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?

 


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.


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.


Obama surprises many with Cabinet picks

November 26, 2008

Well, much to the surprise of Obama’s critics, he hasn’t so far picked any Muslims or terrorists to join his Cabinet.

In fact, according to Associated Press, he’s “assembled a national security brain trust populated by graybeard establishment figures with decades of combined experience and even a few medals. ”

Consider he’s keeping Robert Gates, the very man running the Iraq and Afghan wars for the current Republican president, as his Secretary of Defense.  According to Associated Press, Obama suggested that a critical era at home and abroad required strong Washington hands, but overseen by a chief executive pressing for change. “What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking. But I understand where the vision for change comes from first, and foremost; it comes from me. That’s my job, is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing.”

“The old ways of thinking and the old ways of acting just won’t do,” Obama said.

Also consider that or the critical inside job of national security adviser, Obama wants retired Marine Gen. James Jones, a respectful critic of some Bush administration war strategy, especially in Afghanistan, and his priorities and world view seem in line with Obama’s. But he’s no lefty. The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was named last year to head an energy initiative for the Republican-friendly Chamber of Commerce, and he also served as a special Mideast peace adviser for the Bush administration.

Consider also his selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. No matter what you think of Hillary personally, you have to agree she’s a respected foreign policy wonk who will lend instant credibility to the Obama presidency throughout the world.

Gates and Jones are both career public servants without a strong ideological stamp. Clinton, 61, may carry ideological baggage, but she also brings a record of bipartisan cooperation in the Senate and tested Midwestern stick-to-it-iveness.

According to the Associate Press, Gates was a member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and is widely respected by Democrats in Congress, but he retains strong Republican lineage. The 65-year-old climbed the CIA bureaucracy from an entry-level position to become director under President George H.W. Bush. He also served on his National Security Council, as he had for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Gates helped lead U.S. efforts to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980s while at the CIA and was deputy national security adviser during Operation Desert Storm, the first U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Gates is a close friend of the Bush family. He was interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M and became the university’s president in 2002. The school is home to the elder Bush’s presidential library.

Gates supported the Iraq war and the military buildup there, although he has also endorsed new efforts to draw down forces in Iraq and beef up troop numbers in Afghanistan _ a strategy also voiced by Obama.

Gates has won praise from Democrats for his willingness to work with all sides on Capitol Hill and his moves to swiftly can Pentagon leaders who he believed were not performing. During his brief tenure he has fired the Army and Air Force secretaries as well as the Air Force chief of staff.

Let’s see what the Obama critics have to say about these appointments. I’m sure they’ll be quick to point out how Jones, Gates and Clinton are all Muslim terrorists just like Obama.


Race issue debunked in McCain win here

November 24, 2008

When I saw the county-by-county PA election map on one of the local news stations here, I wasn’t surprised or shocked at all. There it was-Fayette blood red, thus showing me once again that many of the voters there allowed racism and prejudice to cloud their judgement. I thought that Fayette was still Democrat- tried and true, but when a black man is the Democratic candidate, the masses there shy away at the polls. Almost makes me ashamed to tell the folks over here that I’m from “good ole boy” Fayette County. Oh well! Guess Rep Murtha was right!”
Mark
Philadephia, Pa.

This comment was one of many similar postings on our Web site about the recent results of the presidential election in Fayette County where Republican John McCain defeated his Democratic Party counterpart Barack Obama by a margin of 215 votes, 26,081 to 25,866.
It all sounds somewhat true, especially since this was the first time a Republican presidential candidate won Fayette County since Richard Nixon beat George McGovern here back in 1972.
But consider this. Four years ago, George W. Bush took 46 percent of the vote here in losing to John Kerry by a margin of 27,321 to 23,403. It was the best showing by a Republican here since Nixon and probably paved the way for McCain’s victory earlier this month.
But more importantly no one mentioned race at all in the aftermath of Bush’s impressive vote tallies. So, why is anyone talking about it now? Clearly, there was much more than race involved in this election.
There was talk back in 2004 that Fayette County was becoming more conservative and Republican as issues concerning guns and abortions were coming to the forefront. Certainly with all the hunters and Catholics here, there was cause for concern among Democratic Party officials that the Republican Party could use those issues to sway local voters to their side.
With McCain, a strong proponent of both gun rights and the pro-life movement, at the head of the ticket was it really that big of a surprise that he won Fayette County? Consider also that McCain, a war hero and an established politician on the national scene for over 20 years, was running against Obama, a relatively unknown candidate to most local residents.
So, to say that people only voted for McCain because of race is a slap in the face to the overwhelming majority of those who backed the GOP candidate. It’s also an insult to Dee John, the new chairwoman of the Fayette County Republican Party, who worked hard to get out the vote for McCain.
Ironically, I think that John Murtha had the best take of anyone on the presidential election in Fayette County. Appearing before our editorial board, Murtha never mentioned racists or rednecks as he did to other media outlets. Hard to say what he was thinking when he made his comments to them, but when we asked Murtha about how Obama would do here, he said about 5 percent of the people in Fayette County would probably never vote for a black president. But overall, he said Obama would do well and would probably win Fayette County.
While, Murtha was wrong on that count, it does seem probable that he was right about the 5 percent of people who wouldn’t vote for a black president, considering that was approximately the difference between Bush and McCain’s vote totals.
I also think of two other factors. Watching MSNBC on election night, commentator Chris Matthews talked about Obama’s change theme and how it probably had little appeal to voters in Pennsylvania, especially those in the southwest.
He noted that people in this area of the state have seen a lot of changes over the years but not many of them have been good. He pointed out that many young people have to go elsewhere for good jobs, breaking up strong families, which were once the lifeblood of the area.
No matter what you think of Matthews, you have to agree he had a point.
I also sensed that even among those Democrats who voted for Obama, most did so more out a sense of loyalty to the Democratic Party rather than any passion for his cause. But I blame at least part of that on the fact Obama never came here to rally the troops as he did in so many other places. And if you figure that the odds of him coming here were pretty slim, what about Hillary Clinton, who did so well here last spring, or Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden, who had some appeal with his Pennsylvania roots? I think it’s possible that a stop by someone of national prominence on Obama’s behalf might have been able to keep Fayette County from going red.
But while we can probably talk all day about why McCain won here, there could be a real upside to his strong showing. For too many years, the Democratic Party has had an overwhelming edge over Republicans in voter registration numbers. It’s been so lopsided that state and national Democratic Party officials took us for granted while their Republican counterparts avoided us like the plague, figuring they had no chance of winning any votes here.
Perhaps this election will change all of that. Maybe now both sides will pay more attention to our wishes and needs. And if that happens we’ll all be winners, no matter our party affiliation.

Mark O’Keefe is the executive editor of the Herald-Standard. O’Keefe can be reached by e-mail at mo’keefe@heraldstandard.com, by regular mail at 8-18 Church St., Uniontown, Pa., 15401 or by phone at 724-439-7569.


Palin at it again

November 15, 2008

Sarah Palin apparently just can’t help herself.

According to Associated Press, the governor of Alaska was in Miami last week for the Republican Governors Association meeting and at first she displayed her sense of humor telling her fellow governors, that she wanted to catch them up on the developments in her life since they last met.

“I had a baby, I did some traveling, I very briefly expanded my wardrobe, I made a few speeches, I met a few VIPs including those who really impact society like Tina Fey,” she said to loud laughter.

Palin then got serious, noting Congress is led by the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Barney Frank, and said it was incumbent upon GOP governors to ensure that the federal government doesn’t take over the health care system. She said if Obama and the new Congress “err on the side of excess taxes, we have to show them the way.”

Before briefly taking questions from reporters Thursday morning, Palin said, “I, like all of our governors, we’re focused on the future. The future for us is not the 2012 presidential race. It’s next year and our next budget, and the next reforms in our states and in 2010 we’re going to have 36 governors’ positions open across the U.S. That’s what we’re focused on.”

“We are the minority party,” Palin added at a session on “Looking Towards the Future: The GOP in Transition.” “Let us resolve not to be the negative party.”

Palin even said she’d be willing to try and help Obama.

“Let’s reach out to Barack Obama,” Palin said. “Show him how lower taxes provide opportunity for the private sector to grow.”

But then Palin went back into her attack dog-mode.

She said with governors, “the buck stops on our desk. … We are not the many voting yea or nay or present.” While an Illinois state lawmaker, Obama often voted “present,” a practice the GOP criticized during the campaign.

Why would Palin take such a cheap shot at Obama? Doesn’t she realize the American people are sick and tired of these negative attacks. Even John McCain has agreed to bury the hatchet. He’s meeting with Obama on Monday to try and see what they can to work together for America.

Remember when Obama was asked about Palin during his final debate with McCain. He could have said a lot, especially with Palin bashing him everyday at campaign stops around the country.

But Obama refused to take the bait and said it was up to the American people not him to judge Palin.

Palin would be well advised to study the exit polls from the election. Six in 10 Americans said Palin is not qualified to become president, according to exit polls of voters in last week’s election. That included nine in 10 Democrats, nearly two-thirds of independents and a quarter of Republicans. The exit polls were conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.

If indeed she’s going to be a force in American politics in the coming years, she’ll have to turn those numbers around. And one way would be to ditch the snide and negative comments. They may help her with the Republican base but they certainly don’t win over any Democrats or Independents, whose votes she’ll need to win a national election.


McCain burying hatchet with Obama

November 14, 2008

Isn’t it amazing that some folks on the right seem determined to continue insulting and defaming President-elect Barack Obama even though their hero John McCain has agreed to bury the hatchet with him.

According to Associated Press, Obama will meet Monday with John McCain in talks that will focus on ways they can cooperate on an array of troublesome issues facing the country.

“It’s well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality,” Obama spokesman Stephanie Cutter said in announcing the meeting.

Shouldn’t this be what Republicans and Democrats do across the country?

The Associated Press said  the two will be joined at Obama’s Chicago transition office by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a McCain confidant, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat whom Obama has chosen to be his White House chief of staff.

According to Associated Press, Obama has struck a bipartisan tone, pairing pairing a Republican and a Democrat to meet with foreign leaders this weekend on his behalf in Washington, for example. His aides emphasized the bringing together of both sides in announcing the meeting with McCain.

Republican and Democratic officials say Emanuel and Graham arranged in a postelection conversation to have Obama and McCain meet at the earliest possible time and Monday was it. Emanuel and Graham have worked together before on issues on Capitol Hill, and Graham jumped to Emanuel’s defense when Republicans criticized his appointment as Obama’s chief of staff.

Meanwhile, on another interesting note, the Associated Press is reporting that a Democratic official speaking on grounds of anonymity said that Obama met in Chicago with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is under consideration for secretary of state.

The two met on Thursday afternoon, said the official, who asked not to be publicly identified because the official was not authorized to release the information.

Maybe that will satisfy all those people out there who were so upset that Obama didn’t pick Hillary for VP that they voted for McCain.