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February 28th, AO Staff discuss Tuesday's Presidential address to Congress.

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Tim Lytle [02/28/09 13:30:00] | 2952 Comments | Point

An Absolute Address

In the spirit of collectivism, here's a response to Tuesday's address. Not a single person's response, but the responses of three individuals synthesized into one.

An IT professional and real-estate investor, an out of work landscaping barista, working in construction while attending school part time, and a small-business owner with a six month old and a spouse in the medical field. It's quote the cross-section. They're all part of the regular AO staff, so it's not really random, but it is a cross-section.

[The following is the transcript of Tuesday's speech (some parts have been removed to try to keep the length manageable), with the group response interjected. No, we didn't remove parts to manipulate the content, go ahead and watch the video or read the full text.]

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has – a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

Thanks for clearing that up - I wasn't sure how the thing that is effecting everyone is effecting everyone.

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

How?

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Oh. That's how. So you're not involved at all in the fixing of our problems? I agree that the answer is not found in government, but in the people. I agree that there are remarkable qualities that can be identified as 'American'. I agree that the challenges we now face, just as those we've faces before, can be met and overcome.

But I don't agree with the last part. That we need to embrace a disguised collectivism, or that for some unknown span of time, we - the people - have thrown away our responsibility.

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities – as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

It's our fault, but you're not blaming us. Why thanks! And if we don't agree, then apparently we're just not being honest.

Maybe the reason we're skipping the blame part is because if we looked where to place the blame, a large share - if not the majority - would fall on liberal and socialistic practices that have been pushed upon us over the past years, and now will be enacted in greater force, using this 'crisis' as an excuse.

Honest.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

Yikes! I guess we are really irresponsible - so spending money and piling up debt is bad? Isn't that your solution?

Here's the key to this speech: ignore every other option - like using our own oil resources, ignore what has worked in the past - like privatized health care, and a sound tort system, ignore the ideas that challenge liberal institutions - like educational vouchers, and yes, we'll too see that there is only one true way.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day. Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.

So you're agenda is going to fix all the problems we've made, and take charge of the future?? Now if I order one in the next 20 minutes will you send me two?!

Short term gains over long term prosperity sounds a lot like what the last administration battled against in the fight to preserve this nation's future. Short term gains of long term prosperity sounds a lot like your supporters, who are looking for you to put gas in their car, pay their mortgage, give them a house, and force McDonald's to provide better benefits, instead of considering the long term effects.

It also sounds a whole lot like the stimulus package, and the argument that we 'have to do something'.

And let's not forget the studies about the lower lending requirements forced onto mortgage companies. Mortgage companies don't want bad loans, period. If a loan goes into default, the bank stops making interest expense and has to acquire a property and sell it. There is much overhead involved and they may even have to hire people to specifically deal with bad loans. Most financial reports have a line item called bad debt. It's not a good line item to have. Why then, would they overextend their lending on purpose? Sure I can think of a few reasons, but none of them have to do with a direct quick profit.

And we didn't transfer wealth to the wealthy - we just took less of their money.

It’s an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That’s why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

I bet one of those police officers was a friend of John Edwards. Were these the jobs that were lost? Isn't labor subject to the laws of supply and demand? What if you overestimated the demand for roads and bridges? Were 3.5 million people laid off in those exact proportions? Then what about those who have lost their jobs in areas that are not getting any money?

Look, I'm not against infrastructure spending and I understand the need for taxes. But there definitely seems to be a disconnect between the jobs being created and those that were lost.

That last sentence is just pure anecdote. Did Minneapolis need those 57 police officers? Maybe we should just hire 100 more if they are needed. What if Detroit needs those police officers more? Or maybe Newark? Keeping the focus on jobs ignores the real demand. The demand for products and services.

If you believe in the free market system, then gaming that system - meeting an artificial demand - won't help. But if you believe in socialism - you know, big government, and are just making sure no crisis goes to waste - if you believe that, then this is spot on.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1s

So tax cuts aren't bad? Let me say this, if all this bill contained was tax cuts, I don't think Republican support would be a problem. Don't make it sound like it's your idea to cut taxes. But that's an interesting day to start this 'tax cut' - is this the thirteen bucks per paycheck we've been hearing about?

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right. That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort – because nobody messes with Joe.

Since a good portion of the people around you have their own ethics problems, why should we believe you that Joe will be any different? Hey, nobody messed with the school bully either, yet he wasn't always right and also cared very little about most people. But you are the altruistic ones, I forgot about that. You even send your kids to public scho.... oh wait, never-mind.

I think we've already seen the broken promises: no chance the even read the bill, and wasteful spending: the bill itself. If that's what happens with good intentions, what are we going to get this time?

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

So your plan is to repair roads, and increase mass transit, while giving money to people who are poor. But that won't solve the real problem? Then why did we do it?

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family’s well-being. You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

Because?

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins. You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll. But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. That is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore confidence, and re-start lending.

So if credit is the lifeblood of our economy, why are we so concerned about spending?

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and re-finance their mortgages. It’s a plan that won’t help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values – Americans who will now be able to take advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who re-finances today can save nearly $2000 per year on their mortgage.

Now that sounds real good. But how will it not help the person down the street who was spending exactly $1500 more a year than he/she should have been? Wouldn't your plan help them too?

Stop giving me anecdotal evidence to make a categorical statement. Also, if you could afford the monthly payment before the crash, you can still afford the monthly payment after the crash, and vice versa. Unless you lost your job. But how does that differ from before the crash? That's part of the risk of buying a house.

There is no way to discover exactly who was responsible and who wasn't, without examining every case in detail.

Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.

Shock and awe, baby. But for someone who doesn't believe in big government, that sounds an awful lot like big government. Now if only we had a plan to get us out of this quagmire...

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won’t solve the problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

So before you gave them money but didn't tell them how to spend it. Now you're telling them how to spend it. How about we don't bail them out? Then we don't have to worry about where they spend it.

And since we are extending the unemployment benefits, people will have plenty of time to update a resume, relocate/retrain (there's money for that too), and get hired by a company that does know how to manage their resources. Maybe some of them can start working in the energy field since you are throwing money that way too?

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government – and yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

And they said Iraq was fear-mongering. Now this is fear-mongering - if we don't blindly follow what you deem best, we won't survive. But wouldn't we learn a lesson? I mean, I'm all for helping us out, but let the kid burn his hand and he isn't gonna touch the stove again.

So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you – I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that can’t pay its workers or the family that has saved and still can’t get a mortgage.

Are all Wall Street executives bad? Shouldn't you reward the good ones? And all small businesses good? Even Joe the Plumber? There's a lot of generalization here. Sounds a little like class warfare.

And don't forget to throw some money to those who can't hold down a job because they don't want to work. It wouldn't be fair to them if you just gave it to the hard working ones. After all, how are you going to tell the difference?

That’s what this is about. It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they’ll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover.

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary. Because we cannot consign our nation to an open-ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.

These tough new rules would be the common sense rules your party - Barny Frank among others - opposed when it was McCain and the Bush administration pushing for them. Last I checked, mortgage companies are still lending (at least local ones), and you can go try to get a loan any time you want. If you can't get one, you have to ask yourself, why?

Should we lower the standards that the bank has? Isn't that how we got here in the first place?

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.

It's not an actual blueprint, is it? Because I don't think that would help much. And others might see this as more of a road-map to socialism.

Your words sound good, Mr. President, but it's not those words that cause disagreement. I hate to beat a dead horse, but how will STD screening accomplish any of those goals? And what if society doesn't place as high a priority on the things you've mentioned (as judged by our money and where it goes)? Then you are telling all US citizens that you know what's best for us. You know where our money is best spent.

What about what we want to spend money on? What if we want to buy outrageous TVs? Again, just more fear-mongering and hijacking a crisis to force your agenda. An agenda that's been opposed by the American people time and time again.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession. Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me. But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

Wait, where does it say the government has a role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity? I thought that was our job individually.

How many times are you going to attach the recession to the previous administration. We had eight years of that administration, but only two years of your party controlling congress. Maybe we don't need to look at the small change - a single President - but the large constant - a stagnating, arrogant, and all too powerful congress.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

That's probably because taxes are high, unions are in control, and you're now targeting executives for blame while saying the government could run their businesses better. Do the people really want that? Or are you telling us that's what's best?

I agree that we need a new form of energy, but if nobody wants to buy a hybrid car - there won't be any demand for it. You want to artificially create the demand for hybrids because that's where you want this country to go.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Again, when did that happen? I must have missed the part where we stopped leading.

Mr. President, American still is the greatest nation in the world, it still is the nation people flock to, it still is the shining light of liberty that every dictator, every oppressor fears, and every free man respects. Stop trying to convince us that our nation is second-rate because someplace else makes batteries - that we use.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.

We'll be laying power lines across a nation - are the old lines not working? It just takes a little bit of knowledge about the power industry to see that your 'cap' on carbon sounds a lot like California - you know, the home of roaming blackouts because power companies have been forced to shutdown power plants and are unable to build others. But we'll have really nice power lines.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

But...you'll take money from the UAW.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

Putting money into research for better energy, making it harder to use high pollution manufacturing, thus creating more work. Sounds good - but if it was good, and by good I mean profitable, isn't that what we're talking about here - why aren't companies already doing it?

If there was money to be made, do you expect us to believe that the government would be the first to discover it? Or the best judge of what resources to put towards it?

For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

Ask someone in the medical industry, and not the law profession, and I think they'd give tort reform a chance first. What exactly do you think is driving medical costs so high?

Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives.

It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.

Again, why wouldn't the private sector already be doing this if it were the life-saver you talk it up to be? Hospitals, medical companies, even the insurance business makes money by reducing errors, bringing down cost, and saving lives. Of course that's not true when an outside party is subsidising something - then it's just pursued for the money, not the long term profitability.

I'm all for reducing errors, bringing down costs, ensuring privacy, and saving lives, but I don't want that at the expense of losing my freedom to decided what I (or my employer) want to pay for. If I want to pay for a procedure that the "Health Czar" doesn't want me to have - that should be my right. And if hospitals and universities want to use their resources on technology, methodology, and research that a congressional committee doesn't deem important or economical enough - that should be their right.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.

So we're saving money so it can be spent on the flawed idea that every person should have the same quality health care. What's next, everyone should have the same quality job? The same quality food? The same quality cable?

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.

You admit not knowing what to do, and that you will pick the brains of anyone and everyone who could possibly add insight. I certainly hope you do, but that hasn't happened so far.

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

Already, we have made an historic investment in education through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress. But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

This might be the most right thing you've said. But shouldn't this be the states' job? And what about the teacher's unions? And what about the amazing number of worthless jobs that exist in our schools? And how much of this will go to the sports programs?

I'd venture to say there is enough money there now. Fix the problem first and then throw more money at it. When it will actually yield a return and not just make some superintendent richer.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Now we have a responsibility to go to school? What if I just don't want to? Am I a bad person? Do I not have that right anymore? Funny how eduction went from a privilege, to a right, to a responsibility. If it's the responsibility of lawmakers to make this system work, maybe we've stumbled upon the reason it is failing.

Every time we 'American people' are called on to do something - go to school, help in a soup kitchen, stop buying big houses - I get the feeling we're the kid who 'manages' the sports equipment, because no one wants him on the team, or the Vice-President of Something-He-Can't-Mess-Up. It's a way to make us feel involved, while the important decisions are being made without us.

I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of national service for this and future generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home.

I like this. You're not just throwing money out there so people who can't afford something, can get an easier ride. You're making them do some work for it. And you're also trying to make the teaching better by providing incentives to teacher and administrators.

But is there still an opposition to vouchers to bring the free market to education? And I was about to applaud you until I remembered that you want to throw more money at early childhood programs. This only encourages the exact opposite of what you said is superior.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

I’m proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities.

I don't even know how to comment on that. No earmarks? Really? Have you read it? I know we couldn't read it - but did you? How can you even say that?

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them.

We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use.

No bid contracts? Generally bad, but really, how many companies out there bid for jobs in a war zone? And is this something you want to give to the lowest bidder, or to the company you know can do the job. I give my mechanic no-bid jobs most of the time.

But 'Cold War-era'? You know we're still using Civil War-era weapons? Revolutionary War-era weapons? Because they still work. A rifle is still a rifle, a knife is still a knife. Many companies will use Cold War-ear systems to track their inventory and sales - because it's not really that long ago. I know that 'we don't use' was tacked to the end. I just don't believe it.

Better for less? Sounds great to me. I would like nothing more than to see numerous deletions from the federal budget. But it sounds to me like you just want to reverse every one of Bush's policies and replace them with your programs of choice (whether they be good or bad) in the name of crisis. If you can manage to do that in such a way that doesn't raise taxes, I'll give you a pat on the back. But should I believe you if you tell me you can fly?

We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

Don't we already have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world? And here we go with the offshoring debate again. My company cannot compete with an Indian company because their labor is cheaper. Period.

Note I said we have competitors in India. This means we aren't just looking for an extra buck at the expense of an American job. What it means is that we will all lose our jobs if we don't offshore some of our work. Some of our contracts with US companies require offshoring.

Do you think raising corporate taxes - that's what 'ending tax breaks' means - will end the offshore market? No, now corporations won't send jobs overseas, they'll just move overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime.

250 thousand? That's the middle class in some places. You're adding more taxes to those who already bare most of the burden.

Your entire plan attempts to move the creation of jobs and technology away from those in the private sector and to the government, and here's how it's done - by taking wealth from the wealthy and transferring it to the government. It used to be people looked to the wealthy for jobs, now they'll be looking to the government. That is what you want isn't it.

I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut – that’s right, a tax cut – for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

Tax cuts don't come in the form of checks. Dependence comes in the form of checks. Tax cuts are when you take less of my money, not when you give some of it back.

To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

It's that easy - the magic of reform? You've figured out a way to fix everything? And no one else could figure this out? I'm kinda skeptical.

Finally, because we’re also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our budget.

Why don't you start by picking people who can figure out their own taxes.

That is why this budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules – and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.

Woah. Spoiler alert. Iraq ending to follow. I thought you already announced that in the campaign - you'd pull everyone out.

Let me guess, now it's a little like what the Bush administration did - turning over responsibility as the Iraq government meets requirements - only this time with your logo.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.

That's big talk, I'd like to see it. Your only choice is to take out half of the middle-east. I'd be willing to bet some good money that a good portion of people in Iran are plotting against American people.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture.

You're the president of the United States and you haven't watched this season of 24? Ask Jack Bauer about torture. Should we make people uncomfortable? It's ok to kill the terrorists but not torture them?

If they don't care about the ideals they are fighting for then you won't have to torture them. Oh and by the way, can we raise our voices at them? Where is the line?

Perhaps we've missed what torture really is - isn't it less about what we do, and more about why we do it?

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

You may be the only one who thinks that; I'm betting a majority of the world disagrees. Other nations, other leaders, and other people don't like you talking down to them any more then we do. America protects her interests, America doesn't dictate the direction of other nations.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing poverty – we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national power.

Good luck with that, nobody has ever tried to get peace in that region. And it really does look like we are so close, doesn't it?

I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed.

I don't believe that's true at all. I believe there are those in this nation that don't believe in the great experiment our Founding Fathers started, and would like to see it discarded and replaced with Socialism and Marxism.

And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, "something worthy to be remembered."

Why all the "if"s? You promised at the beginning that it was all going to work out. You should fire the speech writer and changed all the "if"s to "when."

Now I came across more negatively than I wanted to. I'm frustrated with the confidence you have in untested ideas and big spending. And the hope you place in ideas that have already failed in the past. I really hope the stimulus package works, but it can't just turn our economy around. It has to work so well (and for so long) that it reverses all the spending via growth and gives us a lasting surplus.

It also has to do all that in a way that doesn't diminish our freedoms. Except it already has, hasn't it?

We don't live in the United States of America because of prosperity, we live here because we are free to pursue our dreams. If you start telling us what our dreams are then what good is money?

Our forefathers came here for freedom and opportunity. Yes to make money and live happily, but to do it their way, not yours.

Tim Lytle [02/27/09 23:55:00] | 1902 Comments | Point

The Media Presidency

I remember the first time I heard the name Barack Obama. It wasn't at the nomination of failed presidential candidate John Kerry. It wasn't from the mouth of a confused Ted Kennedy. It was in the story of then Jack Ryan. And it wasn't that long ago.

Anyone remember Jack Ryan?

In 2004 (yes, just one presidential election cycle ago) Ryan had won the Republican primary, and was running for the US Senate seat of a retiring Republican. His opponent? Barack Obama. You may think that this story ends with Ryan loosing the election to a relatively young politician - who then surprisingly, with only 4 years of national experience, runs and is elected President. But it doesn't. You see Barack Obama never beat Jack Ryan. That's why the story made such an impact then, and that's why it means so much now.

In 1999 Jack Ryan and his then wife Jeri were divorced. If the name Jeri Ryan sounds familiar it's not surprising, she's had leading roles on more than a few TV shows. As you might expect, their divorce records and custody battle were sealed. During the primary Ryan allowed access to a portion of the records; however, both he and his former wife opposed access to the custody hearing documents. But that wasn't enough for the media. During the general election, the Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV used legal measures to have the documents released. Ruling against the wishes of both spouses, Judge Robert Schnider gave the media access to the sealed records of the couple's divorce.

And then Jack Ryan withdrew. There were a number of accusations in the documents that, if actually true, would have certainly brought into question his moral character. True or not, they caused the end of his race.

Not surprisingly, there wasn't much chance for the replacement candidate - Alan Keyes - to win.

Would Ryan have won if this didn't happen? Maybe, maybe not. But this certainly ensured that the possibility was removed. It's an interesting set of characters that virtually guaranteed Barack Obama's victory in his first national election. An actress (although an unwilling participant), the media, and a judge.

I'm not sure the second election was that different. The media's bias towards Obama was so obvious that it spawned numerous comedy show skits, enough that Ed Rendell - former Chairman of the DNC - called the media's coverage of Barack Obama 'embarrassing', excluding Fox but singling out MSNBC. We also learned in this election that the general support of those in Hollywood is perhaps an unwilling need to mirror what is expected - with actors speaking out about modern day political blacklisting. And was there ever any question as to where the allegiance of entrenched government office holders lies?

Again, without that support, would Obama still have won? Maybe, maybe not. But Obama has run, and won, only two national elections. And both times, it was with more than a little help from his friends.

Welcome to the Media Presidency - next time you read the paper, just remember who's side they've been on every time.

Tim Lytle [02/25/09 20:00:00] | 2351 Comments | Point

How Much Cost?

Unfortunately, all wars mean casualties. Vice President Biden recently said there would be an "uptick" in casualties in Afghanistan as the conflict intensifies. What level of American casualties would you be willing to accept in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?

Recently I took a survey which included that question. The answers ranged from 'a lot more', 'some more' to 'a lot fewer' and 'no casualties'. I selected, "Don't know", because there wasn't a 'this question is stupid' option.

Is a single soldier's life worth less that the lives of two? Are 500 lives worth more than 100 lives? 1000? 2000? Would 3000 lost be okay, but 3001 unacceptable? Are we supposed to be drawing that kind of line? Or is it more of an algorithm?

This isn't eBay, you don't set your 'acceptable loss' limit then have it proxy bid up to that point. This isn't a used car lot where you low bid at first and see if you can keep the cost within budget. It's not like a remodel project, where you pull the plug half way through, because you found water damage. This is life and death, this is right and wrong - either you're in or you not.

If a war, a principle, a idea is worth one American life, it's worth two, it's worth three, it's worth them all - one life isn't worth more than another - each is priceless, and no matter what the multiplier, it's the same. If I believe something is worth wagering one American life, it's the same a wagering them all.

Now, if you don't believe that the strategy is correct, that the tactics are working, or even that the cause is right - that's different. But I'm tired of people trying to convince me to remove support because of the cost. Our founding fathers pledged their lives,fortunes, and honor to the cause of freedom, because they knew it was all or nothing. It hasn't changed.

If you want me to change my mind, convince me that the mission is flawed or that there's a better way to accomplish the goal - but stop trying to convince me the cost is now too great; because if it's too great now, it was too great when the first life was lost. And if that did cause me to change, what would I be saying about all that has been spent?

Tim Lytle [02/23/09 22:23:41] | 2536 Comments | Point

Absolute Cartoon


Behind the cartoon.

Tim Lytle [02/23/09 13:30:00] | 1095 Comments | Point

Week-In-Review

We're taking a break from all the bailout and stimulus stories, to bring you what really matter. Enjoy the break from all the historic and epic crisis, and while you're at it, let us know what you want to see next week.

Monkey Business
No, not a reference to political cartoonists' tendency to portray our former President as a primate - this time monkey business is a serious thing. Consider this a PSA to all monkey owners, don't give your little angel too much tea - or Xanax. Turns out he might go crazy and start attacking people. And the police. And then they'll shoot him. But only after you stab him. And beat him with a shovel.

A truly bizarre story. But honestly, more bizarre than Washington? Anymore, maybe not.

At least that's what the New York Post thought. Me? I think it's about time anybody can call anybody a monkey. Now that's progress. But now I have to come up with a new idea for the next AO Cartoon.

Above Presidential Pay-Grade
The North Dakota House of Representatives is willing to go where the President of the United States fears to tread. They don't think establishing when life begins is above their pay grade. Now it's just on to the North Dakota Senate for a vote. The same Senate that wants signs posted outside abortion clinics:

"Notice: No one can force you to have an abortion. It is against the law for a spouse, a boyfriend, a parent, a friend, a medical care provider, or any other person to in any way force you to have an abortion.

If it passes there, I'm sure we'll see it in the Supreme Court. Unless that's all they were waiting for - just someone to tell them when life begins.

Time For Social Studies
Multiculturalism is the in thing - and let's face it, is there anything cooler than learning about another culture? Especially when they want to kill you and everyone like you. A Pennsylvania High School banned a group of students from wearing their 'kaffiyehs' in school. You know, those are the checkered scarves all the celebrity terrorists are wearing these days. They work great with AKs or RPGs and most other weapons of choice - very versatile, and there's a collection of matching...vests.

The whole thing started when they wore 'RIP Israel' t-shirts to school. It's a tragic commentary on modern society. All you do is wear some radical anti-Semitic slogan, and the next thing you know, they're taking away your terror bling.

After a few meetings, school officials decided to allow the kaffiyehs, and made sure everyone got together and talked things out. That sounds fair, at least it wasn't a shirt supporting the war on terror.

Gitmo Update
Ah yes, it's that refreshing hope & change again. The justice department - you know, the new Justic Department - just ruled that concerning enemy combatants in Bagram, they don't have constitutional rights and won't be tried in the US court system. Or to quote the justice department:

"Having considered the matter, the government adheres to its previously articulated position..."

Well, you know what they say, the more things change - the more they stay the same.

Helen Thomas
Making sure someone defends the downtrodden terrorists, Helen Thomas again takes the 'offensive',  referring to those seeking our nation's complete destruction and the complete annihilation of every Jewish descendant as 'so called terrorists'. Good old journalistic integrity.

If only we could have schools teach that kind of thinking to our children.

Tim Lytle [02/22/09 23:55:00] | 1853 Comments | Point

What's the Difference?


(Photo: Keith Syvinski)

I read this morning about another scam involving Robert Allen Stanford and about $8 billion worth of CDs. You've also got the Madoff scandal. Some people say there could be many more scams that will surface in the near future due to investigations that are supposedly ongoing. And then many will come along and blame them for the problems this country is facing. And they are not without fault, as scams of that proportion should be severely punished. Unfortunately Madoff isn't exactly having a rough time with life right now considering how many peoples' fortunes were lost at his hands.

But people say the answer is more government oversight - that the SEC didn't do their job. Again, I'm not going to argue that point as it's probably true.

The banks! It's the banks fault! Predatory lending is the problem; Poor management is the problem! Again, there is truth to all this.

There should have been more oversight of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac! Definitely, and maybe it's not such a good idea to put so much stock in two Government influenced programs...

Ah, but you say that we should give the money back to the people, who can use it best. That may be true. But will all of them use it best? Will not some of them waste it on needless entertainment and toys, while missing their mortgage payments (for a house they should never have been approved for buying)?

Here is my point: At every level there is greed and corruption - because at every level there are people. "I can spend my money wiser than Wall Street or Washington!" And you may be right, but are there not companies that are just as efficient with what they have? What makes you better? There may even be (somewhere) someone in Washington or at the State level who cares more about his/her constituents and less about the check they got from the special interest group that makes up 1% of the country's opinion... I'm not making a point about which system works the best. What I want to get across is that the same things that happen with Madoff and Enron, can happen with Blagovich and Burris, and can happen with individual people that think a double-digit return is normal in this economy.

Here is the solution. Somewhere, out there, there must be a few people who have the ability to think of the country before thinking of themselves. We need to find those people and get them in office, at any cost.

Bobby Pierfy [02/20/09 14:00:00] | 1430 Comments | Point

Where's The Balance?

(Photo: Pontus Edenberg)

I was in Wal-Mart a few weeks ago and I eavesdropped on their staff meeting - they're more exciting then you'd give them credit for. The manager messed up part of his dialogue and one of the staff made a comparison between the manager and President Obama's swearing in. Immediately after these words left this poor soul's lips one of her co-workers made sure she was informed that it was not President Obama's fault, but Judge Roberts who made the error.

Ignoring the actual facts (that President Obama talked over Roberts, and was too scatter-brained to take Roberts' hints about the next words in the 'puzzle') we can see some serious change in the political bias. For the past 4 years every time President Bush stuttered on a word or made a goofy face we'd be overwhelmed with 'extreme journalism', "Bush is dumb," "Retard as President," "Miserable Failure", etc. But now we see a mistake made by our leader-in-chief and people are instantly covering for him.

During the first week of President Obama's administration, he tried to open and walk through...a window. Instantly, media who covered this epic event (because everything President Obama is doing is apparently epic), reported that due to the newness of his surrounding he wasn't sure what was a window and a door, but he'd figure it out soon enough because he is...amazing.

On the same news page were I read that story, there was a link to photos of President Bush living up to his "lame duck legacy." The first picture in this amazing collage of photos is of President Bush trying to pull open a door. And it's locked. And this makes him stupid. Trying to walk through a window is not stupid. But trying to open a door. Now that is stupid.

Oh, and the door President Bush was trying to open? It was in Beijing. Only a fool wouldn't know that door in Beijing is locked.

What's my point? This media bias is absurd. Bush made mistakes and got treated like a monkey. Obama makes mistakes and people throw themselves in front of him, trying to take the blame bullet. Why? What has President Obama done to make the media worship him in such zombie-like fashion?

Needless to say, take what you hear with a grain of salt. It's like hearing about someone from their best friend – all you hear is good things. Only till you hear from the people they've hurt and lied to do you start to get a good picture of who they are.

The one 'good' effect this Obama-fascination might have is unifying our nation. It has been a long time since people have rallied behind someone to the extent that we've seen with President Obama. But is this actually a good thing? Unity is great and all, but it's not all it's cracked up to be when we're blindly uniting behind a person with bad morals.

Nazi Germany. Hitler. There was definitely unity. But it didn't produce anything but terrible blot on human history, reminding us just how evil mankind can be. We see the same with Russia and Stalin. And Cuba with Castro. Unity behind a political leader seems to always head south.

Does unity always come with a negative price tag? Only depending on how it is applied. We can all unite behind a leader we believe in and stay there until they crash and burn. What is the alternative? Uniting behind an idea, a truth, an absolute.

Looking to the past, our constitution was written by great leaders, but it wasn't built on those leaders. They gave us their morals - what they believed in and united behind. We've followed these guidelines - not people - and it's safe to say that is the reason we are still a nation. The moment we turn from uniting behind a set of morals to a 'great leader', we open the door to great tragedy, and great failure.

Jesse Lytle [02/18/09 17:30:00] | 1737 Comments | Point

Absolute Cartoon


Behind the cartoon.

Tim Lytle [02/16/09 18:30:00] | 2057 Comments | Point

One Nation Indivisible

[As we observe Presidents Day, the birthdays of two great Presidents - one instrumental in the birth of our nation, one in the preservation of the same - here's a repeat from 2005.]

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

Those quotes are taken from a rather unknown document. They're not the writings of Abraham Lincoln. They're not laws passed during the conflict that divided this great nation. They're two articles from a document entitled 'The Constitution'.

The Constitution provides methods for addressing injustice in the Union between states. It formed a representative government, where wrongs can be addressed. Each state was given both equal and proportionate representation. There are methods of recourse against a perceived injustice; however, the Constitution affords no means of secession.

Any recourse outside of the afforded methods would be 'extra-legal', or illegal. It would be a move of rebellion, a move of revolution. Secession is outside the legal scope of the Constitution. There would be no ground for the succeeding states to stand upon except that of an ' unalienable right' being denied them. The seceding states would have to view themselves as equivalent to the colonies during the revolution, and view the Union – and the states that make it up – as equivalent to England. The only acceptable reason for secession would be the preservation of universal rights, and only because those rights were being unduly denied them.

Although the reasons for conflict between the seceding states and those loyal to the Union are as numerous as the battles that were fought, there is one reason for war. It was the question of secession. Could a state withdraw itself from the Union? Were these United States one nation indivisible? How should the Union respond to those determined to secede?

The federal government is but a union of states. The constitution does not bind the states to a central entity, but binds the states together to from a common entity. That is the foundation of the Union. At the basis of the Union is the concept that it is a Union of States, with no state having sole control over the future of the Union. Any injustice done by the 'federal' government - the Union - is an injustice done by the collection of states, and must be addressed in that context.

At the point of secession the seceding states would be declaring that all legal measures have been exhausted, and that the infraction of the Union upon their rights was great enough to warrant the dissolution of the Union. It would be almost tantamount to declaring that a representative government cannot succeed, for their position is that of representation not being enough.

If a representative government cannot sufficiently protect the significant freedom of states or citizens, the fabric of the Union is destroyed. At this point all that is left is a treaty. An agreement between completely sovereign states which can be dissolved at whatever point it is deemed unnecessary or cumbersome. All that is left is an alliance that can be disregarded whenever a conflict cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

There is not a both-and solution. It's either-or. Either the Union would be completely dissolved, or it would remain indivisible. At the point of extra-legal secession the Union would have not only the right, but the obligation to preserve itself. To preserve not only itself, but the concept of representative democracy. For if extra-legal secession is permitted, the states seceding may form a different union or federation, but it will not last. It would not be long until other differences divided that new confederation, and then divided it again. And it would not be long after that the original Union too would perish.

Do the states have the right to secede? Perhaps, but if they ever would successfully exercise that right, while still being governed under the system set in place by our founding fathers, it would be the end of that great and noble experiment in freedom. If the Union fails, so have the ideas upon which it was founded. And if a representative government cannot succeed at the level of the states – it cannot succeed at the level of the individual. For the Union was not established solely by the states, it was established by the people represented by the states.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union...

I am glad I write this from the perspective of what could happened if a state successfully seceded – not the perspective of wondering what could have been if the Union had be preserved.


The civil war was a war between brothers. One brother fighting against the other, fighting to protect his freedom. One brother fighting with the other, fighting to preserve both.

Tim Lytle [02/16/09 12:00:00] | 2280 Comments | Point
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