Mike Kueber's Blog

February 23, 2015

Sunday morning talk shows

Filed under: Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:21 pm
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There was a time when I was fascinated by the Sunday morning talk shows. Indeed, I continue to routinely record them, but rarely bother to actually view them. My disenchantment with the Sunday shows makes me a bit like recently deceased reporter Bob Simon, as revealed last night on the memorial edition of 60 Minutes. During one of the Simon clips, he said that the worst 18 months of his almost 50-year career was an assignment spent in Washington, D.C. with those petty, egotistical politicians. Like Simon, I have grown tired of their preening and posturing.

Yesterday, however, I watched because I was interested in their treatment of the Giuliani story questioning President Obama’s love of America. The first show to come on was Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. Todd was disgusted with the media’s extensive coverage of the story, so naturally he led his show by discussing the too-extensive coverage. Two people, both conservatives, made interesting points:

  • Michael Gerson, a former Bush-43 speechwriter and currently a columnist for the Washington Post, suggested that Republicans like Giuliani and Scott Walker have a problem communicating with the outside world after living and thriving in a world of right-wingers for so long. I’ve got that same problem myself. When I’m spending time mostly with right-wingers, my thoughts and voice get a certain edge that is smoothed out when I’m around nonpartisans. The problem is that Giuliani was at a Walker fundraiser when he made his comments, and there is an even stronger tendency there to cater to the audience. In a way, that is almost analogous to Brian Williams exaggerating to please his audience.
  • Haley Barbour, a former Mississippi governor and GOP national chairman echoed Gerson’s Pollyannaish comment about reaching for the middle instead of preaching your base, but also did a masterful job of refuting Chuck Todd’s suggestion that questioning the sincerity of President Obama’s Christianity had anything to do with race:
    • Todd – “This is how it comes across to some folks when there is a debate about this. Why is it that Barack Obama, the first African-American president, had questions about his religion pop up in the political conversation and didn’t happen to Bill Clinton, didn’t happen to George W. Bush. That’s a lot of his supporters hear that and think, this has some racial overtone. What do you say to that?”
    • Barbour – “I don’t know that race has anything to do with it. I would bet a higher percentage of African-Americans in the United States are Christians than of whites. I mean, of course, I come from a place where I’m very familiar with that. Very many religious leaders, very powerful leaders in the black community of my state are good Christians. So I don’t get the race question about Christianity.”
    • Todd – “I understand. I’m telling you how other people hear it.”

If I were Barbour, I would have added that I recall President Reagan being attacked over the sincerity of his Christianity because he rarely attended Sunday services.  But the crux of the matter is that any critic of President Obama must be prepared to be called a racist.

November 21, 2014

President Obama unilaterally addresses America’s immigration mess

Last night, President Obama spoke to the American people about an Executive Action that he was taking to deal with America’s immigration mess. Conservatives are apoplectic because the president is taking actions that the American Congress has refused to take – i.e., he is legalizing (a) almost four million illegal immigrants who are parents of American citizens and (b) several hundred thousand more who came here as children.

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a legal memorandum – “The Department of Homeland Security’s Authority to Prioritize Removal of Certain Aliens Unlawfully Present in the United States and to Defer Removal of Others” – explaining why the president’s action is not an illegal abrogation of congressional powers.  Essentially, it says that temporarily deferring action for some illegal immigrants is a reasonable use of executive discretion. Interestingly, the memo makes a distinction between deferring action against the illegal-immigrant parents of children born in America (sometimes called anchor babies) and the parents of DREAMERS (illegal-immigrant children who were previously granted deferred action under DACA by President Obama):

  • The decision to grant deferred action to DACA parents thus seems to depend critically on the earlier decision to make deferred action available to their children. But we are aware of no precedent for using deferred action in this way, to respond to humanitarian needs rooted in earlier exercises of deferred action.”  [Wouldn’t it be ironic if DREAMERS, who were granted deferred action because, as minors, they weren’t personally culpable for their illegal entry, could serve as an anchor for their parents, who were in fact culpable for their illegal entry?] 

My initial inclination is to join the partisan outrage against this unilateral action by our newest Imperial President, but I must admit that ever since I ran for Congress in 2010, I have supported immigration reform that would include legalization of illegal immigrants who have lived in America for 5-10 years. Although these people initially came to America illegally, legalization is fair because our country has allowed them to establish roots. President Obama’s action did not go as far I would if I were emperor for a day.

But neither is President Obama emperor. He may be empowered as the chief executive to prioritize his efforts against illegal immigration, but in my opinion he isn’t empowered to legalize (work permits, etc.) illegal immigrants.

Ed Gillespie, who almost pulled off the senatorial upset of 2014, issued an op-ed piece today in the NY Times suggesting that the new GOP Congress needs to not just repeal ObamaCare, but also needs to pass an ObamaCare alternative.  I suggest they should do the same with respect to immigration. And if President Obama vetoes it, the 2016 election can be a referendum.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see more policy arguments and less obstruction and dysfunction?

October 4, 2012

The morning after

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:34 am
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By all accounts, Mitt Romney won last night’s debate.  Even the talking heads on MSNBC quickly and decisively conceded the issue.  Talk-show host Ed Schultz was almost apoplectic in bitterly criticizing President Obama for inadequately defending liberal causes and for failing to attack Romney’s pro-business, anti-consumer positions.

I was not surprised by Romney’s victory.  He debated superbly in virtually every debate during the Republican primaries, and he did again last night.  By contrast, President Obama came across as bored and dismissive. 

President Obama seems to be undergoing a transformation similar to that experienced by Bryant Gumbel, who as a young sports guy in the late 70s was refreshing and smart.  But Gumbel didn’t age gracefully.  By the time he went to the Today show in 1982, he was smarmy and smug.  One of President Obama’s strong suits has been his likeability, but there was minimal likeability on display last night.        

Some pundits suggested that Mitt Romney’s decisive victory was merely a first step and would not translate into a large immediate shift toward Romney by the electorate.   I disagreed with that suggestion, but the betting market appears to confirm the pundits.  According to Intrade.com this morning, President Obama continues to be the 66%-34% favorite to win the election in November. 

I made the same mistake back in 1992 following a commanding debate performance by Ross Perot.  I was sure that his bravura performance ensured that we would have a serious third-party candidate for the first time in my lifetime.  Sadly, however, Perot faded badly and turned out to be merely a spoiler.  Mitt Romney needs to keep up his attack on President Obama while simultaneously putting forward his positive message, and I have no doubt that he will.

August 26, 2012

San Antonio’s keynoter receives some hometown treatment from the Express-News

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:21 pm
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As he prepares to give the keynote address at the Democratic convention in a couple of weeks, San Antonio’s mayor Julian Castro is the subject of a lengthy profile in today’s San Antonio Express-News.  The profile involved such extensive reporting that the Express-News assigned two bigtime reporters to it – Gary Martin and Josh Baugh (hereinafter M&B), with contributions from John Gonzalez.  Unfortunately, M&B decide to write a puff piece instead of doing any real reporting. 

Some pundits have described Julian Castro as Obama-lite, and this article reveals a disturbing tendency of fawning media to fail in their responsibility to vet our public figures, as they did with President Obama. The following is a list of information that we learned in the piece as compared to what M&B failed to report.

  1. M&B tell us that Julian Castro’s dad lived with Julian’s mom, Rosie, until the twins were eight years old and always remained in their lives.  In addition to neglecting to tell us Dad’s name, M&B failed to tell us why the twins’ “activist” parents declined to get married.
  2. M&B tell us that the twins attended Stanford University as undergraduates.  Julian has previously admitted that he gained admission to Stanford based on affirmative action and has argued that his success is evidence that affirmative action works.  M&B should have asked Julian if he knows what happened to the better qualified individual whose place in Stanford he took.  Furthermore, if affirmative action is designed to help the disadvantaged, does Julian think that he and Joaquin, as the sons of two college-educated activists, were disadvantaged individuals entitled to admission preferences.
  3. M&B tell us that the twins’ mom Rosie, was “a leader in the La Raza Unida Party, who they ubiquitously point to as the foundation of their success.”  This issue reminds me of President Obama’s connection to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, of whom then-candidate Obama said, “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother,” before disowning him.  M&B should have asked Julian whether he shares his mother’s well-known views about the disgraceful quality of the men who defended the Alamo.
  4. M&B tell us that Julian was raising funds for a City Council campaign even before he had graduated from law school, which qualifies him as a career politician.  M&B should have asked Julian how a poor kid like himself has been able to sustain himself on low-paying, full-time political jobs.  There are rumors that he received a windfall from some legal settlement; detail, please?

 As an optimist, I believe many Americans have learned a hard lesson in electing Barack Obama as president, and they won’t repeat the same mistake.  Let’s hope the media has also learned a lesson in its failure to vet Barack Obama and won’t repeat the mistake with Julian Castro.



March 24, 2012

Trayvon Martin

Filed under: Culture,Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:04 am
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President Obama today went out of his way to interject himself into the Trayvon Martin affair.  Although I wasn’t familiar with the tragedy, I made the following comment on my Facebook wall:

  • What does President Obama mean when he says his son would look like Trayvon? And what does that have to do with this tragedy?

A USAA friend responded with the following comments:

  • What he meant by saying it is pretty obvious. Unfortunately, race is still a being issue in today’s society. This type of incident certainly wasn’t the first and surely won’t be the last. Parents should never have to bury a child under these circumstances. I of course don’t know the whole story, but I hope the right thing is done.

I responded as follows:

  • No, Steve, I don’t think it is obvious what he meant. I am reminded of his comments about the Harvard professor, when he said it was obvious that the police had overreacted. I think Obama overreacted in the Harvard incident, and I think he is over-reacting in personalizing this matter.

My friend responded, “But Mike, isn’t it almost always an ‘over reaction’ to a black male being accused, harassed, or killed?”  I responded – “Yes, it’s an over-reaction to claim racism every time a black male is accused or killed.”

I continue to believe that President Obama overreacted by interjecting himself into this matter, but the Washington Post disagrees.  In an article in today’s edition, the Post attempted to distinguish between President Obama’s reaction to Harvard-gate and his reaction to the Martin killing:

  • Calling Obama’s response to the Gates arrest “a disaster for the president” because he passed judgment on what had happened, Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush, said Obama’s message Friday was a welcome contrast.  “There really is an issue of whether if you are black in America today, if you are dressed the way you are dressed, that that can make you a victim.  These are society’s most delicate issues, and I thought the president handled it delicately.”    

I disagree.  By suggesting that America needs to do some “soul searching” over the Martin incident and that Martin looked like Obama’s son would look, President Obama is prejudging the matter and implying that racism by Zimmerman result in Martin’s death.  Let’s await the local, state, and federal investigations before coming to that judgment.

September 29, 2011

Job discrimination against the unemployed

Filed under: Economics,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:56 pm
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President Obama is taking a lot of flak from conservatives for generating too many regulations and for protecting plaintiffs’ lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits.  Both of these things, according to the conservatives, are a serious drag on the economy.

Unfortunately, President Obama appears to have concluded that he will not be able to work with conservatives until the 2012 election adjusts their attitude.  So instead of trying to find common ground, he is making proposals that have no chance of success, but will help rally his base.  An example of this is his recent proposal to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against the unemployed.

According to an article in the NY Times, Obama’s proposal would make it an unlawful employment practice for a business to consider an applicant’s current employment status when deciding who to hire.  The proposed law would authorize unsuccessful job applicants to sue “just like when an employer discriminates on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”

This dispute reminds me of my days as an auto-insurance lawyer, when we had to fight regulators who didn’t want us to make underwriting decisions based on an applicant’s credit score.  The regulators initially argued that there was no statistical connection between a low credit score and the likelihood of getting into an car accident, but eventually we were able to decisively win that argument.  Facts are stubborn things.  Then the regulators shifted to a fairness argument – i.e., people with bad credit scores were already punished enough; extending the punishment to their insurance rates was not fair.

Proponents of Obama’s proposal argue that that people who are unemployed through no fault of their own are just as likely to be a good employee as someone continually employed.  Furthermore, the unemployed have already been punished enough; making it harder to get a job just isn’t fair.

Conservatives respond that the proposal would establish the unemployed as a new “protected class” and would encourage frivolous lawsuits from unemployed people whose job application is rejected.

President Obama is correct in worrying about the growing number of long-term unemployed people, who are reaching record levels.  According to the Times article, “Skills often atrophy when a person is out of work, and White House officials said that discrimination could worsen the problem, creating a class of people who could be left behind as the economy recovers.”

But the problem can’t be solved by requiring businesses to hire less qualified persons just because they are unemployed.  The problem needs to be
solved by an economy that has more jobs for everyone.

September 13, 2011

President Obama pays for his new jobs program with more class warfare

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:04 pm
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Last week, President Obama announced a $447 million jobs program, which included the following:

  • $240 billion to cut temporarily the Social Security tax in half for both employers and employees – from 6% to 3%.  (Although it doesn’t make sense to cut this tax if the Social Security trust fund is running out of money, it does make sense if you realize that the trust fund is a fairy tale and that Social Security now is “pay as you go.”)
  • $140 billion in direct aid to the states to keep teachers and first responders on the job and to modernize schools, roads, and other infrastructure.
  • $50 billion to extend unemployment benefits (up to 99 weeks of benefits).

The announcement didn’t explain how the program would be paid for, but promised to provide that information later.

On Monday, OMB Director Jack Lew announced how the jobs program would be paid for.  Big surprise – there would be no cuts in spending; instead there would $467 million in tax increases on the rich.  Specifically:

  • $400 billion over ten years by limiting itemized deductions for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making more than $250,000.  These people can say good-bye to the mortgage and charitable-contribution deductions.
  • $40 billion by eliminating tax breaks for the oil and gas industry would raise $40 billion.
  • $18 billion by taxing the income that investment fund managers make, known as “carried interest,” as regular income instead of
    as capital gains, which has a lower 15 percent tax rate.
  • $3 billion by changing the way that corporate jets are depreciated.

What happened to the balance that President Obama and the media have been preaching for the past few month?  His jobs program is directed toward people who are in his base and it is paid for by the people who are in his opponent’s base.

Leave it to NBC’s Brian Williams to put the correct spin on this proposal.  He gloomily suggested that the Obama jobs proposal faces tough sledding because its tax-increase components have already been rejected by congressional Republicans.  He didn’t use the term “obstructionists,” but he was implying it.

But his suggestion was misleading, if not false.  FOX News correctly reported that Obama’s tax-increase proposals were rejected two years ago when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.

When George Bush proposed his tax cuts, he was required to show that all income levels shared in the cuts.  Even then, the Democrats were upset that one of its biggest special-interest groups was left out – those who didn’t pay any taxes.

To President Obama and the congressional Democrats who continually engage in class warfare – will you please give it a rest?

August 19, 2011

Rick Perry raising money in San Antonio

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:42 am
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The San Antonio Express-News recently reported that Rick Perry was having a fundraiser in San Antonio on September 1 and was charging up to $25,000 for the privilege of breaking bread with the governor.  As a quasi-expert on the campaign financing of federal elections, I knew that the news article couldn’t be true because federal-election law limited a person’s contribution to $2,500.  Perhaps the reporter mistakenly added a zero to the number.

Fortunately, the article included a link to a fundraising invitation, and it revealed that Perry campaign was employing a slick technique to avoid the $2,500 limit.  Instead of asking for an illegal amount directly from a supporter, the campaign merely required the supporter to “commit to raise” the $25,000 from others – i.e., twist the arm of 10 family, friends, or business colleagues.  This slick technique – also known as bundling – is not exclusive to Rick Perry, but it needs to be prohibited.

Although the Express-News article suggested that President Obama was charging even more ($35,800) for his intimate meetings with donors, an article in USA Today reported that Obama was only retaining the couple-maximum of $5,000 for his own campaign, while the remaining $30,800 was going to the Democratic Party.  That’s still sleazy, but not as bad as the Perry campaign taking in the whole enchilada.

August 9, 2011

The TEA Party downgrade?

Filed under: Economics,Finances,Investing,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:07 pm
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The S&P downgrade of America’s credit rating has creating an unstable stock market.  Yesterday was my worst day ever, with the Dow down 635 points, while today was my best day ever, with the Dow up 430 points.

Both political parties are politicizing the downgrade.  On one hand, the Republicans are saying that President Obama is the first president to have a downgrade “on his watch.”  That is undeniable.

On the other hand, the Democrats are calling it the “TEA Party downgrade.”  That is more debatable.

S&P warned that there might be a downgrade unless the federal deficit for the next decade was trimmed by at least $4 trillion.  Thus, the only way to have avoided the downgrade was the adoption of President Obama’s and Speaker Boehner’s Grand Bargain.

The Grand Bargain would have trimmed the deficit by $4 trillion, but President Obama and Speaker Boehner couldn’t agree on how much revenues should increase.  According to news reports, Boehner offered to increase revenues by $800 billion, while Obama insisted on $1.2 trillion.

The significant fact is Boehner offered to increase revenues, which is something that his TEA Party members would never sign-off on.  Thus, the TEA Party wasn’t controlling Boehner or the process.

The Grand Bargain failed because Boehner and Obama couldn’t agree on how much, not whether, revenues should increase.  So instead of calling it the TEA Party downgrade, let’s call it the Obama/Boehner downgrade.

August 1, 2011

The debt-ceiling deal

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:30 am
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As I adjourned to my apartment pool this Sunday evening, I was aware that everyone except John Boehner had agreed to a debt-ceiling deal.  Boehner was apparently reluctant to agree to cuts in defense spending (and Medicare spending) if the special congressional committee could not agree on the additional $2 trillion in spending cuts/revenue increases to be made later this year.

When I returned from the pool, I learned that Speaker Boehner had agreed to the deal, provided that the term “defense spending” was defined to include “homeland security.”  Although Senator Schumer from NY has suggested that both parties will be extremely motivated to find additional expense cuts/revenue increases to avoid the alternative of defense/Medicare cuts, I suspect that Democrats are much more adverse to Medicare cuts than Republicans are to Homeland Security cuts.

Everyone expects this debt-ceiling deal to be approved in the House, with modest Democratic and solid Republican support, and overwhelmingly in the Senate.

Although I would have preferred the grand deal (including modest revenue increases) that President Obama and Speaker Boehner were negotiating a few days ago, I think this deal is a solid accomplishment for new conservatives in Washington, D.C.  Most involved parties seem to agree that spending needs to be reduced.  While Democrats are still insisting on revenue increases in the 2nd round, Republicans should be able to subsume that under the umbrella of tax reform.  Even conservatives agree that hedge funds, corporate jets, and oil companies don’t deserve special privileges.

President Obama’s fiscal commission, the Gang of Six, and Paul Ryan were able to make cuts bigger than $2 trillion, and I am hopeful that the special congressional committee will be able to go beyond $2 trillion, too.  If they aren’t able, then we will need the election of 2012 to put some additional conservatives in Washington, D.C.

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