Monday, February 23, 2009

To Stimulate or Not to Stimulate?

To Stimulate or Not to Stimulate?

That is the question for Republican governors. Whether they should be a populist and spread out the manna from DC, or to take a stand, no matter how politically ill-advised, and refuse these tainted funds.

Now, neither I nor the President and his advisors, nor most economists have any real idea of how to get the economy out of this nose dive. How low will it go? But, the President has chosen action over inaction.

When unemployment hits 10% and multitudes of the former middle class have lost their homes, woe to any governor who “stood her/his ground” and refused the stimulus funding.

Even our former Gov. of Mass. Michael Dukakis, a man didn’t know how to say no to federal aid, once refused federal highway funding for low priority improvements (as a transportation engineer, I agreed it wasn’t something that was not really needed). But, he had to quickly make a 180 and agree to taking the funds.

I don’t know if the stimulus will do anything long-term for the economy.

But I’ll bet that governors who refuse the stimulus will have a short political life, especially with double-digit unemployment!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Stimulus: Is It Pork?

One of the recent criticisms of the Stimulus (particularly from Republicans) is that it is full of pork.

Anytime the government spends, there is a high probability that pet projects or programs (a.k.a, “pork”) will be included. And when the biggest spending bill ever works its way through Congress, there’s no way it can survive without picking up some pork along the way. Granted, no “earmarks” were allowed, but there are other ways to get pork in a bill.

I think it was Tip O'Neil who said "One person's pork is another person's bacon" or something similar. (Apologies to those who keep Kosher.)

Does the Stimulus Bill contain pork? I say: “Tell me something new!”

The real question is: To Stimulate or Not To Stimulate.

To be continued………….

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

President Speaks in Coherent, Complete Sentences

For the first time in 8 years, we heard a President respond to press questions in coherent, complete sentences. Now, that's change we can believe in!

That said, the tone of the press conference was somber. There is no end in sight to the economic downturn with the stock market headed down and unemployment rising.

The answers were long, though generally well thought-out. No funny sound bites. No fodder for SNL or Leno or Letterman. In some ways, almost boring.
As I've said before in this blog (see Sept. 2008 posts), our leaders don't really understand the economic downturn or what will work to reverse the trend. This applies to Pres. Obama.
While I don't pretend to understand it either, I do know we have but 2 choices:
  1. do nothing, or
  2. try to spend our way out.

Some conservatives prefer a tax cut. But the total value of a tax cut will not be realized in the economy as some portion will go to savings or debt reduction.

Spending, paticularly on infrastructure can have a factor of 1.4 or so in terms of economic benefits. First, the money employes people in infrastructure construction. Then, materials for this construction a purchased (trickling back to suppliers, manufacturers and delivery companies). Then, with ample work, the construction workers will be more likely to buy consumer goods. All in all there is a trickle impact through the economy. Finally, the improved infrastructure has an overall positive impact on commerse, be it do to better roads, more reliable utilities, or ending a load restriction on a bridge that cause truck traffic to detour.

While we clearly have an intellegent leader, our economic future remains uncertain.

Rendition Revisited -- Update

The trial opened but the Obama Justice Dept. has kept to the Bush line regarding maintaining secrecy.

Most disappointing.

Some in the media have excused this as being too soon for new administration to implement policy changes.

But where's that change we can count on?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rendition Revisited?

How will the Obama administration redress the human rights violations of the Bush Administration's policy of extraordinary rendition?

Today’s New York Times reports a hearing next week in San Francisco regarding a lawsuit filed on behalf of five detainees against Jeppesen Dataplan, a subsidiary of the Boeing Company, that arranged rendition flights that delivered detainees to nations where they were later tortured.

In the article, it states:

“The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in the Federal District Court in San Francisco in May 2007. It was dismissed last February after the Bush administration asserted the ‘state secrets privilege,’ claiming that the disclosure of information in the case could damage national security.

"In the appeal, to be heard Monday by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the civil liberties union argues that the government has engaged in an inappropriate blanket use of the privilege and that the case should be allowed to proceed.”

So, will the Obama administration end this blanket use of the claim of state secrets? Will there be positive movement by this administration in breaking from the past administration’s use of rendition leading to “out-sourced” torture? Let’s hope that change has come.

Reference: “Claims of Torture Abroad Face Test Monday in Court,” New York Times, February 6, 2009,