It’s not all pork

March 3, 2009

Still think that all the money in Obama’s federal economic stimulus program is going for pork, which will do nothing to help the economy?

 Well, think again. Consider the news from the West Virginia Division of Highways that they’ll be using $14.9 million from the stimulus fund to move up construction of its portion of the Mon/Fayette Expressway.

Using the economic stimulus money will mean that the highway will be open a couple years before it would have been otherwise, according to Marvin Murphy, state highway engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways.

He told the Herald-Standard the plans are to complete the construction to open the road in one construction season with a completion date of Dec. 28. Murphy said the road likely would be open by early 2010 at the latest.

That’s great news to the frantic folks who try to maneuver through the obstacles along Route 119 or 857 every day. The hope is that with the expressway open, Morgantown and Uniontown will be connected as never before. Planners envision some of Morgantown’s boom spreading northward giving developers much needed room to grow at Fayette County’s benefit.  Jobs and housing could give Fayette County’s economy a much needed stimulus of its own.

It’s great news overall for the expressway, which has been talked about  for 50 years or more and seemed at times to be headed for the dustbins of history. But now it appears destined to be completed from Morgantown to about 15 miles outside of Pittsburgh.

The entire Uniontown-to-Brownsville link of the Mon/Fayette Expressway is slated for completion in late 2011 or early 2012. After traveling on a new bridge across the Monongahela River in Washington County, the road will connect with the already built parts of Interstate 43 between California and Route 51 in Jefferson.

Overall, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that $28 billion from his economic recovery program that is being spent on road-building nationwide will save or create 150,000 jobs by the end of next year.

That’s greater than the number of jobs the Big Three automakers — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — lost in the past three years, Obama said on his first visit as president to the Department of Transportation.

“Transportation projects that were once on hold are now starting up again as part of the largest new investment in America’s infrastructure since President Eisenhower built the interstate highway system,” said Obama, according to Associated Press.

Outlining his plans for department employees, Obama said that just two weeks after he signed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill into law on Feb. 17, “we are seeing shovels hit the ground.”

States can begin using their share of the $28 billion road-building investment immediately, he said. More than 200 highway construction projects also will be launched in the coming weeks, Obama said.

Wonder what those Republicans opposed to the stimulus project have to say about that? Kind of hard to be opposed to progress isn’t it?

 

Advertisements

Republican governor is a hypocrite

February 23, 2009

How do you spell hypocrite?

Try Mark Sanford.

The South Carolina governor has been an outspoken opponent of President Obama’s economic stimulus program, calling it wasteful and a ticket for higher taxes in the future.

But funny thing is Sanford has no trouble taking the money.

According to Associated Press, Sanford has decided to take stimulus money to increase weekly unemployment checks by $25.

Sanford’s decision came over the weekend after he determined that every other state would be taking the extra benefit money, said spokesman Joel Sawyer. “Every other governor in the country had signed off on the request as well,” Sawyer said.

Sanford, the head of the Republican Governors Association, has been a harsh critic of the stimulus package signed into law last week and other federal bailouts. Other Republican governors have been critical of the stimulus program but they too have agreed to take the money. I think that used to be called talking out of both sides of your mouth.

According to Associated Press, the stimulus bill calls for using $145 million to increase South Carolina’s unemployment benefits. The average unemployed worker now gets $243.94 weekly; the maximum benefit is $326.

The stimulus money brings the first increase in state jobless benefits in at least two years, Employment Security Commissioner Becky Richardson said. Sanford’s decision to use the money came Saturday. The next day he was on “Fox News Sunday” with other governors in an appearance where he refused to rule out a 2012 presidential bid.

 South Carolina posted a 9.5 percent unemployment rate in December, the nation’s third highest. The state’s fund that pays benefits to the jobless has been depending for months on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal loans to stay solvent.

While he is accepting money for the increase, the governor will not likely go along with part of the stimulus plan that extends unemployment benefits to part-time workers, Sawyer said. “That’s something that’s a near certainty that we will not be taking,” he said.

Sawyer said expanding benefits to part-time workers would ultimately add more expenses to the state’s unemployment trust fund and increase the taxes businesses pay into the fund. But one thing’s for certain at this point. If Sanford can get the Obama administration to pay for it, he’ll gladly take it. And then he undoubtedly will continue to bash Obama. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.


Bush mishandled meltdown

February 6, 2009

I guess it should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention the last eight years but apparently the Bush administration severly mishandledlast fall’s meltdown of the financial industry.

According to Associated Press the governement overpaid tens of billions of dollars for stocks and other assets in its massive bailout last year of Wall Street banks and financial institutions.

AP said the Congressional Oversight Panel, a government watchdog, reported Friday last year’s overpayments amounted to a taxpayer-financed $78 billion subsidy of the firms.

AP also reported that the findings added to the frustrations of lawmakers already wary of the $700 billion rescue plan, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Congress approved the plan last fall, but members of both parties criticized spending decisions by the Bush administration and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said the overpayment was sure to “raise eyebrows.

” “I can understand some gap,” he said. “No one is expecting perfection between the price you pay and what you think you’re getting. But that’s a pretty large disparity.”

No kidding. It renews suspicion that the swiftness of the action last fall  was designed to help financial institutions more than taxpayers. After all consider that financially ailing insurance giant American International Group, which the Treasury Department deemed to be too big to be allowed to fail, received $40 billion from the Treasury for assets valued at $14.8 billion, the oversight panel found.

In December, in response to questions from the oversight panel, Paulson wrote that the value of preferred stock purchased by the government was “at or near par,” meaning Treasury paid $1 for every $1 dollar of asset.

 “The way the Treasury secretary described it does not fit with the numbers that were produced in our much more extensive valuation analysis,” panel chairwoman Elizabeth Warren told reporters Friday. “The secretary of the Treasury described it in December that these were par transaction and that is not supported by the numbers.”

 So, once again the business as usual practices followed by the Bush administration are taking a hit. Everyone should agree that more oversight was needed then and more will needed in the future.

New Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to announce Monday a sweeping new framework for helping banks, loosening credit and helping reduce foreclosures.

Treasury spokesman Isaac Baker said in a statement: “Treasury’s efforts since the fall prevented a systemwide collapse, but more needs to be done to stabilize the financial sector, increase lending and protect taxpayer dollars.”

He said the plan Geithner will announce aims to free up credit, “while strengthening transparency and accountability measures so that taxpayers know where and how their money is being spent and whether it’s achieving real results.”

Let’s hope the new system works for both financial institutions and taxpayers. It’s another example, though, of the massive ineptitude of George W. Bush.


Obama doing the right thing

February 4, 2009

President Barack Obama is getting off to a good start. According to Associated Press, Obama announced Wednesday that he’s imposing $500,000 caps on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving federal bailout money, saying Americans are upset with “executives being rewarded for failure.”

It’s certainly about time that someone spoke up for the taxpayers on this issue. After all, if you’re going to get some taxpayer money then there should be certain things you agree to live with.

According to AP, Obama announced the dramatic new government intervention into corporate America at the White House, with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at his side. The president said the executive-pay limits are a first step, to be followed by the unveiling next week of a sweeping new framework for spending what remains of the $700 billion financial industry bailout that Congress created last year. The executive-pay move comes amid a national outcry over huge bonuses to executives heading companies seeking taxpayer dollars to remain afloat. The demand for limits was reinforced by revelations that Wall Street firms paid more than $18 billion in bonuses in 2008 even amid the economic downturn and the massive infusion of taxpayer dollars.

“This is America. We don’t disparage wealth. We don’t begrudge anybody for achieving success,” Obama said. “But what gets people upset _ and rightfully so _ are executives being rewarded for failure. Especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.” “It’s not a government takeover,” Obama stressed in an interview Tuesday with CNN. “Private enterprise will still be taking place. But people will be accountable and responsible.”

Even some Republicans, angered by company decisions to pay bonuses and buy airplanes while receiving government help, have few qualms about restrictions. “In ordinary situations where the taxpayers’ money is not involved, we shouldn’t set executive pay,” said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. “But where you’ve got federal money involved, taxpayers’ money involved, TARP money involved, and the way they have spent it, with no accountability, is getting close to being criminal.”

Wow, there you have it! A Republican agreeing with Obama. Maybe there’s hope for this country after all.


Murtha right again

January 26, 2009

U.S. Rep. John Murtha deserves credit for speaking the truth.

Unfortunately some people don’t like what he has to say and then try to twist his words to suit their purposes.

Murtha has come under fire for saying that the suspected terrorists being moved from Guantanamo are “no more dangerous in my district than in Guantanamo.”

He added there was “no reason not to put ’em in prisons in the United States and handle them the way they would handle any other prisoners.”

Now some people apparently took that to mean that Murtha was proposing that a special prison be built in his district to house the prisoners from Guantanamo. But that’s not what he was saying. He’s just saying these guys should be treated the same as other prisoners. After all, the federal prisons are full of serial killers and mean, vicious cold-blooded killers. How could the Guantanamo detainees be any worse?

Of course, the Republican fear mongers can’t have that. They need to make people scared and frightened. So, Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, who represents Lancaster and the surrounding area, led the charge.

“I know for certain constituents in my district do not want known terrorists brought to their communities, or neighboring communities for that matter,” said Pitts. “There is no good reason to willingly bring these dangerous men into the United States. I don’t want them in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in the United States for that matter.”

So, exactly what are we supposed to be scared about these Guantanamo detainees? Are they super villians able to climb walls and fly out of prisons? Or do they have x-ray eyes and super hearing? It’s ridiculous. These guys are no better or worse than the other prisoners being held in various penal institutions throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.

After all, it’s not like these guys are going anywhere soon. When was the last time you heard of a major breakout from a federal prison? You haven’t because it’s not happening. These maximum security federal prisons are just that. It’s pretty near impossible for anyone to escape. So, why all the fear about these detainees. Could it be that Republicans are just looking to scare and frighten people with tall tales of Muslim terrorists? Nah, these Republicans would never do that. Right?

Well, people would be well advised to consider carefully what Murtha’s saying and not be fooled against by the fearmongers on the Republican side.


Strange tale of Caroline Kennedy

January 23, 2009

The aborted bid by Caroline Kennedy for the U.S. Senate from New York is certainly one of the stranger chapters in American political history.

According to Associated Press, a person who worked closely with Kennedy said she was withdrewing her Senate bid because of a personal matter unrelated to her ill uncle. Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of President John Kennedy, had emerged as a front-runner to replace Hillary Clinton. But there were questions about her experience and her reluctance to answer questions about her finances. Kennedy discussed withdrawing from the race with Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday, and Paterson asked her to reconsider for 24 hours, the person said. But by 11 p.m. Wednesday, the associate said, Kennedy decided she couldn’t take the job if appointed, and she issued a statement shortly after midnight saying she was withdrawing.

Kennedy did not decide to bow out because her uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, suffered a seizure during an inaugural luncheon Tuesday, the person said. The 76-year-old Massachusetts senator was diagnosed in May with an aggressive type of brain tumor. The person wasn’t authorized to disclose the conversation between Kennedy and the governor and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The person would give no other details about the personal matter. Kennedy’s one-sentence statement ended hours of uncertainty as she appeared to waver. “I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate.” There was no comment from Paterson. So, it seems that we’ll never know what really prompted Kennedy to not seek the appointment. Was it secrecy? Kennedy, an author, lawyer and fundraiser for New York City schools, has long guarded her privacy, and the questionnaires were expected to include some closely guarded Kennedy financial data. Paterson had said he thought the candidates’ responses would be confidential because it was his personal request that they fill them out.

But the state’s open-government expert and good-government groups told the AP that once the forms were written and submitted to the governor at least some of the responses would be subject to public review under the state Freedom of Information Law. Or was it because Patterson had picked someone else? Had Hillary Clinton persuaded him not to appoint her. After all, it was Kennedy’s early endorsement of Barack Obama that severly damaged Clinton’s own bid for the presidency.

 Kennedy hardly set the political world on fire and was no sure bet to win re-election in two years. She jumped to the top of statewide polls in early December, but her public support waned following a brief upstate tour and a few press interviews.She was criticized as reluctant to answer questions, and her knowledge of New York and its issues were suspect. She was also mocked nationwide for her frequent use of “you know” and “um” in interviews and was branded a lackluster campaigner.

So, her campaign is over, about as abruptly as it began. And we’ll probably never know not only why she decided not to see the appointment but why she even sought it in the first place.


Palin has a point

January 13, 2009

I forgot to add in my last post that I do agree with Sarah Palin on one issue.

In her interview with conservative radio talk-show host and filmmaker John Ziegler, Palin complained about reports suggesting that Trig Palin was not her son and said she was “frustrated” by rampant rumors about her and her family.

While mainstream media stayed away from such rumors, they were fueled by bloggers and others online and the supermarket tabloids.

“I wasn’t believed that Trig was really my son,” she said. She called it a “sad state of affairs.”

“What is the double-standard here?” she asked. “Why would people choose to believe lies? What is it that drives people to believe the worst, perpetuate the worst?”

“When did we start accepting as hard news sources bloggers, anonymous bloggers especially?” she asked.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s a shame that so much of what thrives on the Internet are outright, vicious lies.

The mainstream media stayed away from such rumors because there was nothing to them. That’s the way it used to be when facts mattered, but now anyone can say anything and all kinds of people believe it. Conservatives and liberals are equally guilty of it. Never let the facts get in the way of a good yard is what they believe.

Let’s hope that one day we get back to where people base their decisions on the truth not just what they want to believe.