Obama’s First Press Conference Post Election

Obama’s first Press Conference was very interesting.  First, he seemed a little tight and off his game. As a man who has campaigned for the last 22 months and was quick with the answers, his responses to day were a little ‘tight’ and ‘off key’ at times.  Part of this can be attributed to a whole new line of questions and appropriate responses.  His mind and game has been so melded into campaign mode, he ability to quickly and off the cuff respond to questions was a little pressed.   I have no doubt once he gets his feet under him he’s going to be eloquent, on the mark, and honest with his answers. I thought he did have a little trouble breaking the shackles of campaigning and assuming the President’s role.  He probably said ‘middle-class’ way too much and tried to hard to be politically correct in his answers, particularly about tax increases for the wealthy.

He did say a few things in the presser that were either reassuring or provided insight into how he’ll tackle priorities early in his administration. He first made it abundantly clear that President Bush is in charge and  that the Nation speaks with one voice.  I believe he also made it clear that he’d stay in touch with the President (and vice-versa) as required.  Obama is going to push hard for a stimulus package to be developed and he’ll work with President Bush to get it passed.  However, there won’t be much compromise – as President-Elect Obama said he’ll pass one after his Inauguration. 

On foreign policy, his answers were on slightly less stable ground.  With regard to the congratulations he received from Iran and potential ramp-up of discussions with the Middle Eastern nation, he was non-committal.  Realizing now that he talks from somewhat of a bully-pulpit, his words were measured.  His security team would need to meet and discuss how to respond to Iran on the congratulations letter, as well as whether it was appropriate to begin discussions after 20 January.  He did make it clear that the U.S. will not tolerate a nuclear Iran.  Candy Crowly, a veteran CNN journalist, asked him if anything in his daily CIA security briefings caused him any concern beyond what he already knew. It’s appropriate to not want to discsuss the topic, but Obama’s response was a little roundabout and not reassuring.

It’s obvious that this President is intent on building a relationship with the press and trying to be candid, as much as he can, when anwering the questions.  It’s only two days in, but he was reassuring that his campaign message will resonate through his administration. He continues to recognize the mind boggling challenges of the office and is very reassuring in stating he’s taking the time to make the right Cabinet appointments.  Regardless of whether he was ‘smooth’ or not, he certainly has a better grasp on issues than our current president and appears to already be engaging at a level that President Bush never considered.  Finally, I thought there was a key moment when he said he’d rely on his economic team to craft the best policy to get this nation moving forward again.  This is a man that realizes he is an executive and to utilize ‘good’ people to develop the policy that will help him lead this country in the direction he believes is right.


Will Wall Street now Bail on The GOP?

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The market closed down 777 points today – or 8%.  The figures I’ve been hearing state that this is about 1.2 trillion dollars worth of wealth that just vanished.  That 1.2 trillion dollars (nearly twice the bailout) is held by a lot of different interests, but particularly the Republican base – free market capitalists and the upper 1% income earners.  In addition, it’s held by the much heralded ‘Main Street’ and middle-class America.

So how does this affect the electorate?  Well, let’s get back to the Republican base vote again – the rich and free market folks.  The roller-coaster ride by the market over the last week has been tied directly to the potential passage of a bail-out bill.  The market reacted negatively last week to the failures of a deal getting done.  Monday’s big loss was a result of the GOP again not getting on board and nixing the deal.  The Republicans can claim all they want that the speech by Pelosi caused them to vote against the bill.  But the reasons don’t matter – whether ideology, feelings, or good intentions.  The World and Wall Street wanted to see this bill done.  The Democrats delivered 60% yea votes to the bill and the Republicans only 33%.  The GOP needed to deliver only 39% of the vote or 12 more (coincidentally that’s the exact number that the GOP claimed that Pelosi speech turned away from voting yes).  The problem for the Republican Party is no matter how much they hem and haw and complain Pelosi causing the rift, the bottom line is they couldn’t muster 39% (votes they claim they had, by the way…until ‘the speech’) of their caucus to support the bill.  Wall Street isn’t going to blame the Democrats.  Everyone knows the bill is unpopular and delivering 60% is very good in the spirit of cooperation of bipartisanship that the leaders were working with all week.

Do you think Wall Street will give the Republicans a pass on this since, after all, they support their ideology?  Probably not.  1 trillion dollars of wealth is not easy to swallow losing.  True, some of it will be made back after a proposal passes.  However, there is only so much the market will make up in a short period of times and continued large decliner days will just make recouping these losses harder.  With those losses, Wall Street will be looking to take their ire out on someone.  It can’t be the Democrats who, as much as they don’t want to support the investment community, knew it was right for America to support the bailout.  They came through and delivered the votes.  No, it’s the Republicans who are going to have to explain to their economic base that Pelosi’s words or an unrelenting ideology kept them from voting for this package.  If they can pin this on Pelosi (who I still blame in many ways for this mess today), then they will have been able to fool – not the average American who doesn’t understand what’s happening – but Wall Street (who are not your common fool that falls for political rhetoric).

But one might make the point that the reason they couldn’t support the deal was their ‘real’ constituency has been complaining nearly 100-to-1 against the deal (don’t forget, the Democrats were getting the same hate mail).  Here’s the problem.  First, there are a lot of Americans who don’t understand what’s happening and are looking to the President, the candidates, and Congress for direction and leadership – they didn’t get it today.  Second, people are against this deal because they don’t understand how it will affect their daily life.  That’s a bit understandable.  However, as loans continue to get harder to get, people start losing their jobs at a more rapid rate, people continue to lose their homes, wages continue to go down, their investments continue to lose value, and their banks fail – they are going to change their opinion of this deal very quickly.  The potential risks of not doing this deal are very real and will be very evident when they occur, most likely sooner than later.  Washington Mutual failed last week, Wachovia this week, there are rumors of another bank on the brink.  As more and more of the middle-class are touched by these events (or even hear about them) their opinion will change.  When it does, the Democrats will be exonerated in voting for this bill and the Republicans will once again prove they do not have the interests of the Country ahead of theirs.  I do think their leadership tried to get this to pass, but they either didn’t have the will or power to make it happen.

See, in a lot of ways the Republicans have just let the Democrats off the hook.  If the bill would have passed, in theory, money would have loosened up a bit and people wouldn’t feel the pain that this bill avoided.  People would continue to wonder if this was nescessary or not and the Republicans could have continued to attack the Democrats on having an itchy trigger to get something done.  Even if a bill gets done later this week and voters forget, Wall Street will not forget about the 1trillion dollar worth of losses.

Don’t RE-ELECT Pelosi (and I am a Democrat)! Don’t Re-Elect and GOP against the Bill

“We’re all worried about losing our jobs. Most of us say, ‘I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it—not me.'” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis (note – see my other post for the most honorable quote of the day).  It’s great to see how ‘working for the people” means taking care of yourself first.  See, by re-election, they ensure they will draw a 169K salary per year – guaranteed for two years.  The recession won’t affect them directly and they won’t worry about losing their job – at least for now.  But, we are allowed to lose ours (25% of us during the Great Depression). It is abundantly clear that all of Congress recognizes the dire warning provided by many economists and investors, including the highly respected Alan Greenspan and Warren Buffett, to pass this bill.  Yet, they acted in their interest, rather than the People’s interest.

Every single last one of those who didn’t support it – Democrats and Republicans – should be fired…not re-elected.  Most Democrats supported the measure.  Good.  But those who didn’t, should feel the pain of most working Americans.  Let’s be clear, as Representative Paul Ryan stated, they believe it is necessary but they don’t want to do it.  Talk about not working for middle-class Americans.   It comes down to selfishness.  I truly believe that those who supported this measure would be rewarded in the end.  Regardless, most of these Congressmen have fall back jobs they can return to after Congress.  Most Americans, if they lose their jobs, will have trouble finding others.  If everything is as dire as the experts claim, than they are playing with the health of our Country for many years to come.  How many banks must fail – another one today in Wacovia – before they ‘get it’.

Sure, voters may be against the bill and they ‘listen’ to the voters – now, but not on many issues.  Sometimes you need to act in the best interest of the Country – especially when the issue is confusing and complicated.  But also realize, that those who are disgruntled about the bill, will significantly outweigh those who are happy when contacting their Representives.  There are plenty of citizens out there scared and want direction and guidance from our leaders – not more partisan fighting.   The only silver lining is that most of these representatives have significant holdings on Wall Street and the value of their assets are going down.  I am hoping that their pain will make them wake up, since they won’t operate in the best interest of this country, maybe they will continue to act in their self-interest.

Oh, and Nancy Pelosi SHOULD NOT BE RE-ELECTED.  To have worked in such a bi-partisan manner, to expect the Republicans to take a lot of this on the nose, and to have such a tenuous voting block and to come out and rail against the GOP and praise the Democrats? Sorry, that stupid, idiotic, selfish, pig headed and any other term for it.  There is plenty of time to play politics, but to do it with the fate of our economic and possibly social future hanging in the balance doesn’t make any sense.  She is no better than any Republican – including McCain who used this as a window for politics.

If you ever wonder if I’d call out a Democrat.  Well…here ya go.

Leadership at the White House

Per the Daily Kos:

“Yesterday, McCain swooped into the White House meeting, and by all accounts he said very little, was disruptive and Obama actually led the meeting (by questioning Paulson and House Republican’s). Now, how’s that for true leadership?

At the end, Obama had to speak directly to McCain to enunciate a response, after McCain sat silent for 45 minutes of an hour long meeting.
Why did he go?”

McCain Did Not Read Paulson’s Plan!

I first heard about this the other day and wasn’t near a computer to blog about it.  But this article from The New Republic refreshed my memory: McCain Didn’t Bother to Read the Bailout Plan?
Why is this important?  Well – First, it doesn’t show a leader who is paying close attention to the crisis, as well as showing an interest in knowing the details.  Keep in mind, Poulson’s plan was only three pages.  This is not a hard read.

Second and more importantly, McCain stated yesterday, ““History must not record that when our nation faced such a moment, its leadership was unable to put aside politics and to focus in a unified way to solve this problem. It’s time for everyone to recall that the political process is not an end in itself, nor is it intended to serve those of us who are in the middle of it. In the Senate of the United States, our duty is to serve the people of this country, and we can serve them best now by putting politics aside and dealing in a focused, straightforward, bipartisan way with the problem at hand.”

Here’s the problem.  How can you first make this claim, including that this is the biggest financial concern of our lifetime and not read the initial plan to bail out the Country?  Really – how?  Second, McCain has made a big deal about coming back to Washington to help spur on negotiation.  How informed does he seem to be if he hadn’t read the initial plan?  Even if there is a compeletly new plan on the table.  The contentions and issues between the Executive Branch, the Fed, and Congress are founded in the concerns they initially had with what Secretary Poulson presented.  Understanding that basis and how it affects negotiations and differences is imperative to play a vital and not political role. 

I would maybe give McCain a pass if it was a 300 page document and got a detailed briefing from his advisers.  But 3 pages? That’s bathroom reading, reading on tarmac, or bedtime reading.  Seriously?  He doesn’t have the time to read it.  There has been a theory presented by Obama that McCain may not be able to multi-task very well.  This might be proof.

McCain’s Economic Advisers vs. Obama’s

Phil Gramm – McCain adviser and supporter of deregulation and recently known for saying “We’ve become a nation of whiners”

Warren Buffett – Obama adviser and perhaps the most successful investor of all time: (as reported by Reuters):

“Five years ago, billionaire investor Warren Buffett called them (the complex deritivitives causing the current problems) a “time bomb” and “financial weapons of mass destruction” and directed the insurance arm of his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to exit the business.”

Who Does Better for the Economy?

Coming from Brad DeLong’s Website – this chart really puts things in perspective.  GDP = Gross Domestic Product and, for those who need a definition, is defined as: as the total market value of all final goods and services produced within the country in a given period of time (usually a calendar year).   In other words, comparing year over year will show the growth of the economy.

 Source: Doug Henwood, Liscio Report 

Gee, Roosevelt III, Truman, Kennedy-Johnson, Johnson, Clinton are all Democrats.  Nixon I (a Republican) was benefiting from the end of economic boom under Johnson. Roosevelt-Truman administration was at the end of  World War II and dealt with rebuilding after the war.  Even the great Ronald Reagan could not match the growth  of any Democrat except for Carter.  What does that show?  That the Democrat’s philosophy (hint hint – including regulation and oversight…and not a totally free market environment) has proven more successful.  Additionally, Bush 41, Bush 43, and Reagan prove supply-side (or trickle-down) economics (which means lower taxes to the wealthy) may not be as relevant as reducing the burden on the middle class.  Brad’s website has a lot of graphics and all of them demonstrate the positive effects of a Democratic Administration.  I will not discount the affect Congress has, after all they are responsible for a major player.

Per Wikipedia: Roosevelt, Johnson, Kennedy, Carter had 100% Democratic House and Senate to support their policies.  Truman had control of the Senate and House 75% of his term, and Clinton only 25% of the time.  Don’t forget, we emerged from the Bush 41 recession under Clinton during the two years the Democrats held both Houses of Congress.

What does that prove?  That when the Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House they have policies that progress this Country forward economically.  The GOP, in some quarters, are advertising that if you think Obama is going to win the White House, you should vote for the Republican Congress to keep him honest.  Don’t buy this argument!  The facts prove otherwise.

And one last graph, slightly off topic but from the same Doug Henwood, Liscio Report:

 Before we go nuts over ‘earmarks’ – how much of a difference does it really make?