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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2010
ON THE EVE OF THE HEALTH-CARE SUMMIT – AT 7:05 P.M. ET: The health-care summit will be held tomorrow. No one expects much.
The fact is that Democratic defections, not GOP opposition, may well kill the president's bill. We reported Byron York's head count earlier today, indicating that the bill will probably lose in the House. Here, from The Hill, is direct evidence from a key House member:
There are 15-20 House Democrats who are withholding their support for President Barack Obama's healthcare proposal, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Wednesday.
Stupak led a broad coalition of anti-abortion Democrats in November, demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) include tough abortion restrictions in the lower chamber's legislation lest she lose a chance of passing the bill.
The Michigan Democrat has voiced unhappiness with the president's plan because it upholds the Senate's abortion language, which he says is too loose and could allow federal dollars to pay for abortion procedures.
But Stupak said that the group of 15-20 Democrats oppose it not just because of the abortion provisions.
Asked on Fox News if he thinks the president's fixes will pass the House, Stupak said, "Despite the abortion language, no, there are other problems with this bill...[I have spoken to] probably about 15 or 20 of them in the last 24 hours; they've said there are other problems with this bill."
Stupak's remarks come after House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) Wednesday morning predicted that Democrats would fall 14 votes short of passing the bill.
COMMENT: This is a great chance for the Republicans to come to the table tomorrow with a bill of their own. Let's see what they spring.
It's incredible, that a year after Obama was anointed as savior of the nation, he can't get his signature bill through a heavily Democratic congress. What power. What influence. What governing skill.
As head of a student government, Barack Obama is tops.
February 24, 2010 Permalink
EMPLOYMENT NEWS – AT 5:36 P.M. ET: In this time of high job losses, it's gratifying to find a success story. And it's wonderful to know that a man's entire background doesn't count against him. From the Washington Examiner:
Van Jones, Obama's former "green energy czar" forced to resign over endorsing views that President George W. Bush may have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen as well as controversy over his past as a radical communist, appears to have landed on his feet. Many of his views may have been unacceptable to the vast majority of the American public, but he's more than welcome at an Ivy League university and one of D.C.'s most prominent liberal think tanks:
The Examiner then quotes the Washington Post:
Jones, who has been consulting for companies and nonprofits on environmental issues, will start teaching at Princeton University in June and is rejoining the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, next month. On Friday, he will receive the NAACP's President's Award, for achievement in public service, the organization announced Tuesday.
Start teaching at Princeton in June? Isn't that when the students go home? Well, maybe he's so exciting that they'll stay for him.
Princeton has had a checkered history. At one time it was a restricted upper-crust school whose entering classes in 1939 and 1940 voted Adolf Hitler the greatest man in the world. But in recent decades it's gone hard left, following the academic trends of the time. We're sure Van Jones will make the same vast contribution to Princeton that he made to the United States Government.
February 24, 2010 Permalink
VOCABULARY BULLETIN – AT 5:20 P.M. ET: From Fox:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has become the first Obama Administration official to publicly describe last year's deadly shootings at Ft. Hood, Tex., as a terrorist act, according to a search of news clips and transcripts.
"Violent Islamic terrorism ... was part and parcel of the Ft. Hood killings," Napolitano told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday morning. "There is violent Islamic terrorism, be it Al Qaeda in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen or anywhere else, [and] that is indeed a major focus of this department and its efforts."
In the months since an Army psychiatrist -- who had been in contact with a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen -- opened fired inside the Army base, many on Capitol Hill have urged administration officials to publicly identify the attack as terrorism.
Those calls have been used by Republicans and others to paint administration officials as weak on terrorism and subsequently unwilling to use the word "terrorism."
COMMENT: We gladly report this dictionary breakthrough. The Obama government is staffed by people who would have called the Japanese pilots over Pearl Harbor "flying tourists provoked by American ships."
February 24, 2010 Permalink
I'M SHOCKED THAT THIS IS GOING ON IN OUR WHITE HOUSE – AT 10:37 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
President Barack Obama’s top advisers are quietly laying the groundwork for the 2012 reelection campaign, which is likely to be run out of Chicago and managed by White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, according to Democrats familiar with the discussions.
The planning for now consists entirely of private conversations, with Obama aides at all levels indulging occasionally in closed-door 2012 discussions while focusing ferociously on the midterm elections and health care reform, the Democratic sources said. “The gathering storm is the 2010 elections,” one top official said.
But the sources said Obama has given every sign of planning to run again and wants the next campaign to resemble the highly successful 2008 effort.
Planning to run again? When did he ever stop running? This White House is one long campaign.
Anita Dunn, former White House communications director, will be intimately involved, too.
Hey, wait. Isn't she the one who was forced out for making a fool of herself, like saying kindly things about Chairman Mao? I guess they think we'll forget.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett are likely to remain at the president’s side in Washington, while exercising major influence over the campaign.
And why not? When people volunteer to go down with the ship, you've got to repay them.
The themes for Obama’s campaign are not yet chosen, but a top adviser said not to expect a radical surprise: “He knows who he is."
The trouble is, we don't.
February 24, 2010 Permalink
GATES READS RIOT ACT TO EUROPE – AT 10:06 A.M. ET: Speaking of differences between the United States and Europe (see post just below), Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has read the riot act to our European dependencies.
Gates's comments were largely overlooked, but are quite stunning, coming from an administration that values, or says it values, the soft touch:
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has long called European contributions to NATO inadequate, said Tuesday that public and political opposition to the military had grown so great in Europe that it was directly affecting operations in Afghanistan and impeding the alliance’s broader security goals.
You know NATO? That's the alliance where an attack on one is considered an attack on all, but an attack on the United States is considered a little less important than an attack on the others.
"The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st,” he told NATO officers and officials in a speech at the National Defense University, the Defense Department-financed graduate school for military officers and diplomats.
I'm glad some American official actually said this. Many informed Americans have thought it for years.
A perception of European weakness, he warned, could provide a “temptation to miscalculation and aggression” by hostile powers.
He means Iran, and even a resurgent Russia. NATO was formed in 1949, a reflection of the lessons learned from the failure to prevent World War II. Those lessons are being forgotten as the generation that learned them fades away.
Mr. Gates’s blunt comments came just three days after the coalition government of the Netherlands collapsed in a dispute over keeping Dutch troops in Afghanistan. It now appears almost certain that most of the 2,000 Dutch troops there will be withdrawn this year. And polls show that the Afghanistan war has grown increasingly unpopular in nearly every European country.
Gee, wasn't Europe supposed to become increasingly supportive of the United States once The One took office and cast his magic spell? Maybe Obama has had some positive effect in Europe, but of course 14-year-olds can't vote.
Dana Allin, a senior fellow with the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, called Mr. Gates’s remarks “very striking.”
“Whether this is a conscious statement to sound a real sharp warning, there’s no question that the frustration among the American military establishment is palpable regarding coalition operations in Afghanistan,” he said.
COMMENT: As usual, it's the U.S., the Brits, the Canadians, and the Australians who bear the brunt. At some point some Europeans will try to call Washington in a crisis, and no one will answer the phone.
Gates spoke wisely.
February 24, 2010 Permalink
THE AMERICAN STYLE – AT 8:53 A.M. ET: Michael Barone has a superb piece explaining the psychology of the public's rejection, in every poll, of Obamacare. Barone is one of our most astute political observers, and his comments are incisive:
You are victims. You are helpless against the wiles of big corporations and insurance companies and you need protection. You need the government to take over and do things you cannot do for yourself.
That is the thinking of what David Brooks calls "the educated class" that favors the Democrats' health care bills...
...it's an argument that has often been appealing to Europeans but that has always been unappealing to Americans.
Why the difference?
Why do Americans reject such policies while Europeans seem content with them? One reason is history. Twentieth-century history -- and 19th- and 18th-century history too -- showed Europeans that they were often the helpless victims of tyrants and total war. That made them content to rely on government for security.
Americans have had a different experience. As scholars like Seymour Martin Lipset have documented, Americans are more likely than Europeans to believe that there is a connection between effort and reward. And to believe that they can improve their situation by their own hard work and ingenuity.
As a result, Americans cherish their independence.
Americans tend to see themselves as independent doers, not dependent victims. They don't like to be told, especially by those with fancy academic pedigrees, that they are helpless and in need of government aid. That's why the politically popular American big-government programs -- Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits, student loans -- all make a connection between effort and reward. You get a benefit because you've worked for it.
And other popular programs, like safety standards in cars, or the Centers for Disease Control, often involve life and death issues that have not been addressed adequately in the private sector.
Obama, who has chosen to live his adult life in university precincts, sees...Americans generally as victims who need his help, people who would be better off dependent on government than on their own. Most American voters don't want to see themselves that way and resent this condescension.
Obama hopes to embarrass Republicans at his Thursday summit and persuade Democrats to change the legislative rules and jam through a health care bill. Tactically he's not likely to succeed. But his greater problem, on health care and other issues, is strategic. Most Americans don't share his view that they are victims, in need of protection and supervision by "the educated class."
COMMENT: By "educated class" Barone means a certain kind of "educated" person – the kind who'd put his College Board scores on his gravestone. Obviously, there are plenty of thoughtful, highly educated people who think differently. And, yes, some serve in the government. There are two highly educated Republican physicians, now United States senators, who will be at the health summit in the White House tomorrow.
But I think Barone captures a certain attitude that many see among the American elites – elites who increasingly resemble the failed European elites. Americans are catching on.
February 24, 2010 Permalink
THE OLD MATH DOESN'T ADD UP – AT 8:21 A.M. ET: The health-care summit at the White House will be held tomorrow. Aren't you excited? Do you feel better already? Throw away those pills. You are healed!
But you probably won't be healed by Obamacare, the Toyota of health plans – zipping ahead with no one in control. That's because, according to the count rendered by Byron York at the Washington Examiner, Obamacare may go terminal in the House:
So where are the votes? Start in the House. House Democrats have to do two things. First, they have to pass the health care bill that Senate Democrats passed on December 24 -- Cornhusker Kickback, Louisiana Purchase and all. They could stop there and send the bill to the president's desk, but that, of course, is not going to happen. So they then have to pass a set of agreed-upon "fixes" to the Senate bill that the Senate would then pass by using the reconciliation process. (The fixes will start in the House; reconciliation bills have to originate in the House because all revenue measures have to originate in the House.)
And now for the math problems:
The original House health care bill passed last November by a 220 to 215 margin. But supporters have lost four votes since then.
Deaths, resignations, and one switcheroo.
In addition, it's thought that some number of Democrats who voted for the original bill will likely vote against the Senate version because it lacks the House bill's language on the subject of abortion (the president's proposed compromise doesn't help on that subject, either). Republicans estimate there may be 11 such Democrats. If there are, that takes the number down to 205, which means Speaker Nancy Pelosi will need to find a dozen "yes" votes to make up the difference.
And there's this reality:
And that doesn't begin to consider the Democrats who voted in favor of the House bill last November but have now finally been persuaded, by continued public opposition in the polls, the Senate election in Massachusetts, and the generally worsening political climate for Democrats, that another vote in favor of the wildly unpopular health bill would be suicidal.
The bottom line: Pelosi is probably many votes short of being able to pass the Senate bill, along with the still-unwritten fixes. In public Democrats are trying to create a sense of inevitability about the bill -- they've tried to do that at various times during the year-long process -- but there is absolutely nothing inevitable about the passage of their national health care plan.
COMMENT: Don't tear up your insurance card just yet.
But the sound you'll hear will be Democrats in the House screaming in pain as their arms are twisted by Queen Nancy and her court. They may endure the pain this time. Being defeated in November is worse.
February 24, 2010 Permalink
TRULY THE SUNSHINE STATE – AT 8:03 A.M. ET: With all the inside talk about the Republican primary for U.S. senator in Florida, matching Governor Charlie Crist against Marco Rubio, we sometimes forget that one of them will face off in the general election. How is that going?
Rasmussen reports that it's going very well for our side:
While Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio battle it out for the Republican Senate nomination in Florida, one thing is unchanged for now: Regardless of which GOP candidate emerges, the likely Democratic Senate nominee, Congressman Kendrick Meek, has a long way to go.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state shows Meek trailing Crist by 16 points and Rubio by 20 in general election match-ups, margins that are virtually unchanged from a month ago.
While Crist, the state’s current governor, trails Rubio by the widest margin yet among Republican voters, he leads Meek 48% to 32%. Eleven percent (11%) prefer some other candidate, and nine percent (9%) are undecided.
Rubio now holds a 51% to 31% lead over Meek. Seven percent (7%) like another candidate, and 11% remain undecided.
COMMENT: So the seat, currently held by placeholder George LeMiuex, appointed by Gov. Crist to serve out the term of resigned Senator Mel Martinez, is likely to stay in the right column.
February 24, 2010 Permalink
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2010
EMPLOYMENT NEWS – AT 10:09 P.M. ET: This is a classic example of failing upward. From The Times of London:
The former head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has rocked Egypt’s political landscape by saying he will try to run against the country’s President of 29 years in next year’s elections.
Mohamed ElBaradei arrived home last week to a raucous reception after 30 years living overseas and 12 years as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a post that he left in November.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner was met with a crush of hundreds of supporters so dense that he was forced to use an alternative exit from the airport terminal.
Since then, Mr ElBaradei — who has yet to announce his candidacy formally — has given a series of televised interviews strongly criticising conditions in Egypt. He said yesterday that he would be willing to run against President Mubarak, 81.
COMMENT: ElBaradei was a colossal failure as head of the IAEA, and his Nobel Peace Prize was a farce, almost on the same level as Al Gore's or Jimmah Carter's. In fact, the first IAEA report on Iran, following ElBaradei's departure, was dramatically more alarming than anything ElBaradei ever allowed to be released. We also learned that ElBaradei had withheld some critical information that reflected badly on Iran.
But so what? Hey, what are some differences of opinion among friends, right?
And if you mess up the IAEA, why not try running Egypt?
International politics increasingly look like Hollywood studios – where a guy who's made a series of flops gets an even higher job because he's "learned from experience." He then makes more flops, and is finally eased out. But, because he's "seasoned," he gets an independent production deal worth more than his previous jobs. And then he gets a lifetime achievement award.
February 23, 2010 Permalink
SANITY – AT 8:04 P.M. ET: Some in the "global warming community" of Great Britain are showing signs of sanity and intelligence. From Fox News:
At a meeting Monday of 150 climate scientists, representatives of Britain's weather office proposed that the world's climatologists start all over again and produce a new trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and "rigorous" peer review.
Compare please to the testimony of our environmental protection chief, in the story just below, who announced that the science was settled. No questions needed.
After the firestorm of criticism called Climate-gate, the British government's official Meteorological Office has decided to give its modern climate data a do-over.
At a meeting on Monday of about 150 climate scientists in the quiet Turkish seaside resort of Antalya, representatives of the weather office (known in Britain as the Met Office) quietly proposed that the world's climate scientists start all over again on a "grand challenge" to produce a new, common trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and "rigorous" peer review.
It's about time.
Please notice that they're meeting in a Turkish resort. This, of course, is necessary for detailed scientific thinking.
Of course, the authors of the proposal do not admit any fault, and indeed say that they don't expect much change in conclusions. That, however, is face-saving.
The proposal must be looked at with two eyes. And the key will be in how it's executed. We've seen too many examples of "studies" that are rigged in advance, or conducted by "experts" with conflicts of interest. The global warming crowd has been ruthless in suppressing dissent and smearing anyone who disagrees. So this proposal for a "do-over" is only a first, tentative step.
But here is a chance for scientists to act like real scientists, not political scientists. We hope the international community of scientists agrees to go back to the drawing board, in a fully transparent manner, and under impeccable supervision, and show respect for the thoughtful skeptics who've come forward.
February 23, 2010 Permalink
ARROGANCE – AT 7:26 P.M. ET: This administration is heading off a cliff, and arrogance is the main cause.
Consider global warming. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, an Obaman through and through, appeared before a Senate panel today. You'd think, after all the recent climategate scandals, that there would be, on her part, some humility and reflection. Think again:
U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson today defended the science underpinning pending climate regulations despite Senate Republicans' claims that global warming data has been thrown into doubt.
"The science behind climate change is settled, and human activity is responsible for global warming," Jackson told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "That conclusion is not a partisan one."
Boy, I must really be dumb. I thought scientists debate these things all the time. Science, of course, is never settled. If it were, you'd never know the name Albert Einstein.
Senate Republicans used the hearing as a platform to blast EPA over its plans to begin rolling out greenhouse gas regulations next month after it determined last year that the heat-trapping emissions endanger human health and welfare.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the panel's ranking member, called on EPA to reconsider that determination after recent reports have revealed errors in the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that were used to underpin EPA's finding and a recent controversy surrounding e-mails stolen from climate scientists that some have dubbed "Climategate."
But no, no, no, James. It isn't about that. It's about a new secular religion. And one does not doubt a religion.
And get this, from self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) angrily blasted his Republican colleagues for their implications that global warming science had not been settled. "This country faces many many problems, not the least of which, we have national leaders rejecting basic science," Sanders said. "I find it incredible, I really do, that in the year 2010 on this committee, there are people who are saying there is a doubt about global warming. There is no doubt about global warming."
Thank you, Senator Sanders, for that deeply intellectual statement. You're a role model for students of science the world over.
February 23, 2010 Permalink
INCREDIBLE ALL-NEW BULLETIN – AT 6:03 P.M. ET: I knew you'd want to read of our dramatically new policy toward Iran. From AFP:
The United States warned Iran on Tuesday that "time and patience is running out" with its nuclear program, saying Tehran had shown no interest in allaying world fears.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Iran's recent pronouncements showed "they have no interest in building international confidence that their nuclear program is for peaceful means."
Gibbs reiterated US warnings of "consequences" if Iran continues to develop uranium enrichment capabilities, adding, "Time and patience is running out."
COMMENT: Wow! Time running out! Patience running out! Consequences!
We have never heard this before...or have we? Like 10 or 20 times?
Well, let's see: There was a deadline for Iran in September of last year. Time running out! Consequences. Well, you know how things are.
Then there was another deadline at the end of the year. Patience exhausted! Consequences! Well, we have to talk to our allies.
Then February, we were told, was the month for really big punishment. Time running out! Consequences! Well, we haven't finished all our talks with our friends.
I'm sure they mean it this time.
February 23, 2010 Permalink
HEALTH PLAN ALREADY ON LIFE SUPPORT – AT 10:58 A.M. ET: The president unveiled, the way you unveil a gravestone, his new, revised, Simonized health-care plan yesterday. We've already reported that Scott Brown promises to stand like a stone wall (okay Civil War buffs, I know there was only one) against it. Apparently, it isn't making a hint with some other crucial folks either. From The Politico:
The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement.
But by day’s end, President Barack Obama was staring down all the same old problems.
Republicans called it a retread of the same bills Americans have panned, even though it included some GOP ideas. “Déjà vu all over again,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).
Democrats and labor unions didn’t rush to embrace the plan, either, though by Monday night, Democrats were sounding more receptive to it, despite the lack of a public health insurance option. Congressional Democratic aides also complained of being left in the dark by the White House, asking for a preview of the bill Friday, only to be denied by White House aides, according to multiple sources.
And Obama’s plan did nothing to answer the central question facing Democrats: how to get a bill through the Senate — now one vote shy of a filibuster-proof majority — in one of the most toxic environments for incumbents in recent memory. Even with the first presidential plan on the table, there was no guarantee Democrats could pull off health reform this year.
There is also the volatile matter of abortion funding. The president's plan apparently provides for it, which will alienate a chunk of moderate Democrats in the House who are facing reelection in swing districts.
After a year of keeping his distance from the legislative process, Obama plunged in ahead of Thursday’s bipartisan health care summit with a sweeping plan that laid to rest any question about whether he would scale down his ambitions. Following the Massachusetts defeat, Obama floated the idea of a smaller bill, but even skeptics of the comprehensive approach argued the bill was too interrelated to break apart.
By stepping forward now, Obama hoped to set the agenda for the summit — making his own bill the starting point for any discussions and trying to force Republicans to come to the table with a single plan.
COMMENT: The Republicans don't have to dance to the president's tune, but they do have to come up with imaginative and easily explained ideas of their own. Their objective should be to capture the debate and grab the spotlight.
The president has the bully pulpit, and he retains his speaking ability, although he's clearly worn out his welcome with a large chunk of the public. Republicans must counter him. Occasional press conferences just won't do.
This is a critical weak, with the health summit at the White House coming up Thursday. I hope the GOP springs something spectacular. Alas, they're not known for it.
February 23, 2010 Permalink
SMART MOVE – AT 9:31 A.M. ET: Mitt Romney, clearly a candidate for president in 2012, is endorsing the reelection campaign of John McCain in Arizona:
(CNN) - Mitt Romney endorsed Sen. John McCain, one of the former Massachussetts governor's main competitors for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, for re-election to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
"Senator McCain's record of service and sacrifice for America is honored by all," Romney said in a statement. "But I believe that it is his core values of courage, faith and honor – forged in battle and confirmed by a lifetime of service to America – that make Senator McCain's leadership in the United States Senate so necessary in these perilous times."
Romney said it is "hard to imagine the United States Senate without John McCain."
McCain faced off with Romney in 16 Republican primary debates but bowed out of the primary race after the Super Tuesday contests.
McCain faces a primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.
COMMENT: Smart move on Romney's part, smart and gutsy. I'm aware that John McCain doesn't always please us. I'm aware that he ran a poor presidential campaign, although it's hard to see how any Republican could have won in 2008 with the media deck stacked so completely against him.
But McCain, with all his faults, is a symbol of something very special in American life – American courage and greatness. You don't throw a man like that overboard, especially to choose the ethically challenged J.D. Hayworth. And you don't knife your presidential nominee. Parties that do that, especially when you're talking about a man like McCain, are not held in high regard by the public.
Romney understands McCain's symbolism. He also realizes that McCain, if running against Obama today, might well win, and the voters have now seen the real Obama.
In 1968, when Hubert Humphrey ran against Richard Nixon, I received a postcard from one of my mentors, former Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois, a card sent to many. Humphrey was behind in the polls. A cold-war liberal, he had served as vice president and U.S. senator honorably, especially in the fight against Communism. (He had also been Barry Goldwater's closest friend in the Senate.) But a group of petty left-wing Democrats – the kind who later took over the party – were trying to undercut him because he favored the war in Vietnam. Mr. Douglas asked, "How can you turn your back on this man?"
I ask the same question about McCain.
February 23, 2010 Permalink
GENIUSES AT WORK – AT 8:53 A.M. ET: The distinguished philosopher, Jerry Lewis, once remarked, "Bad looks you can change, stupid is forever."
And so it is. And once again we see that some of our "major executives," the keepers of capitalism, are doing their very best to advance the prospects for socialism in the United States. Is there any limit to the buffoonery of some "bankers" who seem constantly to be holding a sign up to the American people saying "'Regulate me before I bank again"?
The dumbness this time is the attempt to trick people into messing up their accounts so severe penalty fees can be charged, fees that have brought in billions to the banks. Maybe an alternative, like intelligent, service-oriented banking that satisfies customers, might be a better choice. Y'think?
From The New York Times:
As the government cracks down on the way banks charge fees for overspending on debit cards, the industry is mounting an aggressive campaign aimed at keeping billions of dollars in penalty income flowing into its coffers. Chase and other banks are preparing a full-court marketing blitz, which is likely to include filling mailboxes with various aggressive and persuasive letters, calling account holders directly, and sending a steady stream of e-mail to urge consumers to keep their overdraft service turned on.
So many people now dip their balance below zero that banks generated an estimated $20 billion from overdraft fees on debit purchases and A.T.M. transactions in 2009, according to Michael Moebs, an economist who advises banks and credit unions. All of this revenue is potentially at risk, since these are the two areas that the new Federal Reserve regulations cover. (Banks generate an extra $12 billion by covering checks and recurring bills; under the new rules, they can still cover those and charge fees without customers’ consent.)
Given the billions at stake, consultants are urging banks and credit unions to hire them to help. “Your fee income will take a substantial ‘hit’ if you don’t start getting consumers to ‘opt-in’ for POS/ATM overdrafts NOW!” Mike Sobba, president of Strunk & Associates, a financial institution advisory service, warned banks in a pitch on the company’s Web site.
Some are even lobbying banks to focus their pitch on the minority of customers who are responsible for the vast majority of overdraft fees. According to a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation study in 2008, 93 percent of overdraft fees come from the 14 percent of people who exceed their balances five times or more in a year.
Nice, huh? Your friendly, neighborhood banker.
Amid a growing public outcry over these fees, several large banks announced changes to their overdraft policies last year. Bank of America said it would not charge a fee when customers exceeded their balance by $10 or less per day and would limit overdraft fees to four per day. At the end of March, Chase is eliminating overdrafts for customers whose accounts are overdrawn by $5 or less and has already limited overdrafts to three per day.
But even with those changes, customers could still incur more than $100 in fees a day if they opt to take overdraft coverage.
At least one credit union is using the new Fed rules to try to differentiate itself from its competitors. On its Web site, the UW Credit Union in Madison, Wis., says, “While we expect some financial institutions may aggressively market the idea of a consumer ‘opt in’ within the boundaries of this regulation, we have no such plans.”
COMMENT: When banks make their money from penalty fees, there is something wrong with the banking system. Banks are becoming increasingly unpopular with consumers, and dramatically so. You've all seen the commercials on television depicting a banker trying to cheat little kids. (It's the commercials in which a little girl tries to ride a bike outside a predetermined small box, and another child is tricked out of a pony.) The commercials are run by a bank that claims it doesn't indulge in such practices.
Some creative banking, please. Let's get back to basics.
February 23, 2010 Permalink
A LITTLE REMINDER FROM A PRO – AT 8:23 A.M. ET: One of the reasons conservatism has succeeded in the last 30 years is that it's had a core of writers and commentators who constantly struggle to keep the proper focus, and not allow the fringes to take over.
And one of the most remarkable developments in the past week has been the willingness of some of these stalwarts to step forward and caution about mistakes they see. Frank Gaffney Jr. has been a rock of support for a strong national defense as president of the Center for Security Policy. Like others on the right, he's been concerned at the lack of vigor he's seen in putting forward the Reaganesque argument for defense and national power. He's correct. Some conservatives are dropping the ball on foreign policy, and reverting back to the bad old days, when it was an afterthought. From the Washington Times:
Ronald Reagan the actor once famously screamed on-screen "Where's the rest of me?" after waking in a hospital to discover that a sadistic surgeon had amputated both of his legs. My guess is that Ronald Reagan the national leader would express similar horror at what is happening to his beloved conservative movement as some in its ranks seek to sever from its agenda the priority "the Gipper" consistently gave to national security.
One need look no further than the various functions held in the Washington area last week to see why Mr. Reagan would be so alarmed. On Wednesday, I joined a group of prominent conservatives assembled for the purpose of unveiling a document dubbed "the Mount Vernon Statement." It was intended to emulate an earlier articulation of the principles that unite the right issued 50 years ago at the Sharon, Conn., home of William F. Buckley Jr.
But something was missing...
the Mount Vernon document made no mention at all of today's totalitarian ideology - what authoritative Islam calls Shariah - or the threat it poses to America, let alone declare that victory should be our purpose in dealing with this menace.
And we have to ask why. Is there a faction seeking to return conservatives to the hopeless isolationism of the past, which made the right almost irrelevant for years?
Still, the Mount Vernon Statement is a paragon of robust national security-mind- edness in contrast to what took place in the succeeding three days at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). With a few notable exceptions - including powerful addresses by former U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton and former Sen. Rick Santorum - the program was bereft of the focus one would think 10,000 people who cherish the memory of Ronald Reagan would have demanded, especially in the midst of a global war with two active combat fronts.
Incredibly, there was but one panel held in the plenary hall that had as its principal subject the question of national defense.
We noticed that here. In the era of President Weakness, you'd think the "protect America" theme would be front and center. It was not, and many are outraged.
As a result, it came as little surprise to this attendee that libertarian Rep. Ron Paul won 31 percent of the vote in the CPAC straw poll. In the absence of the sort of serious attention to national security that was emblematic of the conservatism of Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan, why shouldn't those present feel free blithely to endorse a man who is committed to small, cheap government even if his positions on foreign and defense policy are so extreme and so critical of America as to make Barack Obama's look responsible, if not hard line?
Wonderfully stated. True, as we've reported, only 25% of the participants voted in the poll, but the mainstream media, doing its mischief, has focused on that nutty vote.
And Paul's foreign-policy comments sadly remind us of another time, another place, when some on the right (and extreme left) had an uncomfortable "understanding" of our enemies.
Even if a robust security-policy platform were not, on the merits, the right stance for the right, it has proven repeatedly to be the winningest stance politically, especially in times when our countrymen properly feel insecure. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts was wildly acclaimed by the CPAC masses, yet he would be the first to acknowledge that some 64 percent of his voters supported him because of his rejection of Mr. Obama's fecklessness on terrorism.
Yup. That's what the polls showed. And that was in one of the most liberal states of the Union.
In time of war, the American people deserve at least one party/movement/team that is unabashedly Reaganesque in its commitment to the national security of the United States. If conservatives and Republicans fail to articulate and demonstrate such a commitment, it is a safe bet that - even in an election season seemingly so promising - they will wake up on Nov. 3 screaming, "Where's the rest of me?"
COMMENT: I'm glad someone said it, and Gaffney said it well. National defense is what I call a "foundation" issue. It's basic. People may not always articulate their feelings about it all that well, but it's always there, and always counts in voters' calculations.
Some on the right are forgetting first principles. We're here to remind them.
February 23, 2010 Permalink
HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING – AT 8:11 A.M. ET: If anyone thought Scott Brown would come to Washington and recede into the "learning curve" mode, think again.
Brown has already thrown down the gauntlet on health care, and emerged as an instant leader. From the Boston Herald:
Sen. Scott Brown yesterday warned the Obama administration against using the “nuclear option” of ramming through Congress a revised $1 trillion health-care bill outlined yesterday by the White House.
The administration unveiled what’s already being called “Obamacare II” - a mix of already approved House and Senate health-care legislation aimed at expanding coverage for 31 million Americans.
Obama’s plan also includes caps on excessive insurance-premium increases, similar to measures Gov. Deval Patrick proposed two weeks ago in Massachusetts.
A spokesman for Brown, whose dramatic Senate victory last month halted Capitol Hill momentum for health-care reform, said Democrats better not try to use a reconciliation strategy to pass the bill with a simple Senate majority.
Brown vowed during his campaign that he would be the crucial “41st vote” to kill reform legislation under the Senate’s supermajority-vote rules.
“If the Democrats try to ram their health-care bill through Congress using reconciliation, they are sending a dangerous signal to the American people that they will stop at nothing to raise our taxes, increase premiums and slash Medicare,” said Brown spokesman Colin Reed in a statement. “Using the nuclear option damages the concept of representative leadership and represents more of the politics-as-usual that voters have repeatedly rejected.”
COMMENT: Great statement. And, most important, a very clear statement, defining what could happen to the American people if the administration forges forward. At a time of mush, people are looking for clarity.
Brown is a natural leader. Talk of 2012, however, is premature and can only hurt him. Yesterday, he actually voted with Dems on a jobs bill, which, although he said it was imperfect, was good enough to get his support. He's a shrewd operator with a fine sense of timing.
February 23, 2010 Permalink