Paul Krugman of the New York Times was not impressed by President Obama’s decision to temporarily freeze nondefense discretionary spending. He views it as a political gimmick rather than a way to help solve the nation’s economic problems.
In fact, Krugman doesn’t believe most of the country’s woes will be addressed with the current political climate.
So we’re paralyzed in the face of mass unemployment and out-of-control health care costs. Don’t blame Mr. Obama. There’s only so much one man can do, even if he sits in the White House. Blame our political culture instead, a culture that rewards hypocrisy and irresponsibility rather than serious efforts to solve America’s problems. And blame the filibuster, under which 41 senators can make the country ungovernable, if they choose — and they have so chosen.
The Guardian in an editorial today opined that President Obama’s State of the Union speech was a reality check.
Having a U.S. president who is not George W. Bush may come as a relief to the rest of the world, but the legacy Mr. Obama inherited has been all too quickly forgotten at home.
The first network broadcast of the PGA Tour season will beam into living rooms this weekend from Torrey Pines in San Diego, the site of the 2008 U.S. Open playoff duel between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate.
Golf is a perfect companion on cold winter weekends, but with no Tiger on the tour, Jeff Neuman of Real Clear Sports offers his suggestions on who we should root for.
Can’t find a job? One of the 85,000 people who became unemployed last month? Among the estimated 7.3 million people who have lost their jobs in the past 26 months? Or among the 920,000 who became so discouraged that they quit looking for work?
Fear not. As Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe reports, the federal government added 10,000 jobs a month from December 2007 to June 2009, the first 18 months of the recession. And the average federal job pays about $71,000 a year, considerably higher than the average private sector salary.
The defense and transportation departments are apparently the best places to work. Jacoby points to an analysis done by USA Today that shows 10,100 defense employees are making $150,000 or more, and 1,690 employees in transportation are making $170,000 or more. Before the recession, only one transportation employee was earning $170,000 or more.
And you thought the salaries for utility infielders were out of control …
The history of populism, going back to William Jennings Bryan, is generally a history of defeat. … In fact, this country was built by anti-populists. It was built by people like Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln who rejected the idea that the national economy is fundamentally divided along class lines.
Brooks suggests that politicians are drawn to populism because it makes everything so simple.
The economic crisis was caused by a complex web of factors, including global imbalances caused by the rise of China. But with the populist narrative, you can just blame Goldman Sachs. … Second, it absolves voters of responsibility for their problems. Over the past few years, many investment bankers behaved like idiots, but so did average Americans, racking up unprecedented levels of personal debt. With the populist narrative, you can accuse the former and absolve the latter.
The populists have an Us versus Them mentality. If they continue their random attacks on enterprise and capital, they will only increase the pervasive feeling of uncertainty, which is now the single biggest factor in holding back investment, job creation and growth. They will end up discrediting good policies (the Obama bank reforms are quite sensible) because they will persuade the country that the government is in the hands of reckless Huey Longs.
Joel Branstrom told Associated Press Writer Bill Draper he figured he was about to be the butt of some kind of joke when he was blindfolded at a pep rally and told he would win tickets to the NCAA’s Final Four if he could hit a half-court shot. But the girls basketball coach played along and sent the Olathe (Kan.) Northwest High School gym into a frenzy Friday by hitting the improbable shot.
Before launching the shot (seen above), Branstrom told Draper he thought he was about to be hit in the face with a pie, so he held the ball up as protection for a few seconds. “I knew they would cheer regardless to make me think I hit it,” Branstrom said. “I let it go, they cheered, I heard laughter. I seriously didn’t know I made it for a while.”
The shot, which was recorded on video by the school’s multimedia department, made it onto the Internet over the weekend, and by Monday the former University of Kansas basketball walk-on was something of a celebrity.
Branstrom was a senior on the Kansas basketball team in 1997 when the Jayhawks got beat by Arizona 85-82 in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament. He said Final Four time is his favorite of the year. This year’s NCAA semifinals and finals are being played in Indianapolis.
But he won’t be going. The students never had the promised tickets, so they wound up buying him a gift card to a Mexican restaurant instead. “Some of the kids felt absolutely horrible that they didn’t have tickets,” Branstrom said. “But that’s not what it’s all about. We got some smiles, it was a feel-good moment.”
One reason to root for New Orleans in Sunday’s NFC championship game was because the Saints had never been to the Super Bowl, leaving only Cleveland, Detroit, Houston and Jacksonville in that ignominious category.
Another reason was so we wouldn’t have two more weeks of reading and listening to Brett Favre stories. The guy has obviously been one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks, but the annual “will he or won’t he” retirement gambit has gotten old. (Not to mention the Wrangler commercials.)
OK, so we’ll be stuck with two weeks’ worth of stories about New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and how much the Saints mean to the folks in the Bayou — and probably several pieces on Archie Manning, dad of Peyton and arguably the Saints’ greatest player in their not-so-storied history – but it beats more introspective looks at Favre.
Of course, the speculation on Favre’s future has, ahem, already begun according to The Sporting News. If he does retire, it means the final pass he threw for the Packers, Jets and Vikings were all interceptions. Fitting, I suppose, for the guy who has been picked off more than any QB in history.
Getting a cold one at an eastern Pennsylvania restaurant is no problem: Everything is on ice — and under it, and surrounded by it.
The Citizens’ Voice reports Damenti’s Restaurant in Butler Township, pictured at right, has set up a temporary freestanding bar with a pirate theme in its backyard that is almost completely made of 50 tons of ice.
To keep the ice from melting, air conditioning brings the mercury down to about 20 degrees. Owner Kevin McDonald says he’s hoping the novelty will bring in the crowds.
According to the newspaper account, about 40 people can fit in the 480-square-foot structure. The decor includes a skull and crossbones that covers an entire wall and pirate motifs and sayings etched into the walls both inside and outside.
McDonald said he wasn’t sure what he would do when the ice begins to melt. I suspect it would be prudent to develop an exit strategy.
Jim Vandehei and James Hohmann posted a story today on Politico that suggests that Republicans who think the party has a real chance of reclaiming power based on former Cosmo centerfold model Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race need to chill their exuberance a bit.
Among the points made:
• The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found only 30 percent of those surveyed had a favorable view of Republicans. That is 8 percentage points lower than the favorability rating for Democrats. And 22 points lower than President Obama’s.
• Even Republicans aren’t thrilled with Republicans. A CBS News poll showed only 55 percent of Republicans hold a favorable view of their congressional delegation.
“Scott Brown didn’t even really run as a Republican,” Matthew Dowd, a consultant for former President George W. Bush who voted for Obama, was quoted as saying in the story. “He ran as an outsider.”
The story suggests the numbers facing Republicans are daunting.
The most important ones: 40, the net seats to win the House, and 10, the net seats to win the Senate, are very difficult — perhaps impossible in the case of the Senate — to achieve. Republicans have picked up 40 or more House seats only seven times since 1912, when the chamber grew to 435 seats. They have picked up 10 or more Senate seats only four times in that period. They have done both three times in the past century.
The general election is still more than nine months away. That’s several lifetimes in politics. Although with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi calling shots, anything is possible.
The parallels between Clinton and Obama in their first years are striking. Both passed significant economic legislation — Clinton passed an economic package, complete with tax increase, that set it on a path toward the balanced budgets of his second term — despite a stone wall of Republican opposition. Both were driven by ambition and high-mindedness to chase the health care phantasm. And both seemed to lose track of basic gutbucket politics in the process.
After a year of “think time” on serious policy issues, the President faces a very different landscape in 2010. He will have to go to battle, shedding his preternatural calm at times, and fight to regain the public trust. He will have to be more politician than policymaker — and yet remain true to his values in the process. He will have to understand that in the poisonous atmosphere of American politics, triumphs are no longer a realistic possibility; survival is as good as it gets.
In contrast to Kennedy, Obama’s first year has been much more successful. But even more important is that he has shown some of the same temperamental qualities that should allow him to keep learning on the job as Kennedy did. And we have learned a great deal about him.