Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stupid Is Alive In America

This is bad!
The Florida primary is drawing to a close.  Florida Republicans head to the polls today to vote their choice for President of the United States.  The candidates took to the stump to make their last best case to the voters. 
Mitt Romney chose to demagogue social security and Medicare; sounding more like the leftist of liberals than the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.  He followed that up with an off key version of America the beautiful.
Not to be outdone; Newt Gingrich decided that the last thing he wanted voters to think about when they entered the voting booth was that Romney, as Massachusetts Governor, prevented kosher foods from being served in nursing homes.
Ladies and gentlemen; we give you the Republican candidates for President of the United States.
Over the past ten days the Republican candidates and their super pacs have spent over $30 million dollars running ads in Florida.  92% of those ads have been negative attack ads focused on disemboweling their opponent.  Voters looking for substantive cures for their problems need look elsewhere.
This culture in the Republican Party that rewards negativity over substance found its origin in the 2010 elections; where the conservative base, led by the attack dogs of the Tea Party, swept Republicans into control of the House.  The vicious attacks proved successful back then and brought to the forefront a growing divide between the conservative base and the moderate establishment factions of the party.  That rift continues to widen to this day; and it threatens the party at its very core.
Mitt Romney represents the establishment moderates.  He has run a vacuous campaign focused on attacking his opponent rather than proffering ideas for the future.  Trying to determine where Romney stands on the issues is like trying to catch water in your hand.  Romney has no core beliefs.  His only conviction is that he wants to be president.
Newt Gingrich represents the conservative base.  He has very strong beliefs.  His asserts that the poor have no role models and that we need colonies on the moon.  He is angry that the establishment wants him to step aside and allow Romney the crown.  And so he will continue his fight all the way to the convention; because if he cannot win the nomination then Romney sure as hell won’t win it either.
And so Romney and Gingrich spend millions attacking each other while voters are left to fret about their future.          
The Republican Party is an absolute train wreck.  The divisiveness is devouring the party from within.  At a time when the voters are struggling, out of work and fearful of losing their homes; the party leaders are talking kosher food and singing patriotic hymns.
Stupid is alive in America.        

Monday, January 30, 2012

Congress To Close Insider Trading Loophole

According to Larry Margasak of the Associated Press; later this week the Senate will pass a bill “prohibiting members of Congress from using nonpublic information for their own personal benefit or “tipping” others to information on which they could trade.” This activity is more commonly referred to as “insider trading.”
The bill comes on the heels of a “60 Minutes” expose ‘that shed light on the fact that members of Congress have been legally trading on non-public information for decades.   Apparently this little known loophole has become quite a source of income for some of our elected leaders.  Speaker Boehner, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Spencer Bachus were prominently mentioned in the piece.  It’s no wonder that the Congressional approval rating is in the single digits and why 56% of those polled would like to replace all 535 members of Congress.
It would be nice to believe that our elected leaders would somehow police themselves out of a sense responsibility and fair play.  But that would be like letting the fox into the henhouse and expecting him to leave hungry.   
This story is just another example of the ever widening gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.”  It also confirms that the most feared words in Washington are:
“I’m from 60 minutes…and I’d like to speak with you.”

Follow The Money

Politics is all about money…period.  It doesn’t matter if a candidate has big ideas or if he or she is an empty suit.  If a candidate can raise the money, they can win. 
Does that sound jaded?  Perhaps!  But if you are still skeptical all you have to do is look at what is going on in the Florida Republican primary.
Mitt Romney leads Newt Gingrich by 15 points going into tomorrow’s primary vote.  He has built that lead by eviscerating Gingrich with $16 million dollars worth of vicious attack ads.  These ads are short on political substance but very long on nasty, inflammatory rhetoric.
Florida is more like a country than a state.  It has 10 major media markets separated by a vast geographic expanse.  Unlike Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina; you can’t drive around Florida to get your message across.  You win Florida by buying 30 second media ads.  That takes money; lots and lots of money. Romney will win Florida because he has the funds to unleash a tsunami of negative ads across those major media markets.  He could have used that media time to inspire the country.  He could have explained his vision for the future.  But Romney doesn’t have any big ideas and he is about as inspirational as an ashtray.  His own campaign staff said as much to the New York Times.  So coming off a South Carolina loss and facing a surging opponent; Romney did what he does best. He spent $16 million dollars attacking Gingrich, hoping to deflect further inspection of his own empty candidacy.
Make no mistake Gingrich is just as bad.  He has no vision other than going to the moon and promoting his own self interest.  Newt spent $4 million attacking Romney.  But when you are outspent 4-1 you generally lose.
So what happens next?
Newt is angry.  Romney’s negative campaign has embarrassed and infuriated the former Speaker.  If Newt can’t win the nomination he will do everything in his power to take Romney down with him.  Gingrich has vowed to continue the fight all the way to the convention.  If he can get to March; where his campaign rolls through a string of southern primaries that favor his candidacy, he may get his wish.  But that takes money.  The only way Newt makes it to March is through the continued financial support of an eccentric Las Vegas billionaire.
Romney is the frontrunner.  He doesn’t have any big ideas for the country.  He lacks a positive message.  His plan for the country is to get out of the way and let nature take its course.  We’ve seen this movie before; and it ends badly.
But Romney has the money.  And no matter how weak a candidate is; he who has the most money wins. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Who Is This Guy?

Who is this guy?  And what have you done with Mitt Romney?  That is the first thing that crossed our mind after watching last night’s debate.
Mitt Romney went on the offensive last night and displayed toughness and a tenacity that his supporters having been seeking for months.  Romney went after Newt Gingrich on several topics.  He took Newt’s best retorts in stride; and then went right back after him again.  For the first time, Romney appeared comfortable in his own skin proud of his success.  He seemed relaxed, yet eager to make his case. 
Gingrich was off his game.  He was obviously stunned by Romney’s aggressiveness.  His performance was weak and lethargic.  He would not even look Romney in the eye as Romney bored in.  Most telling was the incident when Newt brought up Romney’s investments in the hated Freddie and Fannie.  Romney calmly explained that his investments were handled by a blind trust so he did not know exactly where the investments were placed.  He then turned to Newt and asked Newt if he was aware that he had investments in Freddie and Fannie as well.  The surprised look on Newt’s face said that either he was unaware of his own investments in the housing monolith or that he had no inkling that Romney would bring it up.  Romney was thoroughly prepared while it seemed that Newt was just winging it.
The big winner of the night was Rick Santorum; who gave his strongest performance yet.  His lengthy and detailed explanation of Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan was strong; and it will cause Romney big problems against Obama should he win the nomination.
All in all, Gingrich had a bad week.  He started the week on a high note coming off a big win in South Carolina.  Infused with an additional $5 million in campaign donations; he planned to ride that positive wave to a huge victory in Florida.  Instead he performed badly in the two debates while listening to one prominent conservative after another trash his candidacy.  Ann Coulter, Elliot Abrams, Tom DeLay, Bob Dole and a host of other conservatives expressed their belief that a Gingrich nomination would doom the party in the general election.  Perhaps this onslaught had an effect on his debate performance.
Gingrich and Romney were in a dead heat going into this debate.  Romney was the clear winner. And South Carolina has taught us that debates do matter.  But Gingrich has enough cash to make a difference between now and next Tuesday’s vote.  And even if Gingrich loses he will still be right where he wants to be…the underdog pit bull, the media victim and the champion of all those wronged by the Washington/Manhattan elites.
The best news coming out of this debate…is that there isn’t another one until February 22nd.

We Blew It!

We blew it!
In a recent article commenting on the President’s State of the Union address, we cited a new CBSNEWS poll that said 91% of those polled approved of the policies outlined in the President’s speech.  That number is incorrect.
Inexplicably, in their analysis of the President’s 2012 remarks; CBSNEWS included polling data taken after his 2011 address.  The particular article on the polling data was among several stories reporting on the President’s 2012 speech.  It was clearly dated January 2011.  We missed it; as did the dozens national news outlets that we use to fact check data.  As of this date none of those other outlets have corrected their reporting.
It should be noted that several national and state polls have confirmed that the policies outlined in the President’s remarks received high approval ratings from a vast majority of those who responded.  The Christian Science Monitor conducted a poll in the key swing state of Ohio; a state which has felt the full brunt of the economic downturn.  79% of those polled approved of the President’s ideas; up from 39% in a poll taken prior to the speech.   Elizabeth Jacobs, a political analyst for the highly regarded and bi-partisan Brookings Institute confirmed that the policies outlined in the President’s SOTU address: “received high approval ratings across the political divide.”
We stand by all of the other reporting in our piece.
We pride ourselves in the fact that everything we report in this space has been thoroughly and obsessively fact checked for accuracy.  We continue to operate under the old adage that: “everyone is entitled to their own opinions; but not entitled their own facts.  The facts are the facts.
We blew it.  We apologize.  And we will work hard to make certain that it doesn’t happen again. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

they're 'gonna' need a bigger boat'

If you decide to tune in this evening, and subject yourself to another Republican primary debate; you will no doubt witness a continuation of the same vitriol and partisan pettiness that has permeated previous contests.  The President’s State of the Union address has provided the Republican candidates with red meat on which to feast.  Both Romney and Gingrich have already launched their attacks; and tonight will certainly provide a continuation of their “Obama is a big government, anti-free enterprise, socialist whose policies are destroying the country” mantra.  The problem with this message is that the American people, by ever increasing numbers, totally disagree.
In a CBSNEWS Poll taken immediately after the President’s SOTU address; 91% of those polled said they were in favor of the proposals the President laid out in his address.
In a NBCNEWS/Wall Street Journal Poll released today, the President received a 48% approval rating; marking the first time in seven months that he has not been upside down in the poll.  The same poll said that 45% of Americans approve of the way the President is handling the economy; up six points from December.  Given the state of the economy these numbers are extraordinary. 
We understand that these polls are just snap shots that can change in the blink of an eye.  But they tell us that in spite of the financial difficulties voters are facing, they like this guy and they approve of the direction he is taking the country. 
It is no coincidence that the rise in the President’s poll numbers coincides with the caustic clown show that has been on display in these debates.  While the President has been talking about creating jobs, education and infrastructure his Republican opponents have been either attacking his success or gutting each other with nonsense about lobbying for Freddie Mac, 15% tax rates and who among them is more like Reagan.  The contrast in seriousness and substance is startling; and the American people are watching. 
This campaign is just beginning.  The President’s SOTU address was just the first real salvo in what is certain to be a long and protracted war.  He enters the fight with a battleship full of money to sustain him.  He is armed with the knowledge that his policies are working and the American people generally like and support him.   Caustic quips and petty name calling may serve the Republicans well when moored within the safe harbor of the Republican primary. 
But when they enter the rough seas of the general election, they’re "gonna’ need a bigger boat.”                    

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

President's SOTU Marks Stark Contrast With Republicans

Every State of the Union address given during an election year is a campaign speech; and this one was no exception.  We’ll let others detail the specific ideas that the President has for the country.  What struck us about the speech was the tone; and the stark contrast he projected as compared to his Republican opponents.
He was positive: “Think about an America within our reach; a country that leads the world in educating its people; an America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high paying jobs; a future where we are in control of our own energy; and our security and prosperity aren’t tied to unstable parts of the world.  An economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.  We can do this.  I know we can because we have done it before.”
He was assertive; expressing his willingness to work with anyone in the chamber: “But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place. Let’s never forget.  Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and financial system that does the same.”
He spoke of equity and fairness.  Addressing his desire to reform the tax code he said: “Now, you can call this class warfare all you want.  But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes?  Most Americans would call that common sense.  We don’t begrudge financial success in this country.  We admire it”
This was a positive speech about the future possibilities that await us if we all work together.  It stands in stark contrast to the vitriol and negativity that we have witnessed throughout the Republican primaries.  Ironically, much of this speech, if delivered by a Republican President, would have received the same standing ovations that the Democrats gave Obama. But that is a whole different subject.
Historically, State of the Union addresses do not have much effect on the on our politics.  The days and weeks that immediately follow are far more important.  Having used this speech to officially kick off his re-election campaign, the President will use those immediate days and weeks to make his case to the American people. $3 million new private sector jobs, GM’s return as the number one auto manufacturer in the world and the elimination of Osama bin Laden are good places to start. 
If nothing else, the President accomplished one very important thing with his SOTU address.  He gave the people a very clear choice come November.        

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Its All About Education

We hear a lot of talk during these debates about restoring America’s rightful place in the world.  We hear about job creation, tax reform and deficit reduction as a means toward getting us back to the pinnacle that we so rightly deserve.  It’s as if by means of “American Exceptionalism” or by something inherent in our DNA that we are destined to greatness.  George W. Bush referred to it as our “divine right”.
This self serving sense of entitlement  misses the salient point that this country did not become what it is today by means of some inherent molecule or divine intervention.  We are who we are because we worked hard and fought for it every step of the way.  We are in decline right now because we stopped doing the things that made us great.  And if we want to reverse our present course the key is education.
We Americans are woefully lacking in our knowledge of the world in which we live.  And that lack of knowledge and interest has played a major role in our decline.  Our ignorance has fostered this na├»ve belief that we have all the answers.  We believe that every country in the world is somehow inferior; and that all of them strive to be just like us.  This way of thinking is wrong headed and it has led us to where we are today. 
We still look upon ourselves as the new frontier when in fact we are an old country.  Many of the countries that we compete with today were formed after WWII.  Most Americans are oblivious to the intricacies of the world and how it affects their daily lives.  It is not until a plane crashes into a building that we look up from our smart phone and wonder what went wrong.  Even the tragedy of 911 failed to shake most of us out of our insular views.
If America wants to be great again then we have to start with education.  We have to do a better job of introducing our children to the world.  It is no longer sufficient to focus their attention on US history.  We must open their eyes to world events and their minds to the possibilities that all those events bring to the table. 
The United States spends more per capita on education than any other country in the world and gets less in return for our investment.   According to the 2011 rankings published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; on a scale of 1-1,000 US children received scores of 487 in math, 500 in reading and 502 in science.  That places US children 14th out of 34 countries in reading skills, 17th in science and a below average 25th in math.  These are embarrassing numbers for a country that claims to be a world leader.  Yet many of elected our leaders want to cut our education budget as a deficit reduction measure.  We are raising kids that are unprepared to meet the challenges of today’s world.  We need to do more not less.  And we need to do it more effectively.    
We can talk about “American Exceptionalism” and “divine right” all we want.  But any effort to return this country to greatness must begin with the education of our children.  They will be the leaders of tomorrow.  They will cast the votes that determine the course the country will take.
We need to do a better job of preparing them.  And we need to do it now.
Perhaps we are a bit harsh in our analysis.  But as we listen to the superficial discussions about our politics and we watch as people formulate their opinions based solely on sound bites and nonsensical attack ads; we are horrified by the direction in which we are headed.  The lack of any thoughtful analysis by the public has led us into two unnecessary wars and an economic climate that threatens our very livelihood.  But even with the disastrous financial burden that the country is experiencing there seems to be a lack interest as to how we got there or how we claw our way out.  People are angry.  And anyone who can tap into that anger, no matter how flawed or shortsighted their solutions may be, has a pretty good chance of gaining power and influence. 
This is not a course that we can continue to follow if we want avoid our previous mistakes and restore our way of life.  But the only way to alter that course is through education.           


Snooze Fest In The Southern States

We tuned into last night’s Republican Presidential debate expecting to see a continuation of the raucous exchange that we saw last week in Charleston.  Instead we got a snooze fest more reminiscent of a poetry reading than a contest for the most powerful office in the world.  Moderator Brian Williams, request that those in attendance hold down their applause only added to the somberness in the room.
Mitt Romney, having witnessed firsthand the effectiveness of the Gingrich attacks in South Carolina; came out swinging.  Hoping to draw the bombastic Gingrich into a mistake; Romney pounded on the circumstances surrounding Newt’s time as Speaker and his financial relationship with Freddie Mac.  But Newt would have none of it.  Perhaps understanding Romney’s ploy, or intentionally wanting to appear “Presidential”; Newt deflected Romney’s barbs with little more than a tepid response.  It could also be that Newt was keeping his powder dry in anticipation of the Tuesday release of Romney’s tax returns and the President’s State of the Union address.  Whatever the reason, Gingrich held back; and Romney, realizing that Gingrich would not take the bait, backed off as well…hence the poetry reading analogy.
There was one moment that did get our attention.  It came when Rick Santorum gave a lengthy explanation of why we should use military force to take out Iran’s nuclear capabilities.  We found the senator’s hawkish obsession with initiating a war against Iran both reckless and frightening.
In the end this campaign is still all about stopping Mitt Romney.  And if Romney wants to hold off that charge he must find a way to make his case to Republican voters.  He must still convince them that he is the conservative who can defeat Barak Obama.  Last night he chose an attack strategy to make his point.  It didn’t work.  Post debate polls show Romney and Gingrich in a statistical tie with Newt still rising as support for Romney continues to decline.
The lead stories today will be the Romney tax returns and the President’s State of the Union address.  The Romney campaign announced they would release the candidate’s returns Tuesday, calculating that the media reaction would get lost in all the coverage of the President’s address.  They are wrong.  Romney’s returns show that the former Massachusetts governor made $41 million over the past two years while campaigning for President.  That comes to an average of $56,986 per day.  He paid just under 15% in taxes.  Thanks to the geniuses in the Romney campaign; this is the last picture Americans will have in their minds when the President delivers his remarks on income inequality in this country.
At the end of the debate it was pretty much same song different day.  Romney is rich; Gingrich is an influence peddler and they both use Super Pacs to deliver their message. 
And Romney has made himself the poster boy for income inequality in America.     

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Republican Campaign Just Got Very Interesting

Things just got very interesting in the Republican primary race.
CNN is reporting the Rick Perry will drop out of the race, today.  CNN also reports that the certification of the Iowa Caucus results has Santorum defeating Romney by 34 votes.  However several precincts are missing and the full results may never be known.
For the past several days staunch conservatives and right wing blogs have encouraged fringe candidates like Perry and Ron Paul to get out of the race so their supporters could coalesce behind one candidate to defeat Mitt Romney.  Their reasoning is that the large number of conservative candidates has fractured the right wing vote; paving the path for the moderate Romney to win the nomination.  The sooner the pack is winnowed down to a one on one with Romney the better. 
Romney has had a horrible week.  A host of flubs and unforced errors have severely damaged him in the polls.  Apparently, he has now lost the Iowa caucus.  Instead of being 2-0 in the primaries he is 1-1; with the win coming in his virtual home state.  He moves into the third contest hemorrhaging support.   Forty eight hours ago Romney was rolling.  With two primary wins and a huge lead in the South Carolina polls it looked like the nomination was his if he could maintain his lead through Saturday’s vote.  Now he has lost his momentum; and the competition is right on his heels.    
Santorum is emboldened by an apparent Iowa victory.  Gingrich has watched his numbers surge since his outstanding performance in the last debate.  Paul is inconsequential.  With Perry pulling out it appears that the conservative’s wishes are coming true.
Republican candidates will meet tonight for the 17th debate.  This one promises to be very, very interesting.      

Once Again Politics Trumps Progress

President Obama rejected plans for the Keystone pipeline Wednesday proving once again that politics trumps progress. 
The Keystone Pipeline project is a system designed to transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to multiple oil refineries in the United States.  The proposed route would take the pipeline through environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska.  Opponents site safety and environmental concerns.  Supporters of the project site an estimated 20,000 jobs and a means to lessen the dependence on Middle Eastern oil. 
The President wanted to put off his decision on the pipeline until 2013; conveniently after securing a second term.  But he was forced to make a decision by February 21st as part of a deal with Republicans to extend the payroll tax cut.  The project was set to move forward unless the President himself declared it was not in the national interest.  His decision generated an instantaneous backlash of criticism.
Newt Gingrich called the decision “stunningly stupid”.  Speaker Boehner accused the President of putting politics before job creation.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the President that he was disappointed in the decision; and later announced that Canada would shift to building the pipeline to its west coast where it could sell and ship oil to China and other Asian markets.
The President responded stating: “This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people.  I’m disappointed that Republicans in congress forced this decision.”
The President’s disingenuous statement is nothing more than partisan politics.  This project did not just fall from the sky last November when it became a political pawn in the payroll tax cut debate.  TransCanada Corporation proposed this project on February 9, 2005.  It was reviewed by the United States Commerce Committee on July 6, 2010.  How long does it take to conduct an economic and environmental study on a small piece of Nebraska real estate? 
The President did not want anything to do with this politically toxic issue until after he was securely seated in the White House for a second term.  He tried to put it off until 2013 “to allow for a thorough review of environmental and safety concerns.”  But the Republicans boxed him into a corner.  In the end the President played to his and chose political expediency over jobs.
When the President campaigned for the White House four years ago he promised to unite the country on controversial issues just like this.  He has had three years to pass a comprehensive energy plan that would include job creating projects just like this. 
He can attempt to shift blame to the Republicans all he wants; but this is on him.              

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Romney's Defining Moment

Every Presidential campaign has a defining moment.  For Ronald Reagan it was when he grabbed the microphone in Nashua and shouted: “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green.”  For John McCain it was during a speech, when despite the historic collapse of the country’s economy he said:  “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”  For Michael Dukakis it was when he participated in a campaign ad featuring him riding around in a tank.  History shows that each of these moments defined the candidate and led to the eventual outcome of the campaign.  We may have just witnessed Mitt Romney’s defining moment.
Mitt Romney was asked at what rate he paid his taxes.  He explained that because most of his income came from previous investments, his tax rate was around 15%.  But then he dismissively said: “I get speakers fees from time to time; but not very much.”
Romney’s revelation that he pays his taxes at the capital gains rate of 15% should not come as a surprise.  He has spent the last four or five years running for President; and the vast majority of his income is assumed to come from his past investments. If that is the case, then paying his taxes at the 15% capital gains rate is well within the law.  Naturally, his political opponents will make out of this what they will; but the law is the law.
The real defining moment was his dismissive reference toward the money he made from speaking engagements.  Reports say that last year Romney received $360,000 in speaking fees; an average of $41,000 per speech.  $360,000 may not be very much to a man who is worth a quarter of a billion dollars; but it is a lifetime of earnings to most Americans.  And in South Carolina, where unemployment is well over 10%; Romney made on average $8,000 more for one speech than the average South Carolina worker makes in one year.
Romney has bungled this tax issue from the start.  His refusal to release his returns and his awkward response when pressed on the issue during the last debate, cause one to wonder what he has to hide.  Add to this his disingenuous efforts to portray himself as just an ordinary guy and you get an image problem that is going to be hard for him to shake.
Romney is now the face of the “1%ers”.  He is the poster child for all the disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots” in our society. His off the cuff comment has allowed the public a rare peek behind the curtain.  What they saw was a man disconnected from the plight of the average American.
Will this be the defining moment of the Romney campaign?  Will it define him as a rich guy out of touch with the rest of the country?  You can bet the Obama campaign will do their best to make that point.     

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nothing To See Here!

The Republicans held another presidential debate last night.  For those of you scoring at home; it was debate #16.  If you were fortunate enough to have had something else to do, you didn’t miss much. 
The contenders focused their attention on frontrunner Mitt Romney in hopes of chipping away at his lead.  Barbs were traded, and the back and forth of gotcha comments made for entertaining television.  The talking heads replayed the juiciest quips while piously explaining to us simpletons what was said.  Thankfully, slow motion replay cameras were not used. 
In the end we learned that Romney has a thin skin; Perry has gained his footing and Ron Paul should refrain from answering any more questions about foreign policy.  What we didn’t learn was how each of these gentlemen proposes to fix the serious problems facing our country. 
Just once we would like to hear one of these guys stand up and tell us the truth instead of spinning some politically couched sound bite.  Just once we would like to hear one of these guys have the guts to say something like:
“If I was the CEO of Bain Capital looking at this country as a business; I would recommend taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws.  We are 15 trillion dollars in debt so we are borrowing most of what we spend.  One half of the country lives in poverty.  Our health care distribution system stinks yet we spend more per capita on health care than any other country in the world.  Our education system stinks.  It is failing our children.  Yet we spend more per capita on education than any other country in the world.  Our entitlement programs are mathematically unsustainable yet we do nothing to curb the cost.  We spend more on defense than all the other countries in the world combined.  Yet our way of life was forever altered by a handful of guys wielding box cutters.  We need to cut our expenses.  But simply slashing programs that help the poor and the middle class won’t get it done.  We need to raise revenues.  And that means eliminating the tax loopholes that favor the rich.  Everybody has to share in the rebuilding of this country.  Everybody!  As Harry Bosch once said: “Either everyone matters; or no one matters.”  If elected President, here is my specific plan to fix our problems and return this country to prosperity and growth.”
But we will never hear that honest, non-partisan language from any of these candidates.  Because in the world of politics, partisan sound bites, catchy quips and inflammatory attacks are money making tools.  And money buys elections.  Honesty buys you a ticket home.
So if you missed last night’s debate, never fear.  You can watch it all again in just seventy two hours  when Republicans gather again for debate #17.         

Monday, January 16, 2012

Promises, Promises Promises

 Lost in the Washington noise about job creation is the reality of how the system really works at the local level.  We stumbled upon a story that sheds light on the whole job creation process at the grassroots level; and it isn’t pretty.
The Cincinnati Enquirer recently published a story in which it examined the relationship between the job creating corporations and the state, local and city governments that curry them favor.  One of the responsibilities of state, local and city governments is to attract large corporations to their area.  They do this by offering millions of dollars in tax credits and grants.  They also commit millions in public funds to build roads sewers and other infrastructure to support offices and factories.  In exchange corporations promise to bring their facilities and create jobs in the local community.  These government tax credits are often based on the specific number of jobs promised.
The Enquirer discovered that out of 420 local projects that had reached the end of their incentive period in 2010; only 220 had actually created the number of jobs they had promised.  Of the 40 largest tax incentive deals over the past decade only 20 had created the number of jobs they had promised; yet the companies received millions in tax credits and grants.
Tata Consultancy Services, a software development firm based in Mumbai, India reported profits of $2 billion last year.  They promised Ohio officials that their new North American headquarters would bring 1,000 new technology jobs.  Ohio officials offered Tata $15 million in tax incentives over eight years, gave them $2.5 million to help purchase the local facility and another $1.7 million worth of training to help Tata hire people with the necessary technical skills.  Local county officials agreed to provide $1.8 million in infrastructure improvements to handle the expected influx of new workers.  Tata has created only 269 of the promised jobs and raked in over $600,000 in tax credits.
The Enquirer sited several other examples: Batavia Transmission Plant promised 75 jobs, created 0 and received $1,327,111 in tax incentives.  SUMCO promised 260 jobs, created 0 and collected $484,031 in tax incentives. Cincinnati Financial Corp. promised 505 jobs, created 78 and received $1,255,730 in tax credits.  Convergys promised 195 jobs, created 0 and received $330,613 in tax credits.  Ohio Casualty promised 201 jobs, created 0 and received $652,837 in tax credits.  The list goes on and on.
In Ohio and several other states, corporations have little financial risk in failing to meet the incentives.  Economic development officials say they are often reluctant to go after companies that haven’t met their targets for fear of alienating the company and fostering an anti business reputation.  The bar for compliance is low.  In Ohio, the state can only reclaim tax dollars in cases where the company has shut down their operations.  In Kentucky, a company is considered to be in compliance if it maintains 10 employees at the site.
The economic impact of these decisions ultimately works its way down to the tax payer.  While local officials funnel tens of millions to corporations they are forced to cut investment on education, social programs and other services.
This is a story that is occurring all across the country.  To be fair, many companies do fulfill their promises, create jobs and become an asset to the community.  But the number of corporations in non-compliance is shocking and the financial repercussions devastating.
So when Mitt Romney says; “corporations are people too” we have to wonder in what alternate universe he exits.  Because in our world when a person makes a promise and accepts millions of dollars as consideration for that promise; he faces serious consequences if he doesn’t keep his end of the bargain.
So if corporations are people too…
Kudos to the Cincinnati Enquirer for their work on this under reported story.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Let Tebow Be Tebow

Tim Tebow has become a cultural icon in our society.  You can’t go 24 hours without reading an article or watching a news story about his exploits.  His accomplishments have become legendary.  His is the quintessential American story; the underdog wins when all the experts predicted he would fail.
And then there is Tebow’s religion.  He wears his religion on his sleeve.  He sings hymns on the sideline, praises his god in interviews and thanks his god after every touchdown or win.  Tebow is known as much for his religious practices as he is for his football accomplishments.  Therein lays the controversy.  “He’s fun to watch…I’m rooting for him…I just wish he’d knock off all the religious stuff.”
 We applaud players who thump their chest after making the most routine play.  We pump our fists when a guy celebrates a tackle by making a slashing motion across his throat.  When a guy who has fathered six kids by six different women is injured; we mourn his loss to our team.  How many athletes out there do we cheer even though we know they have a history of drugs and violence?  Why then is this young man, who in days gone by we would want our daughters to marry, now the subject of such controversy and derision?  What is it about his religion that makes us so uncomfortable?
Perhaps we think he is a phony.  By all accounts that is not the case.  Apparently Tebow’s faith has always played an important role in his life both on and off the field.  The touchdown celebrations of faith that we see during NFL broadcasts are the same ones he was doing in high school.  As a college kid at the University of Florida he printed bible verses on his eye black.  (Bowing to complaints from viewers; the NCAA banned the display of any individual messages on a player’s person in what is now known as the “Tebow Rule”.)  He celebrated his Heisman Trophy win by preaching in prisons and performing missionary work both at home and abroad.  He continues these practices to this day.  If Tim Tebow “knocks off the religious stuff” he is no longer Tim Tebow.  This is who he is.  He displays his religious convictions openly and without apology.  It takes a lot of courage and strength of conviction to do that in today’s society. 
And maybe that is what makes us uncomfortable.   Maybe we wish we had that much courage, conviction and passion about anything to celebrate it openly for all the world to see.  Or perhaps we are just envious that he is comfortable in his own skin.  
Maybe someday Tebow will disappoint us.  Maybe we will find out that away from the cameras he lives some horrible secret life of deviant behavior.  We have certainly been disappointed before. 
But until that day comes let Tebow be Tebow.          

Thursday, January 12, 2012

GOP Disfunction Continues

If you step back, set ideology and partisan politics aside and take an honest view of the political landscape; one could easily come to the conclusion that we are witnessing the end of the Republican Party.
On January 17 Congress returns to take up the people’s business.  Republicans may control the House and Democrats the Senate; but make no mistake; in the eyes of the people Republicans control Congress.   Handed control of the House chamber in 2010, Republicans believed they had a mandate to block the efforts of a Democratic President.  But they misread the signs and fumbled the opportunity placed in their laps.  Their intransigent ideology and divisive rhetoric left a bad taste in the mouths of the voters.  When Congress adjourned for the holiday recess they had a 9% approval rating among the American people.  Paris Hilton, Hugo Chavez, Manuel Noriega and Communism ranked higher.  At the same time Republican enemy #1, Barak Obama, enjoyed the support of 49% of the citizens.  The American people are not happy with the way government is responding to their problems; and by any measure they blame the Republicans.
Now the election season starts.  Once again Republicans are handed an opportunity.  The weak economy has left the President vulnerable; and a strong candidate with the right message could win the White House, deliver the Senate and secure the House majority for the Republicans. 
But the best the Republicans have to offer will not enter the race.  Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Mile Pence and Haley Barbour; all credible candidates who could certainly go toe to toe with this President, declined to serve.  Perhaps they didn’t want to tackle an incumbent President with a 49% approval rating.  Perhaps they didn’t want to involve themselves in the Washington food fight. Whatever the reason, the best of the best said no leaving Republicans with a collection of flawed candidates to carry the torch.
And so the parade began. The party trotted out a gaggle of pretenders and offenders; some more interested in book deals than solving the nation’s problems.  Palin, Trump, Cain and Bachmann were all trumpeted by the Republican base; but none was ever a serious candidate for the office.  Tim Pawlenty got in but just as quickly got out.  Nobody cared.
So the race continues with Huntsman, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, Romney and Santorum. 
Paul is a Libertarian who consistently gets 20% of the vote and likes to throw bombs at the Republican establishment.  He will never win the nomination.  But with these new rules of proportional delegate assignment he will make a mess of the Republican convention.  Should he choose to run as a third party candidate any hope of seeing a Republican in the White House will be crushed.  
Santorum blew whatever momentum he had coming out of Iowa when he shouted down two underage girls at a town hall meeting.  Perry has money.  But his stumbling and bumbling remind voters of another Texas Republican whose name is never mentioned by the candidates. 
Gingrich is a time bomb.  Blessed with an infusion of $5 million dollars by a supportive Super Pac Gingrich squandered the financial windflaw.  Rather than use the funds to promote his ideas and attack the President; Gingrich chose to attack Romney’s use of the basic tenants of capitalism and free enterprise.
Jon Huntsman is trying desperately to gain traction in South Carolina.  But a recently released Public Policy Polling survey has him way down the list trailing Stephen Colbert by one percentage point:  5%-4%.   Public Policy Polling is a legitimate opinion poll.  Jon Huntsman is the former governor of Utah and the nation’s most recent Ambassador to China.  Stephen Colbert is a satirist on Comedy Central…and not listed on the South Carolina ballot.
That leaves Republicans with the current frontrunner and presumptive winner…Mitt Romney.  Romney will say anything to win.  He has changed his opinion so many times on so many issues that for all Republicans know he may be closer to Obama than…Obama.  Republicans hate him and have been trying to find someone…anyone…to replace him.  The only real difference between Romney and the rest of the field is Romney has money…lots and lots of money; and in today’s political theater money talks.
The Republican Party is an absolute train wreck.  Their congressional caucus is ruled by a small group of Tea Party radicals that would rather see the country suffer than compromise with the opposition.  Their candidates for the presidential nomination are all seriously flawed.  They have spent so much time vilifying each other that they have failed to lay out their vision for the country.  Sound bites and catchy phrases won’t get it done.
The Republican Party is crumbling before our very eyes.  The dysfunction of the Republicans in Congress is now spilling over into the campaign.  If Republicans don’t find a way to coalesce around a central message that resonates within a very weary nation they may be reaching the end of their usefulness. 
The voters will let them know if that time has come.   

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Romney Wins New Hampshire! GOP Makes History!

Yesterday was a historic day for the Republican Party.
Let’s start with the main headline.  Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary and became the first Republican non-incumbent candidate in history to win both Iowa and New Hampshire.  And unlike his narrow victory in Iowa; this time Romney won big.  He won among conservatives, evangelicals and moderates.  He won among those who placed fixing the economy as a priority and those who said electability was paramount.  He is well positioned to move into South Carolina and sew up the nomination with a victory. 
South Carolina will be a tough slog.  Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire where the economy is decent and unemployment is low, South Carolina voters live in a struggling economy with unemployment higher than the national average.  Romney will have to make the case that that he understands their plight and has the plan to fix their economic problems and create jobs.
Ron Paul came in second and Jon Huntsman a disappointing third.  (For those keeping track; we thought Huntsman would do better and we just finished eating our breakfast of crow.)  All of the candidates have pledged to remain in the race and challenge Romney in South Carolina.  As long as the Romney’s opposition is spread out among a host of also- ran’s his normal polling of 25% will probably be good enough to win the state.
The other historic event yesterday was when the former Republican Speaker of the House and the sitting Republican governor of the second largest state in the union went to extraordinary measures to criticize Romney by attacking some of the basic tenants of capitalism.  Both Speaker Newt Gingrich and Governor Rick Perry loudly criticized Romney’s work as CEO of Bain capital.  They painted him as a predator that took over companies, picked them clean for huge profits and walked away with millions as the companies filed for bankruptcy and the workers lost their jobs.  Perry referred to the process as “Vulture Capitalism”.  Gingrich cited an example wherein:  “Romney and Bain invested $30 million into a company but instead of taking out $60 million, which would have been a nice return; they took out $180 million and then stood by as the company went bankrupt and people lost their jobs.”  Newt Gingrich suddenly has a conscience about making money?  Who knew?Gingrich has already started to run $5 million in TV/radio radio ads in South Carolina attacking Romney’s tactics while running Bain Capital.
This attack on Romney is of historic proportions because here we have two conservative leaders running for president attacking another for implementing the basic tenants of capitalism.  Investors take risks and are entitled to be compensated for that risk.  You can argue that Romney’s tactics were excessive and perhaps even ruthless.  But that is a moral question.  As long as Bain was operating within the scope of the law they have the right to make as much money for their clients as they can.  Survival of the fittest!  At least that is what conservatives would typically argue in defending the free enterprise system.  Gingrich and Perry sound more like members of the Occupy Wall Street crowd.  Fueled by their tangible hatred for Romney, the other candidates have successfully formed a circular firing squad. 
Back in Washington President Obama and his chief campaign advisors: David Plouffe and David Axelrod will be watching as Newt’s $5 million dollar campaign research program plays out on TV.  No doubt they’ll be pressing the “Record” button on the remote.                 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Hampshire Is Up For Grabs

One of the more underreported stories in today’s New Hampshire primary is the role that Independents will play in deciding the winner.  Independents are allowed to vote in this primary and 40% of New Hampshire voters are registered as Independent.  And if you listen to the reports of informal canvassing of the man on the street one word keeps being repeated over and over again…undecided.
New Hampshire has a history of being very different from the rest of the electorate.  They take the right to vote very, very seriously.  They educate themselves about the candidates and the issues.  Name recognition doesn’t matter in New Hampshire; the candidate’s history, experience and position on the issues are what matters to New Hampshire voters.
Another thing about New Hampshire voters is that they are very unpredictable.  All you have to do is look back to the last Presidential election.  When New Hampshire primary voters went to the voting booths in 2008 Barak Obama held an 11-15 point lead in every poll.  When the votes were counted Hillary Clinton had pulled off a major upset that legitimized her candidacy and catapulted her into a long fierce battle with Obama.
Romney is the current frontrunner and is expected to win his virtual home state.  But Romney was polling at 41% less than a week ago and is now at 33%.  The battle for second is anybody’s call.  Huntsman is gaining momentum with most of his surge coming from those pesky Independents.  He appears poised to make a run at Romney in South Carolina.  But then again this is New Hampshire so who knows.
The voting in New Hampshire has already begun. 
Dixville Notch is a little town in northern New Hampshire just 20 miles from the Canadian border.  The town is famously known for being one of the first places to declare its results during presidential elections and the New Hampshire primary.  In a tradition that started in 1960 the town’s 9 residents (yes, 9) gather at the voting place to cast their ballots…and announce the results one minute later.  Since 1968 the town of Dixville Notch has correctly predicted the winner of the Republican nomination.  Not this year.  The votes have been cast and for the first time in history there is a tie.  Mitt Romney and Jon huntsman each received 2 votes with Paul and Gingrich each getting 1. The nine voters registered as 4 Independents, 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats.
Forget the polls…this race for the Republican nomination is wide open. 
If you don’t believe us just ask the folks from Dixville Notch.          

Monday, January 9, 2012

Huntsman Deserves Respect For His Service...Not Criticism

This past weekend’s debates were advertised as must see TV.  The pundits were all frothing over the anticipated attack that a seething Newt Gingrich would wage against Mitt Romney.  We are not sure what any of this has to do with being qualified to be President, but there it is.  At any rate we tuned in to see the show.
Saturday night’s ABC debate was a snooze fest.  There was very little said to or about Romney that had not been said before. 
Sunday morning’s Meet the Press debate provided some of the better lines.  Newt’s chastisement of Mitt for his false reasoning for deciding not to seek a second term as Massachusetts governor; Newt called it “pious baloney”; was pretty good.  And a couple of the other candidates who had shied away from attacking the presumptive front runner took some shots...or was that Saturday night.  In the end it was all “much ado about nothing. 
Rick Santorum failed to take advantage of his Iowa victory.  Shouting down 17 year old girls who can’t even vote because he didn’t like their question won’t help.  Jon Huntsman, who we have said for months gives Republicans the best chance to defeat the President, made some big strides and could place a distant second.  He is gaining in the polls. But Huntsman has lived in New Hampshire for weeks and has exhausted most of his funds.  So unless Jon Huntsman senior feels his son’s showing in New Hampshire warrants a $50 million dollar donation to sustain junior’s campaign; Huntsman’s days may be numbered.  In the end Romney will win New Hampshire by a comfortable margin and head to South Carolina with a real chance of securing the nomination very early in the campaign.
There was one moment during the debate that for us was perhaps the most poignant moment in the campaign.
Romney took a shot at Huntsman for serving as Obama’s ambassador to China.  Romney said it was inappropriate for the Republican nominee to be someone who said that the President demonstrated great leadership skills and who served as ambassador for a Democratic president.  Huntsman responded: “this country is divided, and it is divided because of attitudes like that.”
Governor Huntsman is correct.  If you try to express yourself as a solutions oriented individual, willing to listen to and consider both sides of an argument, you are attacked by the extremists on the left and the right.  It is this ideological food fight that has caused gridlock in this country and driven us to these depths.
Governor Huntsman was asked by the President of the United States to serve his country.  Governor Huntsman put his politics aside and served his country well.  He should be applauded for his efforts and thanked for his service; not vilified for political gain.