Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Real Campaign

Today Jack Kelly wants to tell us "Obama's Real Record". Kelly hits the standard points, how Obama had a huge majority in Congress, yet has been unable to reduce unemployment. What Obama did manage to shove do our throats, Obamacare, was promised to reduce premiums, yet it is raising them and increasing the deficit. There's slow growth in the economy, the national debt and Obama's foreign policy, including a war in Afghanistan that is almost lost.

I could respond to all of these points with complicated, detailed answers that take a lot of the blame off the President, but we all know them (we know, just to mention one, that Republicans in Congress have resisted Obama literally every step of the way). But I will concede there is a grain of truth in each of these charges, and we all know that as well. Democrats may be inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt (even as Republican opposition has hardened), but what about independents? Since those are the voters, especially in swing states, that both campaigns are concentrating on, both campaigns will make the race about their opponents. Both candidates are vulnerable in this area, and the race will be about who makes the most mistakes, and how serious the mistakes are. All for what it is worth.

Which one, Obama or Romney, would make the better President for the next four years? That is actually a reasonable but complicated question. I personally think it comes down to some issues on the periphery. I mean, I think Obama is trying to help the economy recover, but I think he is trying to keep Wall Street, the banks and the wealthy from suffering much at all. I believe Glenn Greenwald (now at the Guardian.UK) when he accuses Obama of all sorts of unconstitutional and unethical behavior (he has no kind words for Mitt Romney though either).

The thing is, as bad (in many ways) Obama is now, would Romney be an improvement? Romney might be no more successful than Obama in moving legislation through Congress, but his executive orders and directives to agencies would likely damage our recovery (in my opinion, backed by my study of economics). I see no reason to believe Romney would be more favorably inclined to whistle blowers either, for example.

So for me it comes down to Supreme Court nominees, as well as Federal judicial nominees. That and the possibility of persuading Obama to reverse himself on the Constitutional issues. Maybe those are weak reasons to vote for a candidate, but we live in the real world, where the necessities of politics make all candidates less than desirable.

Which reminds me, I need to say something about Bill Peduto versus Luke Ravenstahl soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Jakc Kelly today.

This is a copy of what I posted to the Post Gazette and also Facebook about Jack Kelly's column today.

You know, I will give Jack Kelly credit for acknowledging that there is a difference between the few Muslim extremists and the vast mass of the rest of Islam. Although Kelly had to get a dig in on Obama while making that point.

Short of a shooting war or some trade dispute that actually affects the price of 3D TV's, most Americans are content to judge foreign policy success based on their perception of things. By all rights Jimmy Carter was a fair success, for example, in advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East. And as far as Iran goes, Carter was cleaning up a mess started in the World War II when we (and the Soviets!) installed the Shah. The Iranian people knew who to blame for the years of the secret police and no democracy, and a few extremists reacted directly by seizing the embassy.

By contrast, exactly what did Ronald Reagan achieve in foreign policy. Yes, the Soviet Union collapsed (technically during George HW Bush's term), but that was really a matter of outspending the Soviets in the cold war for decades. Past that, Reagan blundered a bit in the Middle East, resulting in the deaths of nearly three hundred Americans and French. Lebanon suffered for years after. How exactly was Reagan a success.

Well Reagan could brag about illusions like no one else (morning in America?). Reagan said he was a success, so he was.

Jack Kelly wants to tell us he has given us information that the rest of the world knows, but most (other) Americans have been deceived about. And I am sure there is a core of PG readers who catch all the right wing conspiracy theories, who think Kelly is a great truth teller. But I suspect most Americans, while dismayed by the deaths in Libya, basically don't blame Obama for them. It was the crazy Muslims reacting to that crazy film.

Jack Kelly could be right about some or even all of what he is saying. But most Americans have already made up their minds about what is going on the Middle East, and are unlikely to want to change their minds based on Kelly's column.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Kelly invokes Saint Reagan

There are a couple of ways to discuss today's Jack Kelly column. Kelly has a long history of repeating inaccurate, incomplete and frequently wrong facts. But, without even accusing Kelly of outright lying we can look at his central premise.

In this column Jack Kelly compares the economies that Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan inherited, and how well their respective responses fared. So first, what kind of economies did both men inherit? Obama came into something that resembled the great depression. Banks were in danger of failing, the stock market was in danger of crashing, unemployment was shooting up, the GNP was crashing as well. It was an immediate crisis. By the way, I need to say that while the crisis started in the Bush administration, that administration had also reacted swiftly with hundreds of millions of dollars to stem the immediate effect. Although they deserve blame for allowing the crisis to occur, they also deserve praise for not simply allowing the economy to drop into depression before Obama came into office.

When Reagan came into office, the economy was in the grip of something that had been labelled stagfaltion. That was where unemployment was high, but also inflation was high. It was not a situation where there was a threat that unemployment would go higher, or that banks would fail. There was, as I recall, concern that inflation could continue to rise and no one was sure what would happen. But no one, *no one* thought we were no more than a month or two away from another great depression.

In terms of Obama's and Reagan's responses to their respective economic crises, first, many economists agree that Obama's stimulus was too small, and contained too many tax cuts that don't really have as big an impact as direct spending (Obama's tax cut disproportionately benefited the middle class and poor, but tax cuts they were). Obama introduced the thing to Congress with a lot of tax cuts I believe as an immediate olive branch to Republicans. Not one House Republican voted in a bipartisan way to save the economy. Only three Senate Republicans voted for the stimulus, and only after they had further gutted the package, ensuring it would be too small. Thus the recovery now is anemic.

By contrast, Reagan's recovery was, as Kelly says, quite strong. But the man to credit with that recovery is not Ronald Reagan, it was the Jimmy Carter appointed Chairman of Federal Reseve Paul Volker. Volker raised interest rates much higher than the (then) current rate of inflation, and basically caused the economy to crash. Inflation dropped rapidly and then Volker dropped interest rates, essentially opening the flood gates and caused businesses to borrow money to start hiring and buying equipment, and those new hires bought things they had been putting off buying. Reagan watched this all from the Oval Office. All legislation he did put through was passed by a Democratic Congress that was interested in making America great again.

So you can see Jack Kelly whole column is disingenuous. There is no comparison between Reagan's and Obama's economies, and by the way Kelly fails to give credit to Paul Volker. I guess that is because Volker supports the idea of raising taxes on the rich now.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Kelly disses the EPA

Jack Kelly fires a shotgun blast of complaints today towards the EPA. Which is interesting, given that the Republican convention just ended, and Kelly could have talked about the platform and Republican proposals for the economy and our society. Or Kelly could have addressed the accusations that both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney lied through their teeth in their convention speeches. Or Kelly could have talked about Ryan's boast that he had run a sub three hour marathon, which a day later he had to admit was actually a four hour and one minute marathon. Jeez, I ran a faster marathon than Mr P90x.

But Mr Kelly talked about none of those things, instead essentially crowing about how Republicans have packed the DC Court of Appeals, repeatedly blocking and refusing to vote on first Bill Clinton's and the Barack Obama's nomiinees. Now the children of America will suffer from asthma and early death thanks to Republican intransigence. The first thing Kelly mentions is an August 21st decision by the Court to block new EPA rules for coal fired power plants. Kelly quotes the Court as saying the EPA exceeded it's authority under the Clean Air Act. Interestingly, the group of lawyers that forms the Natural Resources Defense Council (and the dissenting opinion on the Court) said exactly the opposite.

Kelly next mentions how the DC Court blocked a suit against EPA on technical grounds concerning an increase of ethanol in gasoline from 10% to 15%. Kelly says that much ethanol can harm engines, especially older ones. Now apparently the EPA rules would have permitted the higher ethanol in cars newer than 2007, but ...

This might be one of those rare areas of agreement between me and Jack Kelly. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of bio diesel made from whatever - sugar cane, switch grass or, yes, corn. But the gasoline additive ethanol ... I have never trusted it. Kelly is likely correct that the EPA is advancing a political agenda in supporting ethanol, but to be fair, it is an agenda set during the Bush administration. There was apparently a 2007 law pushing the higher amounts of ethanol, which means a Democratic Congress passed it (pushed by farm state Congressmen, no doubt) and a Republican President signed it. Popular Mechanics goes into how it harms engines and some of the politics. I am with Kelly that ethanol is a poor direction for us to be going in.

Kelly also mentions fracking and the wonderfulness of natural gas. But I think we have all heard about ground water contamination related to fracking; Kelly uses concerns about groundwater to assert that it is clear the EPA is not actually concerned about air pollution! The Atlantic spends some time last spring talking about the EPA and fracking, but only in terms of air pollution. I guess the industry and Republicans have successful forced the EPA to roll over on protecting our water.

Kelly has lots of other accusations, including the oft-repeated claim the Obama's green energy initiative (which I think would be more Department of Energy than EPA, but Kelly doesn't care) is actually a scheme to enrich Obama donors. Factcheck dot org addresses that in detail, and finds indications of sloppiness but none of these pay to play accusations.

The last accusation I will deal with is that the EPA is using drones to inspect farms and ranches for pollution. The EPA does use planes to make aerial inspections, saving taxpayers thousands. But the Washington Post found the drone story to be totally made up.

I guess just like ignoring the lies Republicans told at their convention, Jack Kelly does not care about truth in his own column.