Friday, October 17, 2014

Why you should vote for congressional Democrats

For the first two years of the Obama administration Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, although not with a fillibuster-proof majority. Consider just a bit of what happened in those two years:
  • We turned economic free-fall into a growing economy. When Obama took office I bet that he could turn the economy around. I sold my foreign stock and bought American index funds. I have more than doubled my money. Unemployment is below 6%. We don't have everything we want, but things are a lot better.
  • Universal health care became the law of the land. This happened during a brief moment of fillibuster-proof majority. So far, about 13 million more Americans now have health insurance. We have a ways to go, but it's a good start.
  • Green energy received a big funding boost. Result: neighborhood roofs are sprouting solar panels, wind mills are going up around the country, we are nearly self sufficient in energy, our greenhouse emissions are down, and electric cars are hitting the road.
  • Wall Street and the banks got a new set of regulations to live by. They are certainly tougher than we had before. Time will tell if they are tough enough.
For the last four years the Republicans have controlled the House and, not surprisingly, neither President Obama or anyone else can get any sort of progressive legislation through Congress.

Along the way a funny thing happened in California. The Democrats took over the whole government with a super majority. They could do anything they wanted. What they did was dig California out of a huge fiscal hole and balance the budget. Compare that with the cut-taxes-and-spend, borrow-against-tomorrow reality of the Republicans when they had control in the 2000s.

If we get a Democratic Congress we won't get everything we want, but we'll get some of it, which is a lot more than we'll get from the Republicans. Vote for congressional Democrats.

Leon Panetta has his head stuck straight up his ...

you know what. Why do I say this?

Panetta just published a book. I'm not going to comment on the book because I haven't read it. I have, however, heard Panetta be interviewed and I will comment about the interview. In particular, about Syrian chemical weapons. Panetta's story is very simple:

  1. President Obama said Syrian use of chemical weapons would result in serious consequences.
  2. Assad, Syria's embattled president, used chemical weapons.
  3. Obama did not bomb Syria.
What makes Panetta a jerk is that he left out one teeny-weeny itsy-bitsy fact of enormous relevance. A more complete story goes like this:
  1. President Obama said Syrian use of chemical weapons would result in serious consequences.
  2. Assad, Syria's embattled president, used chemical weapons.
  3. Threatened with bombing by Obama, Assad gave up his chemical weapons (at least the ones we know about).
  4. Obama did not bomb Syria.
Given a choice between blowing up bits of Syria and getting rid of a dictator's chemical weapons America is clearly better off getting rid of the weapons. Duh.

It gets deeper though. Suppose we had bombed Assad severely enough to overthrow him. If the Assad regime went down what would happen to all those chemical weapons? The rebels would get them. Who are the strongest rebels? ISIS and other al Qaeda offshoots! Our mortal enemies. Next stop for those weapons, an American city near you.

What President Obama did with the Syrian chemical weapons crisis was brilliant. He got rid of the weapons without firing a shot. Those are weapons that can never be used by Assad or ISIS or anyone else. They are not coming to an American city near you. Oh, and by the way, taking down Assad is a lot safer now.

That's top notch leadership.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Obama and the Economy

With Congressional elections coming up it is time to see if President Obama deserves a Democratic majority in Congress so he can get some legislative help. One very good way to decide if a president has done well is to compare the state of the nation on the day he took office with today. For the economy, I'll do that now.

Just to be clear, I'm comparing the economy January 2009, when Obama took office, and 4 July 2014, right now.

In general the economy in 2009 was in free fall, in the middle of a full blown economic and financial crisis. It was the worst we've seen since 1929 and there were plenty of people that thought it would continue to go downhill. Today the economy is stable and growing. Improvement: vast. Some details follow.

The US economy was losing 750,000 jobs a month. Today it adds a few hundred thousand a month. Improvement: roughly 1,000,000 jobs/month.

The DOW was around 8,000. Today it is over 17,000. Improvement: more than double.

The S&P500 was well under 1,000. Today it is almost 2,000. Improvement: more than double.

Corporate profits were in a nose dive. Today they are near record levels. Corporate profits in 2009 were less than $700 billion. This year they are $1,900 billion. Improvement: $1,200 billion/year.

The government was on track to borrow $1,413 billion. This fiscal year the government is on track to borrow $649 billion. Improvement: $760 billion/year.

There is a whole TV network and a vast hinterland of commentators that will tell you everything Obama has done wrong: large or small, real or imagined, misleading or not. That's fine, but keep your eye on the big stuff, and these economic numbers are big stuff. There has been enormous improvement on Obama's watch, in the face of bitter knee-jerk Republican opposition.

The nation deserves a Democratic Congress to help President Obama out, so vote for your local Democratic congressperson. Who knows, some good stuff might even get done.