Wednesday, March 11, 2009

So Far, So O.K.-to-Great

The Boston Globe has a useful slide show here depicting the Obama Administration's aggressive movement away from Bush policies. Each photo in the slide show includes a caption briefly describing the policy change along with links to relevant articles in the Globe and the New York Times. If nothing else, the account is illustrative of how badly Bush mangled the democratic process. Now, 
  1. Executive officials must consult with Attorney General Eric Holder before relying on Bush signing statements to overturn laws passed by Congress
  2. Restrictions on the federal funding of stem cell research using human embryos have been removed
  3. The practice of awarding no-bid and open-ended contracts has been ended
  4. Federal agencies must once again consult with outside experts before initiating projects that could affect endangered species
  5. The Interior Department has halted Bush Administration plans  for offshore oil drilling and drilling in Utah
  6. Obama reauthorized the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a bill Bush vetoed twice
  7. States may set more restrictive auto emissions rules than the federal government
  8. International groups the perform abortions or provide information about them may now receive federal funds
  9. Presidents may no longer seal records in perpetuity
  10. The Guantanamo Bay Detention Center will be closed by the end of the year
  11. New Freedom of Information Act guidelines provide more and easier public access to government documents...
Of course, none of these relate to the economy, which is the question on just about everyone's mind. Paul Krugman writes in Rolling Stone that under normal circumstances, Obama's initial steps would grade out well. The problem is that we are by no means experiencing normal times. Krugman believes that Obama's moves to alleviate the mortgage crisis are both correct and -- in the scheme of things -- unlikely to have significant impact on the economy. As for the stimulus legislation, it may well alleviate the pain of an economy that will remain crisis, but it is too small and too weighted toward tax cuts to completely forestall the current decline, a decline that Krugman foresees lasting a decade if more isn't done. 

Finally, in terms of the banking crisis, Krugman sees Obama caught in an unnecessary and self-made dilemma. A direct bailout wherein the government buys up bad assets and sends the banks on their merry way is a political impossibility (as it should be), and yet Obama remains hesitant to move to a temporary nationalization of failing banks despite signs. Even so, Krugman sees promise in the stress tests that the Treasury Department plans to apply, and points out that temporary nationalization is the standard operating procedure when it comes to small banks failing.

Despite his misgivings, Krugman remains optimistic about the new president. He points out that Obama and the team he has assembled are nothing if not intellectually flexible, a trait not only absent but frowned up by the Bush Administration. Krugman believes that said flexibility will drive the Administration to take the policy initiatives needed to reverse the economy's decline. It's also the case that Obama has given Republicans a chance to come on board and they gave him the back of their hand. With the almost certain seating of Al Franken to the Senate, Obama will need one less Republican to support his legislative proposals.

Uncharacteristically, Krugman neglects to address the impact of the end of the Iraq war and Obama's plans to reduce the cost of health care. While the cost savings of end of the occupation in Iraq will be partially offset by an increased American presence in Afghanistan (the subject of another post),  I haven't read anywhere that this will burden the economy to the extent of the Iraq War. Similarly, Obama is quite right when he asserts that we can't revive the economy without addressing the drag of health care costs. Overall, though, Krugman's essay is well worth reading, and I recommend it highly...

Former religious right mover-and-shaker Frank Schaeffer writes an open letter to the Republican party:
Just imagine where America would be today if the 14 to 20 million voters -- "the rube base" who slavishly follow the likes of Limbaugh -- had not voted as a block year after year thus empowering the Republican fiasco. We would have a regulated banking industry and would have avoided our current financial crisis; some 4000 of our killed military men and women would be alive; over to 35,000 wounded Americans would be whole; we would have been leaders in the environmental movement; we would be in the middle of a green technology boom fueling a huge expansion of our economy and stopping our dependence on foreign oil, and our health-care system would be reformed.
(Thanks Ima!)...

Benjamin Button speaks out for New Orleans. Whatever you might think of celebrity charity efforts, Brad Pitt has put skin in the New Orleans game...

U2 announces their 360-degree tour. Don't miss the virtual tour of the stage...

John Bolton for President?!? John Bolton?!? Someone may have said this before me, but bring him on. (Him being the grumpy, myopic public face of a completely discredited foreign policy.) While I appreciate the civil tone of this post, it misses a critical point: For all of Bolton's so-called expertise, virtually any liberal debating him can disarm that so-called strength by pointing out that Bolton supported the invasion of Iraq. For a very small minority of voters, that may well be a good thing. But overall, it's radioactive. Just ask Hillary Clinton...

The first three selections of ESPN's NFL Mock Draft:
  1. Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB Georgia
  2. Rams: Jason Smith, OT Baylor
  3. Chiefs: Aaron Curry, LB Wake Forest
The Seahawks are up tomorrow. The fan sentiment locally leans toward Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree. There's also some belief that the 'Hawks like Virginia OT Eugene Monroe as an eventual replacement for Walter Jones (not that anyone can truly replace Big Walt). Personally, if Boston College DT B. J. Raji is as good as I read that he is, I hope they go that way. Right now, the interior defensive line is Brandon Mebane and some capable backups. Put a potential difference maker like Raji next to Mebane, add an injury-free Patrick Kearney at DE, and the suddenly have a formidable defensive line. Assuming Raji is actually available at #4, I don't see how they pass on what he brings with him and I hope that they don't.

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