What a Difference a Few Years Makes

While in Chicago last weekend I spent some time reading an interesting article in Vanity Fair on John McCain and how he and his views have changed over the past two years from the man who almost became president.

The article mentioned a long list of issues and what might have been done if anything under a McCain administration. Here’s the list below with a couple that I researched and added myself :

Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – video shown above was the first piece of reform President Obama signed into law which offers fair pay to women – the reform was twice vetoed by President Bush and McCain was also opposed to the legislation.

Iraq – probably no troop draw down under McCain.

Iran – under McCain the United States would have maybe blockaded or possibly bombed Iran due to their nuclear ambitions and their flawed election last year.

Student Loan Reform – John McCain was not in favor of the government takeover eliminating private banks as the middlemen in the loan process.

Auto Bailout – General Motors and Chrysler would have most likely been allowed to go bankrupt causing thousands more to lose their jobs.

Wallstreet Financial Industry Reform Act – probably no significant regulation of the financial industry allowing them to continue to police themselves.  

Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – McCain’s comments on the Senate floor railing against DADT in recent days make it clear that he did not want DADT repealed.

Stimulus Bill – McCain was against the Stimulus bill and wanted a bill with more tax cuts – its hard to tell what condition the economy would be in at this point in time under his admistration.

Healthcare Reform – perhaps some modest reforms under McCain, but nothing even close to what has been passed under Obama.

Supreme Court Justices – McCain would have almost certainly nominated two conservative judges to the court. White males ?

Hate Crime Prevention – McCain like most Republicans is against hate crimes legislation saying state laws already cover hate crimes and passing the Hate Crime Prevention Act could criminalize religious opposition to homosexuality.

Credit Card Reform – perhaps modest reform under a McCain administration, but McCain has typically voted against additional regulation of banks and their credit card practices.

While it is impossible to know for sure what might have happened had McCain taken office I think this list speaks for itself and that the President deserves some credit for his persistency to get his agenda enacted.

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How Will History Judge?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now describing the current Congress as the “most productive Congress in the history of the country.” He numbers among its accomplishments the “stimulus” legislation, the “health care reform” legislation, repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, new financial regulations, and the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

When you are in the moment, it is difficult to assess what the ultimate judgment of history will be.  I doubt that many Americans would put the current Congress up among the great Congresses of the past, however.  After all, voters just gave the boot to many of the Representatives and Senators who passed the legislation Reid touts, and Congress’ approval rating is a dismal 13 percent — its lowest level in decades.  And those people who are critical of Congress no doubt will point to the things that Congress didn’t do, like passing appropriations bills or making meaningful cuts to the federal budget.

History will make its judgment, as history always does.  In the meantime, there is something unseemly and profoundly unattractive about Senator Reid’s excessive pride.  His hubris exemplifies a significant problem with the current uninspiring crop of legislators:  they are oblivious to how they are being perceived outside the Beltway.

Our Government, Dr. Frankenstein

As the stimulus program winds down, we learn more about how our federal dollars were spent.

The latest story reports that the inspector general for the Social Security Administration examined the $250 payments made to senior citizens under the stimulus bill.  The inspector general determined that 72,000 of the $250 payments — $18 million in all — were made to the dearly departed, and another $4.3 million went to 17,000 prison inmates.  Nice to know that our frankensteinian government is seeking to stimulate the dead, and the imprisoned!  Is anyone checking to see whether the trade in cigarettes and illicit goods at San Quentin has flourished as a result?

The article reports that a little more than half of the improper payments to those already dead were returned, and I suppose we should be grateful that so many relatives were honest.  The article makes no mention of how many prisoners acted similarly, however.

The Departures Continue

Slowly but surely, the members of President Obama’s economic team are hitting the road.  In July the budget director left the Administration, earlier this month Christina Romer departed, and now Larry Summers, viewed as one of the President’s most senior economic advisers, has announced that he is leaving.  President Obama has praised all of them as brilliant, capable, moving things in the right direction, etc. — but the reality is that the recession continues, economic forecasts are downbeat, unemployment and foreclosures rates are extraordinarily high, and consumer confidence is scraping the bottom of the barrel.  If that is the President’s definition of brilliant stewardship, what would abject failure look like?

I think the President and his political team have the savvy to realize that, given the lame performance of the economy and the unkept promises of the stimulus bill and other economic initiatives, heads need to roll.  Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner undoubtedly will soon follow Romer, Summers, and others out the door, so that the President can make a show out of bringing in a “new economic team” with “new ideas” to deal with his plummeting popularity and the nagging suspicion among many people that President Obama might not be up to the task.

The timing is obviously coincidental, but the poignant question posed to the President at his recent town hall forum about middle class citizens worrying about returning to a franks and beans existence is a powerful indication of what average Americans are thinking.  The President needs to show that he understands what they are saying and is acting on it, and he can’t do that with the same group of advisers who are widely viewed as presiding over a failed — indeed, disastrous — economic policy.

Worst “Stimulus” Story Yet

The Los Angeles City Controller has released a report that the $111 million Los Angeles received in “stimulus” funds “created or retained” exactly 55 jobs.

With stories like this, will people please stop trying to convince us that the “stimulus” bill was anything other than a gross exercise in pork barrel spending that utterly failed to deliver what was promised?

Another Reason Not To Trust Stimulus Statistics (Cont.)

The AP does a critical analysis of Vice President Biden’s comments about the weatherization program funded with “stimulus” funds and concludes that the Veep failed to mention some pretty material points.  No surprise there.

The Obama Administration really should stop talking about the “stimulus” debacle before its loses all credibility.

Another Reason Not To Trust “Stimulus” Statistics

You’d think that the Obama Administration and Congress would have realized by now that it is pointless and counterproductive to try to convince Americans that the “stimulus” bill was a huge success, but they keep trying anyway.

Earlier this week, for example, President Obama visited Columbus and cited the work of one local architecture firm on a new crime lab as another example of the positive economic impact of the “stimulus” legislation.

The Columbus Dispatch now reports that the President was wrong, and that in fact no “stimulus” money is involved in the project.  It’s just another reason to be skeptical of the silly, unvalidated “jobs created or saved” statistics that get thrown around in attempting to justify what clearly was a wasteful pork barrel bill that did not provide the economic boost that was promised.