popular traction. That being said, the partisan differences were predictably stark: Far more Republicans favored budget cuts and business tax breaks, while Democrats were heavily in favor of infrastructure. Interestingly, infrastructure spending was also the most popular option for job creation among independent voters, 34 percent of whom thought it would help job creation “a lot.”
[…] In particular, respondents felt this was especially true of the U.S. mission in Iraq. Two out of three Americans perceive that over the decade since 9/11, U.S. power and influence in the world has declined. This view is highly correlated with the belief that the U.S. overspent in its post-9/11 response efforts — the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since 9/11, American views of Islam have grown more negative. However, views of Arab and Muslim people are moderately warm, and majorities continue to feel that the attacks of 9/11 do not represent mainstream thinking within Islam and that it is possible to find common ground between Islam and the West.
When asked what they think of the Obama administration’s plan to strengthen the Afghan army while reducing U.S. forces and attempting negotiations with the Taliban, 69% say they approve.
These are some of the findings of a new poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. The polling project was directed by Steven Kull, Director of PIPA, and Shibley Telhami, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and the Anwar Sadat Professor at the University of Maryland.
[…] “There is a concerted assault on everything that we consider sacred — and we pastors need to move to the forefront of the battle,” said Demastus, wearing a T-shirt and shorts for the Saturday event.
Demastus is part of a growing movement of evangelical pastors who are jumping into the electoral fray as never before, preaching political engagement from the pulpit as they mobilize for the 2012 election.
This new activism has substantial muscle behind it: a cadre of experienced Christian organizers and some of the conservative movement’s most generous donors, who are setting up technologically sophisticated operations to reach pastors and their congregations in battleground states.
The passion for politics stems from a collision of historic forces, including heightened local organizing around the issues of abortion and gay marriage and a view of the country’s debt as a moral crisis that violates biblical instruction. Another major factor: Both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Bachmann, contenders for the GOP nomination, are openly appealing to evangelical Christian voters as they blast President Obama’s leadership.
Both Republican and Democratic strategists say that pastors have already helped unleash an army of voters to shape the GOP primary contests in Iowa and South Carolina, two states with large numbers of conservative Christians. They are making plans to do the same in states that are even more important to next year’s general election. Those include Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Virginia and Colorado, where evangelical voters make up about a quarter of the electorate and their participation could greatly aid Republicans.
“The Christian activist right is the largest, best-organized and, I believe, the most powerful force in American politics today,” said Rob Stein, a Democratic strategist who recently provided briefings on the constituency to wealthy donors on the left. “No other political group comes even close.”
“This is the congregational version of the ‘tea party,'” says Richard Land, president of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Pastors who in the past would dodge my calls are calling me saying, ‘How can we be involved?’ “
Actually, it is the Tea Party.It’s just the same old reactionaries doing yet another “re-branding” to collect votes and make the media pull its trusty Real America narrative off the shelf. But they are getting much more sophisticated about it:
The pastor movement is being guided and ministered to by a growing web of well-financed organizations that offer seminars, online tools and a battery of lawyers.
Tim Wildmon, who runs the American Family Assn., one of the most generous underwriters of Christian conservative activism, predicted that evangelicals in 2012 will match the fervency of theRonald Reagan era — in large part because so many pastors are prodding their flocks to the polls.
“They’re going to be telling their parishioners to get registered and to make sure to go vote,” he said. “I think it’s huge.”
Boosting the movement are veteran figures such as Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. His new organization, Faith & Freedom Coalition, is developing a list of Christian voters in key states, a tool it used to reach thousands of voters in Wisconsin’s recent recall elections.
New players are even more ambitious. United in Purpose, financed by an anonymous group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, aims to register 5 million conservative Christians to vote. The organization boasts a sophisticated database that identifies millions of unregistered evangelical and born-again Christian voters around the country. […]
“There is a fire in my bones to do this,” Demastus said, citing the passion of a Revolutionary War pastor who dropped his ministerial robes before his congregation to reveal the uniform of the Continental Army.
The story of the Rev. Peter Muhlenberg telling his flock “there is a time to pray and a time to fight” was repeated across Iowa this summer, as pastors signed up worshipers to become “prayer warriors” and, they said, help take the country back to its Christian roots. […]
The most prominent — the Alliance Defense Fund, a group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that spent $32 million in fiscal year 2010 — is challenging a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits pastors, as leaders of tax-exempt organizations, from supporting or opposing candidates from the pulpit. The group sponsors Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which it offers free legal representation to churches whose pastors preach about political candidates and are then audited by the Internal Revenue Service. (So far, no IRS investigations have been triggered.)
Last fall, 100 churches participated — up from 33 in 2008. This year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday, scheduled for Oct. 2, is expected to draw more than 500 churches.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
[…] “From then on, it seemed there was no waking or sleeping,” Mrs. Kennedy recalls in an oral history scheduled to be released Wednesday, 47 years after the interviews were conducted. When she learned that the Soviets were installing missiles in Cuba aimed at American cities, she begged her husband not to send her away. “If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you,” she says she told him in October 1962. “I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too — than live without you.”
It’s incredible how the wide range of life situations, feelings and emotions can be expressed and conveyed by simple nails. Power of art add Genius of creator, making up the nail art from Vlad Artazov. Let’s begin to listen to the story those nails try to tell us.
Call Congress now. Pass the jobs bill. (202) 224-3121
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Projections change the world into the replica of one’s unknown face” ~Carl Jung