Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Obama Media Event, Part 1

Highlights of the Obama Press Conference from Monday night.

Q from Chip Reid: Is that a sign that you are moving away, your White House is moving away, from this emphasis on bipartisanship? And what went wrong? Did you underestimate how hard it would be to change the way Washington worked?

Obama: I don't think -- I don't think I underestimated it. I don't think the American people underestimated it. They understand that there have been a lot of bad habits built up here in Washington. And it's going to take time to break down some of those bad habits.

So, Republicans are bucking the President because it’s a bad habit to be against an $800 billion dollar spending plan?

Obama: But when they start characterizing this as pork without acknowledging that there are no earmarks in this package -- something, again, that was pretty rare over the last eight years -- then you get a feeling that maybe we're playing politics instead of actually trying to solve problems for the American people.

The only thing different about Obama and his earmarks is the language used to insert them. An Associated Press story shows how some of the money is being funneled to pet projects.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's ban on earmarks in the $825 billion economic stimulus bill doesn't mean interest groups, lobbyists and lawmakers won't be able to funnel money to pet projects.

They're just working around it - and perhaps inadvertently making the process more secretive.

The projects run the gamut: a Metrolink station that needs building in Placentia, Calif.; a stretch of beach in Sandy Hook, N.J., that could really use some more sand; a water park in Miami.

There are thousands of projects like those that once would have been gotten money upfront but now are left to scramble for dollars at the back end of the process as "ready to go" jobs eligible for the stimulus plan.

The result, as The Associated Press learned in interviews with more than a dozen lawmakers, lobbyists and state and local officials, is a shadowy lobbying effort that may make it difficult to discern how hundreds of billions in federal money will be parceled out.

"'No earmarks' isn't a game-ender," said Peter Buffa, former mayor of Costa Mesa, Calif. "It just means there's a different way of going about making sure the funding is there."

So, now a water park is considered infrastructure. This bill is so loaded with garbage that it looks like it’s not going to create any long term economic growth at all. If the government is going to create jobs through building highways and bridges, then won’t that just make those departments bigger and a bigger tax burden?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. In your opening remarks, you talked about that if your plan works the way you want it to work, it's going to increase consumer spending. But isn't consumer spending, or over-spending, how we got into this mess? And if people get money back into their pockets, do you not want them saving it or paying down debt first, before they start spending money into the economy?

MR. OBAMA: Well, first of all, I don't think it's accurate to say that consumer spending got us into this mess. What got us into this mess initially were banks taking exorbitant, wild risks with other people's monies, based on shaky assets. And because of the enormous leverage, where they had $1 worth of assets and they were betting $30 on that $1, what we had was a crisis in the financial system.

If people could afford the houses they were taking out mortgages for, we definetly wouldn’t be in this mess. The only shaky asset I can readily think of is a family with an income of $60,000 a year taking out a $200,000 loan with zero per cent financing. It sounds a lot better to be blaming the banks than citizens for the mess we are in.

Kudos to Chuck Todd from NBC for asking a tough question. Too bad no one else could follow up on it. It’s not a press conference if every question is planned ahead of time.

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