Ben Quayle’s Ad, Worst President Ever Comments

August 12, 2010

Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle is running for Congress in Arizona. He recently released an advertisement calling President Obama the “worst president in history.” You can watch the ad here . This ad is the perfect example as to why I get so frustrated with Washington D.C. politics.

Read the rest of this entry »


President Obama: A Better Legislator or Executive?

June 24, 2010

I was inspired by a talk show’s discussion this week on whether President Obama is a better legislator or executive as President thus far. I believe that he’s taken a strong role as a legislator, and struggled as an executive.

Going back through my notes from my American Presidency class, the President has four major functions. (1) Symbol – head of state (2) Policy Advocate (3) Mediator – He’s the only elected official with a national constituency and (4) Crisis Manager. I think he has been weak on two of the four. Read the rest of this entry »

Thoughts on President Obama’s Address

June 15, 2010

President Obama just wrapped up his first nationally televised address from the Oval Office. The focus of the address was obviously the Gulf oil spill, but it contained a bit more than just that. Implicit in his speech was the selling of his leadership abilities and explicit was his call for a move away from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources. My reaction just a few minutes after the speech would be to give it a 5 out of 10, and I’ll tell you why.

Obama reiterated the liability of BP regarding damages both environmentally and economically. The creation of a fund administered by a third party to ensure all legitimate claims are paid is a good idea, certainly better than leaving it to BP or the government doing it. However, I am skeptical as to the ability of anybody to compensate individuals and businesses in a timely manner. Will we really be able to replace what are typically stable (or relatively so) streams of income with what I would presume will be one-time payments somewhere down the road? If I was one of those firms that gave out loans based on future payments a person is entitled to, I would be moving to the Gulf coast. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s Healthcare Reform Review: Republican’s Prospective

June 10, 2010

I often defend and smack around President Obama’s health care reform bill during the same breath. Was there the potential for bipartisan reform? Yes. Did Obama muscle it through, silencing the minority? Yes. President Obama should see how the Missouri Senate Republicans handled the tough issues of session, in which they which could have used the “nuclear option” on several issues. Instead, they compromised with the Democrats.

There are great things in the health insurance bill such as the elimination of lifetime caps on benefits, insurance eligibility for dependents, preexisting conditions. All of these things should be met with open arms. While the health insurance industry hates these provisions, they protect you and I, and are appropriate regulations.

Conceptually, I have no problem with requiring individuals to maintain some sort of health insurance coverage. Do I think it’s the federal government’s job to require this? No. This bill should have required states to pass a law requiring people to obtain some sort of health insurance option and tie Medicaid money to it. This carrot/stick mentality has been done with regards to auto insurance and seat belt requirements, the money being tied to transportation roads.

Read the rest of this entry »

Twenty Democrats Take Aim At Ethics Oversight

June 6, 2010

Recently, twenty Democratic members of Congress have sought to limit the powers of the independent ethics oversight body, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), and essentially. These lawmakers represent less than half of the Congressional Black Caucus and a few of them are among a list of lawmakers in both parties who are under scrutiny by the OCE, including Rep. Charlie Rangel who was found in February to have knowingly violated ethical boundaries despite being warned by his staff.

It is noteworthy that more than half of the forty-two member Congressional Black Caucus has refused to join the effort, including leaders like Rep. Jim Clyburn, and the effort is not an official act of nor endorsed by the CBC.

Ethics reform was a high priority of the new Democratic majority in 2006 and has been a priority of Obama as a State Senator, U.S. Senator, and President. It is shameful that the progress on public service ethics in Congress is being targeted by a group of folks who happen to be directly or indirectly feeling the sting of the new oversight body. Members of both parties and all demographics are being investigated and there is no room for “poor me” when it comes to ethics and accountability. This is not unlike a child being punished for knowingly doing wrong, then whining that the parents’ authority should be hampered because they got in trouble while their siblings did not.  Instead of addressing the consequences of some members’ unethical conduct, these twenty members of Congress should be addressing the source of the unethical conduct.

Are we witnessing the Obama Oil Spill, and what political consequences lay ahead?

June 4, 2010


This oil spill came at the worst possible time for President Obama.  The jobs reports had been showing positive growth over the last couple of months.  This fact, combined with a more assertive Obama that had become less timid about directly confronting his adversaries, made the legislative outlook for 2010 quite bright.  Perhaps we could get legislation through that dealt with climate change, or maybe we could even raise the Employee Free Choice Act from the dead and put a version of that to a vote on the floor.

Well that is no more, as the double whammy of the actual oil spill and the failed efforts to end the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico has all but ground President Obama’s legislative agenda to a halt.  Along the way, he has been criticized for myriad things:

  • He did not attend the funerals of the eleven men who died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion that caused the oil spill.
  • He has not dispensed enough government resources to cap off the oil well.
  • He has not held BP accountable enough.
  • He has not been to the Gulf coast to talk with the residents of the region more.

These are but a few.  However, it is necessary to note a couple of things, the first of which having to deal with the entity that bears the responsibility for cleaning up the oil spill.  It is not the United States federal government; it is British Petroleum.  They should have to drain as much money as they have to in order to clean this mess up.  Second, while he did not attend the funerals of those that perished in the blast (like he did for the 29 West Virginia coal miners who died last month), should that be taken to mean that he does not care?  Did President Bush attend the memorials of those that died in the Sago mine disaster in West Virginia?  He did not.  How many times did President Bush visit the region after Katrina?  That is what I thought.  I would not expect the President of the United States to be talking to every citizen on the Gulf Coast; I would want him in Washington, putting together the kind of braintrust that is going to be needed to deal with the aftermath of the largest oil spill in American history.

All of this being said, is it Obama’s oil spill?  No.  It cannot be.  It cannot be because there is nothing that suggests that he is not doing everything legally necessary to make this situation right.  If the federal government comes in and cleans this mess up on its own, it would be akin to a parent constantly cleaning up after a child.  When does BP learn from its mistakes?  When are they made to feel the same sort of pain in the area that matters most to them (their pocketbooks/wallets) that the families of the eleven who were killed, or the thousands of fishermen that work and live along the Gulf Coast who now find themselves out of work, are made to feel every day that this drags on further?  The federal government should perform necessary duties (environmental impact alleviation, finding work for displaced fishermen, etc.), but British Petroleum must be made to pay for their actions, and short of President Obama ordering a nationalization of oil companies doing business within the United States, the clean up and payout of damages to victims should be the sole responsibility of BP.

As far as the electoral consequences are concerned, it is a wash.  Here in Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has been hitting U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) hard on the issue, highlighting his campaign donations from BP and his stance against a bill that would have raised the liability caps for pain and suffering that companies such as BP would have been forced to pay.  But make no mistake: there are Democrats that have also taken money from BP as well, and they will be targeted in much the same way.  So I see this as something that will, politically speaking, not make too many waves come November 2nd.


Can this be considered Obama’s oil spill?

There are really two veins to this question. The first is, is Obama to blame for the spill? The simple answer is no. BP is to blame, perhaps Transocean, as well as the deregulation of past public servants.

The second is, does Obama “own” the spill in terms of the buck stopping with him. The answer is, to a limited extent, yes. BP ultimately is liable, but the public is certainly looking to Obama above all others to demonstrate guidance toward some sort of resolution.

What will be the electoral effect of the oil spill?

It depends. As I’ve said since Obama took office, the midterm elections of 2010 will be decided largely on management and budget issues. Positive results for Democrats depend partially on the economy (and budget) beginning to turn around. In terms of the oil spill, if the latest attempt to cap-and-contain the underwater pipeline is successful, the focus can then shift more toward cleanup of the existing spill with an aggressive cleanup regime. Because the midterms will be largely decided on management effectiveness, for Democrats meaningful progress/success on the oil spill will result in a neutral effect at worst and a positive effect at best.

If the latest attempt fails and the Gulf of Mexico continues to turn black through August or September when the relief wells are drilled, the oil spill could be somewhat harmful for Democrats whether it’s fair or not. That’s especially true of there isn’t a clear plan in place for the cleanup following the drilling of the relief wells in August. It has been well noted in recent years that planning for the aftermath, so to speak, is critical. By August, the Obama administration, the military, other top officials will have had plenty of time to develop a plan for cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico. If they fail to do that, the consequences in November will be limited, but real.


Can this be considered Obama’s oil spill? Well, it is not necessarily rational but the answer has to be an overwhelming YES. Not because it is but because that is how it is and will be perceived. I say it isn’t rational because there is little, if anything, for Obama to do in this case. He is being forced to throw his hands up and say ‘I have no idea’ just like BP and everybody else. It’s not like it was Obama’s plan to drill that well, and you can’t convince me that he should have done something which may have prevented it (perhaps taking some action to address MMS). He just happens to be the guy in the captain’s chair at the time of the accident; however that translates into blame and/or consequences. It’s Obama’s oil spill as much as it was Bush’s Katrina and Carter’s hostage crisis.

Allow me to digress for a moment, but the real issue to me is that we allow this offshore drilling with no plan or apparent ability to stop disasters that may happen. They have the blowout preventer…but then what? Nobody came up with a fail safe for the fail safe? Why not? As we see now, the consequences are pretty severe.

Anyway, as far as electoral effects of the oil spill, I think it is a tough subject to predict. For starters, I think the Democratic party is and was going to have a somewhat difficult mid-term election in the first place. Largely the result of a seemingly growing anti-government movement, the oil spill won’t be reversing any of those sentiments. But for Obama in particular, I think the inability of any one person or entity, government included, to stop the flow of oil before August (!) is going to translate into evidence or ammunition for the lack of experience and leadership argument (evidence or ammunition depending on your stance on the topic).

Let’s be honest, Obama did not win the election based on his extensive previous experience in government. It was a big target for the GOP in 2008, and it will be again assuming the spill and its effects are relatively fresh on Americans’ minds. Will it sway the election? Too early to say for sure, but if nothing else it might make it a much tighter race than anybody previously thought.


I believe that the oil spill should be considered President Obama’s oil spill. With that said, there is plenty of blame to go around (the status quo before Obama as well) is partially to blame as well.

However, like any political figure, ties to the current oil industry have caused an unsafe inbreeding that has led us to the largest oil disaster in our nation’s history. Steven Chu, President Obama’s Energy Secretary received the bulk of a $500 million BP grant to develop alternative energy sources. BP’s Chief scientist at the time (Steven Koonin) described Chu as “my twin brother.” Now, Chu is working with and against (to protect the President’s political capital) BP to stop the flow of oil.

I agree with James Carville, John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, and LA Governor Bobby Jindal. The President has not taken a proactive role in the oil spill. I believe this has the potential to be Obama’s Hurricane Katrina.

While Bobby Jindal is evaluating and helping with relief efforts, President Obama could be very hands on in this process, and he hasn’t been. He’s attempting to pass the buck on to BP for plugging the well and cleaning the mess. He should be working with other countries and industries in order to solve the problem. Instead of leaving BP’s CEO of making statements of progress, the President needs to have his “bullhorn” moment and take control of the situation.

BP memos show they may have been slow to respond or have underestimated the full effects of the problem. From a pure realistic perspective: if BP executives were slow to respond before, and directly after the disaster, are they the right people to tell the Obama Administration what their next plan is to cap the well?

We are a month and a half after the disaster and today is only his third trip to the Gulf region. While oil and energy ties are abound in every political regime, it’s unrealistic to say that Obama will “clean house” as he claims with the oil industry. If that is so, he needs to reconsider his own Energy Secretary. The Republicans could legitimately frame this as Obama’s Katrina. With that said, I do not believe this will have a drastic effect on the midterm elections in November. While the problem is all of ours, the responsibility rests at President Obama and BP’s feet.

Lastly, here are some facts on the amount of oil currently in the gulf:

  1. 11,300 – The distance in miles the current amount of oil leak would stretch if placed in milk jugs lined side by side.
  2. 102 – Number of school gymnasiums that could theoretically be filled floor-to-ceiling with oil from the spill.
  3. 19,000,000-39,000,000 – The amount of oil that has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico since the spill. 19 Million gallons would fill my car’s gas tank (14.5 gallons) 1.31 million times.
  4. 400 Wildlife Species threatened by the spill.

Education Reforms: NCLB, State Changes

June 3, 2010

Education Labor Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives had a hearing last week on reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

In March, President Obama outlined proposed a “Blueprint for Reform” to NLCB that he is urging Congress to support. Here is the 45-page document that outlines his proposed changes. In short, it does a few good things, and I disagree with other portions of it. Obama’s plan removes the 2014 deadline of all children being “proficient,” and removes requirements that a school must improve on its standardized tests. These are no-brainers, and shouldn’t have been a part of NCLB in the first place.

I believe that the U.S. needs to look at what academic research can tell us about our education system and what is and isn’t working. In my first semester of graduate school, I took an Education Governance class, and this fall I will be taking a History of US Education Policy class. Here are the proposals that I think should be included in a policy-shift in education based on academic research currently available:

1. Slow/Redirect the spending on Education. There is little evidence that school spending levels have significant impacts on student outcomes.
           a. The federal government has increased spending from approximately $10 billion in 1995 to over $50 billion this year, and in Missouri during the same time period from approximately $3 billion to $5 billion on Elementary and Secondary Education.
          b. In all of this extra spending, are our high school students nearly 100% smarter than they were than those in 1995?

2. Address the racial achievement gap in a proactive way
          a. This gap may appear to be a socioeconomic status gap at first, but the racial achievement gap widens as kids move through school.
          b. A way to address this would to have a task force of education industry leaders to find a workable solution to this growing epidemic.

3. Learn & utilize peers in the classroom
          a. Studies have shown that peers are very important, and can often tell how smart you are.
          b. Where you live determines where you go to school. It’s as simple as that, and in the U.S., our peers can positively affect the scores of each other if in the right setting.
          c. We need to learn more about this effect and learn how we can maximize each other’s learning. We can do this by learning how effective busing children would be or if we need to rethink our proximity based elementary school layout that the United States currently has.

4. Expand early childhood initiatives
          a. Studies have shown that giving poor children access to early childhood programs can close the educational gaps.
          b. However, these advances can be lost throughout the child’s educational journey if they aren’t given proper guidance at home.
          c. Also, these programs are very expensive, but I would propose to redirect monies into these programs as opposed to pouring them into the K-12 system, like we are currently doing.

5. Changes to the “Teacher”
           a. It’s incredibly difficult to tell a “good” teacher from a “poor” teacher. Traditional Certification (Education Degree) does not produce “better” teachers systematically. Also, having a Master’s degree does not produce “better” teachers systematically.
           b. A change to the “teacher” that I would recommend is to begin (slowly) to implement a Merit Pay type system, keeping a minimum pay structure for teachers with experience and education. DESE could work with the General Assembly and the teaching unions to begin to implement this type of system.
           c. I would also encourage DESE to work with the Education programs at Missouri’s universities to address issues such as a large burnout rate (as high as 50% within 5 years) among teachers, and opening the door more easily for “highly qualified” individuals in a specific area to expedite their certification. I’m friends with many smart, capable people that will be successful teachers. However, as a state we need to be assured that these Education programs are teaching the necessary tools to prospective teachers.

Education policy is filled with discussions about “preparing everyone” for work or college, but our system are lacking compared to many other nations. It’s time that the United States has open, frank, and honest discussions about how to improve our K-12 education system. What we have been doing hasn’t been working, and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Addendum: Here are a few of the relevant academic articles regarding this article:

west nclb how to give it a passing grade policy brief 2005

Race Article 1

podgursky & springer teacher performance pay

nye et al how large are teacher effects

heckman the economics of investing in early childhood PPT

boyd et al how changes in entry requirements