Tag Archives: Barack Obama

They Write Op-Eds, Too, Part III

Barack Obama in The Wall Street Journal:

For two centuries, America’s free market has not only been the source of dazzling ideas and path-breaking products, it has also been the greatest force for prosperity the world has ever known. That vibrant entrepreneurialism is the key to our continued global leadership and the success of our people.

But throughout our history, one of the reasons the free market has worked is that we have sought the proper balance. We have preserved freedom of commerce while applying those rules and regulations necessary to protect the public against threats to our health and safety and to safeguard people and businesses from abuse.

From child labor laws to the Clean Air Act to our most recent strictures against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, we have, from time to time, embraced common sense rules of the road that strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy.

Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs. At other times, we have failed to meet our basic responsibility to protect the public interest, leading to disastrous consequences. Such was the case in the run-up to the financial crisis from which we are still recovering. There, a lack of proper oversight and transparency nearly led to the collapse of the financial markets and a full-scale Depression.

Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance. And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government.

This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It’s a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.

The Executive Order

Chris Good at The Atlantic. More Good:

The business community is praising President Obama’s new regulatory initiative, while retaining a degree of skepticism that meaningful change will come.

Obama rolled out a plan this morning to minimize the burdens of regulation on businesses, introducing it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Obama said the administration will seek input from businesses, and he issued a memo and executive order requiring executive agencies to review existing regulations and make compliance info searchable online.

“We welcome President Obama’s intention to issue an executive order today restoring balance to government regulations,” said Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s most prominent business group.

“While a positive first step, a robust and globally competitive economy requires fundamental reform of our broken regulatory system.  Congress should reclaim some of the authority it has delegated to the agencies and implement effective checks and balances on agency power,” Donohue continued, in a statement issued by the group.

Health care and financial reform should be examined as well, Donohue said: “No major rule or regulation should be exempted from the review, including the recently enacted health care and financial reform laws.”

It remains to be seen what will come out of this new roll-out. Obama has held a tricky relationship with business as president: Business coalitions like the Chamber supported his stimulus plan at the outset of his presidency, but the pushes to reform energy, health care, and Wall Street didn’t thrill them as much.

Jonathan Adler:

It reaffirms the basic principles outlined in President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866, issued in September 1993, and continues to require agencies to conduct cost-benefit analyses of proposed rules.  As noted in the President’s op-ed, it also requires agencies to engage in  “retrospective analysis” of existing rules so as to accelerate the pace at which outdated regulations are revoked.  Specifically, it requires all agencies to develop a plan for such retrospective review within 120 days.  If the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs ensures such reviews are meaningful, this could be a significant and positive step.

Michelle Malkin:

While the Sherlock Homes of 1600 Pennsylvania sleuths around in search of “the right balance” that they’ve skewed catastrophically over the last two years, the mother of all job creation-stifling regulations — Obamacare — awaits repeal.

“Balance” my you-know-what

Bruce McQuain at Q and O:

Of course on the other side of that are those saying “since when is it a function of government to decide what gas mileage a car must get?”  The entire premise that it is a function of government is built on belief in a “justified” level of intrusion far beyond that which any Constitutional scholar would or could objectively support (that’s assuming he is a scholar and an honest one).  In fact the example perfectly states the obvious difference between big government advocates and small government advocates.  BGA’s think it is government’s job to dictate such things – that it is a function of government to do so.  SGAs believe it is the market’s job to dictate such things and that government shouldn’t be involved in these sorts of things.

So in essence, while the Obama op/ed has all the proper buzz words to attempt to sell it as a pro-business, small government move, it is in fact simply a restatement of an old premise that essentially says “government belongs in the areas it is now, we just need to clean it up a little”.

This really isn’t about backing off, it’s about cleaning up.  It isn’t about letting the market work, it’s about hopefully making government work better.  And while Obama claims to want to inform us about our choices rather than restricting them, I’ll still be unable to buy a car that doesn’t meet government standards on gas mileage even if I want one.

Now that may not seem like something most of us would want – few if any of us want bad gas mileage and the cost it brings – but it does illustrate the point that government regulation really isn’t about providing choice at all, it is and always will be about limiting them.  And all the smooth talking in the world doesn’t change that.   It’s the nature of the beast.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

The president’s last executive order was signed between Christmas and New Year’s. It codified the bias in hiring towards college graduates (and more and more in America, those without college degrees will never have access to decent work!), but at least demanded the creation of entry level positions in the government for recent college graduates and veterans. The Wall Street Journalextends a statement from the president today, promoting his new executive order, which we shall call Operation Untangling. The plan apparently means that every government agency must identify which of their regulations are stupidest, and make them go away, supposedly. For instance, Obama trumpets that they just changed the EPA regulations that ensured saccharine was treated as a toxic chemical. American, onward and upward, very, very slowly. Anyway there’s lots of dog whistle noises in here about business and regulation that are designed to appeal to particular people but judging from the reaction, it’s just another chance for everyone to complain from various opposing viewpoints about how America is broken.

Mike Konczal at Rortybomb:

It’s fine as far as it goes. Here’s where it would be helpful if Obama picked some fights and put out some reform markers, because I can’t tell if this is just cover to go after proxy access rules as a way of making peace with the business community.   It’s worth noting that, as far as I read it, we’d have the same exact financial crisis, the same criminal securitization chain, the same uncapitalized derivatives positions, the same shadow banking panic if we regulated the financial sector with these guidelines.

And the things that actually acted on these principals in the past two years – the CFPB which has consolidated regulatory burdens across agencies in order to make regulations more clear, interchange reform which created a market between credit cards and debit cards to de facto create a market rate of credit at the individual merchant level – were bitterly opposed by the industries in question.

More generally I don’t like the notion that regulation is conceptually some sort of brakes on markets, a dial that can be turned up or down until some sort of optimal space is hit. I think of regulation as a means of handling the consequences of a specific market, both by setting up the terms on which the market plays as well as the mechanisms for handling conflicts and the way things collapse.  How does a firm fail?  How do other firms compete, and under what terms is information disclosed to the market?  In some ways this is obvious: the nuclear energy market would not exist in its current form without the government.  I’d be more likely to support for crazy loans if our bankruptcy courts were designed to modify primary household debt and also if we reformed the bizarre way we deal with junior liens, a conflict people knew about at the beginning of the housing bubble.

Ann Althouse:

And here‘s the underlying Wall Street Journal op-ed by Barack Obama, which features an illustration of a man — not Obama… he looks a bit like Don Imus — in a gray business suit, running with scissors — running with scissors! — cutting his way through an abstract field of red tape. In the op-ed, Obama is all about carefully and thoughtfully weighing the value of particular regulations in relation to the burdens they impose, so the picture is amusingly inapt.

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Reporting In From Our Sudan Bureau…

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up.

President Barack Obama at NYT:

NOT every generation is given the chance to turn the page on the past and write a new chapter in history. Yet today — after 50 years of civil wars that have killed two million people and turned millions more into refugees — this is the opportunity before the people of southern Sudan.

Over the next week, millions of southern Sudanese will vote on whether to remain part of Sudan or to form their own independent nation. This process — and the actions of Sudanese leaders — will help determine whether people who have known so much suffering will move toward peace and prosperity, or slide backward into bloodshed. It will have consequences not only for Sudan, but also for sub-Saharan Africa and the world.

The historic vote is an exercise in self-determination long in the making, and it is a key part of the 2005 peace agreement that ended the civil war in Sudan. Yet just months ago, with preparations behind schedule, it was uncertain whether this referendum would take place at all. It is for this reason that I gathered with leaders from Sudan and around the world in September to make it clear that the international community was united in its belief that this referendum had to take place and that the will of the people of southern Sudan had to be respected, regardless of the outcome.

In an important step forward, leaders from both northern and southern Sudan — backed by more than 40 nations and international organizations — agreed to work together to ensure that the voting would be timely, peaceful, free and credible and would reflect the will of the Sudanese people. The fact that the voting appears to be starting on time is a tribute to those in Sudan who fulfilled their commitments. Most recently, the government of Sudan said that it would be the first to recognize the south if it voted for independence.

Now, the world is watching, united in its determination to make sure that all parties in Sudan live up to their obligations. As the referendum proceeds, voters must be allowed access to polling stations; they must be able to cast their ballots free from intimidation and coercion. All sides should refrain from inflammatory rhetoric or provocative actions that could raise tensions or prevent voters from expressing their will.

Baobab at The Economist:

Sudanese in the often remote countryside have seen relatively few benefits so far but in the capital, Juba, life has changed dramatically. In 2005 South Sudan’s leaders lived in tents, ate on the ground and had almost no means to communicate with their people or the outside world. Today, Juba is booming. It does not yet match the glitz of Khartoum but it is no longer quite such a backwater. Its airport is still housed in a shack without air-conditioning but some 80 flights take off and land every day now, and a new terminal building is rising by the landing strip.

New restaurants and bars are sprouting up everywhere. Government ministers (many of whom have swapped their uniforms for sharp business suits) like to go to Da Vinci, an Italian eatery on the banks of the Nile. Foreign aid workers prefer Logali House, known for its fast internet access. East Africans gather at Home & Away for Thai food. Ukrainian and Russian pilots can be found at Oasis Camp and Sudanese hipsters, many of them returning from abroad, go to Havana, a bar set up by some of the so-called Cuban Jubans, a group of south Sudanese who went off to see Fidel a few decades ago and are drifting back now.

But residents also report that crime has increased. It is mostly opportunistic and suspicions tends to fall on the growing community of slum-dwellers. Muggings and armed robberies are common and aid agencies impose midnight to sunrise curfews on their expatriate employees. Most embassies and UN sites are heavily guarded with razor wire on top of their high walls. The Warrior private-security company is doing good business. Government security, by comparison, is surprisingly lax. Anyone can wander into the parliament and it probably wouldn’t be that hard to drive on to the airfield.

Still, traffic policemen have been swamping the roads of the capital in the last few weeks. Apparently they are recruits from a new police academy who have graduated but were kept on in Juba to vote in the referendum (since they had registered there). At times two or three of them guard one road turn-off, stopping traffic to allow a single car to pull out. Most roads are still unpaved and turn into terrible bogs when it rains so having a 4×4 is very useful. Traffic can be surprisingly busy. New cars are rolling into town every day, especially expensive ones including Hummers. Drivers are expensive too. Having your own chauffeur will set you back $100 a day. A few years ago, when cars were scarcer, it was $50 a trip no matter how short. Those working in Juba must be hoping the same will happen to prices for private gyms. One place quotes $1,000 a month for membership. There isn’t much choice.

Dan Morrison at Slate:

Efforts to secure the referendum have taken a nasty turn for some Arab residents of the south, however. More than 4 million people registered to vote, among them a farmer named Adam Ismail, but Ismail won’t be placing his fingerprint on a paper ballot this week.

A resident of a disputed region called Fokhar on Sudan’s north-south border in Upper Nile state, Ismail and more than 1,000 other Arabs have abandoned their homes and fields and fled to the north after a campaign of intimidation by southern soldiers.

The Arab tribes of Fokhar have long enjoyed good relations with their neighbors from the Dinka tribe, Ismail said, and the locality even includes a few mixed families, but the Arabs have been viewed with hostile suspicion by local commanders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

A campaign of intimidation, including arrests and interrogations, night visits by uniformed gunmen, and the shooting death of one member of the community, escalated last November, after local Arabs began registering to vote. Nearly 10 percent of the community has fled north to White Nile state, abandoning their fields and some livestock.

“They were threatening us to not vote for unity,” Ismail told me by telephone. “It was our right to register, and we all registered—that’s why this is happening.” Ismail’s family, and nearly 250 other families of the Shukriya tribe, are beginning their seventh week in camps north of the border. Their makeshift shelters are taking on signs of permanence. It is a rare and unfortunate turn of the Sudanese wheel—Arabs dispossessed by African gunmen because of their religion and tribe.

Maggie Fick at Foreign Policy:

Still, there is a danger in celebrating too early. Voters may call for an independent Southern Sudan as they cast their ballots this week, but the means by which the new country would split off is still subject to difficult negotiations and thorny details. There is no agreement over a border, citizenship, the sharing of natural resources, and one contentious border region called Abyei. So while its people are celebrating, Southern Sudan’s leaders are eager to get back to the negotiating table with Khartoum, where a long agenda awaits after the voting finishes. If international attention wanes after the votes are cast, those negotiations could easily take a turn for the worse.

It would be impossible for there not be a “hangover” following the announcement of the results of the ballot, which will not be certified and officially announced until Feb. 6 at the earliest, according to the referendum commission. The voting here in Juba has captured international attention. News crews from around the world have flooded the city, usually a relatively quiet capital with an expatriate community made up mostly of aid workers and frontier businessmen.

There was also a huge diplomatic push to get to this moment. Last fall, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration ramped up its efforts to ensure that the voting was carried off on time. The White House sent its special envoy, Scott Gration, as well as a seasoned Africa hand from the Council on Foreign Relations, Princeton Lyman, to do the diplomatic legwork on the ground. A high-level meeting in New York during the U.N. General Assembly in late September ensured that the international community was acting in lockstep — and around the clock — to help Sudan hold the referendum on time and in peace.

But the spotlight may well lift after the last voters go to polls later this week — at exactly the moment when the politics of secession will become even more fraught. From the moment the results are known, the clock starts ticking on independence talks: The African Union-brokered negotiations between the ruling party in Khartoum and the governing party in the south — now on hold while the voting takes place — have to be completed by the summer. The 2005 north-south peace agreement governing the referendum calls for an “interim period” between the voting and secession, to expire on July 9, 2011. This is also the date the south will declare independence if the referendum passes.

John Avlon at Daily Beast:

Reports of the violence have thus far failed to dampen the hopeful tone of Sunday’s voting. But serious hurdles await the fledgling state. A new government will need to be formed, and official independence will not be granted until July 9. This gives the north at least six months to disrupt the transition and derail the secession after the international camera crews depart. And it’s anybody’s guess whether Monday’s clashes portend greater conflict.

While President Bashir has earned a reputation as an untrustworthy negotiator, he recently has said repeatedly that he will accept the results of the referendum. In a telephone call on Sunday with reporter Ellen Knickmeyer on behalf of The Daily Beast, Rabie Abdullati Obeid, a senior member of the president’s National Congress Party, reiterated that pledge. “No, no, no, there’s not any possibility of war,” Obeid said, speaking from Khartoum. “Whatever the case, whatever the outcome of the referendum, be it secession or unity, there’s no inclination to war.”

Nonetheless, a contentious issue remains in the fate of the still-contested border state of Abyei. In closed-door meetings, tribal leaders made it clear that their people’s allegiance is with the south, though they are legally barred from participating in the referendum. Their frustration could result in a popular declaration of affiliation with the south at any time, which could in turn provoke an attack. Tribal proxy wars have proved a devastatingly effective tactic for the north in the past, with the town of Abyei entirely destroyed as recently as 2008.

“If the north thinks they could do something and get away with it without dramatic serious implications, they are making the biggest mistake of a lifetime,” Senator Kerry told me before he left Sudan on Sunday afternoon. “I think they know that. I think both sides are committed to avoiding a war. But sometimes things happen on the ground that can spiral out of control.”

Mindful of such risks, Clooney and Prendergast have organized a privately financed satellite project that provides real-time imaging of the Sudanese north-south border to interested global citizens from their computers. With its ability to keep public attention focused on any troop build-up along the border, this new tool is an example of the kind of innovation and continued international commitment that will be necessary to complete the peaceful transition of Southern Sudan to independence.

Even given the many challenges ahead—and with the balance of the week’s polling activity still to come—one could not help but savor this first day in Southern Sudan’s civic resolve, for it represented the at least temporary triumph of hope over hate. One-time killing fields are being transformed into a fledgling democracy that promises to be an ally of the United States, with English as its official language. This story is far from over, the more so since the world cannot afford to turn the page assuming a happy ending. But it was a day of unique, hard-won, and memorable promise, as Valentino Achak Deng reminded me: “It’s like the people in the United States almost 300 years ago,” he said. “We are determined to be a nation of our own.”

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The Photo-Op From Hell

Much blog chatter about the panic caused by the President’s plane in NYC yesterday.

Doug Powers, on Malkin’s site: “Look for Obama’s people to claim it was a selfless gesture on the part of the president to take New Yorkers minds off the swine flu.”

http://michellemalkin.com/2009/04/27/i-feel-the-need-the-need-to-freak-out-new-yorkers/

Charles Johnson at LGF, on President Obama’s apology: “He’s getting very good at apologizing. But the other question that needs answering is: at a time of great financial crisis, combined with the largest federal budget in history, why is money being wasted on unnecessary extravagances like this?”

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/33509_President_Apologizes_for_Air_Force_One_Overflight

Allah Pundit has videos:

http://hotair.com/archives/2009/04/27/smart-power-pentagon-freaks-out-new-york-with-low-altitude-fly-by/

Brian Faughnan at Redstate notes that the administration is throwing their appointee under the bus:

http://www.redstate.com/brianfaughnan/2009/04/27/white-house-stupidity-leads-to-panic-in-new-york/

Brad Schaeffer at New Majority:

http://www.newmajority.com/ShowScroll.aspx?ID=ba2f9afd-8266-42fc-9528-9e5e9a7a88ff

Some on the left commented on this incident, too. Kevin Drum:

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2009/04/photo-op

TPM reader AN on the Mothership blog yesterday:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/04/on_that_flyover_idea.php

Any more posts out there on this subject? Put ’em in the comments.

UPDATE: James Joyner:

http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/air_force_one_flyover_frightens_new_yorkers/

UPDATE #2: Jason Zengerle in the New Republic:

http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2009/04/28/is-caldera-obama-s-brownie.aspx

UPDATE #3: Michael O’Hare:

http://www.samefacts.com/archives/management_/2009/04/a_photoop.php

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