Ben Buchwalter

Economy’s Impact on Charitable Giving
March 24, 2009, 7:57 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Economy | Tags: , ,

I really enjoyed Obama’s press conference tonight. I joked on Twitter that press conferences were more interesting when our Prez was a dolt. But really, I like it better this way (well, who doesn’t?). I thought one of the most interesting questions of the night came from Politico’s Mike Allen. The essence of his question (and I don’t have the text in front of me) was whether the implementation of progressive taxation would negatively impact charitable giving. The idea being that the country’s wealthiest individuals could be less likely to give to charity if their taxes are raised.

Obama said he didn’t agree with this reasoning at all. Raising taxes on the top 5% will not run them into the ground. Yes, people are saving everywhere they can and the current economic climate won’t be good for charitable giving. But that cuts across the board regardless of how people are taxed. Obama rightly concluded that what will permanently harm individual giving is allowing the economy to continue to tank. So if we think creatively about how to get us out of this mess, even if it means raising taxes a bit on the wealthy, then we could get out of this crisis faster and more permanently.

I was glad to hear Obama stick to his guns advocating for progressive taxation.


March 6, 2009, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Economy | Tags: ,

Kyle’s blog recently posted the above graph showing the Dow since 1928. I was struck by the fact that the Dow remained under 2,000 until the second half of the 1980s. But as far as I know, we did not spend half of the 20th century in a jobs crisis.

So here’s my thought (and I recognize that I might be WAY off base on this):

As the Dow continues to drop closer to 6,000, maybe we need to reconsider the ideal endgame here. Maybe the goal should not be restoring the Dow to 10,000 or above, but to learn how to create jobs in a world where the Dow is below 7,000, as it was before the mid 1990s. If we could do it then, something tells me we can do it now.

As of February 1997 (when the Dow was roughly where it is now), the unemployment rate was 5.2%. We learned today that as of February 2009, the unemployment was 8.1%.

The Dow is not the best way to judge our economy. But as far as I’m concerned, the lower the unemployment rate is, the better our economy is. So when do we decide that rocketing back above 10,000 isn’t going to happen and start to adjust?

I’d love for someone who knows a lot about this stuff to explain.

20 Times
February 13, 2009, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Economy | Tags: , ,

I just want to emphasize a point. On the Friday Brain Dump, I mentioned that 8 Republican Representatives were expected to vote for the stimulus package. The bill just passed the house – again without any GOP support. That means that of 219 Republicans in Congress (House and Senate) only three support the stimulus plan. That’s less than 1.4%.

A gallup poll released earlier this week showed that of real Republicans across the country, 28% support the stimulus package. So real Republicans support the bill more than Republican congressmen by a factor of 20

Does anyone deny at this point that the GOP is simply playing games with our jobs?

Friday Brain Dump
Administration officials in and out, peace or further instability in Rwanda, and possible nationalization. All trumped by Twitter.
  • Last night Judd Gregg (R NH), Obama’s second choice for Commerce Secretary withdrew his name from consideration. Even though this should make Gregg look like a collassal idiot, he is being hailed as a conservative hero for refusing to help a liberal president save the economy and govern effectively. Kos has an idea for Gregg’s replacement: “nominate a fu*king Democrat.” Greg Sargent: “don’t hire someone for a job who voted to abolish that job.” TPM: Reed Hundt.
  • Rwanda and the DRC are collaborating against a Hutu group that fled to the Congo after the 1994 genocide to escape persecution from the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front that now controls the government. On the surface, these governments are working together to combat the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR). But some have suspicions about the real motives behind Rwanda’s sudden receptiveness to an alliance with the Congo. Could Rwanda be vying for a stake in the mineral-rich region of eastern Congo? 
  • The final stimulus package is expected to be approved by the House today. Approved with 8 Republican votes?! Holy Lucifer! This means that of the 219 Republicans in Congress (Senate and House), only 11 – or 5% – support the stimulus package. Does this represent the Republican Party? NO! In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, 28% of Republicans (more than five times the Congressional GOP) support the $800 Billion package. I’d call that out of touch. 
  • Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske will become the nation’s Drug Czar. Ezra Klein says that he is “better than the old drug czar, worse than no drug czar.” Kerlikowske is “a progressive law enforcement type whose primary reputation is as a proponent of gun control and civil liberties.” 
  • Experts are starting to support nationalizing the banks? Reality or pipe dream? 
  • Tweet. I am swept up by twitter. See my twitter feed here. There are also some very informative peeps on twitter. And idiots like Karl Rove

Happy Valentines Day.

Obama’s a Pro
February 10, 2009, 9:11 am
Filed under: Barack Obama, Economy | Tags: , ,

Matt Cooper on last night’s pre-stimulus vote press conference. Matt Cooper also twittered the press conference. Pretty cool.

Questionable quote: “none of the questions were total boners, so score one for the press”

Also, this speaks to me:

For liberals who thought Obama had lost his way, that he’d conceded too much in the name of bipartisanship, that he’d been outflanked by Mitch McConnell, that he’d lost all the momentum, tonight should have been reassuring, a reminder of the power of the presidency to reset the debate and also to the enduring skills of Barack Obama.

Between Right and Wrong = Still Wrong
February 9, 2009, 11:10 am
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, Economy, Republicans | Tags: , ,

This weekend, debate raged over the “moderates” stimulus bill that will likely be approved by the Senate tomorrow. Senators Nelson, Collins, and Specter have put together a bill that shaved approximately $100 Billion from the House’s version. In an article in the Washington Post today, Specter defended the bill because as unemployment continues to rise with no end in sight, “The country cannot afford not to take action.

He’s right about that. But as Paul Krugman countered in an op-ed this weekend, action is indeed necessary. But Specter’s compromise bill has stripped some of the most essential parts to aid the country’s rising unemployed population.

One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending.

The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.

We must realize that bipartisanship isn’t always the best solution simply by virtue of involving more people. For some questions there are correct answers and wrong answers. Compromise is not automatically correct because its in the middle of right and wrong. Yglesias agrees that not all questions need bipartisan answers. But some issues are inherently well suited for bipartisan support. President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is a perfect example of a bipartisan bill.

But the stimulus bill is not. Democrats and Republicans have drastically different views concerning how to revive the country from recession. One of these solutions will work, the other will not. But it is not logical that a middle road, determined randomly by three or four moderate Senators, is correct simply because it gets three red votes.

So are Senators who will vote against the bill against government spending, or against Democratically supported government spending? On Meet the Press yesterday, Congressman Barney Frank (D MA) argued the latter. The GOP calls democrats “tax and spend” thieves now but will sing the praises of government spending when military budgets are reconsidered later this year. Thats not bipartisanship. And its not even clinging to traditional Republican values.

So when you’re not being bipartisan, and you’re not clinging to any sort of values, what are you? I’d say shamelessly partisan. That, or “irresponsible hypocrites.”

The fact is, there are serious political risks for both sides. If the stimulus fails, it will be the Democrats fault, and Republicans will catapult to national relevance in time for the 2010 midterms and 2012 presidential election. But if it succeeds, Republicans have ulilaterally voted against reviving the economy and providing jobs. And there goes the neighborhood.

Cool graphic from Gallop showing that there really is support for the stimulus (h/t Tom Awtry)

Time to Fight

It has become apparent that Obama is losing the communications battle over the economic stimulus package that the White House is trying to “strong arm” through Congress. A bill was approved by the House with no Republican support, and the version now being discussed in the Senate could fail without 60 votes, which would require the GOP’s assistance.

The reason for this shift, as Politico reports, is simple. Die hard executive vs. legislative politics was new to the Obama team. But the GOP was incredibly comfortable grasping at straws to scream “Bloody Murder!” about wasteful spending. The strategy “required two simple steps: scream pork, call Rush Limbaugh.”

That’s not to say that criticisms of the stimulus are all ill-founded. Pro Publica, an online nonprofit publication, has delved deep into the legislative language to highlight the bill’s inconsistencies and misguided spending.

But the fact is, the stimulus is not losing the public opinion war (as Rasmussen reports) because of legislative minutiae. The GOP is simply outfighting the Democrats. Last week, Think Progress reported that Congressional Republicans are outnumbering Democrats 2-1 on cable news programs. (To its credit, FOX News was the most equitable).

This statistic is unsettling, but its not simply the fault of CNN and MSNBC. In fact, much of the fault lies with Congressional Democrats and Obama’s ethos of bipartisanship. It’s time for Obama and Congressional Democrats to show their teeth and fight to get a workable economic stimulus passed.