President Barack Obama, decrying previous off-the-books spending, pledged a big cut in the federal deficit after major initial outlays to rebuild the economy.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama met in the White House late today with some Congressional Democrats unhappy with the Iraq withdrawal plan he is evidently about to announce. They feel it’s too slow and would leave too large a residual force in Iraq. … The US Senate voted 61-37, on a bill co-authored by near apostate Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, to grant the District of Columbia a voting member of Congress. The bill goes to the House, where approval is obviously expected, and Obama has long said he would sign it. A complication. In order to gain needed Republican votes to avert a filibuster, most DC gun laws would be pre-empted. … A state superior court judge ruled today that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger does have the authority to reduce state employee pay to minimum wage in the event of a budget deadlock, as occurred last summer. Schwarzenegger ordered the move, but state Controller John Chiang, backed by public employee unions, claimed that the state’s computers couldn’t be re-programmed to accommodate the change.
** AND ANOTHER CALIFORNIA ELECTION IS ON! Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined state Senate Democratic leader Darrel Steinberg, former Senate Republican leader Davie Cogdill, and business, law enforcement, and some labor leaders late this afternoon at a pre-school center in an impoverished part of Sacramento to kick off their campaign to pass five initiatives needed to fully implement the recent state budget compromise. The special election, which coincides with the LA elections, will be May 19th.
Schwarzenegger, Steinberg, and Cogdill all praised one another, not surprisingly, for the successful deal which came after months of haggling, and predicted victory. Polls have showed support for a state budget solution that mixed cuts, taxes, and a spending limit, and this package has all those things.
Asked if he is concerned that former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, a Republican gubernatorial hopeful who has denounced the deal, will spend from her fortune to defeat, Schwarzenegger said he is not. “I don’t take too seriously what is said at the convention,” he said. “It’s all part of a kabuki.”
Schwarzenegger noted that if Whitman actually were to become governor of California – which voted 61% to 37% for Barack Obama over the Republican candidate whose campaign Whitman served as national co-chair, John McCain – she would be glad for the deal and the revenues and new rainy day fund provisions which she, or any other governor, would need.
** OBAMA REVERSES BUSH/CHENEY ERA POLICY ON WAR DEAD. Defense Secretary Bob Gates this afternoon announced a new policy on America’s war dead. During the Bush/Cheney Administration, photographing or filming coffins arriving at Dover Air Base from abroad was strictly forbidden. Now it is allowed, if families agree.
Many critics said that the policy was designed to minimize the human cost of the Iraq War. With casualties likely to increase in Afghanistan in the wake of the coming US military surge there, the Obama Administration will learn if this new transparency works out for it.
** THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS SHUTS DOWN. SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE ON THE BRINK? Just two months shy of its 150th anniversary, one of the leading newspapers in the West, the Denver-based Rocky Mountain News, is shutting down.
Its last edition will be published tomorrow.
The paper lost $16 million last year and, until tomorrow, employs 230 people. Its owner, E.W. Scripps, could not find a buyer for it even though it had a circulation in the hundreds of thousands.
While newspaper operations are shutting down, the company will retain the masthead, archives, and web site, and continue to seek a buyer for them. But with the staff laid off, it’s not clear what the value will be.
The Rocky Mountain News has covered Colorado for its entire history. Here’s a link to the Rocky’s coverage of its own demise, announced in the newsroom today, with photographs.
Incidentally, the Hearst Corp. is issuing rumblings about shutting down the San Francisco Chronicle if it can’t find a buyer, or successfully institute severe cutbacks.
** CALIFORNIA 2010. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has another of those town halls he’s been having tonight at Truckee High School in the Lake Tahoe area. Newsom, who recently confirmed rumors that his wife is pregnant, is considering a run for the Democratic nomination for governor.
I went to one of Newsom’s earlier town halls, which I filmed. The mayor is polished, but diffuse.
His next town hall isn’t until March 10th, in gritty Oakland, where Jerry Brown was mayor for eight years.
Speaking of the former governor, state Attorney General Brown is in Long Beach today for a noon address on how to curb gang violence in an era of limits, an old phrase of great relevance today. Brown is joined by Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts and Mayor Bob Foster, and will present a career achievement award to a 28-year veteran of the Long Beach Police Department.
Brown, a two-time runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination, is also considering a run for governor, in his case to regain the office.
** NEW CALIFORNIA POLL SHOWS SCHWARZENEGGER DOWN, ABORTION SUPPORT SLIPPING SOME. A new Public Policy Institute of California poll focused on population issues finds that support for abortion in blue state California has slipped a bit. And shows that two-thirds want parental notification on teenage abortions.
Which, as it happens, just lost again at the ballot box in November 2008. For the third time.
As for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job approval, it’s down to 36% amongst California voters, at or near a record low for him.
With a major caveat. The poll was conducted over a two-week period, from February 3rd through February 17th. The state budget was still up in the air while the poll was in the field.
Back to abortion and population issues.
55% say they don’t have moral or religious objections to abortion, though 60% say it would be good to reduce the number of abortions.
On the key question of legislation, the pro-choice position is favored over the anti-choice position, 61% to 35%, which is down about 10 points since 2000. 66% do not want the US Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.
Democrats and independents are overwhelmingly pro-choice, while Republicans are fairly evenly divided.
Large majorities of voters want government-funded family planning and sex education to stem teen pregnancy.
Intriguingly, half those surveyed incorrectly identify immigration as the leading cause of California’s population growth, while only 15% correctly identify births inside California.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is having a busy day today. He unveiled his first budget proposal early this morning for fiscal year 2010 with remarks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Then he received the daily presidential briefing on intelligence and national security matters in the Oval Office.
Budget Director Peter Orszag and Council of Economic Advisors chair Christina Romer hold a press conference to discuss the budget, then Obama has his weekly luncheon with Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office.
Press secretary Robert Gibbs holds his daily briefing at 11 AM Pacific and Obama meets with the Congressional Black Caucus in the White House.
Then Obama and Biden hold back-to-back meetings with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
President Barack Obama honored Stevie Wonder last night in the White House.
This evening, Obama hosts his hometown Chicago Bulls basketball team in the White House.
Last night, it was Obama favorite Stevie Wonder.
Obama’s budget proposal is big, some $3.6 trillion. It’s inflated to a large degree because he is no longer keeping some spending commitments off the books, as the Bush/Cheney Administration did.
And here’s how the New York Times describes it: President Obama’s new budget blueprint estimates a stunning deficit of $1.75 trillion for the current fiscal year, which began five months ago, then lays out a wrenching change of course as he seeks to fund his own priorities while stanching the flow of red ink.
By redirecting enormous streams of deficit spending toward programs like health care, education and energy, and paying for some of it through taxes on the rich, pollution surcharges, and cuts in such inviolable programs as farm subsidies, the $3.55 trillion spending plan Mr. Obanma is undertaking signals a radical change of course that Congress has yet to endorse.
The deficit he inherited, a shortfall of more than $1 trillion as the current fiscal year began, has continued to swell in recent months with additional bank bailouts, the first wave of spending from the newly enacted stimulus plan and the continuing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The administration, as it had announced, will try to cut that amount sharply by 2013, when Mr. Obama’s first term ends, to $533 billion, even as it escalates spending on crucial priorities.
“There are times when you can afford to redecorate your house,” Mr. Obama said on Thursday morning as he released an outline of the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in October, “and there are times when you have to focus on rebuilding its foundation.”
His administration will attempt to close the large fiscal gap even while starting a major health-care initiative meant to substantially extend coverage; to do so, it foresees increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans and using revenues from a new program: selling carbon credits to manufacturers as part of a cap-and-trade plan meant to slow climate change.
Further savings would come from such items as a proposal to phase out government payments to crop producers making more than $500,000. Additional revenues are posited from a tightening of tax-code enforcement.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger kicks off the campaign for five initiatives tied to the state budget compromise on the May 19th California special election ballot with a press conference this afternoon in Sacramento. The event will be at a child development center that would probably have closed had the budget deal not finally been reached.
Schwarzenegger will be joined at the event by other members of his newly formed California Budget Reform Now group, including Senate President Prom Tem Darrell Steinberg, former Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill, California Alliance for Jobs Executive Director Jim Earp, Placer County Sheriff and California State Sheriffs’ Association President Ed Bonner, Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, and California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg.
The shape of the opposition is still unclear.
** FAR RIGHT FURY OVER CALIFORNIA TAX HIKES AND OPEN PRIMARY. Bill Bennett told conservative California Republican convention delegates meeting in Sacramento just what they wanted to hear today. In a speech that sounded exactly like what he was saying 20 years ago — aside from substituting Islamic terrorists for Soviet Communists as the big bad — the veteran right-wing pundit and former Reagan era education secretary soothed the audience by telling them that their ideology hadn’t really lost in November. Because John McCain didn’t run as a conservative. Enough of a conservative, that is. And, besides, Barack Obama won big because the education system has brainwashed younger voters.
However, much as they liked being pandered to by Bennett’s old-time religion, California’s far right Republicans are fit to be tied now. After half of their state convention, they’re engaging in a
festival of recriminations over a half dozen of their legislators breaking ranks to pass a big tax increase to help out the strapped state budget, as well as another 15 GOP legislators voting to pass an open primary system in the Golden State. The two moves are viewed as anathema by the far right. …
** CALIFORNIA: THE FAR RIGHT’S RITUAL DANCE ON THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF. Yes, it is Groundhog Day. Again. California governance is poised on the edge of a cliff, for the sixth day in a row one Republican vote shy of passing a budgetary mix of spending cuts, tax increases, borrowing, and various reforms, real and otherwise, to plug the state’s $41-plus billion gap over 18 months. Meanwhile, an increasingly conservative Republican Party in this state Barack Obama carried by 24 points dances about in a ritual purification ceremony, promoting non-existent budget solutions and launching coups against conservative party leaders who prove too pragmatic for the true believers.
Before getting to the unintentionally fascinating Republican politics, a word about the state budget. California has had a chronic budget problem dating back to the relatively short-lived dot-com boom, when it took on unsustainable spending programs and tax cuts, with both parties taking part in the party. Then Governor Gray Davis ended up going along, though he had told me he wouldn’t. The pressure from his own party was very strong.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger was swept into office in the 2003 recall, prompted mainly by Davis’s handling of the state’s electric power crisis early in the decade, the former action superstar promptly cut the car tax, to massive public approval. (Davis made two mistakes, incidentally, in the electric power crisis, which saw brief blackouts and skyrocketing rates in a partially deregulated system. First, in looking to Bill Clinton’s regulators (who didn’t help) and not immediately moving to long-term power contracts as the crisis began — Davis and his advisors shortsightedly didn’t want even a small increase in electric rates — and, later, in not moving very aggressively against merchant power generators manipulating the system.)
This combination of spending increases and tax cuts created a structural budget deficit, routinely papered over with accounting legerdemain and borrowing. The state made some progress, but everything went decidedly south with the advent of what is now the global economic crisis. Unlike the federal government, which can print money and borrow from China, as it did for eight years under George W. Bush, California has to balance its budget every year, or at least do a fairly convincing job of faking it. And unlike the federal government — and all but two other, much smaller states — California has the near unique requirement of a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature to pass a budget or increase a tax. But not to cut a tax.
Enter the Republicans, who are getting more and more conservative as their ranks shrink. …
** AFGHANISTAN: RUSSIA TO THE RESCUE. In a very positive sign for the US effort in Afghanistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that transit of US and NATO non-military supplies through Russia to troops in Afghanistan will begin within days.
Ironically, this comes on the 20th anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Kabul. And the man who commanded those Soviet forces, retired Lieutenant General Boris Gromov, warned the US today that a military surge in Afghanistan will not solve its problems there.
With our putative ally Pakistan increasingly unstable and jihadists carrying out many successful attacks on supply lines and convoys there — they seem to blow up the route over the legendary Khyber Pass every other week — alternative means of supply are increasingly necessary to sustain the US and NATO effort in Afghanistan.
That means, one way or another, Moscow, which can provide transit through its own territory and guarantee transit through Central Asian nations formerly part of the Soviet Union. There’s been a major dance underway for weeks on this, unreported by the conventional media, naturally. …
** “POST-PARTISANSHIP”: HOW IT WORKS, HOW IT DOESN’T. Back in 2007, when he was still an underdog candidate for president jousting with John Edwards (remember him?), Barack Obama said that he liked the “post-partisan” posturings of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the idea that people should set aside their partisan differences to solve big issues. Now, as president, he’s adopted much the same tack, to the dismay of hyper-partisans of all stripes.
They ought to be dismayed, because it works. To a point.
But not in a linear sense.
Let’s take a look at how it went in California, and how it may go in Washington. … From my February 12th column.
** OH, ABOUT THAT “END” OF THE OBAMA HONEYMOON … From my February 9th column.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial.
Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S CALIFORNIA. Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included.
Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. After crashing over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil is trading in the $45 per barrel range.
The oil rally of about $10 per barrel over the last week coincides with the enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, which traders think will stimulate more economic activity.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.