Obamacare is constitutional

June 29th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A big relief for Obama today. Reuters reports:

The US Supreme Court has upheld President Barack Obama’s healthcare law in an election-year triumph for him and fellow Democrats and a stinging setback for Republican opponents of the most sweeping overhaul of the unwieldy US healthcare system in about a half century.

In a 5-4 ruling based on the power of Congress to impose taxes, the court preserved the law’s “individual mandate” requiring that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax.

Opponents of the law had argued the mandate was an overreach by the federal government into the private lives of citizens. The court was deeply divided on this issue, but the majority ruled that Congress’ taxing power was more important.

The law’s “requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court’s majority.

“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” wrote Roberts, who was joined by the four most liberal members – Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor – in upholding the law’s key provision.

Very interesting that the Chief Justice voted with the liberal wing.

This is definitely good news for Obama. Having his major domestic achievement thrown out would have meant he would have very little domestic achievements to campaign on.

However I do find it hilarious that the left celebrate Obamacare as a huge victory for socialised medicine and the like. If a Republican President had proposed the key tenet of Obamacare, I suspect it would be decried around the world as vicitimising the poor.

You see Obama failed to get a law through which set up taxpayer funded healthcare as in the UK, Canada and New Zealand.

What he passed was basically a law saying it is illegal not to have private health insurance and we will fine you, if you don’t get some. Someone on Twitter said:

Oh no, poor people will get proper health care and avoid dying earlier?

Which I thought demonstrated they had no idea what the law actually does. The individual mandate does not extend health care to poor people. It fines poor people for not having health insurance.

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Obama on gay marriage

May 10th, 2012 at 1:18 pm by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

Equivocal no longer, US President Barack Obama has declared his support for gay marriage in a historic announcement that instantly elevated a polarising social issue to a more prominent role in the 2012 race for the White House.

On a personal level, its good to see Obama to have the guts to say what I suspect has been his actual position for a long time. It is a position I agree with (except I would probably not have the state involved in marriage at all, and just have the state register partnerships and allow people to call it a marriage if they want to, under whatever religion they may follow).

What is interesting is the potential political impact of Obama’s announcement. The US is split around 50/50 on this issue, but those against are vehemently against and will be highly motivated to turn out and vote if the election is pitched as a referendum on the gay marriage issue.

Of course it is in fact a decision for states, not the Federal Government, but Presidents appoint judges who rle on the constitutionality of various laws for and against gay marriage.

But Obama has the future on his side. He noted:

Obama touched on that in the interview.

He said he sometimes talks with college Republicans on his visits to campuses, and while they oppose his policies on the economy and foreign policy, “when it comes to same sex equality, or, you know, sexual orientation, that they believe in equality. They are more comfortable with it.”

There is a huge difference of views on issues such as gay marriage and gay adoption by age. Under 30s tend to be  massively in favour and over 60s massively opposed. That indicates that with the passage of time, there will be a clear majority in favour. But that may not be the case in 2012.

So a bold risk for Obama to announce this in election year, and I await with interest to see how it impacts the US elections.

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Its Romney v Obama

April 11th, 2012 at 7:13 am by David Farrar

Rick Santorum has suspended his presidential bid, which effectively confirms former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee.

Romney has around 60% of the delegates he needs, but should comfortably win enough in the remaining primaries.

It will be interesting to see if the GOP is able to unite behind Romney. Obama is the favourite at this stage – 61% on Intrade, against 37% for Romney. However the Republicans should now start to target Obama rather than each other.

The Pollster average of the polls has Obama at 46.1% and Romney 44.5%, so the race is definitely competitive. Of course it is electoral college votes that count, not the popular vote, but the two are linked.

Also at this stage the Republicans are favoured to retain the House and gain a majority in the Senate, so if Romney can win, he will probably have a supportive Congress.

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Oil subsidies

March 19th, 2012 at 4:04 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

President Barack Obama is calling anew on Congress to end tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry, saying America needs to develop alternative sources of energy in the face of rising petrol prices.

Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address that he expected Congress to consider in the next few weeks halting US$4 billion ($4.85 billion) in tax subsidies, something he hasn’t been able to get through Congress throughout his presidency. …

Industry officials and many Republicans in Congress have argued that cutting the tax breaks would lead to higher petrol prices, raising costs on oil companies and affecting their investments in exploration and production.

Obama is on the right side of this one. Just as I am against subsidies for bio-fuels (especially as they caused mass starvation with crops being converted to bio-fuels from grain), I am against subsidies for oil.

We should not shelter people from higher petrol prices. That is a market signal that supply is becoming more difficult, and will encourage investment in other technologies, plus encourage greater use of other forms of transport.

As for investments in exploration and production, you do not need subsidies for that. As petrol prices increase, then exploration of new reserves becomes economically viable.

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Well done Trevor

November 20th, 2011 at 11:51 am by David Farrar

Trevor Loudon blogs:

Thanks to the Tea Party, several radio interviews and a great plug from Glenn Beck, my book “Barack Obama and the Enemies Within” has jumped up to number 87 on Amazon (out of 600,000 titles).

Off to a good start. Hopefully we can maintain the momentum.

Making the top 100 on Amazon is a huge feat, especially for a Kiwi author. Of course the book is not on NZ politics, but US politics or specifically on Obama.

Having said that, I am very unenthused about the 2012 presidential election. I’d almost vote for Obama over Romney. Huntsman would be great, but he has little chance of winning the nomination.

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Goff attacks Key again

November 9th, 2011 at 10:42 am by David Farrar

It is becoming obvious that the last two weeks of the campaign are going to be non stop attacks on John Key. 3 News reports:

Labour leader Phil Goff says United States President Barack Obama is a great leader whereas Prime Minister John Key is a poor leader despite both nations having high unemployment and receiving credit downgrades since both leaders took office.

Unemployment in New Zealand has doubled and our credit rating has been downgraded twice by Standard and Poors since 2008.  

The United States’ unemployment has also doubled since before the global financial crisis and they have received a credit downgrade too.

Mr Goff told Firstline this morning that President Obama and Mr Key are incomparable because they inherited different fiscal situations.

It is worth recalling that Labour in fact left National with an economy that went into recession in 2008, a tradeable sector which had been shrinking since 2005 and a projected decade of deficits. Yes public debt was relatively low, but the spending track they left behind was unsustainable, and Labour opposed every single step National took to reduce spending.
But let us also look at how Americans actually rate Obama and Kiwis rate John Key.
Barack Obama’s net approval rating is -9%. John Key’s net approval rating is +53%. Note this is not a favourability rating asking do you like them. This is asking if people approve of the job they are doing.
I wonder when Labour will produce their equivalent of the 2008 H-Fee?
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Obama’s Record

September 10th, 2011 at 9:43 am by David Farrar

From the Wall Street Journal.

These are not of course all Obama’s fault. But it shows the challenge he will face with re-election. At present his best advantage is the comparative weakness of the Republican contenders.

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Belushi and Obama

August 23rd, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Enjoy this mashup of John Belushi in Blues Brothers, with Obama talking about the credit downgrade.

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Perry v Obama

August 16th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Texas Governor Rick Perry could well win the Republican  nomination. Already former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has pulled out after a poor showing in Ohio.

The Atlantic looks at Perry and Obama on jobs:

If Texas Governor Rick Perry is the Republican nominee for president, the 2012 election will have a striking parallelism. President Obama would ask voters to overlook a bad national economy for which he’s not fully responsible. The Republican challenger would ask voters to credit him for an impressive state economy for which he is also not fully responsible.

There are two themes here. One is that the likelihood of a politician to take ownership over an economy is directly proportional to the health of the economy. The other lesson is that even as political leaders can try to guide an economy, they are ultimately victims, or beneficiaries, of its underlying fundamentals.

The Texas miracle is, like so many miraculous things, complicated upon closer inspection. Texas accounted for 40 percent of the nation’s new jobs since June 2009. This impressive statistic is the result of geology, geography, history, and politics.

Texas is only 8% of the US population, so 40% of new jobs is an impressive figure.

Texanomics is well-suited to a recession stemming from a financial crisis. When consumers’ balance sheets are hurting, they seek out low cost-of-living. That’s Texas. When companies don’t have access to credit, they hire cheaper labor. Texas again. When young couples look to start a family, they’re drawn to affordable housing, nice weather, and industries that hire: Energy and aerospace in Houston, health care and military in San Antonio, tech and education in Austin, and communications and more energy Dallas.

And the politics:

That the stimulus was a PR-failure says more about the strength of the downturn than the weakness of the administration. But that’s an economist’s distinction, not a campaign platform. The president’s message to voters asks them to see the successes of his policies by imagining how bad things would be without them. In a rotten economy, Obama has to run on a hypothetical. The governor’s economic message is simpler. It’s reality. It’s “Look at Texas.” Perry isn’t entirely responsible for the state’s economic record. But he’s a record worth claiming.

Perry is at 39% to win the Republican nomination on In Trade. Next is Romney on 32%.

Obama’s price for re-election is at 52%, down from 56% a few weeks ago.

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How much of a bump will Obama get?

May 4th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The more I read about the Osama operation, the more you realise what a risk it was. This wasn’t some dumb luck, or bombs hitting the right place. It is a story of intelligence agencies piecing together a puzzle over many months, and then havign enough trust in the intelligence, but also the SEALs, to send a team in.  If the mission had turned out the same as Jimmy Carter’s helicopters in Iran, then Obama would probably be joining Carter as a one term President.

But the mission was flawless – no soldiers dead, no civilians dead, no neighbour destroyed etc.

Now this will not guarantee Obama is re-elected, but it sure will give his poll numbers a boost for a fair while. And it will pretty much permamently put heed to any notion of him not being tough enough on the war on terror.

Nate Silver blogs:

Historically, the correlation between a president’s overall approval rating and his rating on foreign affairs is stronger than is the case with his rating on the economy. If you place the two variables into a regression equation, it finds that foreign affairs is the more important component, although both are clearly statistically significant.

That is a surprise, as common wisdom is economic issues trump everything.

Unless the economic indicators significantly outperform consensus expectations, the election is still liable to be fairly close, with Mr. Obama hardly assured of coming out on top.

I think one of the boggest factors will be the quality of the Republican candidate also. Donald Trump is threatening to turn the race into a joke.

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Is Bin Laden dead?

May 2nd, 2011 at 2:27 pm by David Farrar

President Obama about to hold a press conference. Have heard a rumour he will announce that Osama bin Laden is dead. Will find out in a few minutes.

1440: Obama yet to speak, but the Osama speculation is now widespread and being reported. A good day for mankind, so to speak. Not the end of terrorism, but a major blow. Yay. Obama now expected on at 1450 NZST.

1443: Seems the US has his body. I guess this means Donald Trump won’t demand a copy of the long form death certificate :-)

1510: It seems he was killed in Pakistan, not far from the capital. No statement yet.

1536: It’s now official, with Obama making his statement. I wonder if the delay was teleprompter broke down :-)

More seriously while this is news that will be welcomed by hudnreds of millions, my thoughts are with the families of the 9/11 victims. For them, this is more personal. Today is the equivalent of having the guy who killed your Mum or Dad sent to prison for life. The guy primarily responsible for their deaths is no longer a threat to anyone else.

1539: The operation was only launched today on Obama’s orders. No US deaths and they got Bin Laden’s body. Obama is about to shoot up in the polls. He is no Jimmy Carter.

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Born in the USA

April 29th, 2011 at 9:59 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Responding to critics’ relentless claims, US President Barack Obama has produced a detailed Hawaii birth certificate in an extraordinary attempt to bury the issue of where he was born and confirm his legitimacy to hold office. He declared, “We do not have time for this kind of silliness.”

By going on national TV from the White House on Wednesday (local time), Obama portrayed himself as a voice of reason amid a loud, lingering debate on his birth status. Though his personal attention to the issue elevated it as never before, Obama said to Republican detractors and the media, it is time to move on to bigger issues.

Maybe now people will STFU on this issue. It has been the right wing equivalent of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists on the left.

I suspect Obama finally released his long form record as Donald Trump has started championing the birthers claims.

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Obama v Reagan

January 17th, 2011 at 10:20 am by David Farrar

The Republican Presidential Primaries will be held in early 2012, and there is huge jockeying for position already. Obama has relatively low approval ratings but nearly two years out from the presidential election these count for little.

In 1982 Ronald Reagan, now considered one of the most popular politician of all time, faced a tough economy and a democrat controlled congress. As the chart below from USA Today shows, Obama is clearly ahead of where Reagan was at the same time in his presidency.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/presidential-approval-tracker.htm

This is a fascinating tracker poll. You can track any president against any other using the compare chart.

Tracker polls like this are interesting because they point to historical precedent. So when the media start talking about low approval ratings for Obama it pays to be skeptical as to how much influence this has on his reelection campaign.

Also worth noting that Obama’s approval is on the rise.

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Obama chalking up some wins

December 28th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Obama has done exactly what he needed after the mid-term drubbing, and chalked up some wins. And he has done it by going both right and left. His three major victories are:

  1. A deal with the Republicans on cutting taxes to stimulate the economy
  2. Ratification of an arms reduction treaty with Russia
  3. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

It’s a nice combination of something for everyone. Almost all Americans like treaties which reduce the number of nuclear weapons. Those sympathethic to the tea party movement will like the tax cuts and the liberals will hail the repeal of DADT.

His net approval rating is now just a -2% average.

The Republican’s main problem is finding the right challenger. A generic GOP candidate out polls Obama, but the moment you put a name in there, Obama leads. This article divideds up the potential candidates as being populists or managers. Populists include Palin, Huckabee, and Perry, Managers are Romney, Daniels, Barbour with Gingrich and Pawlenty (my pick) being a bit of both.

A recent poll has Obama vs Palin being a 54% to 39% landslide for Obama. If Bloomberg enters the race as an independent, then it is 47% to 31% to 18%.

Another poll has Obama beating Romey 47% to 40%.

The net favourability ratings for Obama and the three leading Republicans are:

  1. Huckabee +11%
  2. Obama +5%
  3. Romney +3%
  4. Palin -15%

So Huckabee has some popularity, and is a rare person who can rally the christian base without scaring off liberals. However fiscal conservatives do not trust him, and hard to see the tea party rallying behind him.

If the economy picks up in time for 2012, Obama will be hard to defeat – unless the Republicans can find a candidate who appeals to both their religious and fiscal conservative wings – but also does not scare off independents and moderates.

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Obama’s tax cuts

December 10th, 2010 at 8:37 am by David Farrar

This week Obama stuck a deal with Republicans which sees him try to revive the US economy with tax cuts instead of extra spending. Labour in NZ should take note. Obama has agreed to:

  • Extend the Bush tax cuts for two further years which were due to expire at the end of 2010
  • Reduce for one year the Social Security payroll tax from 6.2% to 4.2%
  • Increase the threshold for the death tax from $1m to $5m ad reduce the rate from 55% to 35%

It will be interesting to observe the President’s poll ratings in the next month.

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Balancing the US Budget

December 5th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Barack Obama established a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to come up with ways to reduce the huge fiscal deficit. They have 18 members – 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans on it.

So what has this bipartisan group recommended:

  • $200 billion of domestic and defence savings by 2015
  • Tax reform that reduces rates, simplifies the code and broadens the base to reduce the deficit
  • Measures to control long-term health cost growth
  • Mandatory savings from farm subsidies, military and civil service retirement
  • Ensure social security solvency for next 75 years

This would achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction by 2020, reduce the deficit to 2.2% of GDP by 2015 and caps revenue at 21% of GDP (note NZ is well over 30%).

Obama, to his credit, has not rejected it. Sadly Congressional Democrats look likely to – which will impose future generations with horrific levels of debt and interest on the debt.

The situation in NZ is not so dire, but we still need bold measures to stop borrowing $250 million a week.

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For Gilbert & Sullivan fans

October 27th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

This is very enjoyable. It’s pro-Obama, but done in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan.

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Who would have thought

October 15th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Yahoo News reports:

A federal judge issued a worldwide injunction Tuesday immediately stopping enforcement of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, suspending the 17-year-old ban on openly gay U.S. troops.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips’ landmark ruling also ordered the government to suspend and discontinue all pending discharge proceedings and investigations under the policy. …

the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights organization that filed the lawsuit in 2004 to stop the ban’s enforcement.

So who would have thought that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would not be killed off by Obama (who had promised to do so), but instead by the Log Cabin Republicans.

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Presidental Approval Comparison

September 20th, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

18 months into the first terms, the presidential approval ratings for various Presidents was:

  1. Eisenhower 75%
  2. Bush GWH 74%
  3. JFK 67%
  4. LBJ 65%
  5. Bush GW 65%
  6. Nixon 55%
  7. Ford 48%
  8. Carter 43%
  9. Clinton 43%
  10. Reagan 41%
  11. Obama 41%
  12. Truman 34%

Reagan, Clinton and Truman all went on to win another term, so maybe Obama is following their strategy of not peaking too early!

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Obama aide on Key

September 11th, 2010 at 11:42 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A senior member of the Obama Administration has praised the Prime Minister as a “key player” on the international stage, who has developed a “real chemistry” with the US President. …

Speaking at a seminar on United States-New Zealand relations in Washington, Dr Campbell said Mr Key had “animated the discussions” and “drove the deliberations” at the President’s Nuclear Summit in April.

Labour, and many in the wider left, have been underestimating John Key for years and years, and still do so. This is partly why they lost the 2008 election – they were convinced Clark would destroy Key in the debates.

Even today they have their fantasies that he is some sort of smile and wave lightweight, whose only asset is his smile. And you compare that to Campbell’s assessment that Key drove deliberations at the US convened nuclear summit.

Dr Campbell said the Obama Administration had at first considered the US-NZ relationship was “profoundly underperforming”.

The change of regime in both counties has probably helped :-)

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PolitiZoid

September 4th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Very watchable attack ad on Obama. The production quality is excellent.

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McChrystal sacked

June 24th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

US President Barack Obama has fired top Afghanistan commander General Stanley McChrystal over inflammatory comments that angered the White House and threatened to undermine the war effort.

Obama relieved General McChrystal of his command after a private, 30-minute meeting at the White House and named General David Petraeus, commander of the US Central Command, to replace him, a senior administration official said.

That’s a smart decision, Petraeus is well regarded. Ironically it is technically a demotion for Petraeus, but I suspect he won’t mind being closer to the action.

Republicans love Petraeus. If things do not progress well in Afghanistan, any other appointment could have seen greater attacks on Obama’s strategy.

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Will McChrystal be sacked?

June 23rd, 2010 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The tiff between General Stanley McChrystal and the White House is the most extraordinary airing of military-civilian tensions since Harry Truman stripped Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command a half-century ago.

Which doomed any chance of Truman standing again for President. Mind you he was justified – MacArthur was a great general and leader, but he was refusing to follow orders.

The White House summoned McChrystal to Washington to explain disparaging comments about his commander in chief and Obama’s top aides. The meeting, set for tomorrow, is a last-ditch moment for the general once considered the war’s brightest hope.

If not insubordination, the remarks in a forthcoming Rolling Stone magazine article were at least an indirect challenge to civilian management of the war in Washington by its top military commander.

The comments are pretty much inexcusable. The military are sworn to not be partisan and to be loyal to their elected Commander in Chief.

However if Obama sacks McChrystal, he may doom his own strategy for Afghanistan. It will be fascinating to see what he does,

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Obama and Leno

May 3rd, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I do like the annual tradition of the President having to make fund of himself (and others) at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

My favourite lines are about how is still popular in the country of his birth, and how glad he is to see Jay Leno, as his ratings have fallen even more than his.

The US presidency is the most powerful position in the world, and this semi-requirement to take the piss out of yourself is a healthy one. It is unthinkable that this would happen in Russia or China.

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US gives up on space

April 26th, 2010 at 8:09 am by David Farrar

Gwynne Dyer writes:

In the real world, the United States is giving up on space, although it is trying hard to conceal its retreat. Three Americans with a very special status – all have commanded missions to the Moon – have made their dismay public.

In an open letter Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon, Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13 and Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, condemned President Barack Obama’s plans for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as the beginning of a “long downhill slide to mediocrity” for the United States.

What has changed?

The letter was timed to coincide with Obama’s visit to Cape Canaveral to defend his new policy, which abandons the goal of returning to the Moon by 2020, or indeed ever.

The idea of a permanent base to the Moon was a good investment in the future.

So for the next decade, at least, the United States will be an also-ran in space, while the new space powers forge rapidly ahead.

And even if some subsequent administration should decide it wants to get back in the race, it will find it almost impossible to catch up.

And that is why the first man on Mars will be probably Chinese or Indian, not American.

I suspect he will be right. And the nationalism that will surround that will be massive.

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