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Thoughts on Obama’s Budget

March 25th, 2009

I’ve maintained a strong interest in the long-term budget proposed by President Obama, and his press conference last night renewed some of my concerns.  Frankly, I’m conflicted about it. I understand and appreciate his attempt to fix some of the hard problems that are facing America, but I’m also concerned about the future and what the nation would be like if the budget back-fired.

Energy

We need an energy policy – yes.  We need a sustainable way to provide power for future generations.  I tend to agree with T. Boone Pickens, in that our reliance on foreign oil is more of a national security problem than a economic problem, but it’s most certainly both.  I’m curious why Obama didn’t use some stimulus money to build nuclear power plants or wind farms, instead helping cities like Dallas build fancy government-run hotels.

Health care

No question health care is a burden to many families. Hey, I just had a baby and my family’s healthcare costs are increasing 1,000%.  Trust me, when I learned that, you better believe I said “bring on socialism!”.  In all seriousness, health care is a real problem we need to confront, particularly medicare and medicaid.  Cutting-edge technology and treatment options aren’t getting cheaper, so the bottom line is the government will have to take more money. I don’t see any other way around that.

Education

We’re falling behind – no doubt. I’m not sure that it’s because we don’t invest enough, I think it may be more attributable to a culture that is becoming more lazy. Japanese, Indian, Chinese – they are all more driven than ever, while the American student is less driven and feels more of a sense of entitlement. I’m not sure that spending a ton of money on education will reverse that trend, unfortunately.

The budget and the future

If I’m reading Obama’s budget properly, he makes some pretty presumptuous assumptions and even with those the debt is staggering in 5 and 10 years.  I applaud him for including all spending, including military operational spending, in the budgets – definitely should have happened with GWB.  But this budget…it’s like he’s going “all-in” with the USA. If something unexpected happens (terrorist attack, natural disaster,  pandemic, etc.) in the next ten years, we have no emergency fund. Our emergency fund so far has been the Chinese, and their patience is waning.

The president enjoys lambasting the investors and speculators who took huge risks and helped cripple the economy, but I’m really struggling to see how this kind of government spending is not equally as risky.

Please…chime in with your thoughts below.

Tyson News, Politics

Hot Air from Obama’s Budget Director

March 8th, 2009

I think everyone had high hopes for Obama’s economic team, made up of so-called moderates.  But some of the recent statements from budget director Peter Orszag just don’t pass the smell test.

Earlier this week Orszag spoke before a congressional panel about the Obama budget, claiming it will save $2 trillion over the next ten years.  Wow – sign me up!  Luckily somebody asked him to explain those numbers in a little bit more detail, and here’s what he conceded: We will save $1.6 trillion in the next tens years by not sustaining the troop surge for the next decade.  Uh…OK, but who was going to do that!?  Had anybody even considered keeping surge troop levels in Iraq for ten more years?  Uh…no.  I just went and told my wife our family was going to save $1.5 million by not buying a private jet – she was equally confused.

A few days later on CNN, Orszag argued that the Obama administration had no power to change the omnibus spending bill which is loading with almost $8 billion in earmarks.  Come on…gimme a break.  I think it would be easy, try this line:

“Congress, this bill is filled with earmarks and I told you we were going to be different. Take out the earmarks and I will sign it.  The America people voted for change, and change is what they are going to get.”

See, that even sounds campaign-ish so I’m sure Obama could pull it off.

Tyson News, Politics

The Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

January 4th, 2009

Yesterday I was driving through East Texas and I saw for the first time a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. Shwanky, I know. But I got to thinking – I wonder what the math on that guy is. So I looked it up…here we go:

The standard 2009 Escalade MSRP pricing starts at $60,985, while the hybrid version starts at $70,685, a difference of $9,700. This is the premium you pay for the hybrid engine. Now, I’ll ignore the slightly less powerful motor on the hybrid version, as I suspect with over 300 horsepower there is still sufficient strength to do whatever you need.

OK, so let’s figure out the break-even analysis on that $9,700 premium. GM claims the hybrid gets 50% better fuel economy in the city, and 20% better on the highway. For city driving, that brings the MPG up from 12 to 18. The average driver covers just over 1,000 miles per month, so I’ll use 1,200. That’s 67 gallons of fuel versus 100 gallons required for the standard gasoline engine, as savings of 33 gallons. At our current bargain-basement petroleum costs, that’s a savings of about $50 a month. If gasoline remains at this price (ha, I know), it’s going to take about 16 years to break even and start saving money with the hybrid.

Now let’s say oil prices begin to rebound as everyone expects they will, and they rise again to a $3 average. Of course that means it will only take 8 years to reach break-even point and start seeing green. Much more reasonable, don’t you think? Now obviously if you drive twice as much as the average driver and put 25,000 miles a year on your hybrid, you can look forward to break-even point just as that odometer rolls over the 100,000 mile mark.

Now let’s not forget the best-case scenario for hyrbrid owners. If gasoline skyrockets to a $5 average, it’s just going to take the average driver a little less than 5 years to reach fruitfulness. But keep in mind, this assumes 100% city driving, and no highway travel. So I consider this the ultimate best case scenario.

Maybe this kind of math is why GM is looking for a bailout about now, what do you think?

Tyson Politics, Technology

Can You Believe It’s Over?

November 5th, 2008

Wow…hard to believe all the campaigning is over. It was a drama-filled 2008 for sure. McCain rises from nowhere in primaries, Obama and Clinton battle till the convention, the Palin selection, Joe the plumber. Crazy…

Well first of all, I was anticipating staying up late last night,  but thank goodness it was over early. I caught the end of the Rockets vs. Celtics game and hit the sack around 10pm!

More seriously, looking back there are several great things that I see from this election. Here are my thoughts:

Why I voted for McCain

For me, speeches and promises in a campaign don’t count for much. I’m really of the opinion that a politician will say virtually anything for a vote…the thirst for power is very strong. As my seasoned government professor at Harding said, “once a politician is elected to office his number one priority is to…get re-elected.”  With that in mind, I looked at McCain’s record and past actions and compared them to Obama’s record and past actions. Neither one thrilled me, but if you look at McCain’s actions in the Senate, he does get stuff done and he usually works in the middle. I thought he would have done a decent job as president and nominated good qualified judges and justices (my #1 issue).

About Obama

The dude is a motivator…I’ve never seen so many people name-dropping with Obama (I just sat through a marketing meeting and one attendee talked about how her “friend Obama” sent her emails yesterday). Tracy McGrady even wore Obama sneakers during the game last night! I’m glad he inspried so many folks. Let me be clear: It is a great thing that our country has elected an African-American president. I hope we elect many more minorities in the future…so many that we won’t even consider race or skin color an issue. Anyone who is qualified to lead should have every opportunity to run and win the presidency, or any other office for that matter. It is also a great thing that so many people voted this year. Every citizen should vote (once) in the election (I won’t start an electoral college discussion). I hope voter registration continues to climb in the years ahead.

Obama has every chance of being a superb president, and I hope that’s the case. I’ll pray for him, as we all should. I will assume that his motives are pure and he has the best intentions in mind when governing. I’m not scared about the future (alas, some of my Facebook friends appear to be).

I mentioned earlier about how I don’t put much value into campaign speeches and pre-election talk. There are two things I hope Obama doesn’t do that he’s said he will.

First of all, he said the first thing he would do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. I hope he reconsiders that…surely there are more important issues right now (energy, the economy, the war, a college football playoff system, etc.).

Secondly, he has said he will nominate judges who “(have) the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old…”.  Now I know he’s like a constitutional law professor or something, but to me that sounds like a good list of attributes for a legislator, not a surpreme court justice. When I read this, I just envisioned a poor disabled old lady standing in front of the supreme court, and a justice replying with “Darling, the law isn’t on your side, but I’m so full of empathy that I’m going to side with you anyways”. I’m not sure a Supreme Court justice is supposed to be empathetic, but rather objective. I’d rather have justices that say “Sweetheart, your case is really compelling, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to go talk to your representative and get the law changed. I have to interpret the law objectively, even though your situation brings me to tears.”

So there you go…those are my thoughts, and hopefully I didn’t say anything that I’ll regret later. Feel free to rip me apart in the comments. And God bless the World!

Tyson Politics

The Presidential Campaign

October 8th, 2008

Y’all see that debate last night? What a snore that was!  The way I see it, we’re going to have a president Obama in about 30 days. There would either have to be a large national emergency or a shocking revelation about Barack for him to lose at this point, I believe.

Although…now that I think about it, we’ve seen some pretty incredible comebacks this year:

Tyson Politics

Twitter Posts on the Palin Pick

August 29th, 2008

OK, so McCain is smarted than I originally thought and actually picked my choice for Veep, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It’s definitely a gamble, but one worth taking at this point for his campaign.

So I’ve finished my brown-bag lunch and have been watching Twitter comments on Palin…here are some of my favorite lines so far:

@badbanana: “As a young mother, Palin will be a huge help to McCain. Food doesn’t cut itself into tiny pieces, people.”

@hodgman: “Palin will almost certainly woo away all of Hillary Clinton supporters who are pro-life and pro-gun.”

@cschweitzer: “If Obama supporters say he should be elected because he TALKS pretty, I say Palin should because she IS.”

@ctp: “I didn’t know Michael Palin could be the vice president, but it’s cool that he’s running. I’m excited.”

@MtnMom: “Palin: sounds like she has kicked some corrupt fossilized Republical rear end in Alaska. Gonna be interesting to this one play out.”

@kevinbinversie “Little Known Fact: Sarah Palin was the original “Deadliest Catch.”"

@triciamckinney: “Am I the only one who sees the Sarah Palin/Tina Fey resemblance? Will Tina make a guest appearance on SNL?”

@everysandwich: “Today in pot-kettle. Obama camp sez Gov. Palin doesn’t have the experience. Thousands flee glass houses.”

@way2busymom: “He picked Palin? When I mentioned that to my spouse, he asked wait…the Monty Python guy???”

Tyson News, Politics

Comments on Rick Warren’s Interviews

August 20th, 2008

Alright…it’s time for some politics! I’ve been working on this post for several days now, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I believe the forum at Saddleback has given us a clearer picture of our two candidates, and I think Mr. Warren did a fine job with the interviews. Although I missed the event live,  I’ve been reading transcripts and watching videos all weekend. There’s a good digestable video format over at Kingdom People, so thanks for that.

I’m going to give my comments on each question and who’s answer I liked better.  I’ll love to hear your comments, also.

Note: I’m also relying on factcheck.org and their excellent writeup of Saddleback Bloopers (and some downright lies).

Question 1: Who are the three wisest people in your life, or three you would listen to in your administration?

Obama mentioned his wife and his grandmother – then listed several politicians and stressed that he likes hearing different viewpoints.

McCain mentioned Gen. Petraeus, Democratic civil-rights activist John Lewis, and eBay CEO / economic advisor Meg Whitman.

My take: Both were pandering a bit, so I’m not particularly impressed with either. McCain started immediately with war stories…I guess he naturally thinks about that first. The wisest people that I know are low-key, behind-the-scenes people who wouldn’t be recognized, and I kind of wish one of these candidates would have said something like “well, I could name them, but you wouldn’t recognize them. It’s just a friend that I call on in tough times and he/she always has a the right thing to say…”

Question 2: What is the greatest moral failure in your life / and greatest failure of America?

Obama mentioned his teenage years and drinking / drugs.   Then said America’s greatest failure was not taking care of the poor and misfortunate, quoting Matthew 25.

McCain mentioned the failure of his first marriage, and then America for not serving a cause greater than ourselves.

My take: I liked McCain’s personal answer – he really showed courage, didn’t make any excuses and that’s a subject he hasn’t brought up before.  I wasn’t impressed with Obama’s personal answer, mainly because he prefaced it with an excuse about his missing father.  I didn’t like either one’s national answer really…

Incidentally, in Obama’s answer he stated at one point “it’s not about me”, and the audience and Warren really enjoyed that. Obama didn’t flinch…I guess he hasn’t finished the book.

Question 3: Give an example of how you have worked across party lines or gone against the party.

Obama mentioned campaign finance reform and his position on the Iraq war.

McCain mentioned his vote against sendiing troops to Beruit in the 80′s, going against his party and a president he loved.

My take: Obama had me until factcheck.org discovered that Obama actually didn’t work with McCain on the legislation.  Whooops…

Question 4: Name the most significant position that you’ve changed on in the past 10 years.

Obama mentioned Clinton’s welfare reform…he was initially skeptical, but it ended up working better than he expected.

McCain quickly said “off-shore drilling” to loud applause, and he expanded on the national security aspect of imported oil.

My take: I liked Obama’s answer better…didn’t seem to be on the talking points like McCain’s did. I’m not sure if he connected to anybody with it, but it seemed sincere.

Question 5: Most gut-wrenching decision you’ve had to make.

Obama mentioned his opposition to the Iraq war.

McCain told a POW story about turning down an offer to escape early.

My take: Back in 2002, Obama wasn’t even a Senator so it’s hard to believe that his most gut-wrenching decision ever was his stance on the war while a state Senator. McCain’s played a trump card, so it didn’t matter what Obama said. The story is compelling, though, and you can’t help but respect a man who makes decisions like that.

Question 6: What does it mean to you to be a Christian?

Obama said it means that Jesus died for his sins, and he is redeemed. It also means a sense of obligation not just to words, but deeds. He quoted Micah.

McCain said it means saved and forgiven, and then goes into another POW story about a Vietnamese guard who was secretly a Christian.

My take: Can’t really favor either one here…both were interested. Unsurprisingly, Obama spoke thoughtfully and McCain told personal stories. Both are fine.

Question 7: Abortion: What point is a baby entitled to human rights?

Obama claimed that question was above his pay grade. He said he was pro-choice, but no pro-abortion, and he is pro-choice because he thinks women think long and hard about this issue. When asked if he has ever voted to limit abortions, he dodged but stated his agreement with limiting late-term abortions if there are exceptions for the mother’s health. He also criticized the current President for opposing abortion but letting abortions increase under his watch.

McCain said at the moment of conception, and strongly committed to a pro-life administration.

My take: Obama’s answer will probably haunt him in the coming three months. If you are president, nothing is above your pay grade. Also, his explanation about how women wrestle with the issue made no sense and showed no conviction. Is he saying that if he were on a jury for an assault trial, and the defendent explained that he did assault the victim, but it wasn’t a decision he came to lightly, that he should get off?? Oh well, Obama thinks that’s acceptable, as long as it wasn’t an easy decision. Please.

Second, if there has ever been a politician who is pro-abortion, it is Obama. Case closed. He went as far as voting against the Born Infant Alive Protection Bill, which sought to protect infants who survived an abortion attempt and were alive apart from the mother.

Third, abortions actually have decreased during Bush’s term. In fact, abortions have decreased every year since 1989.

Finally, if you don’t have an idea of when life begins, doesn’t it make sense to err on the side of life instead of on the side of death? You know…just in case.

Question 8: Define marriage.

Obama said he believes it is a sacred union between a man and a woman. He would not support a constitutional ammendment, because historical we haven’t defined marriage in the constition. He does not support same sex marriage, but believes in civil unions and equal rights.

McCain said a union between one man, one woman. He believes the states should make the decisions, until a federal court gets in the mix. At that point he would support a constitutional ammendment.

My take: Again, I’m not sure about Obama’s answer here for a couple of reasons. First, the fact that the constitution hasn’t historically defined marriage is a cop-out. Of course not – there was not a homosexual movement when the constitution was written. Furthermore, Obama said he does not support same sex marriage, but he is opposed to California’s Proposition 8. Maybe he could clarify that answer a little more in the future…

Question 9: Would you defend embryonic stem-cell research?

Obama supports stem-cell research, and defended the practice as well-intentioned since embryos are being discarded anyway.

McCain said he supports stem cell research, but hopes it will be a moot point in the near future.

My take: It’s difficult to understand McCain’s position here, given his belief on #7.

Question 10: Does evil exists, and what should we do about it?

Obama said yes, and confront it. He gave examples of domestic violence, Darfur, etc. He said we cannot expel evil from the world, that’s God’s business, and a lot of evil has been done in the name of purging evil.

McCain said “defeat it!”. He promised to get UBL and talked about radical islamic extremism. He told another war story about suicide bombers in Baghdad. He stressed the central battle ground of evil is in Iraq.

My take: I liked Obama’s answer…it was thoughtful and I believe right on the money. In large part we are probably only making things worse running around the world playing whack-a-mole with suspected terrorists.

Question 11: Which existing Supreme Court justices would you have not nominated?

Obama said Clarence Thomas, and explained that he did not feel Thomas was of the legal stature to warrant an appointment.

McCain listed all 4 of the liberal justices, stating that justices should be appointed that strictly interpret the constitution.

My take: While I’m most concerned about Obama nominating justices like himself to the SC, his answer was the better answer to this question. McCain is not a lawyer, never been a law professor and may not understand much beyond his stump speech talking points on the S.C.  Even though I disagree with Obama on justices, he gave a well-thought out answer that does have some merit. It’s hard to argue the Clarence Thomas was qualified to be a justice, and court observers are quick to note that he is very different from his colleques. i’m sure he is a fine man, but I wish elder Bush would have picked a stronger legal scholar like his son did when choosing John G. Roberts.

Question 12: Faith based organizations. Would you support FBOs should forfeit discriminated hiring for access to federal funds.

Obama said yes, but it’s a small percentage. He believes there should be an equal playing field. He said the devil is in the details…

McCain said absolute not, and told a story about how FBOs operated magnificantly in New Orleans after Katrina.

My take: Obama is right about one thing: the devil is always in the details.

Question 13: Education – Do you support merit pay for good teachers?

Obama said yes, excellence should be rewarded.

McCain said yes, choice and competition works. Charter schools, home schools and vouchers work. Oh, and find bad teachers another line of work.

My take: As the spouse of a good teacher, I agree with Obama.  :-)   Actually, McCain backed his answer up with good examples from N.O., D.C., N.Y.C., etc.  I don’t have kids, so I really haven’t looked into this issue as much as I should have.

Question 14: Define Rich.

Obama said households making $150,000 a year or less, that’s middle class and you’ll see a tax cut. More than $250,000 households will see an increase.

McCain thinks rich should be defined as a home, good job, education and handing a better world to children. Then he went off on gov. healthcare. He threw out $5 million, maybe as a joke but I couldn’t tell. He mentioned how spending is out of control. He went on about general tax policy stump…

My take: Obama’s answer was more cut and dry, and you have to love that from Obama when you can get it. Also, McCain exageratted his tax cut numbers according to factcheck.org, so no soup for you!

Question 15: What’s worth dying for?

Not sure what Obama said here…

McCain said “freedom – national security as a nation”. Be a beacon… (isn’t that from the movie Sneakers?)

My take: No good answer here…bad question, actually.

Question 16: Commit to international orphan assistance?

Obama liked the idea…said he would explore it. He also mentions exploring ways to reduce the number of orphans to begin with.

McCain said we need to make adoption easier in this country. He tells his story about adopting a girl from Bangladesh.

My take: McCain is the one who has first-hand experience with adoption, and therefore would be more likely to value and support programs regarding orphans and adoptions, in my mind. Anytime you have a personal connection to something, it’s easier to be a champion of that something (for instance, me and Blue Bell ice cream).

Question 17: What should we do about religious persecution?

Obama said we must speak out and over time views will gradually change. Must lead by example.

Mccain mentioned the bully pulpit, and said we must speak out as well.

My take: Tie goes to the runner.

Question 18: One minute – why do you want to be president?

Obama said he believes in the original American dream – anyone can be whatever the want to be. Washington is broken, and Obama said he can build bridges and fix problems.

McCain said he wants to inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than self-interest. He mentioned his bi-partisan history.

My take: They both want the power – who wouldn’t?  No one get’s to run for president who isn’t completely selfish and prideful. Those people get eliminated way early in the political process.

Tyson Politics, Theology