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January 30, 2009

Stimulus Bill – Page 1

As the United States Senate prepares to take up President Obama’s proposed eight-hundred-billion-dollar-plus economic stimulus bill, there is growing opposition claiming that it will not, in fact, stimulate the economy.

This is, of course, preposterous.  The bill has been carefully prepared by professional politicians aided by their congressional staff members each of whom has years of experience working on a congressional staff.

Using the staff summary of the Senate Tax Provisions, just take a look at some of the provisions on the very first page:

“Making Work Pay… Up To a Point.”
This program will provide up to $500 to everyone who makes less than $75,000 a year, to be paid for by everyone who makes more.  Or by the Chinese.  Whoever happens to have the money at the time.These people are expected to then go to Wal-Mart, thereby stimulating the Chinese economy.

“Making Not Working Pay.”
Provide $300 to retirees, the disabled, and anyone else already receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration or the Railroad Retirement fund. By targeting those individuals already receiving government benefits, and, for no particular reason, providing them with even more government benefits, you are making sure that Americans will persevere, and remain a people with the spirit and motivation to continue receiving government benefits.

“Making Being Married Pay”

Joint filers making less than $150,000 a year will receive tax relief of up to $1000.  This will help stimulate the marriage counseling industry as couples struggle to find a compromise between paying down credit card bills or "buying beer and stuff."

“Making Getting Fired Pay”

The unemployed will receive, in addition to ongoing unemployment benefits, an exemption from paying taxes on those benefits, plus government-funded health care benefits. By providing income to the unemployed, providing them with health insurance, and not making them pay taxes, this act will make being unemployed less like the needlessly difficult, stressful burden it currently is, and make it more like being Timothy Geithner, only you don’t have to go to the office.  This is expected to stimulate premium cable TV subscriptions. 

“Making Getting Paid Pay”
Since about one-third of income tax filers don’t actually pay any income tax, they will be receiving tax refunds for taxes they never paid. This is expected to stimulate the economy as companies need to hire additional staff to deal with millions of these confused individuals as they attempt to return clothing they never bought, get cash discounts on electronics they aren't going to buy, and ask for refunds on canceled magazine subscriptions they never had.

Bet you can’t wait to see what we find on page 2...

J.

January 30, 2009 at 06:41 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 29, 2009

Top 5 Reasons Republicans Rejected the Stimulus Plan

What drove a rare unanimity among members of the House GOP to vote against the Obama stimulus bill?

5) There was a rumor that gay marriage was somehow involved.

4) House Minority Leader John Boehner accidentally stumbled across the party’s principles of fiscal responsibility and small government, hidden behind some boxes of faded “Contract with America” glossies in the back of Josh Bolton’s old office.

3) Rush said to.

2) GOP leaders saw an opportunity to take a bold and uncompromising stand based purely on the fundamental and cherished beliefs of the Republican party regardless of the fact that polling data now supports their position.

1) Starbucks stopped brewing decaf in the afternoons.

J.

January 29, 2009 at 06:37 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2009

Stimulus Bill FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions on the now trillion-dollar-plus stimulus bill:

Q: Democrats claim their bill will stimulate the economy while Republicans claim it’s just a bunch of wasteful spending. How can we tell the difference between the two?
A: It’s actually fairly easy:

Q: Isn’t it heartening to see the greatest Democracy on the face of the earth engaging in the spirited give-and-take of representative government as high-minded ideals are tested and debated?
A: Yes, surely Americans everywhere are beaming with pride as representatives of the asphalt and concrete industries, duly elected by their boards of directors, discuss the proper role paving materials should play in infrastructure spending. In fact, we doubt the world will soon forget those immortal words spoken by Margaret Cervarich, a vice president at the National Asphalt Pavement Association, when she said:

"When you have a road or highway that needs to be fixed quickly, asphalt is the way to go."

Q: I think I just felt a shiver go up my spine.  It really is like a rebirth of democracy, isn’t it?
A: Well, you know the old saying, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of family planning lobbying interests.”

Q: We see Democratic “fiscal hawks” won an important concession from the President yesterday in which he committed to “pay-as-you-go” budgeting for all “non-emergency” spending sometime in the future.  What is the difference between emergency spending and regular spending?
A: Regular spending anything that doesn’t create a deficit.  Emergency spending is everything beyond that. 

Q:
Do you have an example?
A: Purchasing $600 million worth of shiny new cars for government employees is “emergency spending.”

Q:
Is there any way I can apply this important principle of responsible “pay-as-you-go” fiscal discipline to my own life?
A: Absolutely!  For example, paying your mortgage and electric bill would be considered normal spending and you should make sure you have adequate funds for those items.  But buying a 60” LCD HDTV because the Super Bowl is on next week is “emergency spending” so you can toss that on your credit card, no problem, whether or not you have the money to pay for it.  That way you are still practicing strict fiscal discipline.

Q:
Say, this fiscal discipline thing isn’t as hard as I thought it would be! 
A: The critical mistake people make is putting too much emphasis on what you actually do. What is more important are the words you use to describe what you’re doing and what you promise to do at some unspecified period in the future.

Q: Well, even though this sounds expensive, there’s no other choice, is there?  We have to do something, right?
A: Actually, the alternative is to just do nothing.

Q: What?  You mean don’t embark on a trillion-dollar spending spree with money we don’t have focused on political, rather than economic, interests?
A:
Yes.

Q: That’s just irresponsible.

J.

January 28, 2009 at 01:36 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 27, 2009

Timothy Geithner’s “To Do” List

Timothy Geithner began his first day on the job as Secretary of the Treasury this morning after being sworn in last night.

We got a peek at his to-do List:

1) Buy copy of TaxCut Premium. I like cutting my taxes living up to my moral obligation as a public servant to pay what I owe.

2) Have staff look into what idiot was in charge of ensuring a safe and sound banking system and conducting onsite and offsite examinations of banks in New York, New Jersey, and Fairfield County in Connecticut the past few years since I’m the guy who has to clean up after that clown. 

3) Look into TaxACT Ultimate, too.  Heard it was fast and accurate.

4) On second thought, we don’t really need to get too deeply into number two above. No sense living in the past, I always say!

5) Check on new Nanny’s references.  Caroline somebody, I think.

6) Get together with aides to make sure everyone is fully focused on the primary objective of this office: Stabilizing the banking system’s corporate travel policies. If we don't, we will be facing a potential systemic breakdown in PowerPoint software upgrades and stale bagel platters.

7) While we're at it, have someone look into rumors that Citigroup serves French roast in the coffee break room. I mean, French roast?  What were they thinking? They can drink good old American Maxwell House like the rest of us. Well, not me, other people.

8) Ask secretary what the heck this “W-4” thingy is they gave me to fill out. Looks like something from the I-R-S.  The "ers?" That's a funny name for an agency.  I wonder what they do?

J.

January 27, 2009 at 12:20 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2009

It’s Like Selling Toothpaste, Only 250 Billion Times More Expensive

With the stakes as high as they are, you could consider presenting the American people with the details of the $825 billion economic stimulus bill currently under consideration in Congress in a forthright and straightforward manner so that they would fully understand the costs, risks, and potential benefits associated with the measure and in so doing, make an informed decision regarding their support.

Or…

You could put all your efforts into a slick, focus-group-tested marketing campaign.

For example, a study funded by such bill supporters as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees found that when you tell voters that a stimulus plan will cost over $800 billion, only 18% support it, but if you tell them it’s “a plan large and bold enough to deal with the crisis,” 35% approve.

In other words:

Out: Detailed factual information.
In: Pretty-sounding words. 

Which is how you get advertising slogans such as, “Hummer: Like Nothing Else” and not, “Hummer: Like Grocery Shopping in a Tank Only Without the Good Gas Mileage.”

Democratic researchers also found that words such as “bold,” and “job creation” played much better than “spending,” and “stimulus,” (or our favorites, “complete boondoggle” and “Aaaaaaagghhhh”) which is reflected in Barack Obama’s remarks on the matter.  In fact, the name of the legislation itself, “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” is full of buzzwords that polled well.

For their part, Republicans are being careful to emphasize the more appealing aspects of their plan as well.  As one Republican strategist put it, 

“I would put moms, apple pies and small business in the same category.”

Yes, yes he would.

Which pretty much tells you all you need to know about why Republicans really have the Democrats on the ropes lately.

In coming days, we’ll be spending some more time on the specifics of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

But right now we have to begin implementing the “Planet Moron Recovery and Reinvestment Act of Tomorrow Morning.”

(Two Advils and another bottle of bourbon.)

J.

January 26, 2009 at 05:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 24, 2009

Weekend Book Report - Hot, Flat, and Crowded

Hot Flat and Crowded Hot, Flat, and Crowded

Thomas L. Friedman
2007
448 Pages

(Planetmoron)




Some excerpts from Hot, Flat, and Crowded:

“In June, 2004, I was visiting London with my daughter Orly,…”

“The well-known Indian author Gurcharan Das remarked to me during a visit to Delhi in 2005…”

“In December 2007, I was visiting Bahrain to interview the country’s crown prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa,…”

“I was visiting the Hague in January 2008, and my Dutch friends Volkert and Karin Doeksen…”

This makes it read somewhat less like a provocative look at the challenges facing America today, and more like an awkward attempt to impress a blind date.

However, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, is more than just a name-dropping travelogue through author Thomas L. Friedman’s travel receipts.  It is much more.

For example, one section notes that, “Between 1975 and 1985, American passenger vehicle mileage went from around 13.5 miles per gallon to 27.5,… which helped to create a global oil glut in the mid-1980s to the mid 1990s.”

Now, you could point out that petroleum consumption in the United States went from 16.3 million barrels per day in 1975 to 15.7 in 1985 and 17.7 in 1995. And you could also note that world oil production increased from 60 million barrels a day in 1980 to 70 million barrels a day by the mid 1990s.  And that maybe that had more to do with an oil glut than, say, US oil consumption not declining.

But that’s why you’re not a Pulitzer-prize-winning columnist for the New York Times like Thomas L. Friedman,

In another passage, Friedman points out that “While the Reagan administration was instrumental in bringing down the Soviet Union, it was also instrumental in building our current dependence on Saudi Arabia.”

Indeed, Saudi imports in the first year of the Reagan administration averaged 1.112 million barrels a day.  In the last year of his administration it had already skyrocketed to 1.116 million for an increase of 0.36%.

Sure, Reagan might have defeated the Soviet empire, but at what cost?  At. What. Cost?

Some might suggest that it is unfair to nitpick a handful of passages out of a 448-page book. 

The thing about that?

All the above examples take place within the first fourteen-and-a-half pages.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded gets -1 Planet Morons.

Because we’re dumber for having read it.

J.

January 24, 2009 at 11:57 PM in Books | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 23, 2009

Are You Feeling Stimulated Yet?

Sure, the $850 billion stimulus bill making its way through Congress may be expensive.

But at least it won’t work.

However, that’s not what is important right now. What is important, according to Obama’s chief political adviser, David Axelrod, is that we are in the midst of a “national emergency” and need to “move with all deliberate speed.”

And pass a massive spending bill that doesn’t actually address the problem.

That may not necessarily sound like the best course of action at first, but you have to remember, what we do is not important; it’s how fast we do it that counts. 

Just like TARP!

You can make use of this speed-first approach to problem solving in your personal life as well.  Let’s say your wife points out that the furnace broke and the deck is about to fall off the back of the house.  You agree it’s an emergency and pledge to take immediate action.

And buy a set of golf clubs.

When she complains that that won’t do any good, point out that you’ve also decided to buy a Corvette in 2011.

The problems with the furnace and deck might not be, in the purely technical sense of the term, “solved,” so be sure to point out that it was, after all, an emergency, and you did move with all deliberate speed.  Just like a professional Congressperson would do.

For those of you who are concerned that the Democrats are acting without any oversight and might end up wasting all the money on programs meant only to benefit their own special interests, don’t worry, Republicans will have some input as well and can be counted upon to make sure that some of the money is wasted on their special interests too.

Now that's bipartisanship.

Just like TARP!

J.

January 23, 2009 at 05:47 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 22, 2009

Top 5 Personal Reasons Caroline Kennedy is Dropping Her Bid for The Senate

She had it in the bag

That’s why reports yesterday that Caroline Kennedy was withdrawing from consideration to be named to Hillary Clinton’s now-vacant Senate seat (wait, she changed her mind, she's not withdrawing, okay, hold it, no, she really is withdrawing), came as a surprise to New York political watchers. 

Why did she do it?

Her Top 5 Personal Reasons were:

(5) She only found out this week that her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, was seriously ill.  There had been nothing at all written about it in The Robb Report, Worth, or the wine list at Tavern on The Green, after all.

(4) You have to, like, show up for work every day.  What’s that all about?

(3) She decided she wanted a pony instead.

(2) It’s all TurboTax’s fault!

And the Number One reason Caroline Kennedy is dropping her bid for the Senate:

(1) “I’m really withdrawing as somebody who isn’t, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, would have stood for the values of, you know, the Democratic Party.”

 You know?

J.

UPDATE 5:04 PM: Top Reason #2?  Yeah, it's really hard for satire to keep up with reality these days. Regardless, for the record, we're counting this as a Planet Moron scoop. (And we're sticking with the pony, too.)

January 22, 2009 at 12:58 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2009

Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Speechwriter, Ask What Your Speechwriter Can Do For You

Like you, we were surprised to learn that Barack Obama’s historic inaugural address had been “crafted by a 27-year-old in Starbucks.”

We’d have guessed a 26-year-old in a Caribou Coffee.

According to reports, Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau had spent a great deal of time studying past inaugural speeches (in-between updating his Facebook page) in preparation. How else to explain the inspiration behind such lines as:

"This is the journey we continue today."

"Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began."

Okay, so maybe he also drew inspiration from the warranty card that came with his Wii console.  And tire sidewalls.

But given that he’ll be with us for a while, we thought it might be useful to prepare ourselves. And so we present:

The great oratories of history had they been crafted by Jon Favreau

Ronald Reagan on the Challenger disaster:

Original:

“We will never forget them,… as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

As Crafted by Jon Favreau:

“We will never forget them,… as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and overcame the force of gravity and went up into the air.”

FDR’s first inauguration:

Original:

“The only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”

As Crafted by Jon Favreau:

“The only thing that should cause us concern, is whether or not that concern manifests itself in a manner that only compounds our problems, which otherwise, would be addressable.”

Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address:

Original:

"The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

As Crafted by Jon Favreau:

“The common things we remember, from every battlefield and graveyard to every other place, will surely be remembered again later when we are feeling better.”

Winston Churchill, in the early dark days of World War II:

Original:

“..we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

As Crafted by Jon Favreau:

 “We will fight them in places as follows:
  • Beaches
  • Landing grounds
  • Fields
  • Streets
  • Hills
Please note that surrender was purposely omitted.

Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial:

Original:

“I have a dream…”

As Crafted by Jon Favreau:

“Here are some things I'd like to see happen…”


Of course, Barack Obama is clearly a gifted orator.

But then, he has to be.

J.

January 21, 2009 at 01:43 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 20, 2009

Live Blog – Presidential Inauguration

11:38 AM: The weather here is surprisingly pleasant, currently bright, 69 degrees with little to no wind.

Of course, that’s in our den.

Out on the mall, it’s about 25 degrees with winds at 10 to 15 MPH.

11:41 AM: Now, had Obama’s people taken their cue from Andrew Jackson, rather than Abraham Lincoln, we might have been motivated to join the celebration in person.

11:45 AM: Many people expect Obama’s words today may some day be carved in marble given his soaring oratory in the past.  After all, who will ever forget that phrase he uttered, um, you know, the one that so resonated with us all… okay, or maybe that other one.  Something about change? 

Well whatever great, lasting words he’s uttered, they were memorable, of that we’re sure.

11:48 AM: Dianne Feinstein is saying something about etching lines in stone.  What is it with doing violence to rocks lately?

11:51 AM: Rick Warren is giving the prayer.  So far, nothing about gays going to hell, so that's a plus right there.

11:55 AM: Aretha Franklin is singing.  It's not clear if HBO purchased the exclusive rights or not.

11:58 AM: Biden taking oath now.  For Vice President.  We think.

12:02 PM: An original composition by John Williams is being performed.  May the force be with Obama? Or it's the theme song to Alias Smith and Jones. Either or.

12:06 PM: Presidential oath. Probably should have crammed a bit more. But hey, cut him a break on that one, if we were taking this job on, we'd have second thoughts about going through with it too!

12:10 PM: Why do we feel like dad is yelling at us?

12:12 PM: Soldiers died for us at Concord, Gettysburg, Normandy, and Khe Sahn.  Baghdad?  Not so much.  We've actually lived long enough for Viet Nam to become "the good war."

12:14 PM: Dad is still yelling at us.  Honest, we didn't take out a mortgage we couldn't afford!  Billy did it!!

12:17 PM: "Former generations faced down fascism with not just tanks, but by forming coalitions."  But mostly tanks...

12:20 PM: "We can't consume resources without regard to the effect."  That effect being widespread prosperity, health and well being?  Um, okay.

12:23 PM: "What is required is a new era of responsibility." Well, not responsibility for your own health care, the government will set up a program for that.  Or responsibility for your own financial obligations. The government will take care of that, too

No, this is more the kind of responsibility where you’re responsible for everyone else’s health care, and everyone else’s financial problems.  You know, that kind of responsibility. 

12:26 PM:  Lowering expectations. Excellent idea.  By my wedding day, my wife was just happy when I wasn’t in jail.

12:18 PM:  Oh my God, no, not a poet!

12:29 PM:  For the love of all that is holy, make her stop!!

12:30 PM: We're not sure exactly when poetry started sucking.  But whatever that specific date is, it's somewhere between Dylan Thomas, and today, of that we're sure.

12:40 PM: As Obama escorts Bush out of power, it is useful to note the major miracle it is that the most powerful nation on earth can pass power peaceably, regularly, and on schedule, for over 200 years.

Now that's lack-of-change we can all believe in. 

J.

January 20, 2009 at 11:38 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack