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Old 01-05-2009, 07:31 AM   #46  
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Richardson withdrawal leaves gap in Cabinet picks

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Cabinet that President-elect Barack Obama picked on a fast track has an unexpected opening, with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Obama's choice for commerce secretary, withdrawing under pressure of a federal investigation into how his political donors landed a lucrative transportation contract.
Richardson insisted he would be cleared in a grand jury probe. But he and Obama said the investigation would have likely disrupted a timely nomination to a top economic post.
"I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process," Richardson said in a statement. "Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the president-elect and his administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done."
Richardson's withdrawal was the first bump in Obama's Cabinet process and the second "pay-to-play" investigation that has touched Obama's transition to the presidency. The president-elect has not been implicated in either the New Mexico case or accusations that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich tried to sell Obama's former Senate seat.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said he expected a new commerce secretary would be chosen soon but didn't have a timetable. Gibbs denied that those tasked to look into Richardson's background missed something.
A senior Obama adviser said Richardson gave assurances before he was nominated last month he would come out fine in the investigation. But as the grand jury pursued the case, it became clear that confirmation hearings would be delayed at least six weeks until the investigation was complete, said the adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity about the discussions because they were private.
Aides to both men insisted Richardson made the decision to withdraw and was not pushed out by Obama. But one Democrat involved in discussions over the matter said transition officials became increasingly nervous during the last couple of weeks that the investigation could become an embarrassment to Obama, who ran on a clean government pledge.
Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the governor believed the investigation would be resolved by this time, but decided to withdraw when it became clear it would not.
In a statement, Obama praised Richardson and said he accepted his withdrawal "with deep regret."
"It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time," Obama said. "Although we must move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson's decision, I look forward to his future service to our country and in my administration."
Richardson ran against Obama in the Democratic presidential primary. He is one of the most prominent Hispanics in the Democratic Party, having served in Congress, and in the Clinton administration as ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary. As governor he has kept up an international profile with a specialty in dealing with rogue nations. Obama also considered him for secretary of state.
Richardson said in his statement that he will remain as governor.
The announcement came ahead of Obama's Monday meetings with congressional leaders on a massive economic recovery bill he wants passed quickly. Obama transition officials said Richardson's withdrawal would not affect the stimulus plan because the Commerce Department was not heavily involved.
A person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press that the grand jury is looking into possible "pay-to-play" dealings between CDR Financial Products and someone in a position to push the contract through the state of New Mexico.
State documents show CDR was paid a total of $1.48 million in 2004 and 2005 for its work on a transportation program.
In a statement issued Sunday night, CDR's chief executive, David Rubin, described Richardson as "an exceptionally able and dedicated public official, who was highly deserving of the opportunity to hold a cabinet-level position in the new Obama administration." Rubin also said CDR "adamantly doesn't practice pay-for-play under any circumstance on any playing field."
CDR and Rubin have contributed at least $110,000 to three political committees formed by Richardson, according to an AP review of campaign finance records.
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Old 01-07-2009, 02:40 PM   #47  
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Please discuss on another thread, if you wish.

The truth is finally starting to emerge:

I heard a $trillion put in an interesting way today: one thousand times one billion. I don't care how you say it.....that's a lot of $$$ to pay back with higher taxes.

Obama Predicts Years of Deficits Over $1 Trillion

Slowing tax revenues and a historic bailout of the U.S. financial system will send the budget deficit soaring toward $1 trillion this year, President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday, and the red ink stands to get substantially deeper if Obama wins approval of a massive economic stimulus plan.
Even if the package of spending and tax cuts helps restore the nation's immediate economic health, Obama said, the government is likely to be left with "trillion-dollar deficits for years to come" unless policymakers "make a change in the way that Washington does business."
"We're going to have to stop talking about budget reform. We're going to have to totally embrace it. It's an absolute necessity," the president-elect told reporters a day before the Congressional Budget Office is set to release its outlook for the coming year.
Obama faces the twin challenges of managing the deficit, the annual gap between tax revenues and spending, and the swelling national debt, the amount of money that the government has borrowed to finance years of deficits. His task is made all the more difficult because new spending is widely viewed as the best way to pull the nation out of the recession. While Obama has declined to say how he intends to deal with such challenges, an economic adviser said yesterday that the president-elect plans to unveil "major initiatives" designed to eventually bring the deficit under control as part of his first budget proposal, which he will submit to Congress next month.

Obama also has scheduled a news conference for today to make a "personnel announcement" related to budget reform, aides said.
In the meantime, Obama said he will incorporate a trio of provisions in the nearly $800 billion stimulus package under review by Congress -- dubbed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- to ensure that the money is not wasted. The provisions include establishing a special panel to monitor use of the money; a Web site that will allow taxpayers to monitor use of the money; and a ban on lawmakers' pet projects, known as earmarks.
"We're going to be investing an extraordinary amount of money to jump-start our economy, save or create 3 million new jobs, mostly in the private sector, and lay a solid foundation for future growth. But we're not going to be able to expect the American people to support this critical effort unless we take extraordinary steps to ensure that the investments are made wisely and managed well," Obama said after an hour-long meeting with his economic team.
Today's CBO report will provide the first official estimate of how Washington's various economic salvage operations have affected the nation's finances. One of the primary participants in yesterday's meeting was Peter Orszag, who stepped down as CBO director in November to serve as Obama's budget chief. Orszag should be intimately familiar with the forthcoming CBO report; Obama said Orszag advised him of the grim deficit forecast.
In announcing the news a day early, Obama cast himself as the unfortunate heir to President Bush's fiscal "irresponsibility," saying Bush's policies have doubled the national debt over the past eight years and delivered "the worst economic crisis that we've seen since the Great Depression." Though Obama plans to keep some of Bush's most expensive policies -- including many of the tax cuts enacted during Bush's first term in office -- Obama has vowed to scour the budget for wasteful spending.
"We are going to bring a long-overdue sense of responsibility and accountability to Washington," Obama said. "We are going to stop talking about government reform, and we're actually going to start executing."
Bush's tax cuts helped eliminate the surpluses of the Clinton years and helped drive the annual budget deficit to a record $413 billion in 2004. The deficit later plummeted to $162 billion in 2007 but soared to $455 billion in the fiscal year that ended in September, largely because of a small stimulus package enacted last February, slowing tax revenues and rising expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Initial projections suggested that the deficit for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 would be about $550 billion. But since then, the budget outlook has only gotten bleaker.
As the economy has weakened, tax collections have slowed, and spending on food stamps and unemployment benefits have increased. Meanwhile, Congress approved a $700 billion bailout to stabilize fragile financial markets by purchasing the stock and assets of banks, insurance companies and other institutions. Though much of that money is invested in assets that eventually will be sold, returning at least some of the money to the government, the bailout is likely to add another $200 billion to the deficit this year, according to a letter CBO analysts sent last month to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).
Those developments alone are pushing this year's deficit toward $1 trillion, said an Obama economic adviser. If approved, Obama's stimulus package would clearly add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit in 2009, the adviser said.
Even if only half the stimulus money is spent this year, the deficit could easily top $1.4 trillion, or nearly 10 percent of the economy -- a budget hole not seen since the end of World War II. Many Wall Street analysts expect the deficit to go higher, however; a recent Treasury survey found that major bond dealers expect the nation to borrow as much as $2 trillion by the end of September.
The mounting debt has raised an alarm on Capitol Hill, where some Republicans and moderate Democrats are pressing Obama to tackle the looming challenge of skyrocketing Medicare and Social Security spending, and to adopt tough new budget rules to prevent future deficits from ballooning.
Congressional aides said one possibility would be a return to the stringent budget rules of the late-1980s, when overspending automatically triggered across-the-board cuts to federal programs, a process known as "sequestering."
Hoyer, a champion of fiscally conservative Democrats in the House, acknowledged that sequestering is an option. But it's "not something lawmakers are eager to approve," he said, because it would take control over federal spending out of the hands of Congress.
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Old 01-07-2009, 02:44 PM   #48  
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Obama Is Under Fire Over Panetta Selection

Current, Ex-CIA Officials Criticize 'Opaque' Process

President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday that he has selected a "top-notch intelligence team" that would provide the "unvarnished" information his administration needs, rather than "what they think the president wants to hear."

But current and former intelligence officials expressed sharp resentment over Obama's choice of Leon E. Panetta as CIA director and suggested that the agency suffers from incompetent leadership and low morale. "People who suggest morale is low don't have a clue about what's going on now," said CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield, citing recent personnel reforms under Director Michael V. Hayden.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence were still stewing over Obama not consulting them on the choice before it was leaked Monday and continued to question Panetta's intelligence experience. Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. acknowledged that the transition team had made a "mistake" in not consulting or even notifying congressional leaders, and Obama telephoned committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and her predecessor, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), yesterday to apologize.
"Obama trusts [Panetta] -- that's a huge plus," committee member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said, citing Panetta's management expertise as Clinton White House chief of staff and budget director. But "after the past 24 hours, Leon Panetta is likely to get a good grilling" at his confirmation hearing, Wyden said. Several committee Democrats made clear that they expect CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes and Intelligence Director Michael Morell, the agency's No. 3 official, to be retained for continuity and experience. An Obama transition official confirmed that both will be invited to stay.

The Panetta uproar starts Obama off on the wrong foot with the committee and intelligence professionals and was the latest glitch in what has largely been an unusually smooth and carefully choreographed transition.
"It's always good to talk to the requisite members of Congress," Biden said. "I think it was just a mistake."
In a news conference at his transition headquarters, Obama defended Panetta, even as he emphasized that he has still made no formal announcement about his intelligence team. "I have the utmost respect for Leon Panetta," he said. "I think he is one of the finest public servants that we've had. He brings extraordinary management skills, great political savvy, an impeccable record of integrity." Obama is expected to publicly name Panetta, as well as retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair as director of national intelligence, this week. Panetta began making introductory calls to lawmakers yesterday, Obama aides said.
Although several top CIA officials who have interacted with Obama since the election expressed admiration for his grasp of the issues, the transition process has clearly left a bad taste. One senior official said that "the process was completely opaque" and that the agency was neither consulted nor informed. The official was among several who discussed the subject on the condition of anonymity.
A second official who had worked with President Bill Clinton's national security team while Panetta was chief of staff said he had no recollection of Panetta taking an active role in intelligence briefings or discussions of CIA policy and practice.
"He just didn't make an impression," said the official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity so he could discuss the matter freely.
An official who participated in the Obama team's deliberations dismissed concerns about Panetta's lack of experience, saying that a number of previous directors had little or no "inside-the-intelligence-community experience. Most of them were from the outside . . . What you need is someone who can represent the agency well in the corridors of power in Washington."
Several of Panetta's former White House colleagues also said yesterday that he appreciated and engaged in national security issues during the Clinton years.
In a clear reference to harsh interrogation policies, including waterboarding, that were used against CIA terrorism detainees, Obama said his team would be "committed to breaking with some of the past practices and concerns that have, I think, tarnished the image of . . . the intelligence agencies as well as U.S. foreign policy."
Almost as an afterthought at the end of his remarks, Obama noted that "there are outstanding intelligence professionals in the CIA" and other intelligence agencies, "and I have the utmost regard for the work that they've done."
A widely held view among intelligence officials was that Obama's team had decided to automatically disqualify any candidate who might have been seen as tainted by association with the controversial interrogation and detention policies of the Bush presidency -- essentially anyone who held a management job in the past eight years. Former senior CIA official John O. Brennan, who headed the transition intelligence team, withdrew his name from consideration over concerns that his association with interrogation and rendition policies under President Bush and then-CIA director George J. Tenet would taint Obama.
A number of Tenet-era officials have argued that they were simply carrying out orders that the president and the attorney general, as well as Congress, had approved. Hayden, the outgoing director, defended interrogation policies, including waterboarding, that many have labeled torture, saying they were necessary to break some terrorism suspects. Although he has told Congress that waterboarding has not been used recently, Hayden publicly supported Bush's decision to retain the option to use "enhanced interrogation techniques."
But one former senior intelligence official noted that many of the people Panetta will be expected to lead would have participated in implementing the interrogation policy. Obama and Panetta "should think twice about pledges they make now" about the handling of terrorism detainees, another former senior official said, "because they may come back to haunt them in the future if some dire circumstances occur."
The desire to retain Kappes and Morell, both of whom held senior positions under Tenet as well as with Hayden, however, indicated that Obama does not intend to clean house beyond the top leadership level.
Obama has said that he plans to close the detention facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that he would "make sure we do not torture." Feinstein introduced legislation yesterday to do both.
The bill provides for "a legal, effective, and humane system of gathering intelligence and holding suspected terrorists." It would close Guantanamo Bay and require detainees either to be charged and tried in this country, transferred to an international tribunal or another country or held "in accordance with the law of armed conflict."
It would also restrict the CIA and other intelligence agencies to 19 interrogation techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual, "creating a clear, single standard across the U.S. government."
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Old 01-07-2009, 05:00 PM   #49  
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Obama barometer ...... hmmmm

Nope ... still don't like him.

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Old 01-09-2009, 10:49 AM   #50  
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Obama Picks Lobbyist as Pentagon No. 2

WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama appointed a defense contractor's lobbyist Thursday to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department, a choice that appeared to break with his self-imposed rules to keep lobbyists at arm's length.
William J. Lynn III, Obama's choice for deputy defense secretary, is a former Pentagon official who now is senior vice president for government operations at Raytheon Co. Lynn hasn't been a registered lobbyist since July, meaning he can't personally lobby Congress or the White House.
In the first three months of 2008, his lobbying team reported spending $1.15 million to influence issues including missiles, sensors and radar, advanced technology programs and intelligence funding.
Obama has vowed that no political appointees in his administration would be permitted to work on areas that "directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years." Although Lynn heads Raytheon's division for government operations and strategy and was personally registered as a Raytheon lobbyist until July—both within that two-year period—Obama plans to give him the job.
"We are aware that Mr. Lynn lobbied for Raytheon, and are working with Mr. Lynn to craft a role for him that is consistent with the President-elect's high standards while balancing the need to fill this critical national security position," Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Vietor declined to comment further on whether Lynn would have to remove himself from involvement on any issues.
Some government watchdogs questioned the revolving-door aspect of Lynn's appointment even while acknowledging his qualifications.
"He left public service and went into lobbying for one of the largest defense contractors in the nation. And that's the part that's troubling," said Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. "Even if he's completely above board and ethical, it raises questions about his loyalty."
During his presidential campaign, Obama took pains to tell voters he wouldn't tolerate influence-peddling.
"I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over," Obama said in November 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa. "I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president."
It will be difficult for Lynn to avoid defense issues related to Raytheon, said James Thurber, who teaches lobbying at American University.
"I think it's impossible in our system not to have people that have been in the advocacy system," he said. "They're the people who know the issues and have the expertise." The key is for the administration to disclose those connections and avoid financial conflicts, he said.
Lynn has been a well known lobbyist in Washington at Raytheon for years. His responsibilities include "company liaison with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, as well as state and local government relations," according to his corporate biography on Raytheon's Web site.
Lynn withdrew his lobbying registration last summer, meaning he can't personally make any lobbying contacts on behalf of Raytheon. But he retained the same job and same title at Raytheon, and lobbying rules would not preclude other Raytheon employees in Lynn's department from continuing their lobbying.
Under Obama's rules, political appointees also would be precluded from lobbying the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lynn would become the top civilian assistant to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is staying on in the top civilian job.
Lynn served at the Pentagon from 1993 to 2001 as undersecretary in charge of the budget and oversaw strategic planning. He earlier worked for Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
Lynn has been an officer with Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon since 2005.
The company, with 2007 sales of $21.3 billion, specializes in worldwide defense and homeland security-related sales.
Obama's transition office announced the names of several other Pentagon selections on Thursday, including Michele Flournoy for the No. 3 job as policy chief. Also a Clinton-era aide at the Pentagon, Flournoy has been the co-chair of Obama's Pentagon transition team.
In a statement, Obama said he is confident his picks will help build what he called a sustainable national security strategy that answers the threats of the 21st century.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Gates welcomes the selections and hopes for a quick confirmation. "Prompt hearings and confirmation will help ensure a smooth transition of power in the Pentagon as we continue to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Obama's picks were "strong leaders who have shown strategic vision and pragmatism."
Reed said Lynn in particular brought "a great deal of wisdom and experience to the table."
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Old 01-11-2009, 05:54 PM   #51  
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You know something is up when they show up on a Sunday...

WASHINGTON – In a rare Sunday session, the Senate advanced legislation that would set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as wilderness. Majority Democrats assembled more than enough votes to overcome GOP stalling tactics in an early showdown for the new Congress.

Republicans complained that Democrats did not allow amendments on the massive bill, which calls for the largest expansion of wilderness protection in 25 years. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other Democrats said the bill — a holdover from last year — was carefully written and included measures sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats.

By a 66-12 vote, with only 59 needed to limit debate, lawmakers agreed to clear away procedural hurdles despite partisan wrangling that had threatened pledges by leaders to work cooperatively as the new Obama administration takes office. Senate approval is expected later this week. Supporters hope the House will follow suit.

"Today is a great day for America's public lands," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. "This big, bipartisan package of bills represents years of work by senators from many states, and both parties, in cooperation with local communities, to enhance places that make America so special."

The measure — actually a collection of about 160 bills — would confer the government's highest level of protection on land ranging from California's Sierra Nevada mountain range to Oregon's Mount Hood, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. Land in Idaho's Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Zion National Park in Utah also would be designated as wilderness.

Besides new wilderness designations, the bill would designate the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton in Hope, Ark., as a national historic site and expand protections for dozens of national parks, rivers and water resources.

Reid said about half the bills in the lands package were sponsored by Republicans. Most had been considered for more than a year.

"I am happy that after months of delay we will finally be moving forward," Reid said.

The bill's chief opponent, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., denounced what he called Democratic bullying tactics.

"I am disappointed the Senate majority leader has refused to allow senators the opportunity to improve, amend or eliminate any of the questionable provisions in his omnibus lands bill," Coburn told fellow senators.

"When the American people asked Congress to set a new tone, I don't believe refusing to listen to the concerns of others was what they had in mind," Coburn said. "The American people expect us hold open, civil and thorough debates on costly legislation, not ram through 1,300-page bills when few are watching."

Coburn and several other Republicans complained that bill was loaded with pet projects and prevented development of oil and gas on federal lands, which they said would deepen the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

Environmental groups said the bill set the right tone for the new Congress.

"By voting to protect mountains and pristine wildlands, Congress is starting out on the right foot," said Christy Goldfuss of Environment America, an advocacy group. "This Congress is serious about protecting the environment and the outstanding lands that Americans treasure."

Link to story Here:

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Old 01-12-2009, 06:29 PM   #52  
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Ref. to"bend over" prior post.1300 pages?not read,discussed,debated,just shoved??
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Old 01-13-2009, 10:05 PM   #53  
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Geithner Failed to Pay Personal Taxes

Geithner Failed to Pay Personal Taxes

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama's choice to run the Treasury Department and lead the economic rescue effort disclosed to senators Tuesday that he failed to pay $34,000 in taxes from 2001 to 2004, a last-minute complication in an otherwise smooth path to confirmation.
Timothy Geithner paid most of the past-due taxes days before Obama announced his nomination in November, an Obama transition official said. The unpaid taxes were discovered by Obama's transition team while investigating Geithner's background, the official said.
The transition official requested anonymity because the source was not authorized to discuss Geithner's situation.
Obama reiterated his support Tuesday for Geithner as senators who are considering the appointment quizzed Geithner behind closed doors.
"He's dedicated his career to our country and served with honor, intelligence and distinction," incoming White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "That service should not be tarnished by honest mistakes, which, upon learning of them, he quickly addressed."
Geithner failed to pay self-employment taxes for money he earned while working for the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2003, the transition official said. In 2006, the IRS notified him that he owed $14,847 in self-employment taxes and $2,383 in penalties from 2003 and 2004.
Transition officials discovered last fall that Geithner also had not paid the taxes in 2001 or 2002. He paid $25,970 in taxes and interest for those years several days before Obama announced his nomination, the transition official said.
Geithner also didn't realize a housekeeper he paid in 2004 and 2005 did not have current employment documentation as an immigrant for the final three months she worked for him, the transition official said.
Geithner is the second Obama nominee to face controversy. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his name on Jan. 4 as Obama's Commerce secretary after questions surfaced about an ongoing federal investigation.
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:21 AM   #54  
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The Effort to Roll Back Bush Policies Continues

President Obama announced a series of new policies yesterday intended to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, capping a week of widespread changes aimed at reversing the legacy of George W. Bush.
In his first seven days in office, Obama has banned the use of controversial CIA interrogation tactics, ordered the closure of the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and begun planning for the drawdown of troops in Iraq. He also imposed stringent limits on lobbyists, unveiled an $825 billion stimulus plan, and ordered a halt to any last-minute rules and regulations put in place by his predecessor.
The moves are part of an effort by Obama to follow through on his campaign promise to forge a new direction in Washington, administration officials said. "What you have seen in the first week is rapid change and a resetting of our global agenda," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "The president believes we can't afford to continue what we are doing. We can't afford to slow down."
Yet despite such ambitions, Obama and his aides are also facing a stark reality: Rolling back eight years of the Bush administration is not going to happen overnight.

Obama's call for tougher vehicle emissions standards, for example, ran into immediate opposition from major business and auto industry groups. His plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison has angered Republicans who object to transferring suspected terrorists to U.S. facilities. Many of those same Republicans are also fighting his economic stimulus proposal, arguing that it is too costly and would ultimately be ineffective, while others have attacked his plan to quicken the pace of troop withdrawals from Iraq.
The new administration has created some dilemmas of its own, as well. After Obama announced strict new lobbying limits for political appointees last week, the White House conceded it would have to issue a waiver for William J. Lynn III, a former Raytheon lobbyist who is up for a post at the Pentagon.
"Governing is a lot more complicated than campaigning," said Peter Wehner, a former Bush aide who is now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank. "He's the candidate who has presented himself as moving the Earth. . . . When you set those kinds of expectations, it's tough to pull them back."
Administration defenders note that Obama won election handily in November and that he has some of the highest approval ratings of any new president in modern times. With that kind of popularity, they argue, he is in a position to push for the kind of dramatic changes promised during the campaign.
Obama and his aides and have worked to tamp down expectations, especially regarding the economy. In his inaugural address, Obama warned that "the challenges we face are real" and "will not be met easily or in a short span of time."
At the same time, he also has suggested that he has no intention of lowering his sights. "There are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans," Obama said during the Jan. 20 speech. "Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage."
In addition to his early moves on intelligence policy, the environment and the economy, Obama lifted a ban on U.S. funding for international family planning groups that perform abortions, which was first put in place by Ronald Reagan and revived by Bush. The new president also vowed to open more federal records to public scrutiny and named former U.S. senator George J. Mitchell as a special envoy for Middle East peace.
The rapid-fire actions are an early down payment on promises he made throughout his presidential campaign. As he fought his way through a bruising Democratic primary, Obama assailed Bush's economic policies as tax cuts for the wealthy, mocked the president's lack of stature around the world and hammered his response to Hurricane Katrina and his handling of the Iraq war.

In his inauguration speech, Obama obliquely referred to the "worn-out dogmas" of the Bush administration and vowed to end what he called "petty grievances and false promises." The new White House Web site includes a withering critique of Bush's "unconscionable ineptitude" in responding to Katrina, and vows to fix "broken promises" to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
The anti-Bush rhetoric helped make Obama competitive with Democratic presidential challenger Hillary Rodham Clinton, especially with the liberal wing of his party. And while many of his supporters may be expecting instant results, they are more likely to see a slow and steady push by Obama, accompanied by pleas for patience, aides said.
"I don't doubt that there are some that believe that all of this can be done overnight," Gibbs said. "My caution to them is that this will take time. But we feel good about the pace of our progress."
Obama has often tempered his soaring rhetoric with a strong doses of pragmatism. In an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors shortly before his inauguration, for example, he said he supported a bill pushed by labor groups that would make it easier to unionize workers, but acknowledged that the proposal is a political thicket that could undermine other priorities. "My focus first is on those key economic priority items," he said.

Many of Obama's clearest political challenges are coming from Capitol Hill, where the GOP minority has begun asserting itself, particularly in opposition to Democratic stimulus plans. Obama hopes to save as many as 4 million jobs by cutting taxes by a minimum of $275 billion and spending at least $545 billion on infrastructure, renewable energy production and aid to states.
During his first meeting with GOP lawmakers, on Friday, Obama rejected most of their counterproposals. But he has also signaled that he is willing to offer concessions to attract GOP support, and is scheduled to attend another round of meetings with Republican congressional leaders today.
Obama appears to be without peer among modern presidents in terms of the number of broad policy pronouncements made during his first week in office. Many Republicans also note that Obama is in a much better political position than was Bush, who entered office in 2001 after a fiercely disputed election and faced a narrowly divided Congress. Even then, Bush was able to push through a massive and controversial package of tax cuts, though he had to offer some concessions to win Democratic support.
Ari Fleischer, Bush's first press secretary, said Bush "was forced to trim his sails from the beginning" because of the political climate. "We had zero momentum going in, and never really made a break from the division of the country," he said. "Obama is in a much stronger position."
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Old 01-29-2009, 06:49 AM   #55  
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'Buy American' Rider Sparks Trade Debate

I have started another thread for discussion on this.

'Buy American' Rider Sparks Trade Debate

The stimulus bill passed by the House last night contains a controversial provision that would mostly bar foreign steel and iron from the infrastructure projects laid out by the $819 billion economic package.
A Senate version, yet to be acted upon, goes further, requiring, with few exceptions, that all stimulus-funded projects use only American-made equipment and goods.
Proponents of expanding the "Buy American" provisions enacted during the Great Depression, including steel and iron manufacturers and labor unions, argue that it is the only way to ensure that the stimulus creates jobs at home and not overseas.
Opponents, including some of the biggest blue-chip names in American industry, say it amounts to a declaration of war against free trade. That, they say, could spark retaliation from abroad against U.S. companies and exacerbate the global financial crisis.
The provisions also confront President Obama with his first test on trade policy. He must weigh the potential consequences of U.S. protectionism against the appealing slogan of "Buy American" and the jobs argument.
The administration has not addressed the issue publicly, and sources close to the issue said it appears that a response is still being formulated.
"We're reviewing the Buy American plan proposal, and we are committed to a plan that will save or create at least 3 million jobs including jobs in manufacturing," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The proposals are meant to regenerate heavy manufacturing jobs in the United States by forcing government contractors to use domestic materials and equipment, even if they are more expensive. Yet U.S. industrial giants including Caterpillar, General Electric and the domestic aerospace industry are emerging as strong opponents.

The measures, they argue, could violate trade deals the United States has signed in recent years, including an agreement on expanding access to government procurements reached through the World Trade Organization. But most damaging, critics say, would be the "protectionist message" attached to imposing such barriers on foreign companies.
Nations including China and many in Europe are preparing to spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money on stimulus projects. American companies are angling for a piece of those pies, and retaliatory measures against U.S. companies, executives argue, could significantly complicate those efforts. This week, a European Commission spokesman threatened countermeasures if the Buy American provisions are approved.
"There is no company that is going to benefit more from the stimulus package than Caterpillar, but I am telling you that by embracing Buy American you are undermining our ability to export U.S. produced products overseas," said Bill Lane, government affairs director for Caterpillar in Washington. More than half of Caterpillar's sales -- including big-ticket items like construction cranes and land movers -- are sold overseas.
"Any student of history will tell you that one of the most significant mistakes of the 1930s is when the U.S. embraced protectionism," Lane said. "It had a cascading effect that ground world trade almost to a halt, and turned a one-year recession into the Great Depression."

There are early signs that nations are putting up trade barriers to protect domestic companies as the global downturn worsens. Despite promises offered during a major economic summit in November to refrain from taking such measures, countries from France to Indonesia have done so.
That, some argue, may be reason enough for the United States to follow suit. But in recent decades, the United States has stood out as the global champion of free trade; some analysts fear a move by Congress to restrict foreign companies from stimulus spending would mark an important shift away from that philosophy.
Supporters say expanded Buy American provisions could help ensure that the treasure trove of government contracts for new highways, schools, bridges and energy grids creates jobs at home instead of abroad. They note that much of the tax rebate checks that went out last year to stimulate the economy went to Chinese-made televisions and Korean-made refrigerators.
Until the global economy turned critical in the second half of last year, the domestic steel industry, for instance, was operating at near capacity and steel prices were climbing sky-high. Now, U.S. unemployment is soaring.
Factories in some top steel-producing states -- including Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Alabama -- are running at 45 percent capacity, with 40 percent of their workforce on furlough, or about 25,000 people, according to United Steelworkers union. Ensuring that U.S. steel and iron do not have to compete with, say, Chinese steel, for stimulus projects, industry officials say, could help get those workers back on the assembly line.
"What we're already seeing is that demand is going down, but imports of Chinese finished steel is going up because they are subsidizing it," said Thomas Gibson, president of the industry-funded American Iron and Steel Institute. "What we're saying is that this is a stimulus package to promote American jobs. We ought to maximize every dollar in that bill toward that end. If you were building a bridge in West Virginia, you wouldn't bring in German workers to do it. Materials should be no different."

Congress enacted the Buy American Act in 1933, establishing preferences for U.S.-made products in government contracts. In 1982, those preferences were made more strict for transportation and highway projects, although waivers have been granted.
The plans being considered by Congress, however, would greatly amplify and expand existing preferences for U.S. companies. The provision passed last night was introduced by Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) and had won unanimous bipartisan support in committee. Among the few exceptions, use of U.S. steel or iron would need to drive up the cost of a project by 25 percent in order to allow a foreign substitute -- far more rigorous than current regulations. The House bill also contained a stipulation that the uniforms and other textiles used by the Transportation Security Administration be 100 percent American-made.
In the Senate, Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), is proposing a far broader measure that would exclude most foreign-made manufactured goods, again, with a few exceptions. In an interview Visclosky said he would be inclined to accept the broader Senate proposal as the two houses seek to compromise on the final language of the bill.
It's not protectionism, Dorgan said. Citing the massive U.S. trade deficit, he added, "and it's pretty hard for anyone to look at our trade situation and suggest that we are being unfair."
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Old 02-10-2009, 08:38 PM   #56  
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The Pulling of drilling permits continues..



"The administration of President Barack Obama, who has pledged to make government transparent and inclusive"
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Old 02-17-2009, 05:29 AM   #57  
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Late Change in Course Hobbled Rollout of Geithner's Bank Plan

Just days before Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was scheduled to lay out his much-anticipated plan to deal with the toxic assets imperiling the financial system, he and his team made a sudden about-face.
According to several sources involved in the deliberations, Geithner had come to the conclusion that the strategies he and his team had spent weeks working on were too expensive, too complex and too risky for taxpayers.
They needed an alternative and found it in a previously considered initiative to pair private investments and public loans to try to buy the risky assets and take them off the books of banks. There was one problem: They didn't have enough time to work out many details or consult with others before the plan was supposed to be unveiled.
The sharp course change was one of the key reasons why Geithner's plan -- his first major policy initiative as Treasury secretary -- landed with such a thud last Tuesday. Lawmakers, investors and analysts expressed dismay over the lack of specifics. Markets tanked, and fresh doubts arose about the hand now steering the country's financial policy.
Public acceptance of the plan suffered from several missteps, said sources involved in the decision-making or in close contact with those who were.
The Obama administration, they said, failed to rein in the grand expectations built for the plan on Wall Street and in Washington, concluding that they would rather disappoint the markets with vagueness than lay out a lot of details they might have to change later -- a failing they saw in the Bush administration's handling of the crisis.

Meanwhile, the sources said, Obama's senior economic advisers were hobbled in crafting the plan by a shortage of personnel. To date, the president has not nominated any assistant secretaries or undersecretaries at the Treasury, and the handful of mid-level staffers who have started work were still finding their offices and getting their building passes and BlackBerrys.
Moreover, the department made a strategic decision to limit input from the financial industry and other outsiders, aiming to prevent leaks and avoid a perception they were designing the plan for the benefit of big banks. But that also meant they were unable to vet their plan with the companies involved or set realistic expectations of what would be announced.
Though Geithner had been in his job for only two weeks, he had been thinking about the problem of troubled assets since the credit crisis erupted 19 months earlier, first as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and then, since November, as Barack Obama's pick to head the Treasury.
His predecessor atop Treasury, Henry M. Paulson Jr., had drawn political fire after he unveiled the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout program in September, facing accusations that the money had been spent erratically.
Geithner, while still at the New York Fed, had been deeply involved in the discussions over crafting Paulson's program. The effort may have arrested a potentially devastating financial panic, but he sought to improve on its implementation by developing a more systemic plan for using billions of dollars, sources said.
Quickly, discussions got underway. Geithner set a Feb. 9 date to release a plan, creating an artificial deadline meant to focus internal debate and prevent an overly

prolonged period of what might come across publicly as indecisiveness.
At the center of the deliberations with Geithner were Lawrence H. Summers, chief White House economic adviser; Lee Sachs, a Clinton administration official likely to be named undersecretary for domestic finance; and Gene Sperling, another former Clinton aide. The debates among them were long and vigorous as they thrashed countless proposals and variations. Sometimes, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila C. Bair and Comptroller of the Currency John C. Dugan joined in.
The team concluded that the financial rescue effort would have to include several components. None would be more vital than an initiative for either removing or neutralizing the distressed assets on the banks of books -- many related to troubled mortgages -- so the banks would be freed to resume lending.
Senior economic officials had several approaches in mind, according to officials involved in the discussions. One would be to create an "aggregator bank," or bad bank, that would take government capital and use it to buy up the risky assets on banks' books. Another approach would be to offer banks a government guarantee against extreme losses on their assets, an approach already used to bolster Citigroup and Bank of America.
As the first week of February progressed, however, the problems with both approaches were becoming clearer to Geithner, said people involved in the talks. For one thing, the government would likely have to put trillions of dollars in taxpayer money at risk, a sum so huge it would anger members of Congress. Officials were also concerned that the program would be criticized as a pure giveaway to bank shareholders. And, finally, there continued to be the problem that had bedeviled the Bush administration's efforts to tackle toxic assets: There was little reason to believe government officials would be able to price these assets in a way that gave taxpayers a good deal.

By Wednesday, Feb. 4, Geithner was leaning toward a different approach that his former colleagues at the Federal Reserve had developed months earlier, the source said. This involved a joint public-private fund to buy up the assets. Private investors, likely hedge funds and private-equity funds, would put up capital, and the government would loan money to the fund. If the private investors made wise decisions about which assets they bought, they would be able to pay back the government and make money for themselves.
For the policymakers, the chief appeal of the public-private partnership is that it solves the problem of how to price assets. The private money managers who provide capital for the fund would decide which assets to buy, and at what price, taking government bureaucrats out of that difficult task.
Moreover, the private contribution lowers the total amount of money the government would need to put at risk. Also, the government would require private investors to incur any losses before the government does, reducing taxpayers' exposure to potential losses (but also potentially depriving them of any windfall profits).
But there were multiple complications: How much government financing would be needed? What other incentives would be needed to get private firms on board? Where would the government get the money? What assets would the fund buy? Would the government have a say in which banks they're bought from? Might there be more than one fund?
The clock was ticking. But Geithner wasn't ready to share his thoughts with senior government officials outside his narrow circle. He and his team worked on the plan through the weekend, with some of his staff working until 4 a.m. The team grew to about 20 officials, including lawyers, finance experts and public affairs staff.
One key element of the Treasury's new plan was to conduct "stress tests" of the 20 or so largest banks, figuring out what would happen to them if the economy worsens significantly more than most analysts forecast.
The information gathered from that process could help shape the public-private fund, said an administration source. But many in the banking industry are unclear what information the government could access beyond that already available to bank regulators or to Geithner himself, who until recently had been the chief regulator of the country's largest banks as the head of the New York Fed.
On Saturday, Feb. 7, the officials won a slight reprieve when the White House asked that Geithner's speech be postponed from Monday to Tuesday to allow Congress to focus a little longer on the on the massive economic stimulus package still pending.
But there still was not enough time to sculpt the detailed plan that the financial markets expected. In the end, Geithner and his colleagues decided that it would be better to take flak for being vague than publicly offer half-formed details that might later have to be revised. And ambiguity, the officials concluded, would make the plan an easier sell on Capitol Hill, as congressional leaders could be brought into the discussions of details rather than be presented a detailed plan as fait accompli.
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Old 02-17-2009, 09:14 PM   #58  
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I've noticed that Nobama keeps saying that the stimulus bill will 'save or create 3.5 million jobs. But when he was in Colorado to sign the bill he said that it would create (i think he said) 20,000 jobs in CO. Last week in FL he said about the same amount for FL. And about the same in his town hall before that (was that in IL?). That's only about 60,000 jobs. So for the remaining 47 states that leaves 2,940,000 jobs. I guess Cali is looking pretty good. Now, he does say 'save or create'. Is he touting the numbers that will be created while neglecting to say that the majority of the jobs will be 'saved'? Why isn't anyone bringing this up? People hear 'save or CREATE' and ignore the 'save'. How many jobs will this create? And they are talking about 'shovel ready'. What happens when these 'shovel ready' jobs are finished? I'm sure that the Hoover Dam 'created' many, many jobs. But once it was finished, those people had to move on and find other jobs. The same is going to happen here. Money is being allocated to road infrastructure projects, but once those roads, bridges, etc are repaired, the companies that hire all these workers will have no work for them and have to let them go. Then we'll be right back where we started. I can't wait for 2012. I just hope that the American public realizes what has happened and gets these liberal 'take from the rich, give to the poor' rats out of office. Actually, I hope that they realize by 2010 and change the house and senate.
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Old 02-26-2009, 06:01 AM   #59  
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To pay for health plan, Obama would change taxes on wealthy

A promise kept: Robbing Peter to pay Poor Paul

To pay for health plan, Obama would change taxes on wealthy

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will propose further tax increases on the affluent to help pay for his promise to make health care more accessible and affordable, calling for stricter limits on the benefits of itemized deductions taken by the wealthiest households, administration officials said Wednesday.
The tax proposal, coming after recent years in which wealth has become more concentrated at the top of the income scale, introduces a politically volatile edge to the congressional debate over the president's domestic priorities.
Obama will also propose, in the 10-year budget outline he is to release today, to use revenue from the centerpiece of his environmental policy – a plan under which companies will have to buy permits to exceed pollution emission caps – to pay for an extension of a two-year tax credit that benefits low-wage and middle-income people.
The combined effect of the two revenue-raising proposals, on top of Obama's existing plan to roll back the Bush-era income tax reductions on households with income exceeding $250,000 a year, would be a pronounced move to redistribute wealth by reimposing a larger share of the tax burden on corporations and the most affluent taxpayers.
Administration officials said the president would propose to reduce the value of itemized tax deductions for everyone in the top income tax bracket of 35 percent and many of those in the 33 percent bracket – roughly speaking, starting at $250,000 in annual income for a married couple.
Under existing law, the tax benefit of itemizing deductions rises with a taxpayer's marginal tax bracket (the bracket that applies to the last dollar of income). For example, $10,000 in itemized deductions reduces tax liability by $3,500 for someone in the 35 percent bracket.
Obama would allow a saving of only $2,800 – as if the person were in the 28 percent bracket. The White House said that it is unfair for high-income people to get a bigger tax break than middle-income people for claiming the same deductions or making the same charitable contributions.

Reserve fund

The officials said the resulting increase in revenue, estimated at $318 billion over 10 years, would account for about half of a $634 billion reserve fund that Obama would set aside in his budget to address changes in the health care system. The other half would come from proposed cost savings in Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs.
In a document summarizing its proposals, the White House said it would finance coverage for the uninsured in part by "rebalancing the tax code so that the wealthiest pay more."
Obama's budget blueprint, which will project spending and revenue for the next decade, will flesh out the president's thinking on his energy plans to both cap the emissions of gases, particularly carbon, that are blamed for climate change and to spur development of nonpolluting energy alternatives.
The budget will show the government beginning by 2012 to collect billions of dollars in revenue from selling permits to businesses that emit the polluting gases, assuming the president's energy initiative becomes law this year, officials say.
Because utilities and other businesses presumably will pass on their costs to customers, Obama will propose to use most of the government's revenue from the permits to finance an extension of the new "Making Work Pay" tax credit beyond the two years covered in his just-enacted $787 billion economic recovery plan.
That tax relief, the administration will argue, will offset households' higher costs for utilities and other products and services from businesses passing on their permit expenses.

Tax credit

That tax credit annually would provide $400 to low-wage and middle-income workers or $800 to couples; Obama would like to increase those figures to $500 and $1,000. The credit phases out for those with incomes above $75,000 a year and for couples with incomes of more than $150,000; no benefit would go to individuals with more than $100,000 income and couples with $200,000.
The tax credit will begin showing up in the form of lower withholding for eligible workers beginning April 1.
The remainder of the projected revenue from the permits will finance Obama's campaign promise for $15 billion a year over 10 years to subsidize research and development of alternative energy sources, officials said.
Democratic congressional leaders promised to push the agenda, which parallels their own. "By the end of this year, I want to do something significant dealing with health care," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told reporters.
But the tax proposals could galvanize Republican opposition and give conservatives a concrete target for taking on Obama, who despite his political strength could find some members of his own party reluctant to embrace tax increases.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, telegraphed his side's opposition to any tax increases.
"Everyone agrees that all Americans deserve access to affordable health care," Boehner said in a statement. "But is increasing taxes during an economic recession, especially on small businesses, the right way to accomplish that goal?"
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Old 03-02-2009, 01:29 PM   #60  
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Just something to think (or should I say "Worry") about.

It took President George Bush eight years in office, seven years at war, the economic slowdown after 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, the biggest increase in federal education spending ever with No Child Left Behind, the addition of prescription drug coverage to Medicare, the start of the recession in 2008, and the $750 billion Wall Street bailout last fall to rack up $2.75 trillion in federal red ink.

It took President Barack Obama just 38 days to beat that record.
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