CBC Test

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 26, 2009

news1The Congresional Black Caucus meeting with a president is ordinarily no big deal, although there were not a lot of sit downs with President Bush during his two terms. But, this particular conversation is different.  The CBC has been somewhat petulent with the president and they didn’t quite fall over themselves in support of their fellow member during the 2008 primaries. We watched with some interest as CBC Chair Barbara Lee (D-CA) stopped Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and chatted aggressively in her ear for more than a few leisurely moments right before the President’s unofficial State of the Union te other night.  What was that all about?  And, was it an attempt by the CBC Chair to somehow play the Clinton hand in an effort to push Obama’s buttons?

Still, President Obama doesn’t appear to be the vindictive sort, so the meeting may ease any tension felt.  The creation of the urban affairs office by the president may also ease some concerns, but Black Members of Congress have to realize that the president has a much broader constituency.  His ultimate success benefits them currently and may benefit their longer term ambitions. That all said, we notice that the CBC has yet to produce a definitive agenda for the 111th Congress.  Not stimulus package response points; an actual point-by-point agenda that lays out a specific plan beyond the usual reactionary pose.


State of the Union by any other measure

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 26, 2009

newsDespite the massive challenges faced by the new President, he’s maintained quite a bit of composure and ease over the past month – a quality that makes him rather strong and solid as Commander-in-Chief.  The constant communication and focus on transparency (from simple efforts like a user-friendly White House website and to frequent face time before the press) is putting him in a position of public strength. Overall, he’s done rather well this past month, particularly as he continues pressing for bipartisan cooperation amid Republican pettiness.

However, while understanding the necessity of an honest and frank ‘keep it real’ approach, the President would be wise to turn the somber tone down a notch.  He did that by far in his unofficial State of the Union before Congress. Some may argue that he’s been doing that the whole time.  Others may argue that he should continue keeping it real so he can claim major credit when the nation turns the corner.  But, there had been a noticeable grimness in the President’s tone as of late – we attest that to his finding the dirt under the White House rug, so to speak.  Finding the skeletons and dirty baggage in the closet when his predecessor finally left.  It must have been and still is very depressing – and it took him some time to grasp the magnitude of it.

Yes: we did inherit a mess.  Still: the American public is past the problem identification phase: and we appreciate his keeping us updated on how bad it really is.  But, depression is just as much a mental dynamic as it economic. Hence, more emphasis should be placed on problem resolution and helping people visualize the light at the end of the tunnel.  We saw light at the end of the tunnel that night before Congress. We’re not saying he should sugarcoat the issue or bamboozle expectations – we’re simply saying that he can also use his bully pulpit to keep it slightly upbeat and motivational.

Urban Decor and Definition

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 26, 2009

images12The composition of the Urban Affairs team draws two obvious points: 1) the White House is drawing experience from the nation’s largest urban model: New York City and 2) with Carrion’s appointment, there is a public effort to ease concerns over perceived lack of Latino leadership in the Obama Administration.  A marked focus on “urban affairs” is laudable in many respects, given the city-centered scope of our most critical challenges: from infrastructure to public health; from economic development to jobs; from public education to crime. These issues strike a strong personal chord with the President. It’s a clear departure from the previous Administration which didn’t appear to care very much about American cities while appeasing to a primarily suburban and rural base. And, this definitely gives Obama leverage in dealing with Mayors during a time of local budget shortfalls and rising unemployment.

Since, as the White House notes, 80 percent of the U.S. population is concentrated in cities, the effectiveness of this new Office will greatly depend on how it coordinates activities through other agencies. The White House must be certain that its definition of “urban” is clear and that it doesn’t brand one particular agenda or typecast one or two particular groups.  Urban will have to acknowledge cities as centers of commerce, culture and governance while addressing the many social, economic, environmental, health and political issues that are inextricably linked.
If careless, critics will have ammunition to accuse the White House of political window-dressing, with conservatives quick to criticize the ‘urban agenda’ as ‘too left.’  Others will watch cautiously, ensuring the office doesn’t become ‘racialized.’ That said, many advocates, particularly in the African American community, will expect sharper focus on issues impacting Black people.  And, although a focus on urban affairs is needed, let’s be mindful of the fact that many working to middle class city residents, especially African Americans, are being displaced or gentrified into cheaper suburbs.  Over time, the White House will have to find a way to address the rapid rise of suburban poverty, which recently outpaced its urban neighbor.

LENNY MCALLISTER – Can America Remain A Free Market Society?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 21, 2009

images52Throughout the debate over the economic recovery package, TARP payments to banks, and other forms of bailouts, buyouts, and behavior geared to help the American economy get back on track, everyone seems focused on the role that government has taken. Conservatives continue to highlight their fears for the socialization of America, calls that were initially brought to us during the 2008 presidential campaign. Liberals tend to view the government’s response as a necessary and responsible approach to addressing a critical risk to our American way of life.

Regardless of one’s political leaning, it is clear to most that the role of government has expanded greatly. With this change, people are asking questions that seem core to the situation we face:

Should the federal government play the role of savior by bailing out failing organizations that made poor business decisions?

Should the federal government be in the business of keeping people in their homes after they fall behind or default completely on their mortgages?

Should the federal government in the business of providing the options for new jobs for Americans, particularly displaced workers?

These are issues worth the back and forth banter discussing their merits, but with the expansion of government, we should take one step back and ask a deeper, perhaps more pressing question:

Can America remain a free-market society?

People are asking this question based on economics while failing to look at the bigger picture. The behavior of economics exists primarily through the basic social behaviors enacted by the citizens engaging the economy.

A look at our current economic situation – and our national fiscal future – should be examined through our developing social trends.

Practically all of us have lived exclusively post-FDR’s New Deal. As well, multiple generations have lived after President Johnson’s Great Society movement. Many point to these legislative points in history as a reason behind the shift in thinking of what government should be for people. The expansion of government during these times redefined the American outlook on what legislators in Washington should devote their legislative and campaign efforts towards – namely, providing goods and services directed to American citizens and the voting public; (some would argue that this now involves providing services to those that fit into neither category, displaying a possible continued extension of governmental reach.) This is valid in some regards, although merely looking at the legislation without examining the factors prompting Washington’s actions (as conservatives are doing today) reeks of revisionist history at its worse. This is particularly true in the case of Johnson’s Great Society.

The turbulent 1960s were the aftermath of a bubbling society injustice incurred by African Americans for decades in America. Ironically, it took a mass movement, numerous deaths, and a wave of legislation to address the inequality faced by a significant portion of the nation’s people – of course, after a war was fought 100 years prior and a subsequent wave of legislation and social efforts followed it.

The same could be true for the treatment of women throughout American history until the 1960s. A similar example could be the treatment of American workers, prompting the existence of labor unions in the early 20th century.

The failure of American businesses to act responsibly – thus leading to this mass multi-tiered and –faceted bailout movement – is but a reflection of the same social traits that we exhibit towards ourselves.

Legislation that prompts us to adopt a pattern of behavior has always needed the force of additional governmental intervention (and more legislation) to ensure that the behavior was adhered to. American history shows us that everything from civil rights or gender rights and points in between (e.g., worker’s rights, child labor laws, etc.) needed the constant presence of the federal government for us to move forward. Each instance within American history where the federal government had to step in with legislation and other forms of hand-holding to guide the country back towards a sense of doing what it ought to do naturally, the result involved violence, bloodshed, loss of capital, and heavy social re-engineering before any successes could be found. We may not see the bloodshed that we incurred in the past, but we have already seen dreaded red ink and pink slips – and increased economic death – even after the first round of TARP distribution and various bail-out maneuvering.

Although we benefit ethically and fiscally from previous government efforts (and the maximized use of available American resources as a result), the inefficiency of government involvement to ensure good morals and common sense (backbone principles our nation was founded on) always risks a leakage of resource allocation that could be directed towards more beneficial and profitable endeavors. At a time when our resources are severely limited, we can ill-afford to waste anything: money, time, or manpower. As of now, we risk overextending all three to address this capital crisis.

The bigger risk, however, is not the allocation of American resources (be they money, legislative efforts, or human capital) to this problem. The larger social and political issue for America is that we have continued a pattern where government must set the direction for us to follow to guide ourselves out of difficulties and through situations we face. Some challenges may prompt action from larger authorities and organizations. However, we now live in a time where a growing majority of Americans look to laws to guide their morality and thinking. Repeated civil rights laws have been passed to prompt what should be obvious in a free market society: hire the best person for a job, regardless of skin color, so that you can maximize your business opportunities for success. Repeated laws and social “ways of being” have been incorporated to educate people on how to deal with particular life issues and problems. Legislation exists to make sure that common sense items like granting good parking spaces to the physically-challenged is ensured.

Should I really need a sign or an ordinance saying that I should give up my seat in the front of a bus to an 80-year-old with two bad knees, someone that I can clearly see is struggling to walk?

Some things can’t be legislated, not in a free market society.

Government continues to intervene in expansive ways. With the level of expansion that is going on – from the recovery package to whether you can appropriately spank your child – we dwindle the ability of the average American to make conscious, educated, and engaged decisions in everyday life, including economic decisions that impact not just her or his life, but the lives of neighbors all around as well. Without that fundamental ability intact, strong, and protected, the expansion of government will continue until we face a not-so-distant future where the socialization of America will have come about, not because of expansive government programs geared towards financially supporting major economic functions, but because American citizens are incapable of owning some responsibility within the economic to drive it as a free market society. Innovation involves both ownership and autonomy. Both of those traits require free thinking.

And at the rate of government expansion that we have seen in America over recent years, if we submit our free thinking to more legislation and government intervention, we forfeit our free market mentality as well.

SHARON TOOMER – Open Letter to the NY Post

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 19, 2009

newyorkpostfeb2009Dear New York Post: Thank you for reminding me of who and what you really are. Please don’t bother to offer up an empty apology for this latest offense.

This illustration is your authentic editorial opinion, and you have every right to have it. Just like I have every right to put your editorial board, reporters, editors, illustrators, copy editors and Rupert Murdoch in the category of blatantly ignorant, racist, incendiary and reckless. It is for these reasons I don’t buy your paper, never have bought your paper and never will.

The Black employees at the New York Post must find it that much more difficult to do their work. Based on the thinking behind the illustration and the editorial approval it took to get published, it seems like the Post might very well be fostering a hostile work environment for Black people.

Thanks again, for the reminder. It keeps me inspired to continue with

Good riddance,

Sharon D. Toomer
Founder and Managing Editor


Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 18, 2009

323e9e6e-8523-43b6-b51e-4f5a994ef92fh2There is a certain amount of simple genius to the stimulus plan in that it attempts a holistic approach – not only is it looking to put people back to work, but it simultaneously allows investment in infrastructure, education reform and safety net programs.  Not to mention smart investment in the explosive industry of renewable energy.   The question remains, however: is $787B enough?  The fairly grim response from the markets (with the Dow Jones dropping nearly 300 points) signals a rough road ahead for the stimulus.  Perhaps this is because the next phase is keeping track of the money, or managing where it gets spent.  The Administration’s appears quite ambitious by fulfilling the task of transparency, but one can’t help wonder if this will be lost by the politics about to take place.

There is both an obvious public policy aspect to today’s signing and an underlying political angle. On one hand, Obama picks a state where people have been hard hit by rising foreclosures. But, on the other, you can’t negate the significance of signing this bill in a swinging battleground state that was once reliably red, yet voted for Obama in 2008.  In that respect, he’s definitely solidifying support for the mid-terms in 2010 and his re-election in 2012. We’re curious to see it items in the Act that seek to stem the rise of foreclosures, encourage steps towards universal health care reform and create jobs are points will have noticeable impact. What is noticed is the sharp turn in rhetoric – from the grim realism used to push the bill through cantakerous Congressional chambers to now a more hopeful “the beginning of the end” of our dire economic outlook.

The Disconnect

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 18, 2009

images23The disconnect between what is inside the Beltway and who is outside that twisted petty politrick of partisan rubble is a rather peculiar human state. To say D.C. is self-insulated from the rest of that which it governs is somewhat of an understatement. It’s peculiar because the nation’s capitol is a rather transient town, a shuffling hub of where it starts, where it ends and where it’s at. With a nativist Washingtonian pitch to kill any classroom dissent, a college professor once piped that while ” … New York City is retail, D.C. is wholesale.”

Cool, he’s right on many levels. But here’s a dribble of dissent: if that’s the case, how come Washington can’t get past its perception of itself or what it’s doing? There’s something insanely self-absorbing and masturbatory about Washington, the adulation it gives itself in abrupt defiance of the world around it. There’s a distressing Copernican play about it, but it’s the Washington we hate to love, love to hate. Without it being Washington, what is it then?

Still it’s no different from any other big town defined by its industry and chiseled further by its character. Centers of pop-culture dominance ripe for criticism and a curious sort of envy. Problem here is that Washington runs things, hence the expectation of representation is justified. This town’s disconnect with that expectation breeds a somewhat troubling trend, its inability to clearly elucidate its intentions wrapped in the eager gamesmanship we see each headline. Mostly conservative Republicans relegated to a whining minority appear to rant and stage fits on anything that they define as “liberal.” Democrats, barely managing the bloat of total power, are too ideologically disjointed to liberally respond, but smack back with lectures on the virtue of bipartisanship. The two parties are like angry tennis players sliding crazily on a clay court, banging away through annoyingly long sets. Point is, they don’t see or really care what we think after going at it for so long. And, we become mere spectators of the sport.

Giving fair credit to the president, this dude is moving at political light speed. Although old school wisdom teaches that the details always slip through the cracks of the bare knuckle bum rush, we understand that the times require dramatic measures. So, we’ll tolerate the missed step or two and deal with the consequences of political rapidity later. Still, the interesting thing about this massive push to revive our free falling economy is the disparity between how much the public knows about the politics behind it and the economic fundamentals which caused it. On the up side, this White House gets props for the great, open and rather transparent civics lesson taking place. But, the politics may be obfuscating the gritty reality of job loss, foreclosures and financial decay. As a result, fair-minded average folks struggling each day don’t understand the mechanics of this debate about what to do.

You know that when folks are hard pressed to ask the wonks and experts if they’ll be seeing any money in their hands anytime soon. One frequent question: why not give us the money? It’s a valid question given the fact we don’t know much about the use of the first $350 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program money. When you think about it, simple math could have invested a nearly $200,000 emergency foreclosure prevention loan per foreclosing household. But, o.k., sure – that’s too simple. And since we’re told that three quarters of the economy is driven by what we spend, the frustration level turns into outright resentment.

Economists smartly claim that it’s a tough proposition to simply cut stimulus checks and expect folks to spend it correctly since, on average, we only spend 40 percent of every dollar we make and save the rest. The purpose of stimulus is to act as a giant intravenous pump of fiscal adrenaline – saving money defeats the purpose. But, here’s where we the peeps get confused: isn’t one of the reasons we’re in this fix at the moment is because not enough of us saved? Our McMansionized appetite for leisure and excess outpaced sensible spending. We struggle to find the balance between the “you’re not saving enough” finger-point-in-the-chest lecture and a “spend it now” mantra. Economic reasoning clashes with the practical argument of what’s happening on the ground. Maybe that’s part of the problem.


Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 16, 2009

images6The GOP of 2009 is quite different than the Party we have become accustomed to over the last decade or so. As odd as it may seem, today’s Republican Party is a highly concentrated form of the 2000 through 2004 Gang that brought us Iraq, a trillion dollar deficit, and Freedom Fries. While the Democrats were trouncing the Republicans in both 2006 and 2008, few seemed to notice that the Republicans who were ousted were those who made up the moderate voice of the GOP. Those Republicans who were in districts with an ideologically diverse constituency were nearly all replaced when the Country began trending blue. As the GOP loses it’s moderate voice it becomes more conservative which ultimately drives away the remaining moderates and guess what, the Party becomes even more conservative. A political trend which, if it continues, will ultimately leave a small, angry, and powerless group of White Protestant Southerners commiserating about how the minorities, Yankees, and Hippies are bringing this country to ruin.

The 2009 GOP is made up of mostly Southern and Western hard core right wingers who answer to bright red districts. Regardless of the ideological moderation which seems to have blanketed America, their home town voters are the true believers. The Sarah Palin supporters who spent the general election convinced that Barack Obama was a Muslim who sat in a Church for 20 years listening to a radical Christian preacher.

President Obama began his Presidency attempting to cross Party lines to compromise, and maybe even synergize, with his opposition. He quickly found out that the crew he faces now will not be bargained with. They will fight him on every issue and put the future at risk to win a battle against him today. The recent appearances of Jim Imhoff and Lindsey Graham spitting anger and venom on MSNBC painted a grim picture for those hoping for bi-partisan governance. That being said, I have little doubt that the President will continue his overtures towards the opposition regardless of the success.

President Obama will need to consolidate power within his own Party in order to push through many of the initiatives he proposed during his Campaign. The dozen or so Democrats who opposed the stimulus bill in the house must be brought back in line, and it may be necessary to unleash Rahm Emanuel to get the job done.

MN – Pawlenty’s Pimp for 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 11, 2009

imagesThe GOP could use a good dose of moderates in the mix, particularly as it mulls its Presidential chances in 2012.  One name that comes up constantly is Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who was rumored at many points during the 2008 election as a top running mate choice for Sen. John McCain’s (R) – before AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) stole the show.

Our gut tells us McCain wanted Pawlenty all along, but a convergence of rabid conservative activists and Palin’s … appeal did McCain in.  We wouldn’t be surprised if McCain is pushing for a Pawlenty run behind the scenes.  But, the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, at the moment, is settled on Palin.   The two Ps may define the ideological battle lines within the Republican Party.

Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza talks about it in The Fix:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty returned yesterday from a three-day trip to Germany where he attended the Munich Conference on Security Policy, the latest evidence that the Minnesota Republican is working to broaden his policy palette in advance of a potential run for president in 2012.

Pawlenty was invited to the conference, which was also attended by Vice President Biden among many, many other international dignitaries, by Sen. John McCain — a close personal friend and the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2008.

That Close to Meltdown

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 11, 2009

images22As unpopular as the Wall Street TARP bailout is in the public eye, information appears to continually leak out about how critical it is to pump some sort of cash into the financial system – between the rock of not liking this plan and the hard place of “Well – you got any other bright ideas?”. The problem, however, is with the lack of oversight and knowledge about that money – where exactly is it going and what is it supposed to do? It, of course, doesn’t help that the general American public is not that economics-savvy.

Readers should check out Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Chair of the House Capital Markets Subcommittee, cluing us in to just how serious this crisis is.  Kanjorski says the Federal Reserve told Members of Congress about a “tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the United States, to the tune of $550 billion dollars.” Interesting Kanjorski is talking about it so many months after the fact – but, at least, someone on Capitol Hill is being forthcoming.

We’ll let the transcript speak for itself:

“On Thursday Sept 15, 2008 at roughly 11 AM The Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous draw down of money market accounts in the USA to the tune of $550 Billion dollars in a matter of an hour or two.

Money was being removed electronically.

The treasury tried to help with $150 Billion.

But could not stem the tide.

It was an electronic run on the banks

The treasury intervened but had they not closed down the accounts they estimated that by 2 PM that afternoon. Within 3 hours. $5.5 Trillion would have been withdrawled and collapsed and within 24 hours the world economy.”