Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Real Problems Obama faces

What’s new Today

Story #1 talks about what Obama thinks will win him a second term and then moves on to reality. #2 discusses how the SOTU was just more of the same and #3 relates how this speech should have the GOP excited for the election.  #4 is an interesting article on how far off base the political elites are.  #5 tells you the true story of Newt’s ethics “violations.”  It seems he’s been cleared.  #6 lays out what President Obama has done to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Our final story, #7 shows how the government changes it’s equation, but the answer remains the same. 

1.  Obama is Toast

President Obama thinks that the improving economy will win him a second term, the New York Times reports today.  Whatever he’s drinking, order me a double. His poll numbers look a little better because the Republicans have spent the past several months in a fratricidal bloodbath. Fortunately, the memory of the American electorate for such antics is short. Once we choose a candidate (and I am happy with Romney, Santorum, or Gingrich) and unite behind him, we will win, unless, of course, we find a way to sabotage ourselves.

People are hurting, and badly. The official unemployment rate may have fallen, slightly, but the real unemployment rate — the number of working-age Americans who aren’t working — rose from about 12% before the 2008 crisis, to about 23%, and hasn’t come down. That includes people who have retired early because they can’t find work, spouses who used to earn a second income but have gone back to homemaking because work isn’t available, self-employed people whose businesses have collapsed, young people who live in their parents’ basement because they can’t afford tuition and can’t find work...

Obama supporters are hoping against hope that people will just feel like things are starting to improve so why change presidents.  Those people don’t realize how disillusioned people are with the President.  It’s time for change and that will bring back hope. 

2.   SOTU:  Same old, same old

It was a wish list, not a to-do list.

President Barack Obama laid out an array of plans in his State of the Union speech as if his hands weren't so tied by political realities. There can be little more than wishful thinking behind his call to end oil industry subsidies — something he could not get through a Democratic Congress, much less today's divided Congress, much less in this election year.

And there was more recycling, in an even more forbidding climate than when the ideas were new: He pushed for an immigration overhaul that he couldn't get past Democrats, permanent college tuition tax credits that he asked for a year ago, and familiar discouragements for companies that move overseas.

A look at Obama's rhetoric Tuesday night and how it fits with the facts and political circumstances:…

When I was in the service I was stationed in the PI.  During that time the organization that I was in would do its annual budgeting.  One part was the construction budget.  Now they hadn’t had a new construction approved in 10 years, so each year they would resubmit what they hadn’t gotten the year before and add to it.  There were 43 items on this request.  It was an exercise in futility.  That’s what Obama’s SOTU was, an exercise in futility and a campaign speech.

3.   The GOP should be licking its chops

The president knows the horrifying reality of the mounting deficit and the unprecedented debt, and the nightmarish charts showing the public sector eating up the entirety of the national GDP over the next two decades. Even if he succeeds in ending the Bush tax cuts at the end of this year, the windfall to the Treasury will be eaten up instantly by existing demands.

And yet, he proposed no fewer than six new federal projects in the first half-hour of the speech. You get the sense that even the liberal congressmen and senators standing and applauding have no real expectation that any of those proposals will ever, or could ever, become law.

The president whose signature pieces of legislation will cost the Treasury more than $2 trillion — and who did not succeed in creating an explosion of economic growth — is in a terrible position to propose new spending plans. He already tried it last September in his “pass this bill now” speech, and that effort was stillborn….

Obama right now is unpopular and the GOP hasn’t started to target him with ads, etc.  His own words will be on you television screen in September and October with the actual results of his initiatives there for you to compare.  The President appears to be asking for a Mulligan with a second term while the American public is asking for a Mulligan to not elect him the first time and certainly not electing him a second time. 

4.  We Know How You Feel

Before we first-year nursing students were let loose on the hospital floor, we had to take a communication class, also known as "How to Talk to a Patient." We learned useful techniques such as active listening and interpreting non-verbal cues. The class, of course, didn't make us perfect communicators right off the bat. I heard of one young nurse interviewing a patient on her first day of clinical training on the psychiatric ward. As the patient finished describing all the heartbreaking events of his life, the stunned girl concluded, "Wow. That's enough to drive a person crazy."..

… The Republican establishment and media elite have obviously never taken a communications course, because if it's one sentiment conservatives have heard over and over again this primary season, it's "We know how you feel." And just like my patients, my reaction is "No, you don't!"

The elites believe we'll never vote for Newt Gingrich because he's an old, fat guy. They know that Americans always vote for the guy who looks "presidential." The man who's tall, dark, and handsome. Appearance is everything to the average shallow voter, they tell each other. Lucky for the elites, their chosen candidate, Governor Romney, looks like a president straight out of central casting. It's in the bag, they tell us. After all, we know how you feel.

The elites believe that a candidate's moral failings are uppermost in the minds of conservatives, and those conservative minds are closed, bitter, unforgiving, and never forgetting. After all, conservatives impeached Bill Clinton for immoral behavior, and he wasn't even divorced! So a televised interview with an ex-wife is all it will take to knock the pins out from under Gingrich. Women, especially, will never vote for the twice-divorced speaker. Believe us, we know how you feel.

The elites believe that conservatives aren't serious about all that red white and blue, rah-rah, Founding Fathers stuff and will dump that rugged individualism nonsense the minute their own entitlements are threatened. So the establishment Republican consultants instructed Romney to jumpallover Perry's description of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. And as for that little problem of RomneyCare, just tell the conservatives that it wasn't a big-government takeover of health care -- it was a noble experiment in the tradition of the Tenth Amendment! After all, conservatives are suckers when it comes to the Constitution. Yes sir, we know how you feel.

The elites admit that Gingrich has performed masterfully in the debates so far, but if it's one thing they know, debates won't matter to voters in the general election. The important thing, they tell us, is campaign organization and money. Television ads -- that's the ticket! Romney is the only candidate who can possibly compete with Obama in the money department. Okay, maybe it didn't work in Iowa (a small, weird caucus state) or South Carolina (did you know they still have cockfights there?), but just wait till the big media state of Florida! Romney's money and polished campaign will definitely triumph in the Sunshine State! Trust us, we know how you feel.

Even more than the Republican establishment you have the same thing going on with the Democratic establishment.  But just four years ago the Democrats broke all the rules and nominated a black man for the presidency. Perhaps the electorate isn’t as predictable as the elites think it is.

5.  Gingrich’s Ethics Violation

…Given all the attention to the ethics matter, it's worth asking what actually happened back in 1995, 1996, and 1997. The Gingrich case was extraordinarily complex, intensely partisan, and driven in no small way by a personal vendetta on the part of one of Gingrich's former political opponents. It received saturation coverage in the press; a database search of major media outlets revealed more than 10,000 references to Gingrich's ethics problems during the six months leading to his reprimand. It ended with a special counsel hired by the House Ethics Committee holding Gingrich to an astonishingly strict standard of behavior, after which Gingrich in essence pled guilty to two minor offenses. Afterwards, the case was referred to the Internal Revenue Service, which conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter. And then, after it was all over and Gingrich was out of office, the IRS concluded that Gingrich did nothing wrong. After all the struggle, Gingrich was exonerated….

There is a lot more in the story if you want more details, but the bottom line is that the ethics violation wasn’t an ethics violation at all. 

6.   Obama and Energy

The Obama campaign just released a website that purports to provide “the facts of President Obama energy record.” This is an intentional effort by the Obama campaign to distort the President’s abysmal energy record. After all, energy production on federal land is down under President Obama and the Obama campaign is trying their hardest to hide and obfuscate this basic fact.

Obama Claim: “Since President Obama took office, oil imports have been reduced by an average of 1.1 million barrels per day.”

Reality: A reduction of imports has happened in spite of President Obama, not because of him. More than half of the reduction is because the ongoing recession and much higher price have made fuel so expensive that consumers are using less of it.  

In January 2009, when President Obama was inaugurated, the U.S. produced 5,154,000 barrels of oil a day.  By November 2011, the last month for which we have data, the U.S. was producing 5,874,000 barrels of oil a day. This 700,000 barrel a day increase isn’t happening on federal lands, for which President Obama would justifiably claim some credit, but on private and state lands.

The reality is that oil production on federal lands is falling, while production on private and state lands is rising.  There is a long term trend of decreasing oil production on federal lands. In fact, oil production on federal lands has fallen by 43 percent over the past 9 years according to the Obama administration’s Energy Information Administration.  And it has dropped rapidly on President Obama’s watch.

Obama called for opening up drilling in the SOTU last night.  It will be interesting to see if he follows through.

7.   Race Matters

The Department of Education has acknowledged using flawed data in a study on the impact of race on student loan repayment rates, having omitted black students from its calculation. The analysis was conducted during the debate over gainful employment regulations, in response to complaints that the rules would hurt colleges that enroll relatively high percentages of minority students.

Department officials disclosed the error in a December court filing, which is part of the ongoing legal challenge to gainful employment by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, the primary for-profit trade group. That lawsuit appears to have led to the mistake’s discovery.

The Obama administration designed the federal rules in an attempt to ensure that most programs at for-profit colleges and certificate and vocational programs at nonprofit institutions prepare students for "gainful employment." For programs to be eligible for federal financial aid, they must adhere to benchmarks related to student loan repayment and debt-to-income ratios.

The original analysis was included in the introduction section of the final rules, which were issued last June. It asserted that the “percentage of the students that are members of a minority group explains 1 percent of the total variance in repayment rates” at for-profit institutions. The low figure, the department concluded at the time, meant the racial composition of students was not a statistically significant contributor to how an institution stacks up on loan repayments. The percentage of lower-income students an institution enrolled was a better measure.

But by failing to count black students, the study understated the impact of race: the actual variance at for-profits is 20 percent over all, and 31 percent for four-year institutions, the department said in the December filing.

Eduardo Ochoa, the department’s assistant secretary for postsecondary education, described the mistake in that filing, but said accurate figures would have had no impact on the final regulations.

A subsequently corrected analysis “does not justify altering the regulations,” Ochoa said, because “factors other than student demographics account for the success or failure of institutional repayment rates.”

Obama has called for a financial fraud unit in the US government. Perhaps they could start here.

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