American Elephants


Now That He Has Averted a Shutdown, Obama Will Lay Out a Plan on Wednesday. by The Elephant's Child

Recent polls indicate that American voters disapprove of the job President Obama is doing, and they don’t like the way he handling the economy, the budget deficit, health care, foreign policy and energy policy.  According to Quinniapiac, 60 percent of Americans disapprove of his performance on the economy.  The Real Clear Politics average shows that 63% of Americans believe the country is on “the wrong track”, a staggering  34% higher than those that believe the country is heading in” the right direction.”

Yesterday, at a town hall meeting at Fairless Hills, PA, Obama introduced a new theme.  He is going to help the economy to grow, reduce our dependence on oil, double clean energy, and he’s not going to allow the usual Washington politics to stand in the way of America’s progress (by which he means his policy goals). He is arguing that those who disagree with his policies are engaged in politics.

He dropped by the Lincoln Memorial Saturday to tell the tourists that the reason they were able to enjoy the memorial instead of it being shut down was because Congress had done the hard work of coming to an agreement.  How do they shut down the Lincoln Memorial?  Do they put up big sheets of plywood?  Are there doors that I never saw?  I suppose they would have shut down the cherry blossoms around the tidal basin too.

Presidential adviser David Plouffe appeared on several Sunday shows, and said that the president would lay out a broad plan to reduce the nation’s soaring deficit and debt this week, going further than he has before to scale back costly entitlement programs such as Medicare and other social programs,

In a proposal that will also include calls for hiking taxes on the rich, Obama will make clear he “believes we need significant deficit reduction in the coming years.  The president’s deficit reduction plan would include cuts to government health insurance and a discussion over reforming Social Security, as well as eliminating Bush-era tax cuts for people making over $250,000.  “We can’t take a machete, we have to take a scalpel, and we’re going to have to cut, we’re going to have to look carefully.You’re going to have to look at Medicare and Medicaid and see what kind of savings you can get.”

Eric Cantor, House majority leader said: “I sit here and I listen to David Plouffe talk about their commitment to cut spending, and knowing full well that for the last two months, we’ve had to bring this president kicking and screaming to the table to cut spending.”

Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who is the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee summed it up:

The President recently submitted a budget to Congress that was the most irresponsible spending plan any President has ever put forward. Today’s announcement that the President will deliver an address this week on deficit reduction is an apparent recognition that the budget plan he submitted to Congress, as required by law, fails to address our dire fiscal challenges. However, it will not be sufficient for the President to simply make a speech. Instead, he must fulfill his duty as president and submit a new budget plan to Congress specifically setting forth the changes he wishes to make to his previous proposal, including both mandatory and discretionary savings. The President’s vision, whatever it is, must be presented in a detailed, concrete form. CBO must be able to score it and I and the Budget Committees in the House and Senate must be able to scrutinize it. I am uneasy that this announcement has been made not by a substantive policy official such as his budget director or Treasury Secretary but by the President’s top political advisor.

By law, three bodies in Washington must present a budget: the House, the Senate, and the White House.

That’s where it stands.



Leadership Demonstrated: Paul Ryan, Straightforward and Honest. by The Elephant's Child

Here’s Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, with the weekly Republican address.  Chairman Ryan has produced a courageous budget, tackling  heretofore unaddressed entitlements.   He has changed the nature of the conversation and of the battle.  Earlier in the week, Majority Leader Harry Reid was wailing about dying women, and by late Friday, he was admitting that we had budget problems that had to be addressed.

The Democrat’s position had been that there was no problem and they needed to go right on spending. President Obama’s budget request raised the spending ante sharply.  He is now saying that ‘we need to cut, but we don’t have to do it with a machete, we can do it with a scalpel.’  I don’t believe that the president is willing to cut anything major at all. He said in Fairless Hills that he wants a budget for 2011 that still invests in clean energy, research, infrastructure and education, a strong indication that he has no intention of cutting anything except those things important to Republicans like, say, National Security and Defense.

We need to help people to understand how dire our situation is, and what a short window we have open to do something about it.  Paul Ryan is really good at this. That’s real leadership.



How Are We Doing With The Information Explosion? Are We Winning or Losing? by The Elephant's Child

Does it seem to anyone else that the media has slipped off the rails?  The Japanese earthquake and tsunami has, of course, been an unbelievable disaster. The devastation wrought by the tsunami  photographed by people on the scene who were, I guess, trapped there and all they could do was record what was going on before their eyes.

When it came to the nuclear plants damaged by the tsunami, the media descended into Armageddon.  It was N-U-C-L-E-A-R!!!  There was no discussion of what consisted of dangerous radiation and what was not.  News reports said that radiation was detected in West Coast milk.  We are surrounded with radiation all the time. We get x-rays at the dentist, and ordered by the doctor and think nothing of it. But radiation detected in the milk, and several million young mothers panic. Any explanation from the talking heads about what is or is not something to worry  about? Not that I heard.

From Steven Hayward “History suggests that nuclear power rarely kills and causes little illness.  That’s also the conclusion engineers reach when they model scenarios for thousands of potential accidents” Washington Post, front page 4/02/11.  See here, and here for more information.

The federal fiscal year budget for 2011 was supposed to have been passed last September. The press didn’t care. Then suddenly, if the House, the Senate and the President didn’t agree by midnight Friday, the government would shut down. Drama. Old people would starve, women would die, children would die, wretched excess all around.  Armageddon!  Did you hear anyone mention that the government had shut down several times before, and it never lasted more than a day or two?

One event drives all others off the front page.  Libya, Egypt, Morocco; earthquake in New Zealand; mosque at ground zero; shooting in Tucson; Madison, Wisconsin; BP oil spill in the Gulf; and on and on. Does the constant excess flow of information enhance your life and your understanding?  Or does it drive you to entertainment to escape? Do we all know little bits of many things when we should know a lot about a few big important things? Does the pace of change in technology affect our ability to know?

Things appear on Twitter as they are happening, but the format precludes any depth of information. Scenes of the earthquake and the  tsunami were uploaded to the internet only moments after they happened. The capabilities embodied in new technology lead us to think that we can predict the future.  How are we misled by an uncontrolled flow of information, and how can we control it for ourselves without having others step in to organize and control information for us?  There probably aren’t any real answers, but it is important, I believe, to think about it and try to understand when we are being informed and when we are being manipulated.

We are being manipulated.  There are major industries devoted to doing just that—advertising, political organizations, government, environmentalists; most of the flow of information is designed to manipulate your feelings, your attitudes, your politics, your prejudices.  Who is winning?




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