Fund-raising, FEMA and fossil fuels

October 31, 2012

As can be expected in this election year, even a devastating super storm that wrecked havoc all along the East Coast has been politicized. Mitt Romney has been taken to task by the Democrats for suggesting that if he becomes president FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the disaster arm of the government, will be on the chopping block.

Instead Romney would place that kind of authority in the hands of the states, even though Republican Governor Chris Christie praised FEMA and the President for the cooperation and leadership shown his state in the aftermath of Sandy. For Romney, government agencies like FEMA are really not the answer to disaster. Instead he has taken the private sector approach asking for contributions and in kind donations for those in need.

As can be expected, Barack Obama is a government kind of guy who believes strongly in a national disaster relief agency and sees that the only way to deal with such calamities is by a centralized bureaucracy that thinks and acts nationally. I presume Obama is not opposed to the private sector or people helping people, since that is the American way, but government should not sit on the sidelines when a national disaster strikes, and Sandy was a national disaster that will affect the entire national economy. Needless to say, Obama’s critics are quick to point out that FEMA is just another example of big, bloated government.

As Governor Christie angrily stated in a news conference, this disaster is not about politics, but it does point out differences between Romney and Obama – public vs. private, federal government vs. state government,  government helping people vs. people helping people. There really shouldn’t be these opposites when it comes to disaster relief, but for those looking for a political philosophy to follow as the election nears, Sandy does provide one way of self-definition.  Personally, I can’t fathom how a $ 50 billion rebuilding effort can be solved by fund-raising. New York needs a huge injection of national money to rebuild its infrastructure and protect it’s coastline from super storms. I don’t think that the $ 50 billion will come from mom and pop contributions or even checks written by Fortune Five Hundred companies.

One last point. Sandy could be the storm of the century never to come again to the East
Coast, or it could be the harbinger of what scientists have been warning for years – global warming and climate change will spawn super storms that could destroy major coastal cities. This is a wake up call to all the deniers out there who for some weird reason refuse to accept the expert analysis of climate scientists and hang on to the musings of a tiny fraction of climatologists who dismiss the vast majority as having some sort of personal/financial agenda.  As for me, I vote for the scientists out there who warned us years ago about super storms and coastal devastation.

As for all those impacted Sandy, good luck in rebuilding. Tomorrow will be a better day.


Forward or Backward?

May 4, 2012

Forward!!! It sounds like a mmilitary command from an old John Wayne movie or perhaps something that General Custer might have said before his troops were surround and killed by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull at Little Big Horn.

But no, Forward is the new campaign slogan of Barack Obama. No more Hope and Change, no more promises of moving away from the toxic culture of Washington politics; just a simple charge to move the country, I presume, in the right direction.

Forward is a nice slogan, except the Republicans and indeed the American voters will likely want to know what direction the President is going to take the country – Forward to what? And what if Forward actually turns out to be Backward?

I am sure that candidate Barack Obama wants a second term so that he can finish the economic recovery and address many of the priorities that he has set forth in education, infrastructure, public investment, tax equity and entitlement reforms. The Republicans and I am sure Mitt Romney see their interpretation of Forward as tax cuts, budget cuts, business deregulation and a strong defense and international posture.

Slogans are only words and are designed to keep a perception in the minds of the voters about the candidate. But from FDR’s ” We have nothing to fear but fear itself” and Ronald Reagan’s ” City on a Hill” we have now come to a one word vision of the future – Forward. The Obama campaign obbviously feels that using Forward as a slogan will show that the President is moving the country in the right direction and that momentum is critical to a recovery.

If you are an Obama fan you pray that Foward does not come back to haunt the President as Hope and Change did or worse that Forward actually will result in its opposite –  Backward.

Ol’ Bill Is Back

November 16, 2011

Bill Clinton is back ( if he was ever gone) hawking his latest book Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy. Of course if you are a Democrat, Bill lays out the basic line of his party on how to deal with the economic distress this country is in- spending cuts and tax increases on the rich, entitlement reform but not in ways that decimates Social Security and Medicare, and debt reduction that does not dismantle valuable government programs.

The 41st president is clearly aiming to respond to the message of the Tea Party and the conservative wing of the Republican Party in Congress, who have cornered the market on making an anti-government case to the American people. Not surprisingly Clinton goes after the Bush administration for spending on two wars, a tax cut for the rich and well born and a seniors prescription drug program with no revenue stream to pay for it.

Clinton, who is not shy about the success of the economy during his administration, takes a few swipes at Barack Obama for allowing the right-wing to control the national dialogue and for allowing the Republicans in Congress to push the administration around.

Clinton’s main advice is for Obama and the Democrats to fashion an electoral storyline that counteracts the Republicans. The storyline would go something like this: the Republicans have ignored if not destroyed the financial underpinnings of the middle class by their tax, subsidy, and policy positions. The Republicans are not the friends of the middle class and it is only the Democrats who want to restore the financial security and destiny of the hard working folks who are losing their job, their homes and their futures.

Clinton, not Obama, would be perfect for presenting this storyline, but he is permanently out of the presidential sweepstakes. He can only advise Obama and the  Democrats. The question is whether they will listen to him and develop a Clintonesque approach to taking on the Republicans in 2012.

Say what you will about Ol’Bill’s wandering eye and the fact that he didn’t inhale in college but the guy knows how to speak to the American people and get them to see the Democratic side of the political equation. The problem is that President Obama is not President Clinton and these are terrible times, not the go go days of the 1990s.  We will just have to see if Ol’Bill’s advice and vision make inroads at the White House and among Democrats running for Congress.

Obama Wins! For Now

May 2, 2011

Barack Obama has had a pretty good couple of days; he put to rest the birther movement ( except for the real nut cases who live off conspiracies) and now he gave the order that took out Public Enemy # 1 Osama bin Laden. Already his stock in the polls has increased and silenced the real nut cases who thought he belonged to a Muslim sleeper cell protecting bin Laden.

But like John F. Kennedy after the Russians took their missiles out of Cuba in 1962, Obama’s uptick in the ratings is likely to be fairly short-lived. But the lesson of this special ops attack against Obama is that there is no doubt that this President is fearless when it comes to using military force to advance this country’s security interests and certainly bullish on anti-terrorism.

It would be nice if the killing of Osama would be the spark to get this country on the move again and believing that we can do anything we put our mind to. Killing a terrorist is not the same thing as getting millions back to work or lowering the debt, but it does show that the calm, calculated and cautious planning approach of the President is the way to solve problems, not the high octane pronouncements of the right-wing of the Republican Party.

But because this is the beginning of the electoral season in the United States, the accolades for the President from both sides of the aisle will soon be replaced with jeers and petty criticism. That’s politics in 21st century America.

Yet it is important to remember that while Obama has often been criticized for not being passionate or outspoken or confrontational, his way of plugging along without all the partisan jive that has replaced thoughtful analysis has a great deal of merit and can be successful. By lowering our voices, keeping our eye on realistic goals, and making cautious and pragmatic decisions, the President has developed a leadership model that is worthy of our respect.

Within a few weeks when all the hoopla about the killing of Osama bin Laden has ended, this country will get back to its old ways of partisan bickering. But it is important to remember that in protecting this country and developing a strong foreign and security policy, the American people and all those politicians in Washington owe Barack Obama a large measure of gratitude.