Saturday, January 17, 2009
“While our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not. What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that our founders displayed. What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives – from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry – an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.”
Friday, January 16, 2009
When the plane hit the river and water started flowing into the cabin, passengers helped each other to the exits. The plane came to a stop in front of a river ferry, which immediately rushed to its side, and its passengers began a rescue operation, without instruction, authorities or hesitation. Passengers on the plane sent women and children to the ferry, and on the ferry, men helped them aboard while women gathered coats to warm them...It's the impulse and the ethic that holds a society together and makes it strong. Less ambiguous than the Golden Rule, it is the human rule: you'd do the same for me.
Thanks in large measure to how the Bushites bungled the first montrous half of the $700 billion TARP bailout, there was congressional resistance to approving the second half for Obama. But he and his administration said straight out what they intended to do with it, and how transparent they were going to be with exactly how they would spend that money. Obama also let it be known that if Congress balked, he would use his first veto to free the funds.
And whatever else he said, it worked. Wrote Time's Jay Newton-Small: Yesterday really was something to watch with Senate Dems openly going into the meeting voicing skepticism about supporting the second half of the bank bailout, an issue on par with President Bush in public approval ratings, both are at 27%. “I don't think the climate warrants it,” said Senator Evan Bayh walking into the luncheon with PEOTUS Obama. “The first half has done its work, the banking sector is far more stable than in September.”
Yet somehow, 45 minutes later, nearly everyone emerged in support of the bailout. “It was really something to watch,” marveled Michigan's Debbie Stabenow. “He convinced a lot of people to come to his side. It was just amazing to see what kind of president he'll make."
So on Thursday, a key Senate vote assured that Obama would get the remaining $350 billion as soon as he takes office.
Meanwhile, his own economic recovery plan has changed some, partly in response to criticisms and ideas, and it has also become more specific. Ambinder lays it out this way:
Moolah -- a large expansion of unemplyoment benefits, increasing the duration and amount of the money; also: a big expansion of the (highly stimulative) foos stamp program.
Education: $41 billion for school repair; nearly $80 billion to states and local governments to prevent criticial services from being cut; $15.6 billion for Pell grant expansion; $6 billion to colleges and universities.
A passel of other items, like a few billion for home heating subsidies.
COBRA -- $39 billion worth of new spending to allow folks who've lost their job to keep their employer's insurance even longer.
Highway/Road/Rail: $30 billion for projects; also, billions for light rail, upgrades and repairs and Amtrak.
Energy: $11 billion for the electricity grid, $8 billion in loan gaurantees for new power station / transmission projects, $6.7 billion to make government buildings more energy efficient, $6.2 billion to help poor families make their homes more energy efficient; $600 million for new, energy efficient cars for the federal fleet; $2.4 billion for carbon capture research;
Businesses: $430 million for small business loans; $100 million for rural business grants; several hundred million to help foster job growth in the manufacturing sector and in localities hit hard by the recession.
Science -- $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $2 billion more for the NIH, hundreds of millions for high energy physics, satellite development, construction grants, the U.S. geological survey, NASA climate change programs and more.
Tax Cuts -- Obama's downpayment on payroll tax relief -- $500 per person, $1000 per couple. The Earned Income Tax Credit will be expanded.
Digital conversion -- $650 million in new coupons for the digital television transition.
The recovery plan also comes with blueprints for oversight, both institutional (Overseeing the economic recovery spending, House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D-WI) said today, will be a seven-person board composed of assistant secretaries and inspectors general of various agencies. Obey described the board's mission as "early warning of funding management problems" as the bill is implemented in states and towns across the country) and by providing information to--well, everybody: Contracts and data on where the stimulus money is heading will be posted online... But the best part of all: Any member of the public who has concerns with a particular element of the spending disbursement can post their questions for the oversight board to investigate.
Soon-to-be President Obama remains the most popular incoming president in generations (71%), and his economic recovery program is especially popular--but here's the really fantastic news, so note it well ye conventional wisdom nonthinkers: "the idea of creating jobs through increasing production of renewable energy and making public buildings more energy efficient" gets the approval of 89% of the public.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
We've had uncharacteristically bright days this week (this should be the rainy season), with spectacular sunsets. I've seen most of them from the patio at Wildberries--hence this photo. I'm still learning this little digital job--more pixels but I like it less than my old one. It's much more temperamental. Click photo to enlarge so it actually looks like something.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The New Hampshire primary was on the second Tuesday of January one year ago. Though Hillary Clinton unexpectedly won it, the night is likely to be remembered for Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" speech, which led to--among many other things--the best-known political video of all time. It's never a bad time to watch and listen to it again, but tonight might be an especially good time.