Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rather quiet in Iraq

It is rather amazing that Iraq is as calm as it is, almost a relative sense of normalcy. Even before President Obama has gotten a chance to lift a finger, Iraq is suddenly no longer a top news issue. Sure, we still have many thousands of troops there, but there seems to be a sense that a gradual drawdown will actually be feasible without any dramatic efforts from our new commander in chief. The biggest issue may simple be how to actually base and structure the more limited numbers of troops that will remain after we have officially "withdrawn" 16 or 18 months from now.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, January 30, 2009

Task force to study how to rejuvenate the middle class

Almost 18 months ago I wrote a post on the need to rejuvenate the dying middle class in America, so I am glad to see that somebody in Washington has woken up to that reality as President Obama and VP Biden have announced the formation of a task force to study and hopefully "fix" the middle class - the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families. Whether their efforts will go anywhere is another matter, but at least they are taking a step in the right direction. Limited details about the task force are available. The short summary:

The Task Force is a major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America. It is comprised of top-level administration policy makers, and in addition to regular meetings, it will conduct outreach sessions with representatives of labor, business, and the advocacy communities. The Task Force will be chaired by Vice President Joe Biden. The Vice President and members of the task force will work with a wide array of federal agencies that have responsibility for key issues facing the middle class and expedite administrative reforms, propose Executive orders, and develop legislative and policy proposals that can be of special importance to working families.

Goals include:

  • Expanding education and lifelong training opportunities
  • Improving work and family balance
  • Restoring labor standards, including workplace safety
  • Helping to protect middle-class and working-family incomes
  • Protecting retirement security

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What do the Republicans want from the stimulus package?

Sure, the Republicans are raising a big stink about the stimulus plan, but in the end it may not take too much to get a bunch of moderate Republicans to go along in the Senate. From a Reuters article by Richard Cowan entitled "Obama and Congress seek deal on economic stimulus":

McConnell said a main goal for the Senate Republicans will be to increase the amount of tax cuts in the package so they amount to 40 percent of the overall measure, with the rest in emergency spending.

The House-passed bill is closer to 33 percent being devoted to tax cuts -- not hugely different from McConnell's goal.

Give them another $10 billion or so in tax cuts and a number of moderate Republicans will go along with the deal.

I am sure the Republicans want a bunch of other goodies and to strip out some of the Democratic goodies, but the big deal is to assure that the moderate Republicans get enough tax cuts in the bill. Sure, that will make the bill bigger, but in this environment that is not a problem.

President Obama still has a good shot at getting his 80 votes in the Senate, but that is no slam-dunk. Still, 70 to 75 votes could easily be within reach and give the Senate version of the bill at least a somewhat bi-partisan flavor.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Al Gore's Senate climate crisis testimony

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has posted the testimony (prepared statement) of former Vice President Al Gore at a hearing on climate change entitled "Addressing Global Climate Change: The Road to Copenhagen." There was a lot of Q&A and discussion (and pictures) that followed that is not in the prepared statement. Ranking Member Senator Lugar presented a prepared opening statement, but committee Chairman Kerry did not have a prepared opening statement.

I have not read through all of this in detail yet, but there does not appear to be much of anything new, but simply people saying we need to get back on the pre-Bush track and pick up the pace and show some true global leadership.

-- Jack Krupansky

Major milestone for stimulus bill

Although the final stimulus package will inevitably be somewhat different from the bill just passed by the House, the vote was still a major milestone. It would have been nice to have them vote on something much closer to the final bill, but this is the way things are typically done in Washington, despite President Obama's call for "change." The Democrats got to vote for their vision of the package and the Republicans got to vote against it.

The Senate bill, still not in its final form, will likely be larger than the House bill and garner at least a modest level of bipartisan support. It sounds as if the Senate will vote next week.

Then, we will have two very versions of the same basic bill. A conference committee will be appointed, back-room negotiations will occur, and deals and changes will be made, enough to get some semblance of bipartisan support in the conference committee. The final bill could have major differences. It may seem odd that the conference committee can essentially rewrite the entire bill to its liking, but that is the way the process works. The actual conference committee members are carefully chosen by the congressional leadship of each party, so the members can be expected to deliver whatever the leadersip negotiates. Overall, the final bill will likely follow the rough contours of the original proposal(s), not identical, but close enough that the average American might not notice the differences, other than a significantly higher price tag.

Then, that final bill will go to the President to sign.

Despite a lot of negative media headlines, the process is actually going amazingly well and on a great schedule. There should not be any major obstacles to getting the bill passed before the end of the second week of February.

Then, the really big debate begins: how soon will money actually flow into the economy and actually show up in the economic reports.

A somewhat longer debate will be how soon we will actually see jobs created, and then how soon the net created jobs begin to exceed losses.

-- Jack Krupansky

Are we really sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year for foreign oil to the most dangerous and unstable regions of the world?

Former Vice President Al Gore continues to misrepresent the amount of money the U.S. spends on crude oil imports from "the most dangerous and unstable regions of the world". According to ABC News, today he said:

As long as we continue to send hundreds of billions of dollars for foreign oil -- year after year -- to the most dangerous and unstable regions of the world, our national security will continue to be at risk.

Hundreds of billions? Really? I would like to see his math!

According to the Department of Energy Energy Information Administration, in November of 2008 the U.S. imported 9.817 million barrels of oil per day from all countries. That included 2.028 million barrels per day from Canada, our largest source of imported oil, 1.461 million barrels per day from Saudi Arabia, our second largest source, and 1.296 million barrels per day from Mexico, our third largest source. The U.S. itself produced 5.064 million barrels per day in 2007.

Excluding Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and the UK, countries which any sane person would not consider "dangerous and unstable regions of the world", our crude imports were 6.096 million barrels per day in November.

That works out to 2.225 billion barrels of crude oil imported each year from "the most dangerous and unstable regions of the world", including Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia, Nigeria, Iraq, Angola, Columbia, etc.

At $100 a barrel, that would work out to $222.5 billion, technically "hundreds" of billions, but at $50 a barrel those "dangerous" imports work out to $111.3 billion, hardly "hundreds of billions." Even at $75 a barrel, it only costs $166.9 billion, still not in the "hundreds of billions." At $60 per barrel, the cost would be $133.5 billion.

Sure, if you forecast oil up at $200 per barrel, then the cost would go up to $445 billion, but we are not dealing with $200 oil at this time.

There, that's my math. Now, if only we could get the former Vice President (and Nobel Laureate) to start being a little more honest and transparent. I am not holding my breath.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, January 23, 2009

Senate Finance Committee work on stimulus bill

As promised, the Senate Finance Committee has released its preliminary proposal for its portion of the fiscal stimulus package. Frankly, it is not easy reading, but here it is, split into four documents:

That last document is the closest to being readable, it is titled "Tax Relief Included in 'The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." The first document goes into the gory details.

Note that even these documents are not the actual bill, but semi-readable summary documents for people to review and the guidance for staff to go forward. The actual bill will be presented for "markup" on Tuesday, January 27, 2009.

Note that the almost-official name of the bill is "American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009." The initials are A-R-R-T-A. I guess we can start calling it "arta."

Oh no... I just noticed... the name used in that fourth document, admittedly a less formal document, is "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan", the initials being T-A-R-R-P, awfully close to the much-maligned TARP plan. Maybe somebody's idea of a joke. Sigh. But, that is not the official name, yet.

When Congress gets done with this thing it is going to look like a cross between a Christmas tree and a sausage. Got that visual image? Something for everybody, something for everybody to hate, and what comes out will not look like anything that went in. But, the truth is that this bill has only one real purpose: to spend a lot of money as quickly as possible and as widely in the economy as possible.

-- Jack Krupansky

Obama and Pelosi and the stimulus bill game

President Obama is patiently biding his time waiting for House Speaker Pelosi and her compatriots to finish playing their partisan games with their partisan Democrat stimulus bill. Sure, they can probably pass a partisan Democrat stimulus bill in the House, but since it won't pass muster in the Senate, so what is the point. Somehow, they will manage to score some "political points" and can say "See, look, we tried and look what the mean-spirited Republicans did!" Barack knows that the current House stimulus bill is a goner, but he is smart enough to know that his best strategy is to go ahead and let the House Democrats "score" their political points and then he can do his community organizing thing and sit down with the Republicans to find out what they need to give him something close to the 80 votes he wants in the Senate.

Barack is supposed to sit down in a bipartisan meeting of congressional leaders today, but that will still be mostly for "show" since the House Democrats are truly hell-bent on passing a partisan Democrat stimulus bill even if it is headed nowhere. Sure, Barack will make a semi-serious attempt to jawbone House Democrats into being less partisan, but this early in his administration he simply has not earned his spurs to be doing any heavy arm-twisting. Besides, he really does want to go the community organizing route, which means that you simply keep meeting with the parties around the table until they are too worn down to object to settling for a common-ground proposal.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are at work developing less-partisan legislation, which will probably be much closer to the eventual stimulus package.

The stimulus effort is actually making great progress. There is still a full week left in January. The main thing holding up true progress is the House Democratic insistence on pursuing a partisan House-only bill before getting down to pursuing a wide-majority bi-partisan bill.

The House is far more rambunctious than the sedate Senate, so Pelosi does have to give House Democrats a lot of leeway before trying to rein them in. She may in fact privately concur that a much more bi-partisan approach is needed, but she probably also believes that she needs to "put up a good fight" in order to stay king/queen of the hill in the House.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New -- massive blunder, broken links

On its surface, the new, especially with a blog, is a great idea. Unfortunately, the implementation has scored a major blunder: all links to historical, archival content on the "old" White House web site from blogs and other web sites are now hopelessly broken!! Oops.

What they really need is to restore the old web site to a shadow "archive" location and then have a piece of proxy software that redirects valid old archival links to the shadow "archive" location.

The same goes for archival content for speeches of political appointees at the Department of State, for example.

I find this "purge" to be rather offensive, and wholly unnecessary. It is an example of partisan political chicanery at its worst.

-- Jack Krupansky

What is this "new era of responsibility" all about?

Although Barack Obama's whole campaign was centered on "change", his inaugural address referred to a "new era of responsibility":

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

So, what is different from before the address was given? What new responsibilities do we have?

Or was this simply a dig at the Bush administration, suggesting that their "values" were off-key in some ways?

The full paragraph does not provide much more context for this "new era":

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

It is also not clear whether his focus is on the responsibilities of the government or businesses or the responsibilities of individual citizens or all of the above. I certainly hope that he was not trying to suggest that only citizens shoulder full responsibility and that somehow politicians and business leaders and managers are supposed to get some kind of free pass from responsibility for their decisions and actions.

Maybe, when he refers to "a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties" he is in fact attempting to remind politicians and business leaders and managers that they individually have responsibilities to the people, society, and the world as well as to their bosses, boards of directors, and shareholders. Maybe, but his tortured prose, as eloquent as it is, is far from clear.

In the preceding passage of the address he said that "For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies." That seems to refer to the people as individuals, but still fails to make clear whether he is or is not saying that it is our leaders, politicians and business executives, who have the bulk of the "responsibility" for the high-level decisions and direction of the nation as a whole, are going to be held more accountable. The American "people" did not decide to invade Iraq. The American "people" are not deciding that President Obama should send more troops to Afghanistan. Where exactly is the responsibility?

He also mentioned above "This is the price ... of citizenship", but he did not elaborate on that in a clear and unambiguous manner. Yes, we as individual citizens do have responsibilities [speed limits, taxes, jury duty - yay!!], but what differences is he suggesting for this "new era"?

Who knows, maybe this was all just a teaser, a hint of a specific speech to come. Or, maybe he is simply saying that his administration and Congress must now be seen as being more "responsible" than the Bush administration and earlier Congresses.

The only other reference to "responsibility" in the entire address was an early reference to its negative, "irresponsibility", as in "Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some." Sure, we want bankers and regulators to be more "responsible", but is he suggesting a level of responsibility as it was eight years ago, or something different?

I believe that there is a role for individual responsibility, but that is a level of responsibility that is outside the review and control of the government. Rather, our politicians and business leaders need to take on an entirely new view of their responsibilities to "us."

In short, I am not sure what President Obama was really asking for or from any of us on this issue of a "new era of responsibility."

Maybe it was some kind of insider "progressive" code language that I am not aware of.

We will have to see how it unfolds, or maybe it was simply a little too much over-the-top eloquence on the part of the new Orator-in-Chief.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, January 19, 2009

Is Hamas really a terrorist group?

From an article in The New York Times by Ethan Bronner entitled "Parsing Gains of Gaza War" :

Shlomo Brom, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and a retired brigadier general, said it was wrong to consider Hamas a group of irrational fanatics.

"I have always said that Hamas is a very rational political movement," he said. "When they use suicide bombings, for example, it is done very consciously, based on calculations of the effectiveness of these means. You see, both sides understand the value of calculated madness. That is one reason I don't see an early end to this ongoing war."

Continuing to label ("designate") Hamas and Hezbollah (Hizballah) as "terrorist groups" or "terrorist organizations" will continue to be counterproductive. They are certainly paramilitary organizations, but are political organizations as well.

How to effectively deal with such "extremists" is an open question, but a policy of extermination has not been very effective to date, as the Israelis with all of their military might have proven.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, January 16, 2009

Should there be an inquest into crimes and abuses commited by the Bush administration?

New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman asks:

Why, then, shouldn't we have an official inquiry into abuses during the Bush years?

I would answer than Congress has had ample opportunity to review and question just about every decision made by the Bush administration over the past eight years. That should be enough.

Congress could have impeached President Bush if it felt so strongly that "crimes" had been committed. For whatever reasons, Congress chose not to do so. That should be enough.

Barack Obama could have decided that such an inquest was a priority for himself, his administration, and the American people, but he has decided that it is not a top priority at this time. That should be enough.

Oddly, for all of their support for Barack Obama in the presidential campaign, Krugman and the other so-called progressives have decided that they know better than Barack Obama how a Barack Obama presidency should set its priorities. These people think of themselves as being above the president. They indeed look down on the president. They in fact look at Barack Obama as if he were a mere puppet to do their bidding, the way the Neo-conservatives looked at President Bush.

Myself, I have faith that Barack Obama will do the right thing.

Who knows, maybe Barack Obama or even Congress will decide to investigate Bush-era policies. If so, so be it, but it is not up to Paul Krugman or the rest of The Progressives to demand that the president or Congress take actions that may not necessarily be in the best interest of all Americans, which is the criteria that an Obama Administration should be using.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Summary of House $825 billion stimulus bill now available

Finally, after all the chatter and rumors, a summary of the big fiscal stimulus bill is available, at least the House version. Released by the House Appropriations Committee, the summary calls the bill the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009, and it totals $825 billion in stimulus. The summary tells us that:

In the next two weeks, the Congress will be considering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. This package is the first crucial step in a concerted effort to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs, jumpstart our economy, and begin the process of transforming it for the 21st century with $275 billion in economic recovery tax cuts and $550 billion in thoughtful and carefully targeted priority investments with unprecedented accountability measures built in.

The package contains targeted efforts in:

  • Clean, Efficient, American Energy
  • Transforming our Economy with Science and Technology
  • Modernizing Roads, Bridges, Transit and Waterways
  • Education for the 21st Century
  • Tax Cuts to Make Work Pay and Create Jobs
  • Lowering Healthcare Costs
  • Helping Workers Hurt by the Economy
  • Saving Public Sector Jobs and Protect Vital Services

The summary does detail each of those areas at least to the bullet-point level, but trying to make sense of that level of budgetary detail is difficult unless you are a budget analyst.

I do appreciate the first phrase quoted above, "In the next two weeks, the Congress will be considering", which makes it sounds as if they are serious about trying to pass a bill by the end of the month. Or, maybe that is just for the House version and then there would be two weeks to recouncile the House and Senate bills and the will of the Obama team. We will see.

Note, this is not the actuall bill, but simply a summary of the main points. The summary provides something to talk about and feed into negotiations. It may get revised further before committee staff goes off to draft the actual bill.

It is unclear whether a core collection of Republican moderates are already onboard for the points contained in the summary, or whether this is their first viewing and maybe significant negotiations may be needed to finalize details sufficient for a bill that could pass the House and have a chance of being acceptable by moderate senators.

In any case, this is a good start and shows that great progress is being made.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, January 12, 2009

Oh no... Unconfirmed Sources report that zero shortage threatens Obama stimulus plan

Just when I though Obama was in for some smooth sailing, now I read that Unconfirmed Sources are saying that "Zero Shortage Threatens Obama Stimulus Plan." The report states that:

Unconfirmed sources are reporting that a shortage of zeros, is threatening to derail the Obama transition team's stimulus plans. The impending shortage of the "0" digit was discovered yesterday as copies of the proposed plan were being printed to distribute to members of congress. All federal agencies are being tasked to help conserve zeros until the crisis is over.

The report elaborates that:

"I was watching the print outs come off the machine when I noticed that some of the budget numbers looked too small." Says Stacey Goodman, of the Obama transition team. "I noticed that some of the zero's were missing. I then went to refill the zeros in the printer and found out the whole office was out. I then called around and discovered that everybody was running low on zeros."

Further noting that:

It seems that the massive size of all the numbers flying around Washington are putting a strain on the nation's zero supply. A quick informal survey of zero suppliers finds that, industry wide, zero's are being used faster than they can be made.

The report provides some background on the source of the problem:

"I've never seen anything like it." Says Ken Burton of Burton Digital Digits Manufacturing Co. "We are normally able to keep up with the demand for all numerals and letters, but the size of the numbers being used today has caught all of us suppliers off guard. We are trying to ramp up production of zeros, but these things take time. It could be weeks before we can meet the new demand."

The report concludes by passing on a caution from the government:

In the mean time government officials and suppliers are recommending that people try to use other digits to conserve the number of zero's available.

There was no mention as to whether existing zeros can be recycled.

As to their recommendation that other digits be used, they neglected to recommend any rationing plan for different digits since an obvious switch to the "1" digit would simply result in another shortage of a critical digit. Possibly each organization should consider using the last digit of their local zip code so that we get a more uniform use of digits to avoid future shortages.

Or, maybe it is time to expand from ten digits to twenty or even one hundred. That could shorten the lengths of these big numbers and possibly save paper. Besides "million" is a lot less scary than "trillion." How many people even know what a trillion is?!?!?!! Quick: How many zeros do you need for a trillion?

Hmmm... I did check the date and it is not April 1, so this report is probably not a joke, but it could be a hoax or a scam of some sort. Who knows...

Hey, you have to admit that this "hoax" is more realistic than a lot of the media coverage for the Obama stimulus plan.

What's next, a shortage of waterdoodles and labra hounds?

-- Jack Krupansky

Labradoodles, water hounds, and fiscal stimulus

While the American people are anxiously awaiting the passage of a massive fiscal stimulus bill, media coverage tells us precisely where the priorities of the media are: focusing on labradoodles and water hounds. And when they get bored, taking a cheap shot at Obama's efforts to pass a stimulus bill is a second-best choice. When it comes to priorities, the media all too often focuses on fun and games rather than on truth and enlightenment.

Fine, let the media focus on labradoodles and water hounds. Meanwhile, the Obama economic team is working to coordinate a fiscal stimulus package that can gain congressional support in the near future.

They seem right on track. The Obama team, that is. Not the media, unless your real interest is labradoodles and water hounds.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Despite the criticisms and "rifts", Obama stimulus bill amazingly on schedule

Barack Obama is actually committed to an open and constructive dialog with Congress, including the Republicans. It is only natural that such an open dialog would lead to criticisms and even disputes, and that the media will gleefully label even the most minor of molehills with such impressive terms as "rifts." The goal of the stimulus bill was never to be something crafted only by the White House and shoved down the throats of members of Congress. Maybe the perception problem is that the media acted during the campaign as if Barack was being elected as a god ("The One") and is now acting confused when he insists on practicing his consummate community organizing skills in Washington. Barack is right on track. The media is behind the curve, obsessing on its own misguided narratives. Meanwhile, Barack and his economic team have presented Congress with a credible starting point, met with the various constituencies in Congress, gotten plenty of frank and constructive feedback, and is already at work modifying their proposal. And all of this is in a single week and Barack is not even in charge yet. That is amazing progress, but you would not know it from the media coverage.

Seeing where the discussions were at the end of this week, it is still very possible that a completed bill could be passed and signed by the end of the month.

Barack and his team and Congress still have all of next week, parts of inauguration week, and the entire following week to pull it all together. That is a dog's age in Barack Obama community organizing time. The media refuses to acknowledge that reality, but they may begin to catch on in a few weeks.

This is by all means a real test of Barack's abilities and organizing skills, but I strongly suspect that he really is up to the challenge.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What concessions will Barack Obama make to the Republicans to get a timely stimulus bill passed by a wide margin?

Although there has been talk of the big stimulus bill being delayed until the middle of February, I think this is simply the "same old games of Washington" mentality trying to take root again, and premised on the Democrats proposing an unacceptable bill that passes the House and then fails in the Senate and then gets renegotiated to be what it should have been in the first place. But, in meetings on Monday, Barack apparently indicated that he wanted a bill sooner than what people were talking about. There was also talk that he is determined to get 80 votes in the Senate. That makes a lot of sense to me, but suggests that major concessions will be needed. The ultimate question is what concessions Barack Obama will be willing to make to the Republicans in the Senate in order to assure that the bill gets passed, gets passed with a fairly wide margin of moderate Republicans, does not get blocked by angry right-wing Republicans, and gets passed ASAP, within a few days of the innauguration.

The precise list of concessions is not as important as the question of process. Barack is a strong enough community organizer to be able to deeply comprehend the extent to which he will need to make moderate Republicans relatively comfortable with any stimulus plan, as well as to assure that no right-wing Republicans feel offended enough to block the bill with parliamentary maneuvers. I am 100% confident that Barack knows this "game" well and will play it well, despite opposition to compromise that will come from his Progressive supporters.

I look forward to Barack signing a solid stimulus bill before the first of February.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Does Pelosi get the message about working with the Republicans?

In his weekly address, Barack Obama talks in vague terms that "the problems we face today are not Democratic problems or Republican problems... These are America's problems, and we must come together as Americans to meet them with the urgency this moment demands." and that "we need an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." I am sure that Barack fully understands that he needs more than a couple of Republicans onboard if he wants a plan that is as grandiose as he envisions and as quickly as he correctly deems it necessary, but I have seen no evidence that Pelosi and her fellow Democratic hench-persons in both houses of Congress are in fact ready if not enthusiastic about accommodating the alternative views of a moderate number of moderate Republicans. From news reports, it does sound as if Barack's stimulus (or "recovery and reinvestment") team has been instructed to incorporate items from an earlier House stimulus bill, but that is surely a recipe for arriving at a standoff with most Republicans in the Senate. I suspect that Barack knows that this will be the result in the very near term (this week) and that he has "calculated" that he needs to allow that result to show that he is nominally on the side of the Progressive wing of the Democratic party. Once that standoff is reached, Barack can then turn to Pelosi, et al and wait for them to finally admit that they will have to make some concessions in order to get their bill passed. Barack will not have to say anything. The Democrats already know that concessions are needed, but they need to play to The Progressives and pretend that the Democrats "control" Congress. This is the way "The Game" is played in Washington. Sure, Barack said he wanted to stop playing "the same old games of Washington", but he wants fast, substantial results, so that's what is required.

So, the question is what Progressive elements of the current, unseen American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will need to be ditched and what minimal collection of Republican stimulus policies need to be added to get at least a dozen moderate Republicans to vote for the bill and to not have it be so toxic to the remaining right-wing Republicans that they engage in parliamentary stalling tactics.

Barack said:

I look forward to meeting next week in Washington with leaders from both parties to discuss this plan.  I am optimistic that if we come together to seek solutions that advance not the interests of any party, or the agenda of any one group, but the aspirations of all Americans...

The first part about "discuss this plan" suggests that his initial proposal is somehow already cut into stone and he will be like Moses presenting the Ten Commandments, but then he goes on to say "seek solutions that advance not the interests of any party, or the agenda of any one group", suggesting that significant changes would be permitted, even bi-partisan changes that are not strictly supported by only the Democrats. These are conflicting messages, but I suspect that is intentional on his part.

What Barack is really saying is that his initial proposal incorporates most if not all of the Progressive economic agenda, which should convince The Progressives that he is nominally on their side, but that he fully recognizes that compromise with moderate Republicans will be required and essential and in fact a good thing.

To be fair, Pelosi may in fact agree with this approach 100%, but for political reasons cannot and must not challenge The Progressives and admit that compromise will be even considered.

So, this necessary Democratic pandering to The Progressives means that an economic stimulus plan needs to be rolled out in this multi-step fashion, with step one being intentionally crippled to pander to The Progressives, step two being moderate Republicans shaking their heads "No", step three being Barack meeting with all of the "injured" parties, step four being Pelosi acknowledging that the Senate does not have the votes, step five being modifications to make the plan bi-partisan, and finally passable by the Senate.

-- Jack Krupansky