Monthly Archives: August 2007

What is Hillary Clinton Hiding?

Many have called the Bush administration the “most secretive administration in American history.” Among those making this charge is Hillary Clinton; likely the next to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (unfortunately). On Clinton’s website, she states that “We need a return to transparency and a system of checks and balances, to a president who respects Congress’s role of oversight and accountability.”

This is quite a departure from her days of her illegal holding of closed meetings regarding her socialized healthcare plan early in her husband’s administration. Perhaps she has had a change of heart about transparency in government since then?

Apparently, this policy does not apply to her campaign, however. Last week the AP reported that millions of documents being archived at the Bill Clinton Presidential Library from her husband’s administration will not be available until after the 2008 election (How convenient!). Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group and no doubt part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Clinton Library to compel the library to release the records. Ironically, Hillary Clinton might benefit from the Bush administration’s secrecy she so decries. In 2001, President Bush signed an executive order which allows former presidents to deem certain documents privileged and apparently exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Here’s a wonderful opportunity for Hillary Clinton to demonstrate how open she will be in leading her administration. All she needs to do is sweet talk her husband and have him release the documents which pertain to her. I’m sure she has nothing to hide.

The ball is in your court Hillary. Why should the American people believe you will be transparent in your administration if you will not be transparent in your campaign? The American people have a right to know before they choose the next president.

Congressional Approval Rating At Historic Lows

According to the latest Gallup Poll, Congress’s approval rating is at a low not seen since the days when guys like Tom Foley were in charge:

PRINCETON, NJ — A new Gallup Poll finds Congress’ approval rating the lowest it has been since Gallup first tracked public opinion of Congress with this measure in 1974. Just 18% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while 76% disapprove, according to the August 13-16, 2007, Gallup Poll.

That 18% job approval rating matches the low recorded in March 1992, when a check-bouncing scandal was one of several scandals besetting Congress, leading many states to pass term limits measures for U.S. representatives (which the Supreme Court later declared unconstitutional). Congress had a similarly low 19% approval rating during the energy crisis in the summer of 1979.

And what could the reason be for this historic low ? The Gallup people think there are a few:

Americans elected the Democrats as the majority party in Congress in November 2006’s midterm election in large part due to frustration with the Iraq war and an ineffective and scandal-plagued Republican-led Congress. But any hopes that the elections would lead to change have not been realized as Democrats’ repeated attempts to force a change in Iraq war policy have been largely unsuccessful due to presidential vetoes, disagreements within their own party, and the inability to attract Republican support for their policy proposals. Also, many of the Democratic leadership’s domestic agenda items have not become law even though some have passed one or both houses of Congress.

As the trend in congressional approval makes clear, ratings of Congress usually suffer during times of economic uncertainty, as during the late 1970s and early 1990s. While Americans’ ratings of current economic conditions are not near historical lows, there is a great deal of concern about the direction in which the economy is headed. The latest poll finds a record 72% of Americans saying the economy is “getting worse.”

It’s not at all surprising that the Democrats have disappointed the public. After all, the leadership that came into power in January isn’t all that different from the people that were in charge back when Newt Gingrich’s revolution rolled through the country and brought Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress. In fact, in some case, the same people who were in charge back then are in charge again now.

That’s the problem with the “throw the bums out” idea. More often than not, it really means “throw the bums out and bring back the bums we threw out the last time.” In the end, very little gets accomplished.

That’s why it’s time to start thinking about some radical ideas. Like term limits and returning Congress to the citizen legislature it was meant to be. And, although I know this is never likely to happen, repealing the 17th Amendment for the reasons I named in this post.

It’s time to start thinking some radical thoughts people.

Lose Your House, Get Screwed By The I.R.S.

It’s bad enough to end up in an economic conundrum where you lose your house to foreclosure, but, wait, there’s something worse waiting for you from your friends fiends at the Internal Revenue Service:

Two years ago, William Stout lost his home in Allentown, Pa., to foreclosure when he could no longer make the payments on his $106,000 mortgage. Wells Fargo offered the two-bedroom house for sale on the courthouse steps. No bidders came forward. So Wells Fargo bought it for $1, county records show.

Despite the setback, Mr. Stout was relieved that his debt was wiped clean and he could make a new start. He married and moved in with his wife, Denise.

But on July 9, they received a bill from the Internal Revenue Service for $34,603 in back taxes. The letter explained that the debt canceled by Wells Fargo upon foreclosure was subject to income taxes, as well as penalties and late fees. The couple had a month to challenge the charges.

For those who struggle to pay their bills, who watch their housing payments rise out of reach with their adjustable-rate mortgages, who lose a job or who fall victim to illness, losing one’s home can feel like hitting bottom. But one more financial indignity may await as the fallout from the great housing boom ripples across the United States.

“Getting that tax bill,” Mrs. Stout recalled, “my first thought was that I needed to see my family doctor to help me with my stress, because we had a big mortgage and other debt and then here came the I.R.S. saying we owe this.”

In other words, we’re here from Uncle Sam to tell you that even though you’ve lost your house, and you’re probably unemployed, we’re still gonna suck you dry based upon a definition of “income” that even the drafters of the 16th Amendment would’ve thought ridiculous.

More Blowback From The Credit Crunch

Since Brad brought up the economy in this morning’s open thread, I figured I’d post this article which I originally posted this morning at Below The Beltway. I’m not an economist either, but when credit starts drying up, bad things can happen.

It’s not just the mortgage industry that’s being affected:

U.S. corporations for years operated by the maxim that you have to borrow money to make money. Now, the well of cheap loans is running dry.

The corporate bond market, the MasterCard for U.S. companies, has slowed to levels not seen since the recession of the early 1990s, as rising defaults among mortgage borrowers are causing lenders to question loans going to companies as well.

Without a healthy bond market, a swath of corporate activity is eliminated and the economy slows down. Firms stop borrowing to buy drilling equipment for coal mines, plants for manufacturing cars and land for expanding restaurant chains.

“It affects everything,” Michael Tarsala, an analyst for Thomson Squawk Box, said of the bond market. “It’s access to capital. It’s the lifeblood of a lot of big S&P companies. . . . They’ve been encouraged to borrow money to make money for so long, and now the spigot’s suddenly been shut off.”

Shares of Hertz dropped 6 percent last week after concerns that it will struggle to get low-rate loans, the key source of financing for rental-fleet purchases.

Farm-equipment maker Deere & Co. said last week that it is “putting the brakes” on production of construction vehicles.

Mortgage giant Countrywide Financial on Thursday had to tap its entire $11.3 billion emergency funding line after it could not get short-term loans, known as “commercial paper,” from the bond markets.

Home Depot is rethinking a plan to borrow money to buy back $22 billion worth of its stock. The turmoil in the debt markets might also scuttle the $10.3 billion sale of its wholesale supply business.

These are the things that recessions are made of.

1 3 4 5 6 7 19