Sunday, November 1, 2009

Obama, Stimulus, and Anybody Seen Rep. Bentz?

As part of my continuing effort to provide cognitive therapy for struggling Obamakins, I'm posting the following segment from Saturday Night Live. Some will have already seen this as I am not one to keep up with what's playing in the boob-tube waste land, but it might be worth a second look.

Change We Can Believe In: Nothing!

Obama Stimulus: How Many Dollars per Job Saved/Created????

Link on stimulus job creation in Baker County:

Ah ha, $4,279,471 spent for 19.37 jobs. Hmmmm--That's $220,933 per job. Oh well, at least there is a new sidewalk in front of Commissioner Warner's place on Main Street at "D" and Main.

Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis calculates "Obama creates 640,329 jobs at a cost of $323,739.83 per job" for the entire stimulus thus far. See

Has Anyone Seen Representative Bentz?

A month ago I sent the following e-mail to our state Representative Bentz:

from Christopher Christie
to Rep Bentz
date Fri, Oct 2, 2009 at 10:55 AM
subject Stimulus not putting locals to work?
mailed-by Oct 2
October 2, 2009

Dear Representative Bentz:

I am taking time to write you this letter on behalf of a friend in my neighborhood, and other qualified workers here in Baker County, who are struggling to make ends meet.

It was our understanding the the federal stimulus projects were meant, in part at least, to stimulate the local economies, and to put people to work in the local areas where the projects took place. While our "D" St. and Birch Street projects have helped one of our local crushed rock producers, as well as a local campground, and probably a bar or two, my friend tells me that probably 85 to 95% of the on-the-ground Knife River workers here in town and on the I-84 project are their own people from Bend. He told me that he had referred several qualified young people to them for the work, but none of them were hired. I myself have driven the by the local projects to witness several spanish speakers. To the best of my knowledge they are not local people. He also says many of the truckers working on the freeway projects are from Idaho, even though there are local truckers available and willing to do the work. He says he knows this because he was working as a trucker on one of the projects and was placed well back in line behind Idaho truckers. This meant that he was unable to work many days when they only needed 20 trucks instead of, say, 40.

When he called the State to see if they could do something to get more local people working on these stimulus projects, they essentially told him that there was nothing they could do about it.

Is that right? We thought the stimulus money was supposed to help stimulate the economy and put people to work in the areas where the projects were taking place--not people from cities several hundred miles away or people in neighboring states. To the best of our knowledge, the people just referenced don't shop much in Baker County.

Do you think these projects should be putting more local people to work? Would it be possible for your staff to look into this?

Thank you for any help in this matter.


Christopher Christie

No reply a month later, will keep you posted.

Obama Goes Wobbly Over More Stimulus

By Mike Whitney

November 01, 2009 "Information Clearing House' -- The recession is over. Yesterday's report from the Commerce Dept. confirmed that the economy expanded in the third quarter by 3.5 percent, better than most economists estimates. GDP had contracted in the four previous quarters in the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression. Massive government stimulus, cash for clunkers, and inventory restocking accounted for most of the surge in economic activity. Consumer spending grew at 2.36 percent while consumer credit continued to contract at a near-record pace of 4.5 percent. Unemployment swelled to 9.8 percent, "with nearly nearly 26 million workers—17 percent of the workforce—unemployed or underemployed," according to economist Mark Zandi. The economy remains extremely weak and is expected to lapse back into recession if the Obama administration fails to provide a second-round of stimulus.

But President Barack Obama hasn't requested more stimulus and recent polls indicate that a majority of people are against more deficit spending. The administration has done a poor job of explaining the advantages of reducing the output-gap or--for that matter--the overall objectives of Obama's economic recovery plan. Many people heap the bank bailouts (TARP) with the fiscal stimulus. This is a mistake that's easy to make. But the point needs to be clarified so more people don't needlessly suffer. It's up to Obama to articulate the differences in policy so the country can muddle through the tough days ahead. The problem is, Obama is afraid to use his skills as a communicator, because he thinks his message will offend financial industry constituents who wield tremendous power at the White House and on Capital Hill. The bankers and brokerage mandarins are more than happy with the present arrangement, which means that the conveyor-belt connecting the US Treasury to Wall Street will continue to operate at full-throttle diverting ungodly sums of money to broken banks and financial institutions rather than for unemployment benefits, work programs, and state aid.

Obama supporters who think that the president is right to treat the banks with kid gloves, should consider how Franklin Roosevelt dealt with the same situation 70 years ago. His first Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933, sums it up pretty well:

"Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men....Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish." (Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933)

Or, this from FDR:

“Appraising the situation in the bitter dawn of a cold morning after, what do we find? We find two-thirds of American industry concentrated in a few hundred corporations…We find more than half of the savings of the country invested in corporate stocks and bonds, and made the sport of the American stock market. We find fewer than three dozen private banking houses, and stock-selling adjuncts of commercial banks, directing the flow of American capital. In other words, we find concentrated economic power in a few hands…We find a great part of our working population with no chance of earning a living except by grace of this concentrated industrial machine; and we find that millions and millions of Americans are out of work, throwing upon the already burdened Government the necessity of relief…We find the Republican leaders proposing no solution except more debts, more conferences under the same bewildered leadership, more Government money in business but no Government attempt to wrestle with basic problems…I believe that our industrial and economic system is made for individual men and women, and not individual men and women for the benefit of the system.” (Thanks to counterpunch contributor Pam Marten for FDR quote

Clearly, FDR understood the type of people he was dealing with.

Obama needs to stop pussyfooting and toughen-up. This isn't the time for grandiloquent oratory or Utopian claptrap. People have lost their jobs, their homes, their savings. The shelters are bulging, the food banks are maxed out, and the unemployment lines are stretched from one coast to the other. Here's a clip from the New York Times making the case for more stimulus:

"The economy is going to need more government support, or it is bound to be very weak for a very long time — and vulnerable to a relapse into recession. Unemployment is expected to worsen well into next year, exceeding 10 percent. Foreclosures are expected to rise, which will push home values down further. Hundreds of small and midsize banks are likely to fail in coming years. State and local governments face budget shortfalls in 2010 that are as bad or worse than this year’s.

Yet Washington is not providing a coherent plan for effective stimulus. The Senate has been hamstrung for nearly a month over the most basic relief-and-recovery boost: an extension of unemployment benefits. ... Lawmakers in both parties fret that large budget deficits preclude more stimulus, lest the burden of debt outweigh the benefit of deficit spending. ... Deficits are a serious issue, but the immediate need for stimulus trumps the longer-term need for deficit reduction. A self-reinforcing stretch of economic weakness would be far costlier than additional stimulus." ("The Case for more Stimulus", New York Times editorial)

Sure, the public is worried about the ballooning deficits; they should be. But that shouldn't stop Obama from doing the right thing and making the case for another round of stimulus. His job is to strengthen demand and put the country back to work. The rest is just politics.

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