Monthly Archives: June 2009

There You Go Again

From the text of President Obama’s health care speech today to the AMA.

We know the moment is right for health care reform.  We know this is an historic opportunity we’ve never seen before and may not see again.  But we also know that there are those who will try and scuttle this opportunity no matter what – who will use the same scare tactics and fear-mongering that’s worked in the past.  They’ll give dire warnings about socialized medicine and government takeovers; long lines and rationed care; decisions made by bureaucrats and not doctors.  We’ve heard it all before – and because these fear tactics have worked, things have kept getting worse.

And the lede in a story today on Politico.

As President Barack Obama tried to sell the American Medical Association today on his health care overhaul, the top Senate Republicans launched a familiar line of attack.

They warned of rationed medical care, lack of patient control and government bureaucracy.

“The American people will not stand for rationed health care,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said Monday. “We believe that a one size fits all approach is the wrong approach."

I think it smart for Obama to repeat and repeat the GOP scare tactics and label them as such.  Ignoring them gives them credibility.  But because President Bush is so identified with “scare tactics” to gin up support for the Iraq War, it’s a beautiful way of keeping Bush-era Republicanism alive!  In effect, Obama is saying, “There you go again.”

Headline Writer Forgot to Read the Story

The Washington Post has a story today about the Virginia governor’s race that reflects, I hope, simply how a headline writer can sometimes spend too little time actually reading the story.  Of course, it could be that he or she looked for any story morsel that would reflect his or her opinion.  If you have another theory, I’m all ears.

The headline on the front page of the Metro section reads “Recession’s Pains Dull Attention to Campaigns.”  People have other things to think about.  Even the head on the jump reflects the same message:  “Struggling Residents Tune Out Governor’s Race.”  In fact, the economy is cited as the reason for the poor turnout in the Democratic primary.  At least that’s the inference of the story.

A deep nationwide recession has touched every corner of the commonwealth, from the depressed factory towns of the south to the high-tech corridors of Fairfax County. For many voters, the problems seem too big, too intractable for any governor to fix, which might have been a factor in the 6 percent turnout in Tuesday’s primary.

But in 2005, the turnout in the GOP gubernatorial primary was 3.98%.  Granted, in that one, it wasn’t hotly contested.  The 2001 Democratic primaries for lieutenant governor and attorney general were, however, and that turnout was only 4.23%.  So on what basis does the reporter say that 6% is a poor turnout?  It is in a cosmic sense, but when was the last time we were significantly above that for a gubernatorial primary?

Let’s forget, for the moment, that the opposite of what the headline reads is the conventional wisdom.  In these tough times, the wise politicos tell us, people are looking to government for solutions, for help, for anything.  Being against government is an argument only the diehard ideological Republicans will make.  The rest of us are looking to it to help us catch a break.

So what evidence do the reporter and headline writer point to support their contention that voters are tuning out, or that “the problems seem too big, too intractable for any governor to fix”?  How did they determine that “many voters” feel this way?

The lede is an anecdote about a woman who was at a school that doubled as a polling place last Tuesday. She was there to pick up her daughter.  She didn’t vote, but nothing about what she said indicated that she was tuning out of the race because of economic difficulties. She may have never voted in a primary in her life.  She may be a Republican who didn’t think it was her place to vote in a Democratic primary.  She may think that voting for politicians only encourages them.  We don’t know.   

In fact, the only person quoted in the story that supports the headline’s contention is a recently unemployed multimedia producer. 

"It just feels sometimes like you’re getting along, you’re able to maintain, but the little bumps in the road keep knocking you down a little bit more each time," he said. "I get the e-mails from all the candidates, from the Republicans or what have you. I delete just about everything."

[The producer], who calls himself a conservative Christian, said he is cynical about politicians. He said he believes that Providence, not the state, will lead him out of his troubles. It will be up to the candidates to persuade him otherwise.

Providence 1, Republicans 0, and the “what have you’s” a minus number. (This certainly has deflated the Democrats.)

Then you have a former USA Today editor who

…has not paid much attention to the governor’s race but will get up to speed by November out of necessity. 

"I have never looked towards any government for any support, ever, until now," he said.

That sounds like he thinks it’s a necessity to follow the governor’s race, that is does matter.

So now we’re at 1-1 in the score.

So how did the writer of the headlines come to his conclusion?

Perhaps she, too, relied on providence.

With such thin gruel with which to write a story, was this one worth the newsprint and ink?  Especially when there are such economic problems, wouldn’t it have been better to write a story about how state government can help?  What is it that state government can do, and that a governor can impact, that would help people?  If they knew, they might be in a better position to seek answers from candidates.

If you wonder why people are apathetic, maybe it’s because newspapers write stories to tell you that it doesn’t matter who you elect. 

If it doesn’t matter who we elect, why does the local paper even cover the campaign?

Another story about process – without any real substantiation. 

An Twist in a Series of Turns

What to make of this?

Iran’s supreme leader ordered Monday an investigation into allegations of election fraud, marking a stunning turnaround by the country’s most powerful figure and offering hope to opposition forces who have waged street clashes to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Obama Folds

I had dinner last night with a friend who describes himself as a “businessman Republican.”  He doesn’t cotton to the right –wing moral issues.  He voted for McCain.  Yet, he effusive praise of Obama and thought he was “pragmatic.”  I wasn’t up for an argument, so I changed the subject.  It’s not hard to see why business people are happy.

While the White House’s new so-called special master for compensation, prominent Washington lawyer Kenneth R. Feinberg, has been given unprecedented powers to set pay at seven of the most troubled firms, the plan that was laid out Wednesday largely maintains the status quo for compensation practices at all other publicly traded companies, including hundreds that are receiving taxpayer assistance. In addition, the administration got rid of a previously announced $500,000 salary cap at financial firms that in the future take the kind of exceptional assistance that firms such as Citigroup and Bank of America have received.

Barney Frank Takes on CNBC

I was watching Barney Frank this morning on CNBC, again marveling at his, while not succinct, certainly compelling responses to questions.  He is able to put things in a larger context.  It’s worth hearing how he defends government control of wages in companies taking government bailout funds and the greater say he wants to give shareholders.

But when he tried to answer host Mark Haines question that suggests giving shareholders a say wouldn’t accomplish much, Haynes accused Frank of misrepresenting his question.  Frank did draw a conclusion that Haynes did not specifically say, but one must ask what Haines meant by “burn down the house.”

It concluded with Frank declaring the interview over when he couldn’t finish his answer.

Republicans Can’t Help Themselves

Creigh Deeds is handed a little gift.

[Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob] McDonnell … said Deeds would be a poor steward to guide the state through a recession. "My philosophy is to keep taxes, regulation and litigation low," he said.

Sounds like a Bush policy to me.  Keep regulation low?  I’d never let Bob McDonnell forget that he favors less regulation of financial markets.  Look where that got us.

Pay Caps for Corporate Executives

This doesn’t make sense.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the Obama administration doesn’t want to place caps on executives’ pay — even though it believes excessive compensation led to risk-taking that contributed to the financial crisis.

OK, excessive pay packages costs taxpayers billions but the Obama administration is getting weak-kneed.  So they want to pass the buck.

Geithner said the administration will seek legislation that will permit shareholders to vote on executive pay packages, but the results would not be binding on boards of directors.

So we’re going to pass legislation with no teeth in it.  But there is at least a kernel of a new idea that might help.

Geithner said the shareholder measures, as well as legislation to keep corporate compensation committees independent from boards of directors, will reinforce pay guidelines that the administration released Wednesday.

What does independent from boards of directors mean?  Who will select them, compensate them?

Finally, this brief article ends with this contradiction.

Those principles encourage corporate boards to adopt pay packages that reward long-term performance rather than short-term gains.

I thought the boards of directors wouldn’t be involved in pay packages.  WTF?