The Essence of Politics

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

EU leader condemns US ‘road to hell’--By Tony Barber in Brussels and Edward Luce in Washington

European Union hopes for a new era in relations with the US were thrown into chaos on Wednesday when the holder of the EU presidency condemned American remedies for the global recession as “the road to hell”.

Barely a week before Barack Obama is due to arrive in Europe on his first official visit as US president, Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Republic’s prime minister, put the 27-nation EU on a collision course with Washington.

His attack compounded the confusion that has engulfed EU policy after the Czech leader lost a no-confidence vote in the country’s parliament on Tuesday, forcing him to offer his government’s resignation midway through its six-month EU presidency.

Mr Topolanek said EU leaders had been disturbed at a summit in Brussels last week to hear calls from Tim Geithner, the US Treasury secretary, for more aggressive policies to fight the global downturn.

“The US Treasury secretary talks about permanent action and we, at our spring council, were quite alarmed at that . . . The US is repeating mistakes from the 1930s, such as wide-ranging stimuluses, protectionist tendencies and appeals, the Buy American campaign, and so on,” he told a European parliament session in Strasbourg. “All these steps, their combination and their permanency, are the road to hell.”

US officials made no comment on the remarks. But the Obama administration says it took great pains to ensure that the Buy American provisions in the $787bn (€579bn) stimulus that the president signed into law last month were consistent with World Trade Organisation rules. It followed, therefore, that any attempt to make them permanent would continue to be consistent with WTO rules.

EU diplomats said it was the most extraordinary outburst from a political leader in charge of running the EU’s affairs since Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, caused uproar in 2003 when he likened a German socialist member of the European parliament to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Other leaders of EU member states, including Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, disagree with US calls for big fiscal stimuli to battle the recession. But they have couched their opposition in more diplomatic language than Mr Topolanek’s.

The Czech leader was speaking eight days before Mr Obama was due to arrive in London for a G20 summit of the world’s developed and emerging economies.

After the summit and a Nato meeting in France and Germany, the US president is due to fly to Prague for an EU-US summit, at which the Czech Republic will represent all 27 member states.

Relations between the Obama administration and Mr Topolanek’s government have been delicate in recent weeks because of signals from Washington that Mr Obama may reassess plans to deploy parts of a US anti-missile shield in the Czech Republic, a project to which the Topolanek government has been committed.

Mr Obama has vigorously opposed the view that the Great Depression was caused by too much spending, rather than too little, a view held by a small handful of rightwing economists.

Obama’s False Choice--By Mark Steyn

A “chaotic and unforgiving capitalism” is exactly what we need right now.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune last week, President Obama fell back on one of his favorite rhetorical tics: “But I also know,” he wrote, “that we need not choose between a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism and an oppressive government-run economy. That is a false choice that will not serve our people or any people.”

Really? For the moment, it’s a “false choice” mainly in the sense that he’s not offering it: “a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism” is not on the menu, which leaves “an oppressive government-run economy” as pretty much the only game in town. How oppressive is yet to be determined: To be sure, the official position remains that only “the richest five percent” will have taxes increased. But you’ll be surprised at the percentage of Americans who wind up in the richest five percent. This year federal government spending will rise to 28.5 per cent of GDP, the highest level ever, with the exception of the peak of the Second World War. The 44th president is proposing to add more to the national debt than the first 43 presidents combined, doubling it in the next six years, and tripling it within the decade. But to talk about it in percentages of this and trillions of that misses the point. It’s not about bookkeeping, it’s about government annexation of the economy, and thus of life: government supervision, government regulation, government control. No matter how small your small business is — plumbing, hairdressing, maple sugaring — the state will be burdening you with more permits, more paperwork, more bureaucracy.

And don’t plan on moving. Ahead of this week’s G20 summit in London, Timothy Geithner, America’s beloved Toxic Asset, called for “global regulation.” “Our hope,” said Toxic Tim, “is that we can work with Europe on a global framework, a global infrastructure which has appropriate global oversight . . . ”

“Global oversight:” Hmm. There’s a phrase to savor.

“We can’t,” he continued, “allow institutions to cherry pick among competing regulators and ship risk to where it faces the lowest standards and weakest constraints . . . ”

Just as a matter of interest, why not? If you don’t want to be subject to the punitive “oversight” of economically illiterate, demagogic legislators-for-life like Barney Frank, why shouldn’t you be “allowed” to move your business to some jurisdiction with a lighter regulatory touch?

Borders give you choices. Your town has a crummy grade school? Move ten miles north and there’s a better one. Sick of Massachusetts taxes? Move to New Hampshire, as thousands do. To modify the abortionists’ bumper sticker: “I’m Pro-Choice And I Vote With My Feet.” That’s part of the self-correcting dynamism of capitalism: For example, Bono, the global do-gooder who was last in Washington to play at the Obama inauguration, recently moved much of his business from Ireland to the Netherlands, in order to pay less tax. And good for him. To be sure, he’s always calling on governments to give more money to Africa and whatnot, but it’s heartening to know that, when it comes to his wallet as opposed to yours, Bono — like Secretary Geithner — has no desire to toss any more of his money into the great sucking maw of the government treasury than the absolute minimum he can get away with. I’m with Bono and Tim: They can spend their money more effectively than hack bureaucrats can. We should do as they do, not as they say.

If you listen to the principal spokesmen for U.S. economic policy — Obama and Geithner — they grow daily ever more explicitly hostile to the private sector and ever more comfortable with the language of micro-managed government-approved capitalism — which, of course, isn’t capitalism at all. They’ll have an easier time getting away with it in a world of “global oversight” where there’s nowhere to move to. Unfortunately, even then it won’t work. Think about it: It takes extraordinary skill to create and manage a billion-dollar company; there are very few human beings on the planet who can do it. Now look at Obama and Geithner, the two men currently “managing” more money than any individuals in human history: not billions, but trillions.

Notwithstanding the Treasury secretary’s protestations that the Yes/No prompt buttons of Turbo Tax were too complex for a simple soul such as himself, it’s no reflection on the hapless Geithner that he’s unable to fix the planet. When the Bolsheviks chose to introduce Russians to the blessings of a “command economy” 90 years ago, they were dealing with a relatively simple agricultural society largely contained within national borders. Obama and Geithner are trying to do it with a sophisticated global economy in which North American consumers, European bankers, Asian suppliers, Saudi investors, and Chinese debt-holders are more tangled than an octopuses’ orgy. Even with “global oversight” — with the Toxic Tims of Germany, Argentina, and India all agreeing on how to fix the game — it can’t be done.

Barack Obama, even when he’s not yukking it up on 60 Minutes, barely disguises his indifference to economic matters. He is not an economist, a political philosopher, a geopolitical strategist. He is the president as social engineer, the Community-Organizer-in-Chief. His plan to reduce tax deductions for charitable giving, for example, is not intended primarily to raise revenue, but to advance government as the distributor of largesse and diminish alternative sources of societal organization, such as civic groups. Likewise, his big plans for socialized health care, a green economy, universal college education: They’re about extending the reach of the state.

Unfortunately, all of it costs money he doesn’t have. So he has to borrow it, in your name. Where does the world’s hyperpower go to borrow more dough than anyone’s ever borrowed in human history? More to the point, given that, partly at the behest of Obama and Geithner, almost every other western government is ramping up national debt to cover massive bank bailouts and other phony-baloney “stimuli,” is there enough money out there to buy up the debt that’s already been run up? Last week, at the official British Treasury auction, investors failed to buy the full complement of so-called “gilt-edged” 40-year bonds. Two such auctions have already failed in Germany. The U.S. Treasury, facing similar investor reluctance to snap up $34 billion of five-year notes, was forced to increase the interest it will pay on them. The Chinese and the Saudis have long taken the view that it’s to their advantage to own as much of the western world as they can snaffle up, but it’s unclear whether even they have pockets deep enough for what America and the many Bailoutistans of Europe are proposing to spend.

In their first two months, Obama and Geithner have done nothing but vaporize your wealth, and your children’s future. What began as an economic crisis is now principally a political usurpation. And, to return to the president’s “false choice,” that “chaotic and unforgiving capitalism” is exactly what we need right now. It’s the quickest, cheapest, fairest, most-efficient route to economic stabilization and renewal. A regimented and eternally forgiving global command economy with no moral hazard will destroy us all.

House Health Plan to Include Government-Run Option--By Laura Litvan

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House this year will consider health-care legislation including an option for a government-run program that would compete with insurers.

“This is a big agenda, and I believe it should have a public option in it for it to be really substantial,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol.

President Barack Obama has said he wants Congress to produce legislation that would expand health-care coverage for the country’s 46 million uninsured and reduce medical costs. Republicans and some insurers have opposed the creation of a new program modeled on Medicare as part of the effort. The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, last week called the idea a “deal-breaker.”

Pelosi said the Democratic-controlled House will be “aggressive” in its approach to a health-care overhaul, which is a centerpiece of Obama’s agenda. She said a government role in health care will help U.S. companies be more competitive.

“This is not only about the health of individuals in our country, which will be justification enough,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat. “It’s about the competitiveness of our businesses to make them globally competitive because they are competing with companies and countries where the federal government -- their governments -- pay for health care. They don’t have to bear those health care costs.”

Aetna’s View
Ronald Williams, chief executive officer of Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna Inc., told a Senate panel this week that insurers would be at a competitive disadvantage under a plan that would, in effect, extend Medicare, the U.S. government health plan for the elderly and disabled, to more people. Williams said the industry pays an extra $89 billion a year to providers to make up for “underpayments” from patients covered by existing government programs.

Obama’s budget proposal would create a $634 billion fund over 10 years to expand health insurance coverage. The president didn’t offer a specific plan, saying he was open to “all serious ideas,” including taxing employer-provided health care, something he opposed during the campaign. He has said he recognizes concerns that a government-run plan may have unfair cost advantages over private plans.

Pelosi defended a drive by House Democrats to put health- care legislation on a fast track under a budget proposal announced this week.

Legislative Maneuvers
A draft of the House tax-and-spending blueprint calls for using “reconciliation” procedures, a maneuver that would allow a health-care overhaul to move through the Senate with a requirement for a simple majority of 51 votes. Under normal Senate debate rules, 60 votes are needed to keep opponents from blocking legislation.

Senate Democrats didn’t include such fast-track language in their version of the budget resolution. Some Senate Democrats join Republicans in rejecting the reconciliation tactic.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said today that he hasn’t ruled out adding the fast-track language to the budget blueprint in negotiations with the House on a final plan.

“We’re taking nothing off the table,” Reid told reporters.

Lawmakers will likely work out their differences next month when they complete budget plans for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. White House Budget Director Peter Orszag declined yesterday to say whether the administration supports using the tactic.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at

AIG chiefs pressed to donate to Dodd

$160,000 streamed in as senator gained power on banking committee

As Democrats prepared to take control of Congress after the 2006 elections, a top boss at the insurance giant American International Group Inc. told colleagues that Sen. Christopher J. Dodd was seeking re-election donations and he implored company executives and their spouses to give.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, has lost some political standing heading into re-election because of his ties to American International Group Inc.

The message in the Nov. 17, 2006, e-mail from Joseph Cassano, AIG Financial Products chief executive, was unmistakable: Mr. Dodd was "next in line" to be chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees the insurance industry, and he would "have the opportunity to set the committee's agenda on issues critical to the financial services industry.

"Given his seniority in the Senate, he will also play a key role in the Democratic Majority's leadership," Mr. Cassano wrote in the message, obtained by The Washington Times.

Mr. Dodd's campaign quickly hit pay dirt, collecting more than $160,000 from employees and their spouses at the AIG Financial Products division (AIG-FP) in Wilton, Conn., in the days before he took over as the committee chairman in January 2007. Months later, the senator transferred the donations to jump-start his 2008 presidential bid, which later failed.

Now, two years later, Mr. Dodd has emerged as a central figure in the government's decision to let executives at the now-failing AIG collect more than $218 million in bonuses, according to the Connecticut attorney general - even as the company was receiving billions of dollars in assistance from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He acknowledged that he slipped a provision into legislation in February that authorized the bonuses, but said the Treasury Department asked him to do it.

The decision has generated national outrage and put the Obama administration into the position of trying to collect the bonuses after they were distributed. It also endangers Mr. Dodd's re-election chances in 2010 as his popularity tumbles in his home state.

Despite all the claims that Washington has changed, the tale of Mr. Dodd's lucrative political ties to AIG is a fresh reminder that special interests continue to use donations and fundraising to sow good will with powerful lawmakers like Mr. Dodd.

"The message seems clear: The boss says I want you to support the senator," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which studies political fundraising and ethics. "And I think the employees got the message."

Representatives for Mr. Dodd did not answer specific questions about AIG's fundraising, but spokesman Bryan DeAngelis said in a statement: "Senator Dodd´s fundraising has always been above board, transparent and in accordance with campaign finance rules.

"As he said [earlier this month], contributions received from any individual who accepted these bonuses from AIG last week will be donated to charity. And last fall, he made the decision to no longer accept contributions from [political action committees] of companies receiving TARP money."

Officials at AIG-FP in Wilton referred inquiries to the firm's New York headquarters, where spokesman Mark Herr said he had been on the job only three weeks and had no information about the e-mail or the campaign contributions to Mr. Dodd.

Mr. Cassano's Washington attorney, F. Joseph Warin, did not return messages left on his voice mail or e-mail.

Mr. Dodd's plight also signals that the actions taken by lawmakers after they receive big political donations are being scrutinized by an increasingly distrustful public. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found Mr. Dodd lagging 43 percent to 42 percent behind former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, a Republican who plans to challenge Mr. Dodd, in a hypothetical race.

"The concern and the question is whether AIG was purchasing kid-glove treatment from their home state senator - from the senator chairing the committee charged with overseeing their industry," Ms. Krumholz said.

Political opponents already are using Mr. Dodd's financial ties to AIG and his role in the bonuses to weaken his political standing heading into re-election.

AIG's employees have been big financial backers of Mr. Dodd. Over his career, Mr. Dodd has collected $238,418 from AIG employees and their spouses, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Mr. Cassano has donated $7,118 to Mr. Dodd's campaigns.

Mr. Cassano's November 2006 e-mail instructed his colleagues on how to make donations to the senator from Connecticut.

"As he considers running for president in 2008, Senator Dodd has asked us for our support with his reelection campaign and we have offered to be supportive," Mr. Cassano wrote.

The employees were told, "If you agree," to write checks for $2,100 from themselves and their spouses and to send them to Mr. Dodd's campaign within four days. They also were to ask the senior members of their management teams to do the same and send copies of their checks to the company.

The Dodd campaign collected $162,100 from AIG-FP employees and their spouses within six weeks of the e-mail, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the Federal Election Commission.

Each of the seven AIG-FP executives to whom the Cassano e-mail was sent made two $2,100 contributions to the Dodd campaign - one for the primary and another for the general election campaign. The records also show that five of their wives also contributed $4,200 each to the Dodd campaign. The executive vice presidents are Alan Frost, David Ackert, Douglas L. Poling, Jake DeSantis, Jon Liebergall, Robert Leary and William Kolbert.

Mr. Cassano, who resigned in February after AIG-FP posted losses of $11 billion, followed his own advice. He and his wife gave Mr. Dodd's campaign $4,200 each.

Political fundraising in the workplace is legal, but a request from a boss may be viewed as a requirement, campaign watchdogs said.

POLITICAL TIES: Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, is a central figure in the government's decision to allow executives at the now-failing AIG collect bonuses.

"Implicit in this [e-mail] is the presumption that, at best, noncompliance will not be looked up favorably ... at worst, it may have negative consequences on the employees," Ms. Krumholz said.
Mr. Dodd's campaign paid for events at AIG, as well. His Senate campaign recorded paying $400 at AIG Food Services on Dec. 7, 2006, about two weeks after the e-mail was sent. In March 2007, his presidential campaign paid AIG-FP $250 for a room rental fee, according to election commission filings. The payments could have been recorded weeks after the events took place.

Watchdog groups say Mr. Dodd's close association with AIG - over his career, the company's employees have been one of his largest donor bases - raises questions about his and his committee's ability to provide objective oversight. It was the $218 million in bonuses paid by AIG that became the focus of public outrage, igniting a torrent of criticism and congressional hearings in the wake of federal loan packages.

Earlier this month, Mr. Dodd defended the amendment to an economic stimulus bill that exempted bonuses to which companies receiving federal bailout funds previously agreed. He initially denied having any role in crafting the language, but he later said Treasury Department officials pressured him to make the change to protect the government from lawsuits.

Although the AIG-FP headquarters is located in Mr. Dodd's home state and a good number of the bonuses authorized for top company executives went to that office, Mr. Dodd has said he had no idea the amendment would impact the company.

"Let me be clear: I was completely unaware of these AIG bonuses until I learned of them last week," he told CNN last week. "I agreed reluctantly. I was changing the amendment because others were insistent."

Democrats vs. Democrats--By PATRICK O'CONNOR & MANU RAJU

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner snarled at moderate Democrats Wednesday, but the real bite came from liberal groups frustrated by centrist opposition to Barack Obama’s budget priorities.

As Boehner accused Blue Dog Democrats of being “lap dogs” for Obama, and Americans United for Change, the labor-backed organization that serves as the White House’s chief third-party operation, began airing ads Wednesday urging moderate Democrats in both the House and the Senate to get on board with the president’s budget.

Among the targets of Americans United for Change is Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who declared the ads “not very helpful.”

“The liberal groups need to understand that we are not elected to represent the president,” Pryor said. “We’re elected to represent our states, and we are trying to reflect the attitudes and values of the people who sent us to Washington.”

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) is also unhappy with the friendly fire. Bayh announced last week that a group of centrist Democrats had come together to negotiate as a bloc with the White House and party leaders on major legislation. He promptly found himself targeted by an ad accusing him of “standing in the way of President Obama’s reforms.”

“We literally have no agenda,” Bayh shot back. “How can they be threatened by a group that has taken no policy positions?”

But liberal groups that worked hard to elect Obama are unhappy with the prospect of having moderate Democrats like Pryor, Bayh and the Blue Dogs in the House trying to slow down his agenda.

“We are going to need almost every Democratic vote to pass the budget,” said MoveOn Executive Director Justin Ruben. “Our ads ensure the voices of our 5 million members and the millions of other Americans who support this budget can be heard over the army of lobbyists.”

A spokesman for Americans United said the ads were more about offsetting pressure on these lawmakers who "are hearing it from the big oil and insurance companies and others who are very concerned about losing their giveaways from the Bush era."

"There’s zero anger coming from our end," said Americans United spokesman Jeremy Funk. "The point of this ad effort is to make sure the moderate Democratic and Republican members who are critical to the outcome of this budget hear it loud and strong from the real folks they represent about their support for President Obama’s commitments to healthcare reform, education and energy."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a registered independent who leans far left, complained that “so-called moderates have the threat of voting with the Republicans” while “those of us who believe in protecting the needs of middle-income working families don’t have that luxury.”

But the Democrats under attack in the new ads claim that they, too, are watching out for working-class families. “My concern is that we have this mountain of debt,” said Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire — one of the targets of the advertising campaign. “We have a short-term fiscal crisis that we need to dig ourselves out from. Is this the right time to put three massive initiatives in the budget?”

Leadership aides were grumbling about the liberal advertising campaigns. Asked if the ads were unfair, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said he hadn’t heard them yet and that it would depend on how they were phrased.

And while Pryor and Bayh were put off by the spots, some of the other targets took them in stride.

“I don’t mind hearing from folks on either side of the issue,” said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner. “I’m going to do what I think is right.”

“They’re just expressing their views,” said Louisiana Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, another target. “It’s not views I necessarily agree with, but there is no bad blood here on our end.”

Democratic House and Senate budget writers released their own budget proposals this week, and they punted on some of the toughest choices set forth in Obama’s plan. Neither bill sets aside fast-track consideration for health care reform or a controversial cap-and-trade program. The House bill also included balanced budget protections long sought by the Blue Dogs.

Republicans are expected to oppose the final budget bills en masse whenever they come to the floor.

On Tuesday, Boehner told his rank and file that their goal should be to delay consideration of the budget because the longer it sits around, “the worse it smells,” according to people who attended the closed-door caucus meeting.

On Wednesday, he unloaded on the Blue Dogs, saying they’d done nothing to work with House Republicans and ought to “get off people’s laps and actually do something.”

Boehner’s remarks — made at a Yale Club event — sparked a sharp response from Blue Dog co-chairman Charlie Melancon, who said that Boehner and the Republicans had done nothing to restrain eight years of big government spending under George W. Bush. He said the Blue Dogs would “continue working in a productive manner to moderate legislation and offer common-sense policy alternatives.”

Rep. Manzullo to Geithner: Your Plan Is 'Radical'

In testimony before the House Financial Services committee that just adjourned, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner just had to defend his institutional takeover plan against charges of radicalism.

"Do you realize how radical your proposal is?" Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) asked.

"It's not radical. . ." Geither began, before Manzullo interrupted him.

"You're talking about seizing private businesses and you don't consider that radical?" Manzullo replied, his voice rising.

Manzullo is trying to get Geithner to give details of the plan -- that's where Geithner got stung before -- but Geithner doesn't have them yet.

If the plan were not radical, Manzullo said to Geithner, "you would have answers to some of my questions, such as, what size business would be subject to this?"

Geithner: Banning 'Naked' Credit Default Swaps Not Necessary

Noon: Geithner said banning so-called naked credit default swaps "isn't necessary and wouldn't help."

A credit default swap is insurance one party sells to another against default on a debt. In a "naked" swap, one party carries no actual risk in the transaction; instead, it's a bet on the transaction's outcome.

Naked swaps have been criticized as being speculative at best and actually creating risk.

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) asked Geithner if he would consider banning the swaps.

"To me, I'm from the Midwest, these just look like simple bets," Donnelly said, which American taxpayers have been forced to pay off.

Geithner allowed that there is strong debate on the issue and that "my own sense is that banning naked credit default swaps isn't necessary and wouldn't help." He said it is "terribly hard" to differentiate between a legitimate hedge and a pure speculative bet.

The House Financial Services committee, where Geithner is testifying, is now in recess so members can vote on legislation.

Geithner: New Regulatory Power Over Financials Should Rest With FDIC

10:54 A.M.: Geithner said the governments sweeping new powers to seize non-bank financial institutions, if passed by Congress, would be based on the FDIC's model.

Asked by Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) where such sweeping powers would rest, Geithner said "we would rely on the FDIC to run the regime."

Congress appears open to Geithner's plan, if Rep. Paul Kanjorski's (D-Penn.) statement earlier represents the general sentiment of the body: "We need to provide the administration with a bigger hammer."

Geithner: 'New Rules Of the Game' Needed

10:12: A.M.: Geithner is rolling out his proposed sweeping changes to the the regulatory system governing the financial industry, which were first reported here by The Post's Binya Appelbaum and David Cho.

Geither is proposing "new rules of the game."

You can read his entire testimony here.

Geithner said it his intent to lay out the "substance of reform" today but not "the complex and sensitive questions of who should be responsible for what."

This could be troublesome for Wall Street, which freaked out the last time Geithner failed to provide details for a big plan, when he rolled out the "substance" of his toxic asset plan but not its details.

-- Frank Ahrens

Senator Judd Gregg Addresses President Obama's Budget in Weekly Republican Address

In the weekly Republican address, Senator Judd Gregg explains why Republicans think President Obama's budget spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much. Republicans believe we create prosperity by having an affordable government without excessive spending, taxes, or debt.

Candor, please

Obama not forthright on vast debt he seeks
2:00 a.m. March 26, 2009

President Barack Obama took many on-point questions at his press conference this week. But for our money, the most important came from Chip Reid of CBS News.
“At both of your town hall meetings in California last week, you said, quote, 'I didn't run for president to pass on our problems to the next generation.' But under your budget, the debt will increase $7 trillion over the next 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office says $9.3 trillion. And today on Capitol Hill, some Republicans called your budget, with all the spending on health care, education and environment, the most irresponsible budget in American history.

“Isn't that kind of debt exactly what you were talking about when you said 'passing on our problems to the next generation'?” Reid asked.

This is a profoundly important issue. Even without the hugely costly stimulus and bailout measures believed necessary to deal with the economic crisis, even without the highly costly Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the United States faces staggering annual deficits in coming years as 78 million baby boomers retire and the tab for Social Security and Medicare explodes. In 20 years, the average age of the nation will be what it now is in retirement haven Florida. A decade after that, the ratio of workers paying taxes to retirees receiving federal checks will drop to 2-to-1.

Something needs to be done to prepare for this coming entitlement tidal wave – a point Obama made repeatedly on the campaign trail, to his credit.

Now, to his discredit, Obama is simply ignoring these grim fiscal realities. The president argues that to put America on track for a better future, he has no choice but to pursue enormously costly expansions of government health coverage and government regulation of energy use and production. But he must acknowledge that his ambitions have a jaw-dropping price tag. This is what Chip Reid's question was meant to do.

Instead, Obama refused to be accountable. At first, he noted that GOP lawmakers who criticized him were responsible for the $1.3 trillion deficit he inherited upon taking office. So if Republicans were rotten on fiscal discipline, he gets a pass for being even worse?

Then the president bragged that even “the most conservative estimates” say his prediction that he will reduce the budget deficit by more than half over the next four years is correct.

This is parsing at its worst. Given that the present budget contains several vastly costly one-shot measures such as the Troubled Assets Relief Program, of course the $1.3 trillion annual deficit will plunge. But a perpetual $600 billion annual deficit also isn't sustainable. It would put us on an inexorable path toward a day in which paying interest on the debt alone consumes one-quarter or more of all revenue.

Talk about passing our problems to the next generation.

If President Obama won't address this very realistic and disturbing scenario, then prominent moderate Democrats must force him to – starting with the senior senator from California. How about it, Dianne Feinstein – are you up for a challenge? The children and grandchildren of America are counting on you.

In the Union-Tribune on Page B6

Huge deficits put nation on unsustainable course

Assume for a minute that you earn $22,000 this year and spend $40,000. Next year, you earn $23,000 and spend $37,000. You'd be on the fast track to bankruptcy.
Now add eight more zeros to those numbers, and you get a sense for the federal government's dire financial situation. This year, Washington is on track to spend nearly two dollars for every dollar it takes in. Under President Obama's budget for 2010, the government would spend about three dollars for every two coming in.

Unlike you, of course, the federal government has no credit limit and can print money. And temporary deficit spending is necessary to bail out the financial system and jump-start the economy. In the long run, though, huge deficits are no more sustainable for a government than for a household.

This brings us to Wednesday's start of budget season on Capitol Hill, which featured an underwhelming display of short-term tinkering to whittle down the cost of President Obama's $3.7 trillion spending plan for 2010, coupled with some of the same old backsliding on the long-term problem.
Among other things, the Senate Budget Committee abandoned the useful discipline of laying out budget numbers for the next 10 years, opting instead for a five-year display that conveniently masks the fact that deficits are projected to rise after 2013.
There are limits to how much the government can borrow without consequence — a fact underscored Wednesday when the Treasury had unexpected trouble selling five-year notes to cover Washington's enormous borrowing. It might have been a hiccup, but it roiled the stock market and sent a worrying signal that Treasury might have to offer higher interest rates, which could throw a wrench into the recovery.

Obama has promised to cut the deficit in half by 2013 — a low bar, given its current enormity. Pressed at his news conference Tuesday night, he asked for time and acknowledged that he'll have to make a "whole host of adjustments" in future budgets to bring the red ink under control. We'll see.

Republican critics, meanwhile, call the Obama deficits "unconscionable," but their outrage rings hollow considering that GOP President George W. Bush and a GOP Congress squandered the surpluses they inherited and doubled the national debt.

This isn't an insoluble problem. Everyone knows what has to happen. Democrats have to show spending restraint and make tough choices among competing priorities. Republicans have to overcome their hostility to any and all tax hikes. The economic crisis won't be an excuse to put this off for much longer.

Critics Say Senate Bill to Rescue Newspapers May Invite Government Control of News--By Joseph Abrams,

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., has proposed rescue legislation to allow willing newspapers to run as nonprofits, a move critics warn may invite government oversight of newspaper content.

Call it the opening salvo of the broadsheet bailout. Castaway columnists and struggling stringers might be America's next charity case if Sen. Benjamin Cardin has his way.

The Maryland Democrat proposed a bill Tuesday that would rewrite tax law to allow newspapers to operate as tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, just as long as they don't make official endorsements of political candidates.

But some media analysts say that could create government control of the news.
Click here to see the bill.

Cardin says his bill is a needed step to make sure that small newspapers across the country stay afloat, as scores are expected to close their doors and stop their presses for good.

"We are losing our newspaper industry," said Cardin. "The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy."

But critics warn that if papers become tax-exempt nonprofits, they will be ponying up more than the money's worth: they'll be giving up their independence to stay in the government's good graces.

"It would de-claw participating newspapers, which couldn't endorse candidates or freely question the party in power," said Ken McIntyre, a media and public policy fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

"Reporters and editors are supposed to be wary skeptics of politicians and bureaucrats on behalf of readers -- not beholden to the government's favor."

The IRS allows 501(c)(3) nonprofits to operate freely as long as they don't violate certain rules regarding political activity. That could spell trouble for editorial pages, which Cardin does not mention in his legislation.

The IRS prohibits nonprofits from any bias that would "favor one candidate over another ... oppose a candidate in some manner; or ... have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates."

Even front-page news could come under scrutiny, said James Glassman, a longtime newspaper and magazine publisher who was recently chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

"Tax rules prohibit endorsements, but there are ways to promote specific candidates outside the editorial pages," he told "You will almost certainly have government tax officials examining the content of papers for telltale signs of bias and advocacy. A bad situation."

But others say Cardin's bill is a vital first move to save a crumbling industry that employs tens of thousands and has been shedding jobs with celerity.

"It could work," said Robert Lang, CEO of the Mary Elizabeth & Gordon B. Mannweiler Foundation, who has developed a separate hybrid model for newspapers that would allow them to accept funding but also turn a profit. While the Cardin model is not perfect, he said, "the important part is that it gets the dialogue going."

The Tribune Company, which owns many of the nation's leading papers, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, filed for bankruptcy protection in December. Many more newspapers have closed their doors, like the Rocky Mountain News, or have ended their print editions, like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

"If we're not careful, there are going to be 40,000 journalists out of work and we're not going to be able to put them back to work," said Lang. "If we let the papers go, we cause a problem."

Tax relief or no, many major newspapers face debts that only a full government bailout would be able to confront. The New York Times was $1.1 billion in the red last year, and has literally been selling the floor out from under itself -- 21 floors, to be exact, in its Manhattan headquarters -- to help recoup its losses.

Cardin's office says the bill is not intended to heal the wounds of massive newspaper conglomerates, which would have a hard time becoming solvent even with the relaxed tax code.

Large papers and news chains also have owners and shareholders who might be reluctant to turn the business into a nonprofit.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains," said Cardin, "but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat."

Cardin imagines newspapers working like National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service, which accept federal funding but maintain a degree of independence from the government.

"It works pretty well for NPR, which is one of the top journalistic organizations in the country," said Mitchell Stevens, professor of media history at NYU Journalism School. Stevens said that as long as newspapers are not asked to censor their political coverage, the idea could help address the newspaper crisis.

So far, Cardin's move may have more friends in the media than in Congress. No other senators have come along to co-sponsor the bill -- which some longtime analysts say is a good thing.

"Since the Bill of Rights was passed, the government has never had a voice in the press. This is a very dangerous provision," said Alan Mutter, who blogs at Reflections of a Newsosaur. "It's very unhealthy."

Mutter said that Cardin's bill won't save newspapers in the short or long term, and that papers should focus instead on how to make money again by offering better products that they can charge for, instead of giving away all their content for free online.

As media doctors argue the merits of different proposals to save newspapers, it is universally acknowledged how deep the trouble runs.

Newspapers are being "cannibalized" by blogs and online news aggregators, said Lang, who doesn't want to see papers go the way of the dinosaur -- or the disc jockey.

"There's nobody left on the radio," Lang told "Even the DJs are going to be robots pretty soon."

Stimulus spending remains ripe for fraud

The many billions shoveled to the Energy Department as part of the $787 billion stimulus package recently signed into law may provide a cautionary tale about potential abuse, judging from a recent Energy Inspector General's warning.

As if on cue, FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress yesterday that he, too, expects a surge in stimulus-related fraud. "Our expectation is that economic crimes will continue to skyrocket," he said. "…The unprecedented level of financial resources committed by the federal government…will lead to an inevitable increase in economic crime and public corruption cases."

Undaunted, President Obama earlier this week continued his intense promotion of the stimulus package, ignoring the great potential for significant fraud as federal agencies rush to dispense the money. He hyped the $59 billion for clean energy and related tax incentives in the stimulus bill as a down payment on an additional $150 billion in Energy Department spending in his 2010 budget. He didn't seem to get the recent warnings from Energy Inspector General Gregory Friedman about the high probability for fraud and waste in distributing stimulus dollars, which call into question the agency's ability to even distribute the stimulus money effectively.

Most importantly, Friedman, a Clinton-era appointee, highlighted the need for a level of proactive accountability historically absent in the federal bureaucracy. As reported by Congress Daily, Friedman's memo last week to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other department officials argues that the massive increase in funding going through the agency will strain and fundamentally change the agency's mission while creating the potential for rampant abuse. The stimulus provides the agency over $38 billion in funding along with authority over energy loans totaling $127 billion, spending that dwarfs the $27 billion provided in the agency's 2009 budget.

Friedman reportedly notes that during regular agency operations misuse of funds, falsification of data, kickbacks, bribes and other forms of fraud happen with "troubling" frequency. He also argues, correctly, that anti-corruption oversight should be a priority. Friedman's laudable honesty exposes both the unintended consequences inherent in the quickly passed package and the daunting task faced.

The same attitude must be adopted by all agencies overseeing the implementation of the massive spending measure. What is true, or likely, at Energy is very likely true or likely at other departments and agencies as well. Exhibit "A" is the continued lax oversight and lack of transparency seen with the Treasury Department's handing of the banking industry bailout. The White House is yet to be convincing that it is adequately addressing the potential of a major waste of taxpayer funds.

Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board chairman Earl Devaney, who is functionally the chief auditor of the stimulus package, told a House panel last week that some fraud is inevitable. But he also expressed horror that accounting industry standards for fraud acceptability is 7 percent, or $55 billion in taxpayer money. Devaney, who has a reputation for vigilance, promised a zero tolerance approach. That is very good to hear.

With over 40 states launching websites intended to track stimulus spending, Devaney's board will oversee the Web site, aimed at maintaining public access to the Fed's spending records. The board aims to change the fact that the federal government has never been particularly successful in the timely and reliable tracking of spending data.

But even an unprecedented level of post-spending transparency will only do so much to ensure waste is kept to a minimum. Perusing the data online only comes after the fact. It will take more than a new Web site and the sort of staff training the administration has implemented to turn an understanding of the problem into real accountability.

While some degree of waste is almost inevitable from any government endeavor, the degree must not reach the level of finding 7 percent fraud - $55 billion in the case of the entire package - an acceptable figure. The White House is saying the right thing by indicating zero is the goal, not $55 billion. We can only hope their rhetoric translates into additional action that defies history and saves billions.

Bold claims of stimulus jobs can't be measured--By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer

If space exploration were conducted like the job forecasts under the government's new stimulus law, man surely would have missed the moon. But this isn't rocket science.

No promise from President Barack Obama is more important to the wounded economy than his vow to save or create some 3.5 million jobs in two years. In support of that bottom line, the government even tells states how many jobs they can expect to see from the spending and tax cuts.

But precise trajectories are impossible to plot and even approximations can be wildly off, as the authors of these forecasts acknowledge, usually more readily than the policymakers who use them to promote the plan.

Flip through the stacks of economic analyses underpinning the stimulus plan and you find a lot of throat-clearing qualifications and angst:
--"Very uncertain."

--"Difficult to distinguish among alternative estimates."

--"We confess to considerable uncertainty."

--"Subject to substantial margins of error."

In other words, who really knows?

Economic modeling may prove to be a haywire navigational device in this crisis.

"Large fiscal stimulus is rarely attempted," Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, told lawmakers. "For those reasons, some economists remain skeptical that there will be any significant effects, while others expect very large ones."

Zero to nirvana? Even for economists, who routinely differ among themselves, that's a range beyond the norm.

The disconnect between theory and real life became evident when Obama pitched his plan at a Caterpillar factory before its passage and held out hope the federal stimulus money would let the heavy equipment maker rehire some of the thousands being let go.

Although that might be the eventual result when money courses through the pipeline, Caterpillar last week announced 2,400 more layoffs.

By necessity, stimulus projections were put together in ways that bear little resemblance to a family's budget.

Assumptions are piled atop assumptions, rules of thumb, historical experience, theory and more than a little hope.

A family budget is a set of building blocks of income and expenses, simple addition from the bottom up.

The stimulus projections are top down, a matter of economic multipliers and complex division infused with things that may or may not happen.

The government estimated how much the spending and tax cuts might grow the economy. Then that effect was translated into projected job growth overall. Then that theoretical pie was divided into chunks to show what each state and sector of the economy might get out of it.

All of this without knowing, for example, how exactly states will spend money they get from Washington. Or how money going directly to a bridge or manufacturer will support other jobs in the communities.

Among the assumptions used in White House and congressional forecasting:

--Every one-point gain in the gross domestic product will translate into 1 million jobs.

--For every two jobs directly created by the stimulus spending, a third job will be indirectly created. The 2-to-1 ratio is rough and varies considerably by sector.

--For each dollar states receive from Washington, they will decide to use 60 cents to avoid spending cuts, 30 cents to avoid tax increases and 10 cents to reduce drawdowns of their rainy day funds.

--A tax cut has only one-quarter of the value of a spending increase of the same size, in terms of expanding the economy.

--Every dollar spent on unemployment benefits is worth $1.63 of quick economic expansion. Food stamps boost the economy even more.

The overarching goal — and promise — of saving or creating 3.5 million jobs is built on vagaries such as these.

Job creation is counted in different ways, but none that can isolate the stimulus package from the multitude of forces shaping the economy.

And there's no reliable way to measure how many jobs the stimulus will stop from disappearing. Companies don't report layoffs avoided by federal aid.

Instead, forecasters estimated how low the economy might have sunk without the stimulus, and how high that would drive unemployment up. The idea is to have about 3.5 million more people working than might have been the case if the government had done nothing.

Economists on Obama's team projected that the stimulus will mean an unemployment rate nearly two points lower at the end of next year than it would have been absent the plan.

Far below the theoretical, in the grounded world of road repairs, health technology projects and all the other contracts made possible by the federal spending, actual jobs will be created. Those building blocks of employment will be tracked. But under White House guidance to federal departments, they are not to be reported. The reasoning: They are "likely to be inconsistent with macroeconomic estimates."

"Uniform reporting requirements for estimates of job creation will be specified at a later time," said a February memo from the White House Office Management and Budget.

By the end of Obama's term, the true effects of the stimulus might best be measured family by family, in the way famously posed by Ronald Reagan days before the election that brought him to office:

"It might be well if you ask yourself: Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Rahm Emanuel's profitable stint at mortgage giant--By Bob Secter and Andrew Zajac | Tribune reporters

Short Freddie Mac stay made him at least $320,000

Before its portfolio of bad loans helped trigger the current housing crisis, mortgage giant Freddie Mac was the focus of a major accounting scandal that led to a management shake-up, huge fines and scalding condemnation of passive directors by a top federal regulator.

One of those allegedly asleep-at-the-switch board members was Chicago's Rahm Emanuel—now chief of staff to President Barack Obama—who made at least $320,000 for a 14-month stint at Freddie Mac that required little effort.

As gatekeeper to Obama, Emanuel now plays a critical role in addressing the nation's mortgage woes and fulfilling the administration's pledge to impose responsibility on the financial world.

Emanuel's Freddie Mac involvement has been a prominent point on his political résumé, and his healthy payday from the firm has been no secret either. What is less known, however, is how little he apparently did for his money and how he benefited from the kind of cozy ties between Washington and Wall Street that have fueled the nation's current economic mess.

Though just 49, Emanuel is a veteran Democratic strategist and fundraiser who served three terms in the U.S. House after helping elect Mayor Richard Daley and former President Bill Clinton. The Freddie Mac money was a small piece of the $16 million he made in a three-year interlude as an investment banker a decade ago.

In business as in politics, Emanuel has cultivated an aggressive, take-charge reputation that made him rich and propelled his rise to the front of the national stage. But buried deep in corporate and government documents on the Freddie Mac scandal is a little-known and very different story involving Emanuel.

He was named to the Freddie Mac board in February 2000 by Clinton, whom Emanuel had served as White House political director and vocal defender during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals.

The board met no more than six times a year. Unlike most fellow directors, Emanuel was not assigned to any of the board's working committees, according to company proxy statements. Immediately upon joining the board, Emanuel and other new directors qualified for $380,000 in stock and options plus a $20,000 annual fee, records indicate.

On Emanuel's watch, the board was told by executives of a plan to use accounting tricks to mislead shareholders about outsize profits the government-chartered firm was then reaping from risky investments. The goal was to push earnings onto the books in future years, ensuring that Freddie Mac would appear profitable on paper for years to come and helping maximize annual bonuses for company brass.

The accounting scandal wasn't the only one that brewed during Emanuel's tenure.

During his brief time on the board, the company hatched a plan to enhance its political muscle. That scheme, also reviewed by the board, led to a record $3.8 million fine from the Federal Election Commission for illegally using corporate resources to host fundraisers for politicians. Emanuel was the beneficiary of one of those parties after he left the board and ran in 2002 for a seat in Congress from the North Side of Chicago.

The board was throttled for its acquiescence to the accounting manipulation in a 2003 report by Armando Falcon Jr., head of a federal oversight agency for Freddie Mac. The scandal forced Freddie Mac to restate $5 billion in earnings and pay $585 million in fines and legal settlements. It also foreshadowed even harder times at the firm.

Many of those same risky investment practices tied to the accounting scandal eventually brought the firm to the brink of insolvency and led to its seizure last year by the Bush administration, which pledged to inject up to $100 billion in new capital to keep the firm afloat. The Obama administration has doubled that commitment.

Freddie Mac reported recently that it lost $50 billion in 2008. It so far has tapped $14 billion of the government's guarantee and said it soon will need an additional $30 billion to keep operating.

Like its larger government-chartered cousin Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac was created by Congress to promote home ownership, though both are private corporations with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The two firms hold stakes in half the nation's residential mortgages.

Because of Freddie Mac's federal charter, the board in Emanuel's day was a hybrid of directors elected by shareholders and those appointed by the president.

In his final year in office, Clinton tapped three close pals: Emanuel, Washington lobbyist and golfing partner James Free, and Harold Ickes, a former White House aide instrumental in securing the election of Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate. Free's appointment was good for four months, and Ickes' only three months.

Falcon, director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, found that presidential appointees played no "meaningful role" in overseeing the company and recommended that their positions be eliminated.

John Coffee, a law professor and expert on corporate governance at Columbia University, said the financial crisis at Freddie Mac was years in the making and fueled by chronically weak oversight by the firm's directors. The presence of presidential appointees on the board didn't help, he added.

"You know there was a patronage system and these people were only going to serve a short time," Coffee said. "That's why [they] get the stock upfront."

Financial disclosure statements that are required of U.S. House members show Emanuel made at least $320,000 from his time at Freddie Mac. Two years after leaving the firm, Emanuel reported an additional sale of Freddie Mac stock worth between $100,001 and $250,000. The document did not detail whether he profited from the sale.

Sarah Feinberg, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, said there was no conflict between his stint at Freddie Mac and Obama's vow to restore confidence in financial institutions and the executives who run them. At the same time, Feinberg said Emanuel now agrees that presidential appointees to the Freddie Mac board "are unnecessary and don't have long enough terms to make a difference."

Former President George W. Bush voluntarily stopped making such appointments following Falcon's assessment of their uselessness.

In an interview, Falcon said the Freddie Mac board did most of its work in committees. Yet proxy statements that detailed committee assignments showed none for Emanuel, Free or Ickes during the time they served in 2000 or 2001. Most other directors carried two committee assignments each.

Contrary to the proxy statements, Feinberg said she believed that Emanuel served on board committees that oversaw Freddie Mac's investment strategies and mortgage purchase activities. But Feinberg acknowledged she had no official documents to back up that assertion.

The Obama administration rejected a Tribune request under the Freedom of Information Act to review Freddie Mac board minutes and correspondence during Emanuel's time as a director. The documents, obtained by Falcon for his investigation, were "commercial information" exempt from disclosure, according to a lawyer for the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Emanuel's board term expired in May 2001, and soon after he launched his Democratic congressional bid.

One of Emanuel's fellow directors at Freddie Mac was Neil Hartigan, the former Illinois attorney general. Hartigan said Emanuel's primary contribution was explaining to others on the board how to play the levers of power.

He was respected on the board for his understanding of "the dynamics of the legislative process and the executive branch at senior levels," Hartigan recalled. "I wouldn't say he was outspoken. What he was, was solid."

By the time Emanuel joined Freddie Mac, the company had begun to loosen lending standards and buy riskier sub-prime loans. It was a practice that later blew up and contributed to the current foreclosure crisis.

In his investigation, Falcon concluded that the board of directors on which Emanuel sat was so pliant that Freddie Mac's managers easily were able to massage company ledgers. They manipulated bookkeeping to smooth out volatility, perpetuating Freddie Mac's industry reputation as "Steady Freddie," a reliable producer of earnings growth. Wall Street liked what it saw, Freddie Mac's stock value soared and top executives collected their bonuses.

Another focus of Freddie during Emanuel's day—and one that played to his skill set—was a stepped-up effort to combat congressional demands for more regulation.

During a September 2000 board meeting—midway through Emanuel's 14-month term—Freddie Mac lobbyist R. Mitchell Delk laid out a strategy titled "Political Risk Management" aimed at influencing lawmakers and blunting pressure in Congress for more regulation. Through Delk's initiative, Freddie Mac sponsored more than 80 fundraisers that raised at least $1.7 million for congressional candidates despite a federal law that bans corporations from direct political activity.

Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said Emanuel "can't remember the meeting or topic" but might have been in attendance when Delk outlined his plans. Feinberg downplayed the significance of the fundraiser thrown for Emanuel, which brought in $7,000, stressing that it was but one of many hosted by Delk. The event stood out in at least one respect, however.

The Freddie Mac-linked events were mostly for Republicans, and only a handful benefited Democrats like Emanuel. "Rahm was a good friend of mine. He was on Freddie Mac's board. He was very much supportive of housing," said Delk, who resigned under pressure in 2004.

Then-Freddie Mac CEO Leland Brendsel also hosted a fundraising lunch for Emanuel's 2002 campaign that netted $9,500 from top company executives. Brendsel was later ousted in the accounting scandal.

Federal campaign records show that Emanuel received $25,000 from donors with ties to Freddie Mac in the 2002 campaign cycle, more than twice the amount collected that election by any other candidate for the U.S. House or Senate.

Emanuel joined the House in January 2003 and was named to the Financial Services Committee, where he also sat on the subcommittee that directly oversaw Freddie Mac. A few months later, Freddie Mac Chief Executive Officer Leland Brendsel was forced out, and the committee and subcommittee launched hearings to sort out the mess, spanning more than a year. Emanuel skipped every hearing, congressional records indicate.

Feinberg said Emanuel recused himself "from deliberations related to Freddie Mac to avoid even the appearance of favoritism, impropriety or a conflict of interest."

President Obama Signs Major Public Lands Protections

President Obama signs the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, one of the most sweeping pieces of conservation and public land management legislation in years.

President Obama on Stabilizing the Auto Industry

The President announces that his Auto Task Force has completed its evaluation of General Motors and Chrysler, and gives his response.

Monday, March 30, 2009

3/28/09: Your Weekly Address

The President addresses the people of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota as they face down disastrous flooding. He speaks of what the government is doing, but also stresses that times of crisis like this are reminders of the need and opportunity Americans have to keep their dedication to service.

A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

President Obama lays out his plans for a comprehensive and regional approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan, from military support to developmental aid.

North Korean Launch Success Would Lead to Missile Sales--By EVAN RAMSTAD

The long-range missile North Korea is expected to test as soon as Saturday could reach as far as the U.S. and parts of western Europe. But U.S. military officials and other analysts say the development is dangerous not because North Korea is likely to use such missiles but because it will probably sell them to other countries, such as Iran.

A successful launch of a long-range missile, after two failures, would validate three decades of investment and work by North Korea. It could also boost one of the country's few major sources of income -- selling weapons to other countries.
View Interactive

Testing, Talking and Testing
The only clues about the launch's trajectory are North Korea's documents, filed with the International Civil Aviation Organization and maritime authorities, for two areas where debris from the launch is likely to fall. The first is in the sea between North Korea and Japan; the second is in the Pacific Ocean, east of Japan.

Intelligence officials are watching for signs that Iranian experts will participate in the launch as they did when North Korea last fired a long-range missile in July 2006. A Japanese newspaper, Sankei Shimbun, reported Monday that a group of 15 Iranian scientists and military experts arrived in North Korea to help with the test. The paper didn't name sources for the report, and officials in South Korea said Monday they couldn't confirm it.

Since January, intelligence officials in South Korea, the U.S. and other countries have been monitoring preparations at the launch pad where North Korea last tested a long-range missile. North Korea has said between April 4 and 8 it will launch a rocket carrying a satellite to space, but most outsiders say that is a cover story for a missile test.

On Monday, the U.S. deployed two missile-interceptor ships from South Korea to monitor the North's launch. U.S. officials have ruled out shooting down the North's projectile. While the precise range of the long-range missile isn't clear, Dennis Blair, the U.S. national intelligence director, told a Senate panel earlier this month that if the launch works, "it could reach not only Alaska, Hawaii, but also part" of the continental U.S.

Protesters holding portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il shout slogans during an anti-North Korea rally, near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul Monday.

Since preparations were discovered, analysts have speculated North Korea wants to use the launch to build dictator Kim Jong Il's reputation within the country and coax new U.S. President Barack Obama to provide more financial aid and reduce pressure on disarmament.

The most concrete benefit for North Korea is its potential revenue from selling the technology. Almost a decade ago, North Korea reaped as much as $600 million annually from weapons sales. But two key customers, Pakistan and Libya, stopped doing business with it after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.

The North Korea-Iran weapons connection is well known in military-intelligence circles. In August, India blocked a North Korean plane from delivering cargo to Iran based on a U.S. request. North Korea is widely believed to have sent scientists to watch Iran test-fire a missile in February.

"The sale of this system to Iran probably means hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of North Korea," says Bruce Bechtol, a former U.S. military intelligence officer who is now an analyst of North Korea's military. "This is all about proliferation. That is the most important issue."

The long-range missile, called Taepodong 2 or Paektusan 2, is expected to be able to fly as far as 6,000 miles, enough to reach the western U.S. or parts of western Europe. The missile failed shortly after liftoff in the July 2006 test. In 1998, North Korea tested an earlier variant, which fell into the Pacific Ocean east of Japan during the second stage of its firing.

Dan Pinkston, senior analyst at International Crisis Group in Seoul and author of a recent assessment of the North's missile systems, says the coming test will provide North Korea with new research data and, if successful, a chance to impress potential customers. It's likely to prove reliable enough to pose a threat to the U.S., Mr. Pinkston says, adding, "It's pretty shaky as far as the range goes."

Experts also say North Korea is several years away from being able to place a warhead on a long-range missile.

North Korea's military strategy is built around short- and mid-range missiles that can easily reach nearby South Korea and Japan, in hopes of being able to strike those countries definitively before retaliation can begin.

That strategy emerged as North Korea's poverty rendered it less able to update weapons and facilities in the manner needed to sustain a protracted fight. In addition to missiles, North Korea has positioned 70% of its one-million-strong military within 100 kilometers of the border with South Korea.

Write to Evan Ramstad at

Kerry: No National Guard to Southern Border, Bring Back Assault Weapons Ban

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says the U.S. and Mexico need to step up and build a "combined front" against Mexican drug smugglers, but using U.S. forces along the border could hurt the effort.

Sending National Guard to the U.S. border of Mexico is "premature and possibly counterproductive," but reviving the assault weapons ban would help end the drug-related violence in Mexico, Sen. John Kerry said Monday.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the U.S. and Mexico must work more closely to stop cross-border weapons smuggling and curb the American appetite for illegal drugs that is fueling the violence along the border.

"Americans are worried that the cartels will turn our cities and neighborhoods into the next front in the war. Drug trafficking and the ruthless violence it spawns know no borders. So far, the United States has largely been spared. But it is in our national interest, and it is our solemn obligation, to take steps today to help curtail the killing in Mexico," he said.

But, he added, any response by the U.S. to the violence "must be made in partnership with the Mexicans. The idea of dispatching the National Guard to the border is premature and possibly counterproductive."

Standing near the border in El Paso, Texas, where he convened a field hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry said the U.S. needs "to work harder to enforce existing gun laws against exporting weapons across international borders."

The Massachusetts Democrat said the U.S. must "revive the ban on importing assault rifles into the United States," which he attributed to the flood of weapons finding their way to Mexico. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reports that the U.S. is responsible for close to 90 percent of the high-powered weapons that find their way to the Mexican drug cartels.

However, Kerry said that only about one out of every four weapons seized by Mexican authorities last year was submitted to ATF to be traced back to purchasers and sellers in the United States, and he urged the Mexican government to provide ATF with fuller access to these weapons.

Declaring "The drug trade recognizes no borders, and neither should law enforcement," Kerry said the U.S. and Mexico need to form a "combined front" against drug traffickers.

He also called for the Senate to ratify the 1997 Inter-American Convention Against Illicit Trafficking in Weapons and Explosives. Mexico proposed the document -- and the U.S. signed onto it at the time -- under the auspices of the Organization of American States as a means to try to shut down the black market for arms.

"It does not contradict any American gun laws. But ratification would send an important message about our commitment to fight the weapons trafficking that is fueling the violence in Mexico," Kerry said of the 12-year-old treaty.

According to Texas District Attorney Jaime Esparza, crime along the U.S. Southwest border has increased to levels never before seen. Authorities claim 6,290 drug-related deaths in Mexico in 2008.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says between $18 billion and $39 billion is spent annually in the U.S. on drugs from Colombia and Mexico.

Joseph Arabit, DEA special agent in charge of the El Paso division, said the Justice Department must expand its intelligence capabilities and use information generated by law enforcement agencies and government partners to assist Mexican authorities in attacking the cartels and their allies. He said the department must also focus its efforts on investigation, extradition, prosecution and punishment of key cartel leaders.

The Justice Department must also employ a strategy to specifically target the "leadership and financial assets" of cartels, Arabit said, although he cited the need for more money and more manpower to address the escalating violence.

He added that senior DEA and ATF officials are trying to combating violence associated with the "widespread distribution of drugs on our streets and in our neighborhoods, battles between members of rival cartels on American soil and violence directed against U.S. citizens and government interests."

William McMahon of the ATF proposed more inspection on southbound traffic going from the U.S. into Mexico.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who was present at the hearing, called for an increase in sheriffs along the Southwest border, but he said stricter gun control was not a viable solution.

Despite the increased violence, Arabit said some progress has been made in fighting the drug cartels, including the arrest last month of more than "750 individuals on narcotics-related charges under Operation Xcellerator, a multi-agency, multi-national effort that began in May 2007 and targeted the Mexican drug trafficking organization known as the Sinaloa Cartel."

Kerry added that despite the stress the Mexican government is under in trying to control the violence, it is not a failed state.

"I am troubled by some in some quarters about Mexico becoming a failed state. Mexico is a functioning democracy," he said.

FOX News' Kris Gutierrez and Maggie Kerkman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

High Stakes As Obama Takes First Steps On Global Stage--By Henry J. Pulizzi, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama promised to revitalize America's image in the world and begin a new phase of U.S. leadership.

The tottering global economy will put that pledge to the test during his first major foreign trip as president.

Obama's goals for this week's Group of 20 summit in London are two-fold: making sure countries are taking action to boost growth and advancing a longer-term regulatory overhaul to avoid a future financial crisis.

But one important task will be simply keeping potential disagreements from bubbling to the surface and damaging already-fragile market confidence.

"President Obama is not only confronting the biggest challenge he faces, he's doing it for the first time on this type of world stage," said Steven Schrage of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The new president will have to avoid deepening underlying divisions with his fellow leaders and instead move to bridge those divisions, Schrage said.

Obama leaves Washington Tuesday morning for London, where he will participate in the one-day G-20 summit Thursday. He will sit down for the first time with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. He will also meet with U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth II.

After London, the president will attend the NATO summit in Strasbourg, France, and the European Union summit in Prague. The trip will end with meetings and a roundtable in Turkey. Along the way, Obama will meet a host of leaders and answer students' questions at a town hall in a basketball arena in Strasbourg. Obama is even more popular in Europe than in the U.S.

The most urgent business will be conducted in London, where officials from the world's biggest developed and developing economies will consider ambitious plans to end the global recession and revamp regulations blamed for the financial meltdown. Because the gathering is just one day long, expectations for concrete action are limited.

"The president and America are going to listen in London, as well as to lead," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Saturday.

The White House is playing down divisions with other countries on emphasis of fiscal stimulus versus the regulatory overhaul. European leaders, notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, voiced skepticism over additional deficit spending. They've instead endorsed tighter supervision of financial institutions and markets.
"The press has tended to frame this as an 'either/or' approach," Obama told the Financial Times on Sunday. "I have consistently argued that what is needed is a 'both/and' approach. We need stimulus and we need regulation."
The White House doesn't have a "sacrosanct" figure for fiscal stimulus, said Mike Froman, deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs. The G20 financial ministers already have agreed to do "whatever is necessary," he added. G-20 members have committed to stimulus measures totalling 1.8% of gross domestic product.

"Despite the back-and-forth in the press on this issue, nobody has asked and nobody is asking any country to come to London to commit to do more right now," Froman told reporters Saturday.

Besides highlighting fiscal stimulus efforts, the U.S. wants leaders from Thursday's summit to agree on improving lending and credit availability while minimizing the spread of the economic crisis in emerging economies. The U.S. also wants a G20 final statement to take a strong stance against protectionism.

On the regulatory side, the U.S. wants to expand oversight to systemicly important institutions, including hedge funds. It also wants agreements on new principles for capitalization and enhancement of cross-border cooperation among regulators and supervisors.

Analysts say those issues are too complex to be resolved in London.

Fixing complex issues such as systemic risk or improving bank capital standards is very complicated.

"It's going to take a long time to do, and if you try to do it internationally it will take even longer than if you tried to do it nationally," Sebastian Mallaby, senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, told reporters last week.

Administration officials also said the summit will target tax havens. The G-20 will discuss "things that can be done to encourage them to adopt international standards of behavior around transparency and disclosure," Froman said.

Obama's most delicate diplomacy in London may come during his meetings with Hu and Mededev. Chinese and Russian officials have recently discussed the idea of a new global reserve currency to supplant the dollar. Such comments have made waves in financial markets, but aren't viewed as realistic.

-By Henry J. Pulizzi, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9256;

Obama Signs the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009

Following are President Obama's remarks, as provided by the White House.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much, Ken, for that extraordinary introduction and for the work that you and your team are undertaking at the Department of the Interior. We're going to add a little bit to your plate today as a consequence of this extraordinary piece of legislation.

I want to thank all the members of the legislature who helped to craft this. Many of them are on the stage here today. Obviously I've got to single out the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for her extraordinary leadership, but also our Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, who worked so diligently on this bill and made sure that it got done. And so please give all of these legislators a big round of applause. (Applause.)
If you'll indulge me, there are just a couple other people I want to acknowledge: Nancy Sutley, who is the Chair of our Council on Environmental Quality, who is here. Where's Nancy? There she is, right in front. (Applause.) Jane Lubchenco, who is the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Please, Jane -- (applause.) A couple of great friends from Indian Nation -- President Joe Shirley of Navaho Nation, who is here. Go ahead, Joe, stand up. (Applause.) And Tribal Chairman Robert Bear, of the Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Tribes. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

It is fitting that we meet on a day like this. Winter's hardships are slowly giving way to spring, and our thoughts naturally tend to turn to the outdoors. We emerge from the shelter offered by home and work, and we look around and we're reminded that the most valuable things in this life are those things that we already possess.

As Americans, we possess few blessings greater than the vast and varied landscapes that stretch the breadth of our continent. Our lands have always provided great bounty -- food and shelter for the first Americans, for settlers and pioneers; the raw materials that grew our industry; the energy that powers our economy.

What these gifts require in return is our wise and responsible stewardship. As our greatest conservationist President, Teddy Roosevelt, put it almost a century ago, "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."

That's the spirit behind the bipartisan legislation I'm signing today -- legislation among the most important in decades to protect, preserve, and pass down our nation's most treasured landscapes to future generations.

Many senators and congressmen here deserve enormous credit for making this bill possible. I'm grateful to all their hard work. As I mentioned before, Harry Reid made this a top priority. He made sure this was the first bill the Senate passed this year. This day would not be possible without his tireless dedication to protecting our treasured lands.

This legislation -- just to give you a sense of the scope -- this legislation guarantees that we will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas for granted; but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share. That's something all Americans can support.

And that's why so much of this legislation, some of it decades in the making, has the backing of Americans from every walk of life and corner of this country. Ranchers and fishermen, small business owners, environmentalists, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats on the local, state and federal levels -- all united around the idea that there should be places that we must preserve; all doing the hard work of seeking common ground to protect the parks and other places that we cherish.

We're talking about places like Colorado, where this bill will realize a vision 35 years in the making by protecting the wild back country of Rocky Mountain National Park, which attracts 3 million visitors a year.

Folks in communities around this park know they don't have to choose between economic and environmental concerns; the tourism that drives their local economy depends on good stewardship of their local environment. And year after year, these communities have worked together with members of Congress in an attempt to ensure that Rocky Mountain National Park will forever remain as breathtaking as it is today.

And that is what this bill does from coast to coast. It protects treasured places from the Appalachians of Virginia and West Virginia to Michigan's Upper Peninsula; from the canyons of Idaho to the sandstone cliffs of Utah; from the Sierra Nevadas in California to the Badlands of Oregon.

It designates more than 2 million acres across nine states as wilderness; almost as much as was designated over the past eight years combined.

It creates thousands of miles of new scenic, historic, and recreational trails, cares for our historic battlefields, strengthens our National Park System.

It safeguards more than 1,000 miles of our rivers, protects watersheds and cleans up polluted groundwater, defends our oceans and Great Lakes, and will revitalize our fisheries, returning fish to rivers that have not seen them in decades.

And it wisely faces our future challenges with regard to water. This bill assesses how growth and climate change will affect our access to water resources, especially in the West and Southwest, and it includes solutions to complex and long-simmering water disputes. It's hard to overstate the real and measurable impact this will have on people's lives -- people like Frank Chee Willetto, a Navajo code talker in World War II, who's joined us today. And because of this legislation, Frank, along with 80,000 others in the Navajo Nation, will have access to clean running water for the very first time. That's something worth applauding. (Applause.) Thank you for your service. (Applause.)

When coupled with the Recovery Act, which makes an historic $3 billion investment creating jobs that will restore and protect our landscapes and our ecosystems, preserve our national monuments, retrofit our facilities for energy efficiency and renewable energy-- taken together, today's legislation takes another step toward fulfilling Teddy Roosevelt's vision for this land that we love.

It's a vision that sees America's great wilderness as a place where what was and what is and what will be -- all are the same; a place where memories are lived and relived; a place where Americans both young and young at heart can freely experience the spirit of adventure that has always been at the heart of the rugged character of America.

Now, the legislation I'm signing today also makes progress on another front for which many Americans have long waited.

The Christopher and Dana Reeve's Paralysis Act is the first piece of comprehensive legislation specifically aimed at addressing the challenges faced by Americans living with paralysis. (Applause.) Many folks and organizations from across the disability community worked hard to get this bill passed, and we are grateful to each of you for bringing us that much closer to providing all Americans with disabilities a full, fair and equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

This act creates new coordinated research activities through the National Institutes of Health that will connect the best minds and best practices from the best labs in the country, and focus their endeavors through collaborative scientific research into the cure for paralysis, saving effort, money, and, most importantly, time.

It promotes enhanced rehabilitation services for paralyzed Americans, helping develop better equipment and technology that will allow them to live full and independent lives free from unnecessary barriers. And it will work to improve the quality of life for all those who live with paralysis, no matter what the cause.

That's the mission of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. In the lobby of their facility in New Jersey sits Christopher's empty wheelchair. And his son, Matthew Reeve, was once asked if the sight of it ever saddened him, and he replied no. He said, "Empty chairs -- that was Dad's goal," he said. "We hope there will be many more of them."

Matthew is here with us today. And the legislation I'm about to sign makes solid progress toward the realization of that hope and the promise of a brighter future.

All in all, this legislation is that rare end product of what happens when Americans of all parties and places come together in common purpose to consider something more than the politics of the moment. It's the very idea at the heart of this country: that each generation has a responsibility to secure this nation's promise for the next. And by signing this bill into law, that's what we're doing today.

So -- is Matthew here, by the way? Matthew, come on up. (Applause.) Let's sign this bill. (Applause.)

Jay-Z - History

(Jay-Z - History)Jay-Z - History with Lyrics

LYRICS : [Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
(Gimme a lighter)
Victory (Lighters up) is finally ours
(Lighters up)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 1: Jay-Z]
In search of victory, she keeps eluding me
If only we could be together momentarily
We can make love and make history
Why won't you visit me? until she visit me
I'll be stuck with her sister, her name is defeat
She gives me agony, so much agony
She brings me so much pain, so much misery
Like missing your last shot and falling to your knees
As the crowd screams for the other team
I practice so hard for this moment, victory don't leave
I know what this means, I'm stuck in this routine
Whole new different day, same old thing
All I got is dreams, nobody else can see
Nobody else believes, nobody else but me
Where are you victory? I need you desperately
Not just for the moment, to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
Victory is finally ours
History (yeah), so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 2: Jay-Z]
So now I'm flirting with death, hustling like a G
While victory wasn't watching took chances repeatedly
As a teenage boy before acne, before I got proactiv I couldn't face she
I just threw on my hoodie and headed to the street
That's where I met success, we'd live together shortly
Now success is like lust, she's good to the touch
She's good for the moment but she's never enough
Everybody's had her, she's nothing like V
But success is all I got unfortunately
But I'm burning down the block hoppin' in and out of V
But something tells me that there's much more to see
Before I get killed because I can't get robbed
So before me success and death ménage
I gotta get lost, I gotta find V
We gotta be together to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
(Lighters. Up.)
And the battle's finally won
(Lighter. Up.)
Victory is finally ours
(Lighters. Up.)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 3: Jay-Z]
Now victory is mine, it tastes so sweet
She's my trophy wife, you're coming with me
We'll have a baby who stutters repeatedly
We'll name him history, he'll repeat after me
He's my legacy, son of my hard work
Future of my past, he'll explain who I be
Rank me amongst the greats, either 1, 2, or 3
If I ain't number one then I failed you victory
Ain't in it for the fame that dies within weeks
Ain't in it for the money, can't take it when you leave
I wanna be remembered long after you grieve
Long after I'm gone, long after I breathe
I leave all I am in the hands of history
That's my last will and testimony
This is much more than a song, it's a baby shower
I've been waiting for this hour, history you ours

[Chorus: Cee-lo (2x)]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
Victory is finally ours
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

Man in the Mirror--By Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

I'm gonna make a change,
for once im my life
It's gonna feel real good,
gonna make a diference
Gonna make it right...

As I, turn up the collar on
my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowing my mind
I see the kids in the streets,
with not enought to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer disregard,a broken bottle top
And a one man soul
They follow each other on the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)
(Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah)

I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It's time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they're not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart
And a washed-out dream
(Washed-out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me
(Starting with me!)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Change his ways - ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that..
(Take a look at yourself and then make that..)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
(Man in the mirror - Oh yeah!)
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
No message could have been any clearer
(If you wanna make the world a better place)

Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cook

It's been a long time coming but a change is surely going to come in America and the World! I am the Future of America and the World and that is the message that each of us must carry with us each and every day that we wake up on Earth! I am the Future! You are the Future! We are the Future of America and the World! That is way every election is important--primaries, special elections and general! So vote every year and hold our politicians accountable. Hold our political officials accountable by writing them, calling them and making sure they attend meetings that we the people have. "The Time for Change is not Now but Right Now!"

"EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary" should be our anthem and should be our creed as we make the positive differences in America and the world that so many people beg for and hungry for year after year! A Change is Gonna Come, A Change is Gonna Come, that's what we must say as we say "God grants us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courge to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference" each morning before we go about the task of making a positive change in America and the world a reality.

Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

“When will people realize that we are Americans first and foremost, not Democrats or Liberals, not Republicans or Conservatives, not Independents or moderates. We are Americans. Stop putting a political party above America and stop putting any politican above America. America succeeds because of us the people holding our government responsible no matter the political party because the main two political parties are to blame for the condition America is in."—Hodari P.T. Brown

America with its flaws and all is a country I am proud to have been born in. America is not perfect but my love for it is perfect. That’s why all Americans must realize that we are all Americans. In fact we are Americans first and foremost. We are not Democrats or Republicans. We are Americans.

We are not Muslims, Christians or Jews. We are Americans. Too many times we recognize our differences with others rather than appreciating our similarities which are, we are Americans. We are Americans first and foremost, no matter if we were born here or moved here legally. We are all Americans, here in this country to make not only our lives better but the lives of other Americans better so future Americans can enjoy the rights and freedoms that make us all Americans.

We are all Americans. We are one party united under God. We are Americans and this is the only political party that matters. We are Americans and this is our country so let’s make sure that we make America better than how we found it so future Americans can live prosperous and joyous lives. We are Americans and must not ever forget that.

America will prosper as long we make sure we are doing our part to make it prosper and that means we can’t put any political party or politician above America. Long live America forever and long live America’s service to the world. Together, America and the world will prosper for future generations to enjoy America and the world we live in.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

This video of the ' Negro National Anthem' was originally screened at the historic African-American Church Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC on January 18th, 2009. Many of the esteemed individuals featured in this video in attendance and we presented with the ' Keepers of the Flame' award for the monumental contributions to social justice.

This version of the song was performed by the Grace Baptist Church Cathedral Choir, conducted by Derrick James. The video was produced and donated by Ascender Communications, LLC ( at the request of The Balm In Gilead, Inc.

If I Was President--Wyclef Jean

If I was President that is the people's anthem. We all have ideas of what we can do as President and through this website, we will fulfill our deam as a people!

Somethings Gotta Give--Big Boi ft Mary J Blige

Somethings Gotta Give people and it begins today for all us to make sure that something is us. We the people are sick and tired of suffering. Where is our piece of the Dream that so many people dead for so that we all could see today. This is our time people to change America and the world so that the Next Generation has a better future than the past we inherited.

This is our call to service. This isn't about one political candidate or one political figure. This is about us as people coming together to finally leave up to our potential and achieving the great feats that those before us have achieved. This is our moment to lead our nation and our world to greater heights.

Somethings gotta give people and it starts with us the people making it happen. We have to improve our education system in America. We have to rid the world of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We have to go to the streets and lift a hand to another in order to decrease poverty in this world. We have to take a stand today and make sure that the future of America and the world is brighter than it has ever been.

Somethings Gotta Give and that is why we must "Remember Each One, Reach One and Teach One so America's future and the World's future continues to prosper."

John Legend - "If You're Out There"

If you're out there than you need to get started in helping to change America and the world. The world and America won't change until you get involved in making the changes you want to see in this world. If you're out there, than you must know that tomorrow started now and today started yesterday so you are behind in helping to the change. If you are tired of hatred, racism, poverty, war, and violence than the time to change it is now. If you want universal health care, world peace, democracy for every nation, equal rights, and happiness for all than you must get involved now to help the save world.

You must believe in the change that you want to see and you must act on making that change a reality. If you're out there than say it aloud and show the rest of America and the world that you're out here to make a real positive change in the communities we stay in. If you're out there than get involved now. I'm calling every women and men to join me as we take back our country right here, right now. If you're out there than the future started yersterday and we are already late so we have lots of work to do but I know we can do it together as one.


Yes We Can accomplish anything that we set out to do! We don't need charismatic or inspirational leaders to believe in ourselves and to take responsiblity for our own faith, we just need each other. Yes We Can build a new America and a new world if each of us would take action now to make the changes that we want to see in the world. Yes We Can control government by holding our political officials accountable for their actions by calling them out when they don't pass legislation that supports the common good of all man and by voting in every election to ensure that we have people representing the people locally, state wide, nationally and in the world.

Yes We Can be great! Yes We Can be what we want to be! Yes We Can be glorious in not only America but the world! Yes We can put action behind our worlds and change the world starting right here, right now! Yes We Can as Republicans, Democrats and Independents become one as we freely think about our fellow men and women and make decisions that will be in the best interest of all people and not one single group.

Yes We Can be the change that we want to see in the world! Yes We Can show the world that the youth are ready to lead! Yes We Can put our egos, our social economic statuses, our religions, our educational statuses and our skin color to the side for the better good of the world! Yes We Can be Greater than we have ever been and help others be Greater than they have ever be!

YES WE CAN and YES WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS IN ALL THAT WE DO! YES WE CAN, no matter what others may say, we will be glorious! YES WE WILL and YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!

YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN is what will be sung from every mountaintop, every riverbank, every household, every school yard, every factory, every sporting event, every college campus and even every place you can imagine in the world is where YES WE CAN, will be said and heard!


Keep On Pushing - Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions

Wake Up People! No matter who is elected to any public office, we have to “Keep On Pushing” as a people to make sure they don’t leave us in a worst state than what they inherited. We as a people have to “Keep On Pushing” to make a difference in the lives of others. We have to have an “EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary” attitude as we continue to push our agenda that we the people deserve and want better. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change in a positive way that will benefit all Americans no matter their age, their religion or skin color. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will improve our education system, improve our military, improve our national security, improve our healthcare system and improve our economy. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will leave America’s future in a better than how we found it and that will leave the world’s future in a better state than we imagined we could live it. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to make life better for our neighborhoods, our families and even our quote on quote enemies. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to inspire, to uplift and to guide those who need help spiritually, physically and mentally. We have to “Keep On Pushing ” so that our lives, our future generation’s lives and the lives of those who came before us does not die in vein.

“Keep on Pushing”

A War For Your Soul

A War For Your Soul-regular version from Erisai Films on Vimeo.

The moment has come for us as a nation of people to finally wake up and realize that our destiny and fate in society has rests on our shoulders. We cannot allow the forces of evil and darkness to drain us out. We have to continue to overcome all odds in order to make the future of our nation better and the future of future generations of Americans better. We have to continue to pray to our Lord and we have to continue to uplift each other in prayer as well as take action against those things that are trying to destroy us. We have to stand up once and for all and be the future that we want to be. Now is our time and we shall do together by any means necessary.

This video was created to inspire young African-Americans not to fall prey to some of the problems they face in society. The use of the voice "Master of Darkness" represents evil, which is where the blame of all problems should be placed, and not on any one group of people. This video should not to be used to divide people (Black & White), there are images of heroes that are white in this video, and there are images of Black & White coming together with the words of Dr. King in the background. Some of the images from the past can be unsettling, but they are used to show all Americans how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. This film is being strategically placed in school systems, churches and youth orgs around the country, in hope of helping a lost generation of kids that we as Americans have forgotten. As fellow Americans we must continue to love each other, and take that love and spread it to the rest of the world. **THIS VIDEO IS NOT FOR SALE & I AM NOT ACCEPTING DONATIONS FOR THE FILM, I ONLY WANT THE MESSAGE TO REACH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT ANY HIDDEN POLITICAL OR FINANCIAL AGENDA.

Sitting On the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

"The time for sitting is over! The time for action is now! The time for hope without action is hopeless! The time for change without a positive attitude is a change that we can't believe in! We need change that is positive of helping all people! Our time for action is now, our time for hope is now, our time for change is now and our time to believe that we can do whatever we set our minds to is not now but right now!"


The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming;
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner; O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land,
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just.
And this be our motto— "In God is our trust; "
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Black President

Our Time is not now but Right Now! Our Time has finally come to change the world not now but Right Now! If you don't believe that we can change the world than watch as we do it by changing your mind into believing in us and what we can do! This is OUR TIME RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!


We got to FIGHT THE POWER! We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch injustices take place. We can no longer sit by and allow our right to vote to become unexercised. We must FIGHT THE POWER for our past, present and future! We can no longer allow our rights to be oppressed and our voice to become drained by the powers at be. We must FIGHT THE POWER and show that we have a lot to say that needs to be heard by the mainstream media. We must FIGHT THE POWER and live up to our potential as dynamic, unbelievable and phenomenal people.

We must not believe the hype but we must become the hype. We are not Harriett Tubman, Marcus Garvey, MLK, Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B. DuBois, the Black Panther Party, SNCC, or any other activists but we are the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunties, and relatives of those who came before us to pave the way for us to FIGHT THE POWER! We are not next Generation of leaders who will not be honored and praised until they die but that’s the fight we accept. We are not fighting the power for glory or fame but we are fighting the power for just causes that most men and women will not understand until years or decades later.

We are fighting for our sisters and brothers in Darfur, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, China and Mexico. We are speaking for those who are poor and have no food or water. We are fighting for those who are sick and dying. We are fighting for universal healthcare across the world and human rights for all people. We are fighting for rich and poor! We must FIGHT THE POWER no matter how hard and tough the road may be. We must FIGHT THE POWER for a better today and an even greater tomorrow!



“People Get Ready” our time is coming! We have come too far to turn back now. Our train is coming and it is coming in waves. “People Get Ready”, we don’t need a ticket but we need faith and the Lord will help guide us as we take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” our moment is now and we are ready to see the change we want in America and the world. All we got to do is have faith, hope and prosperity. “People Get Ready” to face your fears. “People Get Ready” to face your demons and the challenges of yesterday because today and tomorrow we will conquer & be victorious. “People Get Ready” a change is coming and our actions will make sure that change is a real positive change that lasts forever.

“People Get Ready” because we have had enough of just talking but now is our time to show action. “People Get Ready” to take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” to take back our communities and to make our streets safer and schools better. “People Get Ready” to make all our dreams come true. “People Get Ready” to see a better present for everyone and a better future for future generations. “People Get Ready” to live up to your potential and to help others live up to their own potential. “People Get Ready” to move past hatred, bigotry, racism and sexism. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the dreams of those who came before us and those who will come after us.

“People Get Ready” as we make our actions speak louder than our words. “People Get Ready” to make words mean something again as we put action to back up our rhetoric. “People Get Ready” as we embark on a new journey that will re-write America’s history as well as the world’s history. “People Get Ready” as we make the lives of others better and the lives of future generations better. “People Get Ready” because all we need is faith, hope and action to make this world a better place. “People Get Ready” to make a difference. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the American dream. “People Get Ready" to live out the American Dream as our founding fathers wanted us to live it. “People Get Ready” because our time is now, our moment is now and our moment in time to change America & the world is not now but right now. “People Get Ready” because a change is coming!

(Let me tell you now)
People get ready, there's a train comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord

People get ready, for a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them
There's hope for all among those loved the most

There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all man kind just to save his own (believe me now)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there's no hiding place against the kingdoms throne

[Alicia & Lyfe]
So people get ready there's a train coming
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming,
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord


God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood

Lee Greenwood-god bless the U.S.A