Archive

September 9th, 2016

How Obama's economic record stacks up

    President Barack Obama might be a savior of the economy or have one of the worst records ever, depending on your viewpoint. But when you put all the aspects of his economic performance together, how does his record really stack up compared with the jobs done by other presidents since World War II?

    It's an important question for the 2016 election because we need to know where Obama's policies can be associated with success, if at all, and where the economic course needs to be changed.

    His detractors point to the low growth rate of the gross domestic product and the increase in the national debt. His defenders point to the reductions in the unemployment rate and the federal budget deficit, and to the rise in the stock market.

    My book, "The President as Economist: Scoring Economic Performance from Harry Truman to Obama," uses these and 12 other well-established indicators to calculate a performance score for each president going back to Truman. The top score is 100, zero is average, and negative scores are below average.

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Ask Colorado if infrastructure spending works

    Here's something all of divided America should be able to agree on: Smart infrastructure investment works. For evidence, look at Colorado, where elected officials of both parties trace an economic boom to a decision 27 years ago to spend more than $2 billion on a new Denver airport.

    The Denver International Airport was the brainchild of Federico Pena, who was elected mayor in 1983 and who would become the Secretary of the Transportation and Energy departments in the Clinton administration. It was assailed as a boondoggle by some local businessmen in a campaign led by Roger Ailes, then a Republican media consultant and later the impresario of Fox News.

    The airport was financed by revenue bonds, which proved to be among the best performers in the market for state and local government debt. Today it is the linchpin of Colorado's transition to a global 21st-century economy flush with high-paying jobs and enhanced by daily nonstop flights to Asia, Central America and Europe.

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Trump's history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?

    In the heat of a presidential campaign, you'd think that a story about one party's nominee giving a large contribution to a state attorney general who promptly shut down an inquiry into that nominee's scam "university" would be enormous news. But we continue to hear almost nothing about what happened between Donald Trump and Florida attorney general Pam Bondi.

    I raised this issue last week, but it's worth an update as well as some contextualization. The story re-emerged last week when The Washington Post's David A. Fahrenthold reported that Trump paid a penalty to the IRS after his foundation made an illegal contribution to Bondi's PAC. While the Trump organization characterizes that as a bureaucratic oversight, the basic facts are that Bondi's office had received multiple complaints from Floridians who said they were cheated by Trump University; while they were looking into it and considering whether to join a lawsuit over Trump University filed by the attorney general of New York State, Bondi called Trump and asked him for a $25,000 donation; shortly after getting the check, Bondi's office dropped the inquiry.

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There's still time for Obama to carve out a Middle East legacy

    Barack Obama took office in 2009 with two big personal priorities in foreign policy: the limitation of nuclear weapons and the cause of Palestinian statehood. This summer the president has been weighing a flurry of possible last-minute actions to cement his legacy on nukes, including a U.N. resolution that would ban testing. That raises an obvious question: Will Obama also launch an 11th-hour Mideast gambit?

    The possibility has been debated in and outside the White House ever since Secretary of State John Kerry's quixotic effort to broker an Israeli-Palestinian deal collapsed in 2014. All along, the assumption has been that Obama might wait to act until after the presidential election, so as to avoid creating problems for Hillary Clinton. There's plenty of precedent: Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all bid for a Middle East legacy during their final months.

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Trump is without sense or sensibility

    The most revealing moment in the presidential candidates' first joint forum Wednesday night came when Donald Trump told the world how much he admires Vladimir Putin.

    Never mind that the Russian strongman invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea. Never mind that he supports the butcher Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Never mind that so many of his political opponents end up murdered or imprisoned. Never mind that U.S. officials suspect his government of trying to disrupt our election with cyberattacks. In Trump's star-struck eyes, all of this makes him "a leader, far more than our president has been a leader."

    Putin, you see, once paid Trump a compliment. "If he says great things about me," Trump told moderator Matt Lauer, "I'm going to say great things about him."

    There you have it, folks, the distilled essence of Trump's disgraceful campaign. It's not about immigration or foreign policy or making America "great again," whatever that means. It's entirely about Trump and his raging egomania.

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September 8th

Donald Does Detroit

    So, after weeks of preaching his sinister sermon of black pathology to mostly white audiences as part of his utterly fake “black outreach” — which is in fact the effort of a bigot to disguise his bigotry — Donald Trump finally brought his message before a few mostly black audiences.

    He spoke Friday to a handful of African-Americans in North Philadelphia, and as described on philly.com, told them that “he is not a bigot, and blamed the media for portraying him that way, according to people who attended a private event.”

    No sir, stop right there. We are not going to allow any deflection or redefining of words here. You are a bigot. That is not a media narrative or a fairy tale. That is an absolute truth. No one manufactured your bigotry; you manifested it.

    You have proudly brandished your abrasiveness, and now you want to whine and moan about your own abrasions. Not this day. Not the next day. Not ever. You will never shake the essence of yourself. Your soul is dark, your character corrupt. You are a reprobate and a charlatan who has ridden a wave of intolerance to its crest.

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The shameful spectacle of denying people their vote

    Every once in a while, the curtains part and we get a glimpse of the ugliest, most shameful spectacle in American politics: the Republican Party's systematic attempt to disenfranchise African-Americans and other minorities with voter ID laws and other restrictions at the polls.

    If you thought this kind of discrimination died with Jim Crow, think again. Fortunately, federal courts have blocked implementation of some of the worst new laws, at least for now. But the most effective response would be for black and brown voters to send the GOP a message by turning out in record numbers, no matter what barriers Republicans try to put in our way.

    The ostensible reason for these laws is to solve a problem that doesn't exist -- voter fraud by impersonation. Four years ago, you may recall, a Republican Pennsylvania legislator let slip the real reason for his state's new voter ID law: to "allow" Mitt Romney to win the state. In the end, he didn't. But Republicans tried mightily to discourage minorities, most of whom vote Democratic, from going to the polls.

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Phony populism doesn't feed the family

    You would have thought that Labor Day 2016 would bring us a serious conversation about lifting the incomes of American workers and expanding their opportunities for advancement.

    After all, we have spent the year talking incessantly about alienated blue-collar voters and a new populism rooted in the disaffection of those hammered by economic change.

    But this is not the discussion we are having. Instead, we are enduring an attack-fest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Their strategies are entirely rational. Voters are understandably skeptical about politicians getting anything done, and both candidates know they have a better chance of encouraging negative votes rather than securing a positive mandate.

    I'm sorry to say the media make things worse by preferring spectacle and confrontation to digging deeply into whether this plan to promote manufacturing or that idea for raising incomes will actually work. Clinton gave a very serious speech about mental health policy last week, but the coverage flowed to whether Trump was "softening" or "hardening" on immigration.

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What to watch for in US election's homestretch

    The U.S. presidential campaign seems to have been going on for an eternity. The Labor Day holiday on Sept. 5 marks the start of the final stretch.

    Here are some leading indicators to determine whether Donald Trump will make this a competitive contest or whether Hillary Clinton can build on her current advantage to open a more commanding lead.

    --Debates: The initial forum is slated for Sept. 26. The event is being anticipated as a a smack-down brawl between two candidates who show contempt for each other. Each will try to bait the other. Will either take the high road and rise above the insults?

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Trump's bigotry will cost us

    While serving under Secretary Hillary Clinton as the State Department's first special representative to Muslim communities, I had a chance to visit with Muslims in almost 100 countries. This summer, as Donald Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric dominates the headlines, I think back to one encounter, both powerful and troubling, that I had with a community in Cambodia.

    We had driven for hours through the jungle on a hard-packed dirt road. Finally we reached a village - just a few modest buildings among the trees, including a simple mosque with whitewashed mud walls and a dirt-pressed floor. Sandals lined the walls, and straw mats served as our seats. Dozens of barefoot residents of this Muslim community crowded around.

    I sat down on the floor beside a translator, and our conversation began. Audience members asked questions that, unfortunately, I had often heard in other communities. Are Muslims real U.S. citizens? Do Americans spit on you when they hear you're Muslim? Can Muslims wear headscarves in the United States? Can they pray, and if so, where? Wasn't 9/11 a setup by Jews to frame Muslims? How was I allowed to serve in government if I was a Muslim?

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