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Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

Who's Responsible for High Gas Prices?

Sat ,13/10/2012

    “It’s hard to see how President Obama is to blame for high gas prices when the record high was $4.12 a gallon in  July of 2008, six months before he took office.”

The Republican strategy during the 2012 election has been to try to pin the economic problems we have been facing on President Obama. Certainly President Obama inherited a mess and it is very difficult to figure out how well the president’s policies are working since we don’t know where we would have been without them.

The price of gasoline is something we are reminded of every time we fill up our car. So we’ve heard a lot about the price of gasoline during this presidential election. During the presidential debates, Mitt Romney said to president Obama ,”At the same time, gasoline prices have doubled under your presidency.”  Bill O’Reilly in his debate with John Stewart said, “Gas prices have doubled since Obama took office.” And someone at Exxon Mobil even cooperated with this theme by placing the gas sign on the right on the Internet. And, it is true.  However, the conclusion drawn from it is not.

The implication is that Pesident Obama is responsible for our current high gas prices. You can only think that is true if you have a very short memory or are very dishonest. Average US gas prices hit a historic high of $4.12 per gallon in July of 2008,  six months before Obama took office and while  George Bush was still president. The International Energy Agency (IEA) graph below shows the historic prices in the US and other countries, showing that the US President is not responsible for gas prices. That is unless you consider the wars in the Middle East, which destabilized the region, to be a main factor in gas prices. The graph shows the gas prices were relatively stable until about 2002.

Exxon/Mobil has also been a little duplicitous about this. In the past, they have emphasized on their website that the high gas prices are reasonable when they are considered in terms of inflation. However, now that Mitt Romney has promised oil companies carte blanche to do pretty much as they please if he is elected, they’re only too happy to blame the rising gas prices on President Obama. Mr. Romney apparently does not believe in climate change, and even if he did  he certainly places money ahead of almost everything else, including the environment. Mr. Romney has promised that he would allow completion of the XL pipeline, which will make lots of money for the oil companies. He would also allow them to drill on public land, in National parks, in wildlife refuges, and in environmentally sensitive areas. Those policies might be okay if it were not for the fact that they would increase air pollution, increase greenhouse gas concentrations, and put a large number of environmentally fragile areas at a risk of being damaged.

And, it is very unlikely that allowing oil companies to do as they wish would bring down the price of gasoline. In the first Presidential debate, Mitt Romney blamed President Obama’s policies for limiting oil production. That is also not true, as you can see from the IEA’s table below.

Oil production  dropped during the Bush presidency but has risen by about 20% during Obama’s presidency.  It is clear that domestic oil production has  little effect on the price of gasoline. Last year our largest export was fuels, so it seems if we produce more, we will just export more while gas prices continue to rise in the U.S. It also appears that gasoline prices do not follow the law of supply and demand, both things that Exxon/Mobil and the other oil companies should have to explain. They receive large subsidies; their products do not bear the cost of dumping large amounts of CO2 into the environment; and they have been quite profitable while many other US companies are struggling to stay afloat, in part because of the high fuel prices. Many are international companies that have little allegiance to the United States, but if they’re going to do business in the United States, they should behave as good citizens. We should certainly not let their money and misinformation determine the outcome of our elections.

Note added on 02/17/2015: This picture shows the gas prices in January of 2015 in Kansas. Does President Obama0gas get credit?

The Shortcomings of the 2012 Republican Platform

Wed ,29/08/2012

Aristotle, the father of science, thought that nature could best be understood by observation and reason. Not only did he apply the scientific method to the physical world, but he also considered political systems. One of his conclusions was that a democracy could not function well without a strong middle class. Aristotle was also strongly opposed to sophistry. Both of those are things that our politicians need to keep in mind.

After a number of push polls to try to influence their constituencies’ opinions, Republican leaders have managed to get many of their most extreme positions into the Republican platform. Republicans have tried to create a coalition of one issue voters, and there is a plank in there for each of them. Some the planks are more extreme than even Romney would have liked, and they seem more to reflect Paul Ryan’s views.

Economy: The plan for job creation is “economic growth”– and to stimulate economic growth the platform requires a further reduction in taxes. The plan is to keep the  Bush tax cuts, eliminate taxes on capital gains for the middle class, pass a balanced budget amendment and require a supermajority for any future tax increases . Grover Norquist and most millionaires will be very pleased with that plank. The middle class may not be so happy because little of their income is from interest and capital gains. Then, there’s a problem of how to fund government programs, but other planks are going to eliminate many of those, especially those that help the disadvantaged and the middle class.

Social Issues: The platform is loaded up with social issues.  It calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage, claims life begins at fertilization, and seeks to make abortions difficult to obtain, no matter the circumstances. It would not fund any health care that covered abortions. And, that would include most forms of birth control under that definition of when life begins. It also declares that only abstinence education be permitted, and that would likely greatly increase the needs for abortions – as that doesn’t work too well in practice. And in spite of the large number of public massacres that have occurred lately, it is opposed to banning high-capacity clips or assault rifles.

Minorities: It declares; “Voter fraud is a political poison”, although there are very few instances of voter fraud. It appears to be an attempt to justify the Republican Party’s attempt to disenfranchise a large number of minority voters. It takes a hard line on immigration, even for those born here who are children of immigrants. It rather forgets that most of us were originally immigrants and that President Reagan granted amnesty to almost 3 million illegal immigrants. It would prohibit federal lawsuits against states that make restrictive immigration laws, even though those laws might interfere with citizens’ rights or violate human rights.

Energy: The energy plank does not recognize the need to protect the environment, which Republicans in the past strongly supported, nor does it recognize the realities of climate change. It would give almost free rein to fossil fuel companies to pursue their interests without regard to environmental issues and it would restrict the EPA from taking action to protect the environment. It does mention an “all of the above” energy policy, but there is no specific mention of policies to encourage the development of alternate energy sources.

Health and Welfare:  The plank on health care would be disastrous for the middle class. It would repeal most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while promising to promote the free market and give you more choices. That is fine if you have plenty of money. There’s a lot of verbiage associated with Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid but it all boils down to changing them in ways that would cost less money and make them much less effective. It says, “the platform pledges to move both Medicare and Medicaid away from ‘the current unsustainable defined-benefit entitlement model to a fiscally sound defined-contribution model.’” And, it supports a “ Medicare transition to a premium-support model with an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice.” Is that a description of vouchers?

Defense: This plank sounds a lot like saber rattling. It would restore “American exceptionalism” and take a hard stance toward North Korea, Iran, and China (China?). That would greatly increase military spending, particularly if we started another war. Our last Republican President started two, and we are still suffering from the loss of lives and the staggering cost. We already spend five times as much as any other country on defense, and there is no plank explaining where the money would come from without raising taxes. Nor is it clear how it might work out to have  as Comander-in-Chief someone who sat out  the Vietnam War in France on a rather easily obtained “divinity student” deferment. 

I think many traditional Republicans will be rather dismayed with the platform and it remains to be seen if they will still support the party and vote for its candidates. Certainly the wealthy and the one issue voters can be counted on, but it would appear to alienate many independents. Sometimes reason prevails and political parties do not follow their platform too precisely, and that is the most that we can hope for if  Mr. Romney is elected president.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

The 2012 Republican Presidential Platform Survey

Mon ,04/06/2012
All registered Republican voters have just received yet another survey from the party leaders, along with a request for donations of course. It is difficult to answer many of the survey questions as they contain assumptions that bias your answer – if you can answer at all. Below are some of the worst examples; please see how you fare in answering them.
 
3. How important is it to voters in your state to have candidates give attention to the following issues during the 2012 campaign?

        (d)Exposing Obama’s radical left-wing policies

              ( ) Very important    ( ) Somewhat important    ( ) Not important

 8. Do you support a federal balanced-budget amendment to the US Constitution to stop deficit spending in Washington

                                                    ( )  Yes   ( ) No

 16. Do you believe Obama’s strategy of treating all countries as equals to the United States has strengthened our security and weaken the resolve of our enemies?

                                                     ( )  Yes  ( )   No

29. Do you believe the Republican Party needs to do a better job of exposing the Obama record and his radical liberal agenda?

                                                     ( )  Yes  ( ) No

30. Are you committed to helping ensure that in 2012 the Obama era policy of radical liberalism reckless spending and embarrassing foreign-policy comes to an end?

                                                       ( )  Yes   ( ) No

The questions above are from the 2012 Presidential Platform Survey sent out by the Republican Party to registered Republican voters. This is better than some of the surveys received under Michael Steele, where we also received his four-page letters telling us how to answer. Still, many of the questions are biased to get a particular answer – and are also designed to send a message rather than ask the constituent’s opinion.

For instance:

 Question 3. No matter what you answer, you are accepting the assumption that President Obama’s policies are radical and left-wing. His policies are considered to be slightly right of center and many of them were proposed in the past by Republicans.

 Question 8. Is cutting spending the only way to balance the budget? The budget could also be balanced by raising taxes to pay for our debts and our wars.

 Question 16. To answer it you must accept the assumption that Obama has a strategy of treating all countries equal. Does that mean “equal” as in treating them all with respect, which might lessen tensions and make them less likely to behave as our enemies?

 Question 29. In case you missed the inferences of Question 3., here president Obama’s agenda is called “radical liberal” to make sure you don’t miss it again. Wink, wink.

 Question 30. Repetition, repetition, repetition. That is the key to teaching slow learners, which is how the Republican leadership seems to see their constituency. To answer this question, you must not only buy into the “radical liberalism” label, but also into assumptions about “reckless spending” and “embarrassing foreign-policy”. How can you answer the question if you disagree? Oh, you are supposed to be a good “Stepford” Republican and not disagree.

If this survey is any indication, Republican leaders seem to be more interested in defeating Obama than they are in governing responsibly. It is more likely that those who agree with the biased assumptions will fill out and send in the survey, further biasing the results. I would hope that the party can develop a reasonable platform that traditional Republicans can support. My concern is that the Republican leaders will use the results of these biased surveys to try to whip into line the candidates who might object by telling them, “This is what the Republican voters want.” But is it really?

Note added on July 30, 2012: I received another Republican Presidential Platform Survey last week. Interestingly, it was almost identical to the one received  less than 2 months ago – and it did not mention the results of that survey. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what the results were because the surveys main purpose seems to be to provide propaganda and to request donations. It contained all the questions listed above above, but there was another section that is noteworthy. The section entitled “Values Issues” had 4 questions, and 3 of them were about the abortion issue. Are there no other values issues that should go into the Republican platform?

(c)2012  J.C. Moore

Congressman John Sullivan’s Town Hall Meeting II

Tue ,07/02/2012

 

Congressman John Sullivan (R-OK) held a town hall meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he discussed the budget, Social Security,  energy issues, EPA regulations, jobs, and the XL pipeline. The article gives Congressman Sullivan’s positions, comments and questions asked by the audience, and compares the authors views to Congressman Sullivan’s.

Congressman John Sullivan conducted two town hall meetings in Tulsa on January 26, 2012. The first was held at Tulsa Community College’s Metro Campus where a number of his constituents challenged Sullivan’s views. That meeting was reported  by the Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbeil in, “Sullivan town hall-goers applaud Obama speech”.  The afternoon meeting, which was held at the Hardesty Library in South Tulsa, had a much more partisan crowd. Congressman Sullivan’s opening remarks were much like those at his Sand Springs meeting last November. At the Hardesty meeting, he did not give people the opportunity to applaud Obama’s speech, he just criticized it. When people tried to point out the errors in his criticisms, they were interrupted by people shouting,” Ask a question”. Sullivan was there to hear what his constituents thought, but apparently his supporters did not want to hear anything good about the President.

 Gridlock: Congressman Sullivan likened Obama to a football coach who gives a great locker room talk but doesn’t win. It was a bad analogy as the coach cannot win without cooperation from the players, and many players in Congress seem more interested in beating the coach than winning for the country. Every winning team needs a reasonable budget, but many Congressmen have insisted on cutting taxes and 206 legislators, Sullivan included, have signed Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes. He blamed the President and the Democrats in the Senate for the gridlock, saying that the house had sent the Senate 26 bills that were not enacted. However, most of those bills contained a “poison pill”. For instance, H.R. 3630, the badly needed Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2011, also had a provision to delay implementation of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, to hinder the EPA, and to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. It is hardly fair to blame the Senate when they are not sent clean bills.

 Energy : Congressman Sullivan said that we needed the XL pipeline to create jobs and claimed that it would create hundreds of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly – and that the only problem was just a few miles through Nebraska wetlands. The problems are actually much greater.  They involve destruction of the boreal forests in Canada, pollution of Canadian rivers, acquiring the water and energy needed to process tar sands, and the carbon emissions the project would cause. Then, it is still not clear how many jobs it will actually create, who will profit from the project, and whether much of the oil will be shipped to foreign countries, possibly without being taxed as some of the refineries are in a tax-free zone.

 The Congressman said he has introduced legislation encouraging the development of natural gas as a fuel. He pointed out that natural gas provides about three times as much energy and costs much less than gasoline. Natural gas is plentiful in Oklahoma and developing the infrastructure to use it as a fuel would help Oklahoma’s economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. That is about the only positive contribution that Congressman Sullivan has made on environmental issues. Using natural gas would also significantly decrease our carbon emissions – but the Congressman did not mention that as he does not accept the scientific research on climate change. His supporters claim to be conservatives, but it is hard to imagine how they could support someone who is not also a conservationist. Congressman Sullivan scored a 9% on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard (page 52).

Audience Questions: The wife of a veteran told of the problems her husband had getting help from the Veterans Administration and asked if Sullivan could help. Congressman Sullivan said he would see what he could do. I hope he can help that veteran, but it is not likely that all the veterans needing help will get it if we cut the budget as Congressman Sullivan wanted. The veteran was certainly a good man, and when pressed to speak, he said that it would really help if people would recycle more. He pointed out that we throw away a lot of things that are still useful and that by recycling them we could create a lot of jobs and save our resources.

 Another woman complained that the EPA’s rules about Freon were making it difficult to get the refrigerant needed for their air-conditioning business. Congressman Sullivan took it as an opportunity to criticize the EPA and the Obama administration, apparently unaware that those rules had been signed into law by President Reagan.

A CPA in the audience brought it to the Congressman’s attention that the low interest rates were hurting people who had their nest egg in savings accounts and CDs. He also pointed out that the mandatory IRA withdrawals required at age 70 1/2 are making people withdraw the money that they may need to save for later in life. The Congressman agreed that some changes need to be made there.

 When the Congressman was asked about who he would like to see as the Republican presidential candidate, he said he would support whoever could beat President Obama. A member of the audience tried to point out that there were other things more important than beating Obama, and that the President and his wife were good role models and examples of family values. She was almost drowned out by disagreements from the audience.

 Entitlements: There was a time when Republicans were fiscal and environmental conservatives. Congressman Sullivan said he wanted to cut what he calls “entitlement programs”, but one of his own supporters set him straight by pointing out that those were “earned benefits”, not entitlements. I want my children and grandchildren have the same benefits I did, and I want them to have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink and a beautiful Earth to enjoy. They are entitled to that.

Research Credit: Barbara Moore

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

Was the "In God We Trust" Resolution Really Necessary?

Sat ,05/11/2011
 
The House of Representatives recently passed a resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the United States. The 396-9 vote came at the request of Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA). “There’s been no motto in U.S. history that’s been more inspirational than ‘In God We Trust,’” he said, noting that he felt it was appropriate for members of Congress to “firmly declare our trust in God.” The resolution not only affirmed “In God We Trust” as the national motto, but it also “encourages its display in public buildings and government institutions.”
 
At first this seems like an effort to make it appear that Congress is actually doing something. Our nation has a number of problems that Congress has not acted to solve, and in many cases the majority in Congress has obstructed reasonable attempts at legislation that would solve them. I’m sure they wish that God would step in and help them out of the messes they’ve helped create, but I firmly believe that man has free will and that God expects us to solve our own problems, particularly the ones that we create. Congress needs to put its house in order.
 
Still, it would be rather hard to vote against such a resolution and I think that many Representatives who saw it as the political ploy it was, still felt it necessary to vote for it. It must have taken a lot of courage for those nine people to vote against it, and they are already being singled out for ridicule and harassment . They may even see their political careers damaged because they do not happen to be of the same faith as Representative Forbes. But wasn’t that the point?
 
Well, probably not. Apparently it was meant as a rebuke to President Obama who referred to “E Pluribus Unum” as our motto in an attempt to get Congress to try to unite for the good of the country. Instead, they showed him that they could be as divisive as they want. I see no reason we can’t have more than one motto and I think that E Pluribus Unum is needed more now than religious divisiveness.
 
Apparently Representative Forbes and some other members of Congress have a rather short view of history, as “In God We Trust” was not adopted until 1956. After declaring independence, the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson to devise a seal . The official United States seal had “E Pluribus Unum” when it was adopted by Congress in 1782. E Pluribus Unum was our de facto motto for about 150 years and it appears on our coins, currency, passports, and the seals of all three branches of government. It originally symbolized the many colonies and states merging into one nation and more recently that people of many races, religions and ancestries merged into a single people and a single nation. That is what the founding fathers intended and it is an important part of our heritage.
 
Although much has been made about the Representatives who voted against the resolution, I am more interested in the Representatives who voted for it. Do their votes mean they will follow the teachings of Jesus, give up any sinful and greedy ways, practice their religion in private, tell the truth, and minister to the sick and the poor. If they really trust in God, should they not follow the teachings of Jesus? I think we should insist on it. Please write them and tell them so.
 
(c) 2011 J.C. Moore
 
 

What Does the Solyndra Bankruptcy Mean?

Tue ,20/09/2011

 No one knows for sure why the solar panel manufacturing company, Solyndra, went bankrupt or what it means, but Congress is now investigating the matter. Though it will be useful to know what went wrong, bankruptcies in these tough economic times are not unusual. It is not clear why Congress is investigating the matter, but if the investigation is used for political purposes, it may delay our development of renewable energy resources. This could further hurt our economy and actually cause the loss of jobs.

In spite of the fact that the Solyndra bankruptcy may have cost 1000 jobs, that is a small amount compared to the hundred thousand plus workers who now work in the solar energy business in United States. Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries and the graph above from this article estimates that the use of solar energy will increase fivefold by 2020. If the United States does not invest in the production of solar panels, it is almost certain that other countries will. China has set aside $34 billion to be invested in the production of solar panels. The $500 million in loan guarantees to Solyndra is rather small compared to that amount.

Unfortunately, the US investment in solar energy may be derailed by  Congress.  In spite of the other problems facing our nation, Congress has now launched a Congressional investigation into the Solyndra bankruptcy. It would seem that the investigation is politically motivated with the goal of embarrassing the Obama administration and derailing our efforts to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel. The Department of Energy has made a number of loan guarantees for investments in green energy projects and this is the only one which has had a serious problem. A number of large and savvy investors put over $1 billion into the Solyndra, so it cannot be claimed that it was was a bad investment from the beginning or that the company was supported entirely by the Department of Energy. Also, the political ramifications are not quite clear, as this timeline for the loan approval process for Solyndra shows it started in 2005 under the Bush administration.

Note added on 11/13/2014: Although the Solyndra bankruptcy has been used for political purposes to discourage investment in renewable energy, the loan program overall  has been quite successful.  Bloomberg News reported yesterday:

The U.S. government expects to earn $5 billion to $6 billion from the renewable-energy loan program that funded Solyndra LLC, supporting President Barack Obama’s decision to back low-carbon technologies. The results contradict the widely held view that the U.S. has wasted taxpayer money funding failures including Solyndra, which closed its doors in 2011 after receiving $528 million in government backing.

(c) 2011 J.C. Moore