Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Foot in mouth

alan_simpsonSuggestion of the day. Encourage top officials to undertake some basic training in what to say and write in public. Specifically, try and avoid insulting and tactless remarks in print, on camera, in public or in front of journalists.

Alan Simpson, the Republican co-chairman of the president’s deficit commission, has a reputation for blunt speaking, but obviously was not paying much attention when Gen. Stanley McChrystal lost his job earlier this year. Simpson has already apologized for his email, to the executive director of the Older Women’s League, in which he compared the handing out of government retirement benefits to “milking a cow with 310 million tits.”

“When I make a mistake,” Simpson said, “it’s a doozy.” Which at least got me consulting the online dictionary. Nevertheless, there have already been calls for him to fall on his sword.

So much for the Washington scuttlebutt today. More significant perhaps, yet another sign today that the economy might just be heading for a “double-dip” slide back into recession. New single-family home sales fell to their slowest pace on record in July, and durable goods orders were also soft. Lest he seem out of touch on his vacation in the charming resort of Vineyard Haven, President Barack Obama brought his top economic advisers onto a conference call to discuss the latest grim economic data.  ”The president is doing everything that we think is appropriate to continue moving the economy in the right direction,” spokesman Bill Burton told reporters.

Finally today, another in our series of Reuters/Ipsos polls, this time from Colorado. Republican Ken Buck, who has harnessed some of the energy and anger of the Tea Party movement, is leading Democrat incumbent Michael Bennet by an eight-point margin. But it’s a different story in the race for the governor’s mansion, where a conservative former Republican has split the right-wing vote and could hand the race to Democratic Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Once again the emergence of the Tea Party is proving something of a double-edged sword for Republicans.

Is the recession over? Obama’s advisers differ

Is the economic recession over in the United States? It depends on who you ask, even among President Barack Obama’s advisers.

USA-FINANCE/SUMMERS“Today everyone agrees that the recession is over. And the questions are around how fast we’ll recover,” Larry Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, told CNN on Sunday.

But wait a minute. Not everyone agrees.

Senior White House economist Christina Romer, asked the same question on another television program, said “of course not.”

Schumer calls foul on Adidas’ NBA uniform plan

nbaNew York Senator Chuck Schumer has called a foul on German sports equipment giant Adidas AG and its plans to shift production of official National Basketball Association uniforms to Thailand from a factory in upstate New York.

In a statement, Schumer said the shift could cut some 100 jobs at American Classic Outfitters in Perry, New York, which has made official NBA gear for about 40 years.

“It is flat wrong for Adidas to move the production of the jerseys worn by NBA players outside the United States when there are U.S. companies that have done this work so well for so long,” the Democratic lawmaker said in a statement.

The First Draft: Washington haiku

USA-CANYON/Sometimes prose doesn’t quite capture the goings-on in Washington. These haikus might not either, but at least they’re short, which is an appropriate length for many of the capital events these days and easily Twitterable. Poetry is supposed to reduce things to their essence. Just in case these go too far in that direction, there are highlighted links to take you to a fuller explanation, if not a deeper meaning.POTUS hits the roadTo parry health care criticsIn Bozeman. Yeehaw!Hitting a plateau?Feds say economy isLeveling. Really?African sojournEnds for Hillary ClintonA tough trip, completeGrand Canyon freebie,For Obamas and others,aims to lure touristsFor Mrs. Shriver,They gather in Hyannis.Eunice, rest in peaceAnyone can do this. You probably know the rules: three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, five in the third. Show us what you’ve got!Photo credit: REUTERS/Rickey Rogers (Grand Canyon, January 2, 2008)

Poll shows Americans trust Obama, Democrats

WASHINGTON – OBAMA/U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to turn around the troubled U.S. economy, but American voters have confidence in his efforts and see him headed in the right direction.

Those are among the findings of a survey released on Tuesday that also showed Americans have greater confidence in Obama’s fellow Democrats than they do in rival Republicans.
 
The survey, however, had some troublesome numbers for the Democrats’ third-highest ranking elected official — House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
 
Just 26 percent of respondents said they had a “great deal” or “some” trust in the California Democrat, who stands second in the line of succession to Obama, behind only Vice President Joe Biden.
 
The poll found that more respondents, 38 percent and 28 percent, respectively, had such a level of trust in Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the failed 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, respectively.
 
The Public Strategies Inc./POLITICO nationwide survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted March 27-31 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.
 
The poll found that 66 percent of respondents said they have a “great deal” or “some” trust in Obama, who has battled Republicans as well as some Democrats in the U.S. Congress, largely over fiscal policy, since taking office on January 20.
 
The survey found that 52 percent of respondents have a “great deal” or “some” trust in Democrats, while just 40 percent have such a level of confidence in Republicans, who vigorously opposed Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package and $3.5 trillion budget plan.
 
The survey found with Obama at the helm, 54 percent of respondents said they believe that the U.S. government is headed in the right direction, up from 35 percent in December before the new president took office.
 
Obama, in a speech on Tuesday in Washington, said there were signs of economic recovery but cautioned “by no means are we out of the woods just yet.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing – U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at Gaston Hall at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2009.

from Global News Journal:

Obama gets rockstar welcome at town hall meeting

President Barack Obama on Wednesday stepped out from behind the podium, took off his suit jacket and dispensed with the teleprompters to defend his budget, attack Republicans who label him a tax-and-spend Democrat and express outrage at the bonuses paid at insurance giant AIG.
 
Obama, who has made no secret of the fact he chafes in the White House "bubble" and enjoys engaging directly with Americans, headed west to California to hold a town hall meeting in Costa Mesa, a town of about 113,000 in Orange County that has been hard hit by the recession. 
 
Obama's critics say his comments expressing outrage at the AIG bonuses and other Wall Street scandals lack passion because they are often scripted and read from a teleprompter.
 
But on Wednesday, Obama sounded like he was back on the election campaign trail as he rounded on Republicans for criticizing his $3.5 trillion 2010 budget, which he says is crucial to tackling the worst economic crisis in decades.
 
"Most of these critics presided over a doubling of the national debt. We are inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit. So they don't have the standing to make this criticism, I think, given how irresponsible they've been,"  he said.
 
Under the glare of hot lights in an uncomfortably warm hall at Costa Mesa's state fairgrounds, Obama invited his audience to ask him questions and feel free to take him to task and tell him if he was a "bum and doing a bad job".
 
But there was little danger of that. When he entered the hall, he received a rockstar welcome.
 
Obama at times spoke with passion, his voice rising above the cheers, while he was at times professorial, explaining credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities and breaking his promise to keep his answers short as he explained how and why America's economy had plunged to such depths.
 
Despite the fact that he has only been in office two months, one of the first questions he fielded was from a woman asking him if he would run for re-election in four years' time.
 
"I would rather be a good president taking on the tough issues for four years than a mediocre president for eight years," he replied.
 
And if he fails to deliver on his promises on health care, education and fixing the economy, then it will be the voters and not he who decides whether he runs again.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama at town hall meeting in California)

Bold budget boosts bailout

USA-OBAMA/How do you buy $750 billion of toxic bank assets with only $250 billion of taxpayer money?

If you know to play U.S. budget rules like a violin.

President Barack Obama told Congress in passing this week he might need more money than lawmakers have already approved to stabilize banks and pull the economy out of the ditch. 

How much? His budget virtuoso Peter Orszag said on Thursday he could support buying up to $750 billion in bad assets but only needed to set aside $250 billion to do it.

Fed staff in trouble, but cited for raise, too

USA/It’s not just U.S. stocks that are on a roller coaster ride in reaction to congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other top officials.

Fed staff stock plunged on Wednesday when they put their boss in an awkward position during Bernanke’s testimony before Congress on the financial bailout and efforts to stabilize the swooning economy.

Rep. Scott Garrett testily reminded Bernanke that he was still waiting for answers for a letter he sent in December.

When is a housing crisis like venereal disease?

If you’re among those upset that your taxpayer dollars may be spent in volume to rescue people who — for whatever reason — can’t make their mortgage payments, Federal Financial Analytics analyst Karen Shaw Petrou recommends thinking about it this way:

“Preventing foreclosures has a lot in common with treating syphilis. In both cases, you help some who are undeserving, but – in an economic collapse or a public-health emergency – one acts nonetheless. ”

Just as in an serious epidemic, you’d take care of the problem and leave moral judgements to others, the right course of action is to take action to halt the housing crisis and leave the debate about moral hazard to economists, she wrote in a note to clients on Friday.