sábado, 28 de março de 2009

'Obamanomics': uma mudança geracional

(Por motivos profissionais, não poderei actualizar o blogue nos próximos três dias. O CASA BRANCA estará de regresso na quarta-feira)

Um interessante artigo, no Wall Street Journal, de Robert Reich, professor de Política em Berkeley, Universidade da Califórnia e secretário do Trabalho na Administração Clinton:

«Twenty-eight years ago, Ronald Reagan used the severe economic downturn of 1980-82 to implement an economic philosophy that not only gave force and meaning to a wide range of initiatives but also offered a way back to sustained economic growth. Is there a similarly powerful animating idea behind Obamanomics?

Chad CroweI believe there is -- and it's not a return to big government.

The expansive and expensive forays of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board into Wall Street notwithstanding, President Barack Obama's 10-year budget (whose projections may prove wildly optimistic if the economy fails to rebound by early next year) presents a remarkably conservative picture. In 10 years, taxes are expected to fall to around 19% of GDP, a lower level than the late 1990s. Spending is expected to drop to around 22.5% of GDP, about where it was under Ronald Reagan -- including nondefense discretionary spending at about 3.6% of GDP, its lowest since data on this were first collected in 1962.

The real distinction between Obamanomics and Reaganomics involves government's role in achieving growth and broad-based prosperity. The animating idea of Reaganomics was that the economy grows best from the top down. Lower taxes on the wealthy prompts them to work harder and invest more. When they do so, everyone benefits. Neither Reagan nor the apostles of supply-side economics explicitly promised that such benefits would "trickle down" to everyone else but this was broadly understood to be the justification.

Reaganomics surely marked the beginning of one of the longest bull markets in American history and generated enormous gains at the top. But its benefits were not widely shared. After the Reagan tax cuts, growth in the median wage slowed, adjusted for inflation. After George W. Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, the median wage dropped. Meanwhile, an increasing share of total income went to the top 1% of income earners. In 1980, before Reagan took office, the highest-paid 1% took home 9% of total national income. By 2007, before the economy melted down, the richest 1% was taking home 22%.

Obamanomics, by contrast, holds that an economy grows best from the bottom up. The president proposes to increase taxes on the highest 2% of income earners starting in 2011. Those tax increases will fund more Pell grants allowing lower-income children to attend college, better pay for teachers that show they're worth it, broader access to health care, improved infrastructure, and more basic research. These and related expenditures are designed to help Americans become more productive. You might think of it as "trickle up" economics.

The key is public investment. Reaganomics did not view any public spending as an investment in the future except when it came to spending on the military. Hence, since 1980, federal spending on education, job training, infrastructure and basic research and development (apart from defense-related R&D) have all shrunk as a proportion of GDP. And apart from a modest expansion of health insurance available to poor children, there has been no significant attempt to make health insurance broadly affordable to Americans.

Obamanomics is premised on the central importance of public investments in the productivity of Americans. The logic is straightforward. Capital no longer remains within the borders of a nation where it is saved. It moves to wherever around the globe it can get the best return. Some of it flows as highly liquid investments that slosh across borders at the slightest provocation, as we're witnessing in the current financial crisis. But much takes the form of direct investments in new plants and equipment, telecommunications systems, laboratories, offices and -- most important of all -- jobs. Such capital goes to nations that can deliver high returns either because labor is cheap and taxes and regulations low or because labor is highly productive: well educated, healthy and supported by modern infrastructure.

In this way, every nation faces an implicit choice of whether its strategic advantage will lie in low costs or high productivity. For the better part of the last three decades America's job strategy has tended toward the former. But this inevitably exerts downward pressure on the real wages of a larger and larger portion of our population.

Only those Americans whose parents can afford to give them a high-quality private education and health care, and who can situate themselves in locations with excellent infrastructures of telecommunication, transportation, public health and safety, have been able to link up with global capital on more positive terms. But not even they are entirely secure economically, because they face growing shortages of talented people they can rely on within easy reach, and can't entirely avoid the disadvantages of a deteriorating public infrastructure, such as ever more congested roads and airports.

Obamanomics recognizes that the only resource uniquely rooted in a national economy is its people -- their skills, insights, capacities to collaborate, and the transportation and communication systems that link them together. Public investment is the key to attracting long-term private investment so that a nation's people can prosper.

Bill Clinton understood this but failed to do much about America's deteriorating public investments because he came to office during an economic expansion, when the major worry was excessive government spending leading to inflation. Mr. Obama comes to office during the biggest downturn since the Great Depression, and his plan represents the largest commitment to public investment in 30 years.

Regulation, done correctly, is also a form of public investment because it enables consumers and investors to be confident about what they're receiving, and ensures that the side-effects of trades don't harm the public. Reaganomics assumed that deregulated markets always function better. They do in many respects. But when they don't, all hell can break loose, retarding economic growth.

Energy markets were deregulated and we wound up with Enron. Food and drug safety has been neglected, resulting in contaminated products that have endangered consumers and threatened whole industries. Financial markets were deregulated and we now have a global meltdown. Obamanomics, by contrast, views appropriate regulation as an essential precondition for sustainable growth.

Under Reaganomics, government was the problem. It can still be a problem. But a central tenet of Obamanomics is that there are even bigger problems out there which cannot be solved without government. By building the economy from the bottom up, enhancing public investment, and instituting reasonable regulation, Obamanomics marks a reversal of the economic philosophy that has dominated America since 1981.»

Os elogios de Bill Gates: «Obama tem uma equipa brilhante»

Mensagem Semanal: Obama explica resposta às cheias no Dakota do Norte, Dakota do Sul e Minnesota

'The Persistence of Vision: Obama is Getting Things Done'

Um artigo de Eleanor Clift, na Newsweek:

«The grandson of a slave, historian John Hope Franklin lived long enough to see a black man elected president, a prospect that for most of his 94 years seemed impossible. He recalled in an NPR interview on his 90th birthday how, when his mother urged him to aspire to become the first African-American president, just saying the words seemed so daring. His seminal work, "From Slavery to Freedom," published in 1947, sold 6 million copies and remains relevant more than 60 years later. "Little by little, chip by chip, you can change things, and I'm willing to keep on trying," he told NPR.

Like Franklin, whose passing he mourned this week, President Obama thinks if you stick with something long enough, there will eventually be a payoff. "I'm a big believer in persistence," he said at his prime-time press conference Tuesday evening, telling reporters they should expect him to invoke this prized characteristic often during his presidency. A nation starved for leadership on a whole range of domestic priorities wants Obama to succeed, giving him a 64 percent approval rating in the latest Gallup poll. The number of Americans who say the country is headed in the right direction is steadily moving upward, and, according to pollster John Zogby, is at 45 percent, up from 14 percent at the beginning of the year.

Watching the cable-news commentators assess the president's performance immediately after the press conference, you get the impression Obama is on much shakier ground than the polls indicate. His tart response to a CNN reporter questioning the lag time between news of the AIG bonuses and the outrage he subsequently expressed prompted endless speculation about what this momentary flash of anger might mean, with Republican Bill Bennett calling it the first glimpse of someone who could be a one-term president. It's a familiar argument: Obama is on his way to being another Jimmy Carter, trying to do too much, overloading the circuits, choking the Congress. Democrats facing a wall of Republican opposition, as well as doubts within their own ranks, worry that this long-awaited moment to legislate will be squandered. "I'm on their side," says Brookings scholar Bill Galston, "but there's a point where more becomes less, and if you overreach you underperform."

Rhetorically at least, Obama is pressing ahead on all fronts despite calls from a growing group of centrists in his own party to pare back his vision. Voters who backed Obama's call for change can't understand why Democrats with big majorities in both houses of Congress can't pass Obama's signature items without getting into a snit over attracting Republican support. The reality is 58 senators aren't enough to forestall a filibuster. Forget the Republicans. Obama can't hold all the Democrats. The White House has adopted a strategy of welcoming the budget adopted by Congress as a victory for Obama, even though it scraps several presidential initiatives, including the extension beyond two years of Obama's middle-class tax cut and the cap-and-trade energy policy that would have paid for it. Both were a stretch given the economic climate.

With the pent-up needs of a nation coming to a head with the Obama presidency, the performance of Congress will be scrutinized along with Obama's. The controversy over the AIG bonuses and the lax oversight of the financial industry has once again thrust the influence of campaign contributions into the spotlight. With politicians on the defensive, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced "Fair Elections Now" bills to have candidates voluntarily agree to not take lobbyist money and to accept only small contributions from their home states. "Law & Order" actor Sam Waterston was on hand to lend his celebrity authority to the cause. Reminded of the failure of past efforts to reform campaign fundraising, Waterston told NEWSWEEK he is hopeful this time is different. Reform has been tried in several states, including Connecticut, where he lives, and has proved successful. Plus, it's a quality-of-life issue for lawmakers, he said. "They want to get off the fundraising treadmill … They spend more time as telemarketers than legislators."

Waterston was involved last year in "Unity '08," a short-lived attempt to draft a bipartisan presidential ticket. It fell by the wayside when Obama emerged, satisfying the group's criterion for a different kind of leadership. He recalled traveling to Washington 15 years ago to attend a bipartisan congressional retreat in Hershey, Pa., where he portrayed Lincoln. Members of Congress told him then that they didn't talk to their colleagues because every free minute they have, they go raise money somewhere. Asked if lawmakers embracing reform legislation on the heels of the AIG scandal isn't a bit opportunistic, he pointed out that advocates like him have been at it for a long time. In politics, persistence can be its own reward, creating a momentum that challenges and then defines change in a way that eventually seems inevitable.»

sexta-feira, 27 de março de 2009

Robert Kagan apoia decisão de Obama de enviar mais tropas para o Afeganistão

Um artigo de Robert Kagan, analista conservador, no Washington Post:

«Hats off to President Obama for making a gutsy and correct decision on Afghanistan. With many of his supporters, and some of his own advisers, calling either for a rapid exit or a “minimal” counterterrorist strategy in Afghanistan, the president announced today that he will instead expand and deepen the American commitment. He clearly believes that an effective counterterrorism approach requires an effective counterinsurgency strategy, aimed not only at killing bad guys but at strengthening Afghan civil society and governing structures, providing the necessary security to the population so that it can resist pressures from the Taliban, and significantly increasing the much-derided “nation-building” element of the strategy. The United States, he argues, has to help the Afghan people fulfill “the promise of a better future,” by rooting out government corruption, helping the elected government provide basic services, fighting the narcotics trade, and, in general, advancing “security, opportunity, and justice.” This is the opposite of a “minimal” approach.

It is also evidence that the president is pragmatic in the best sense of the word. He and his key advisers, such as Richard Holbrooke, understand that better and more effective government in Afghanistan is a key to the successful defense of American security. Self-proclaimed “realists” argue, as always, that the pragmatic course is to pull back in Afghanistan. But President Obama recognizes in Afghanistan what the previous administration only belatedly recognized in Iraq: that the only way out is forward.

The president today should probably have approved General David McKiernan’s request for additional troops next year, rather than waiting a few months to make that decision. But if he sticks to his present course, he will make the right call then, too.»

Afeganistão e Paquistão: duas prioridades enquanto houver Al-Qaeda

Barack Obama deixou bem claro, em declaração conjunta com Hillary Clinton e Bob Gates, que a «Al Qaeda e os talibãs têm que ser desmantelados e derrotados» e isso obriga à continuação das tropa americanas no Afeganistão (para onde vão mais 4 mil solados, depois de já terem ido outros 17 mil) e no Paquistão

'President Obama: Learning The Hard Way'

Editorial da edição em papel da revista Economist:

'Barack Obama may at last be getting a grip. But he still needs to show more leadership, at home and abroad'

«HILLARY CLINTON’S most effective quip, in her long struggle with Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination last year, was that the Oval Office is no place for on-the-job training. It went to the heart of the nagging worry about the silver-tongued young senator from Illinois: that he lacked even the slightest executive experience, and that in his brief career he had never really stood up to powerful interests, whether in his home city of Chicago or in the wider world. Might Mrs Clinton have been right about her foe?

Not altogether. In foreign policy in particular Mr Obama has already done some commendable things. He has held out a sincere hand to Iran; he has ordered Guantánamo closed within a year; he has set himself firmly against torture. He has, as the world and this newspaper wanted, taken a less strident tone in dealing with friends and rivals alike.

But at home Mr Obama has had a difficult start. His performance has been weaker than those who endorsed his candidacy, including this newspaper, had hoped. Many of his strongest supporters—liberal columnists, prominent donors, Democratic Party stalwarts—have started to question him. As for those not so beholden, polls show that independent voters again prefer Republicans to Democrats, a startling reversal of fortune in just a few weeks. Mr Obama’s once-celestial approval ratings are about where George Bush’s were at this stage in his awful presidency. Despite his resounding electoral victory, his solid majorities in both chambers of Congress and the obvious goodwill of the bulk of the electorate, Mr Obama has seemed curiously feeble.

Empty posts, weak policies
There are two main reasons for this. The first is Mr Obama’s failure to grapple as fast and as single-mindedly with the economy as he should have done. His stimulus package, though huge, was subcontracted to Congress, which did a mediocre job: too much of the money will arrive too late to be of help in the current crisis. His budget, though in some ways more honest than his predecessor’s, is wildly optimistic. And he has taken too long to produce his plan for dealing with the trillions of dollars of toxic assets which fester on banks’ balance-sheets.

The failure to staff the Treasury is a shocking illustration of administrative drift. There are 23 slots at the department that need confirmation by the Senate, and only two have been filled. This is not the Senate’s fault. Mr Obama has made a series of bad picks of people who have chosen or been forced to withdraw; and it was only this week that he announced his candidates for two of the department’s four most senior posts. Filling such jobs is always a tortuous business in America, but Mr Obama has made it harder by insisting on a level of scrutiny far beyond anything previously attempted. Getting the Treasury team in place ought to have been his first priority.

Second, Mr Obama has mishandled his relations with both sides in Congress. Though he campaigned as a centrist and promised an era of post-partisan government, that’s not how he has behaved. His stimulus bill attracted only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House. This bodes ill for the passage of more difficult projects, such as his big plans for carbon-emissions control and health-care reform. Keeping those promises will soon start to bedevil the administration. The Republicans must take their share of the blame for the breakdown. But if Mr Obama had done a better job of selling his package, and had worked harder at making sure that Republicans were included in drafting it, they would have found it more difficult to oppose his plans.

If Mr Obama cannot work with the Republicans, he needs to be certain that he controls his own party. Unfortunately, he seems unable to. Put bluntly, the Democrats are messing him around. They are pushing pro-trade-union legislation (notably a measure to get rid of secret ballots) even though he doesn’t want them to do so; they have been roughing up the bankers even though it makes his task of fixing the economy much harder; they have stuffed his stimulus package and his appropriations bill with pork, even though this damages him and his party in the eyes of the electorate. Worst of all, he is letting them get away with it.

Lead, dammit
There are some signs that Mr Obama’s administration is learning. This week the battered treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, has at last come up with a detailed plan to rescue the banks (see article and article). Its success is far from guaranteed, and the mood of Congress and the public has soured to the point where, should this plan fail, getting another one off the drawing-board will be exceedingly hard. But the plan at least demonstrates the administration’s acceptance that it must work with the bankers, instead of riding the wave of popular opinion against them, if it is to repair America’s economy. And it’s not just in the domestic arena that Mr Obama has demonstrated his willingness to learn: on Iraq, he has intelligently recalibrated his views, coming up with a plan for withdrawal that seeks to consolidate the gains in Iraq while limiting the costs to America.

But Mr Obama has a long way to travel if he is to serve his country—and the world—as he should. Take the G20 meeting in London, to which he will head at the end of next week. The most important task for this would-be institution is to set itself firmly against protectionism at a time when most of its members are engaged in a game of creeping beggar-thy-neighbour. Yet how can Mr Obama lead the fight when he has just pandered to America’s unions by sparking a minor trade war with Mexico? And how can he set a new course for NATO at its 60th-anniversary summit a few days later if he is appeasing his party with talk of leaving Afghanistan?

In an accomplished press conference this week, Mr Obama reminded the world what an impressive politician he can be. He has a capacity to inspire that is unmatched abroad or at home. He holds a strong hand when it comes to the Democrats, many of whom owe their seats to his popularity at last year’s election. Now he must play it.»

Tim Geithner: «O sistema financeiro precisa de uma reforma profunda»

'Accountability' pela internet: o Presidente Obama responde a perguntas postas por mail, num «town hall»

1. Sobre Economia

2. Sobre Educação

3. Sobre os Veteranos de Guerra

quinta-feira, 26 de março de 2009

Os melhores momentos da conferência de Imprensa

Já pôde vê-la aqui na íntegra, em sete blocos comentados, mas se quiser um apanhado dos melhores momentos, é só clicar em cima.

O primeiro dia de Hillary Clinton no México

Quase todas as atenções têm estado viradas para o Presidente e para o secretário do Tesouro, Tim Geithner, e há vários motivos para isso -- pelo menos até que o Orçamento passe no Congresso.

Mas a frente externa também é decisivo para avaliar o sucesso da Administração Obama nesta primeira fase. A visita de Hillary ao México é um bom exemplo disso.

Será que o aumento dos impostos também vai atingir a classe média?

Obama prometeu na sua campanha -- e tem vindo a repetir agora -- que vai aumentar os impostos dos 5 por cento mais ricos e descer para os 95 por cento que restam.

Mas EJ Dionne, no Washington Post lança um receio: será que este orçamento irá implicar um aumento da carga fiscal para mais americanos do que se estava à espera?

«The debate on the budget is phony, the howling on deficits a charade. Few politicians want to acknowledge that if you really are concerned about long-term deficits, you have to support tax increases.

That's why the most significant moment of President Obama's news conference on Tuesday was not his dodge of a question on AIG, but his defense of the least popular tax increase in his budget: limits on the benefits wealthier taxpayers get for their charitable contributions and mortgage payments.

It has been a long time since a president was willing to defend raising taxes. You have to go back to Bill Clinton and his 1993 budget. The consequences for Democrats who voted for that budget -- no Republicans did -- were grave. Republicans swept the 1994 elections and held on to the House for 12 years. No wonder politicians are so phobic about taxes.

Obama himself is only going part of the way on tax increases. He is still arguing that he can fix things with hikes on just the top 5 percent of taxpayers.

He's right that a large share of any increase should hit those who enjoyed the biggest income gains over the last decade. But in the end, no politician (with the possible exception of libertarian Ron Paul) is willing to cut the budget enough to contain the deficit without a general tax increase down the road.

Every budget analyst knows this, and every politician knows that it's far easier to bemoan deficits in the abstract than to risk spending cuts or tax increases that hurt sizeable groups of voters. "There are no more low-hanging fruit," says Tom Kahn, the staff director for the House Budget Committee. "The low-hanging fruit have already been picked. Any tax increase or spending cut is going to trigger opposition from somewhere."

In an ideal world, Obama would come right out and say we'll need broad-based tax increases. But that would be suicidal right now. Witness the reaction to his effort to put a 28 percent ceiling on deductions. His proposal would affect only 1.2 percent of taxpayers, yet even that idea is about to die in Congress.

Obama's proposal is based on a sound intuition: Do we really believe it's fair that when a married couple with a taxable income of $50,000 gives $1,000 to charity, they get a tax benefit of $150, while a couple earning $1 million making exactly the same contribution gets back $350? Is it fair that the higher-income couple also gets a bigger tax advantage on their mortgage payments?

The value of the deductions is currently worth more to the higher-income couple because they pay taxes at a higher rate. Obama wouldn't even close the whole gap. Applied to this example, his 28 percent cap would still let the wealthier couple deduct $280.

Yet even this modest effort to raise money to pay for health care reform is falling under a hail of fire from those who say the president wants to hurt private charities. Obama was quite right when he said at his news conference that the effect of this change on charitable giving would be small: Using 2007 figures, the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that Obama's change would reduce charitable contributions only marginally -- from $306 billion to $302 billion.

Is that too much for nonprofits to give up so the country can cover the costs of health care for the needy? The truth is that the opponents of making any changes in the amount the wealthy can deduct are using solicitude for the private charities to kill the whole plan.

Fine, kill it. But then, how else will we pay for health care reform? Obama's across-the-board limits on itemized deductions would raise $318 billion over 10 years. Does anyone have a less painful way to raise that much money?

The larger problem is the emptiness of all the howling over the long-term deficits. Nibbling away at bits of Obama's proposed budget will do very little about them. Talk of "entitlement reform" is empty unless we have health care reform -- and unless we acknowledge that we will never cut Medicare and Social Security enough to close the budget gap. In fact, Social Security is more important than ever now that the value of so many 401(k)s has plummeted.

The task of those who genuinely care about deficits is to make the world safe for tax increases. Politicians won't do this on their own.»

quarta-feira, 25 de março de 2009

Um homem atravessa as Torres Gémeas

De uma beleza comovente, o videocast de três minutos feito por Alberto Gonçalves para o novo site da revista Sábado(www.sabado.pt), sobre «Man on Wire», filme que venceu o óscar deste ano para Melhor Documentário e que retrata o feito do fonâmbulo Philippe Petit.

O equilibrista atravessou, a 7 de Agosto de 1974, as duas torres do World Trade Center, em Manhattan, sob «um finíssimo cabo que não se via ou não importava», como refere Alberto Gonçalves. O momento impressiona e ganha um redobrado impacto aos nosso olhos, porque nos traz, de imediato, à lembrança o horror do 11 de Setembro -- e como é incrível que, 27 anos antes da derrocada das torres naquela infausta manhã em 2001, um momento desta inesperada beleza tenha ocorrido no mesmo local.

Vale a pena ver:


Segunda Conferência de Obama (VIII): melhorar a Saúde, apostar nas novas energias e, ao mesmo tempo, recuperar da crise

Segunda Conferência de Obama (VII): a raça só foi um tema «na inauguração» e está, agora, relegada pela Economia

Parte 6

Segunda Conferência de Obama (VI): restaurar a confiança da América

Parte 5

Segunda Conferência de Obama (V): a resposta seca a Ed Henry

Parte 4

O correspondente da CNN na Casa Branca apertou o Presidente em relação à demora da Casa Branca a reagir ao caso AIG: «Porque esperaram tantos dias?» «Porque só gosto de falar sobre as coisas depois de saber sobre elas», atirou Barack, com uma aspereza pouco habitual

Segunda Conferência de Obama (IV): como lidar com um Orçamento que pode levar a um défice de... 7 triliões de dólares?

Parte 3

Segunda Conferência de Obama (III): garantir que os sacrifícios dos americanos «vão ser recompensados»

Parte 2

Apostar na Educação e na Saúde, mesmo em tempos de crise. «Investir em temas que garantam a inovação, mesmo que se corram riscos», disse o Presidente.

Segunda Conferência de Obama (II): a crise está a ser atacada «em todas as frentes»

Parte 1

Segunda Conferência de Obama: a declaração de abertura

Durante mais de uma hora, Barack Obama concedeu a sua segunda conferência de Imprensa em prime time, para fazer um ponto da situação sobre o seu Plano de Recuperação. O Presidente insistiu na necessidade de que o Congresso aprove o Orçamento e foi assertivo: «Não há balas mágicas para resolver a crise, mas já se notam sinais de progresso. Se todos agirmos como uma Nação unida, e esquecermos as nossas necessidades egoístas, vamos vencer a crise. Não é um caminho fácil, mas vamos conseguir».

Em cima poderá ver a declaração de abertura, de seis minutos. Nos próximos posts, publicaremos o resto da conferência, com a fase das perguntas.

Especial Tim Geithner (V): a opinião de Paul Krugman, Nobel da Economia

Paul Krugman, Prémio Nobel da Economia em 2008, foi um forte apoiante de Barack Obama durante as presidenciais. Tem caucionado a política económica adoptada neste início de mandato, mas, nos últimos dias, chegou a mostrar reservas em relação a algumas medidas de Tim Geithner.

Mas neste excerto da entrevista que concedeu, na semana passada, ao El País, e que foi publicada no úlimo número da Visão, Krugman deixa bem claro que faz uma avaliação muito positiva da Administração Obama, até agora:

-- Como avalia o Governo de Obama?
-- As melhorias são enormes. São políticas inteligentes e honestas, e só isso já esboça um mundo completamente diferente do que havia. O problema é que o Governo de Obama, mesmo sendo mais audaz que o habitual, está a ser demasiado cauteloso e prudente, dada a dimensão da crise. O plano de estímulo deveria ter sido, pelo menos, 30% superior, e não querem adoptar qualquer medida dramática sobre os bancos. As prioridades fixadas no Orçamento são excelentes; mas embora estejam a remar na direcção correcta, não estão a remar o suficiente.

-- Mas há domínios, como a Saúde e as políticas de despesa, em que Obama está a aplicar reformas profundas...
-- Há uma frase atribuída ao seu chefe de gabinete, Rahm Emanuel, que diz: 'Nunca se deve desaproveitar uma crise'. Isso define muito bem o seu espírito -- fiz a minha frase (risos). Reagan aproveitou a crise de 87 para mudar tudo, porque não haveremos de dar a volta a algumas coisas?

'A Time for Global Action' -- um artigo de Barack Obama

O Presidente dos EUA assinou um texto no Chicago Tribune no qual lança uma mensagem forte: os Estados Unidos estão preparados para voltar a liderar, mas precisam que os seus aliados tradicionais estejam dispostos a fazer sacrifícios. Convinha que a Europa soubesse ler este aviso e não ficasse só à espera das vantagens de ter um Obama do outro lado do Atlântico.

«We are living through a time of global economic challenges that cannot be met by half measures or the isolated efforts of any nation. Now, the leaders of the G-20 have a responsibility to take bold, comprehensive and coordinated action that not only jump-starts recovery, but launches a new era of economic engagement to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.

No one can deny the urgency of action. A crisis in credit and confidence has swept across borders, with consequences for every corner of the world. We have learned that the success of the American economy is inextricably linked to the global economy. If people in other countries cannot spend, markets dry up--already we've seen the biggest drop in American exports in nearly four decades, which has led directly to American job losses. And if we continue to let financial institutions around the world act recklessly and irresponsibly, we will remain trapped in a cycle of bubble and bust. That is why the upcoming London Summit is directly relevant to our recovery at home.

My message is clear: The United States is ready to lead, and we call upon our partners to join us with a sense of urgency and common purpose. Our leadership is grounded in a simple premise: We will lift the American economy out of crisis and reform our regulatory structure, and these actions will be strengthened by complementary action abroad. Through example, the United States can promote a global recovery and build confidence around the world; and if the London Summit helps galvanize collective action, we can forge a secure recovery, and future crises can be averted.

Our efforts must begin with swift action to stimulate growth. The U.S. has passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act--the most dramatic effort to jump-start job creation and lay a foundation for growth in a generation. Other G-20 members have pursued fiscal stimulus as well, and these efforts should be sustained until demand is restored. We should embrace a collective commitment to encourage open trade and investment, while resisting the protectionism that would deepen this crisis.

We must restore the credit that businesses and consumers depend upon. We are working aggressively to stabilize our financial system. This includes an honest assessment of the balance sheets of major banks, and will lead directly to lending that can help Americans purchase goods, stay in their homes and grow businesses. This must continue to be amplified by the actions of our G-20 partners. Together, we can embrace a common framework that insists on transparency, accountability and restoring the flow of credit that is the lifeblood of a growing global economy. And the G-20, together with multilateral institutions, can provide trade finance to help lift up exports and create jobs.

Third, we have an economic, security and moral obligation to extend a hand to countries and people who face the greatest risk. If we turn our backs on them, the suffering caused by this crisis will be enlarged, and our recovery will be delayed because markets for our goods will shrink further and more American jobs will be lost. The G-20 should quickly deploy resources to stabilize emerging markets, substantially boost the emergency capacity of the International Monetary Fund and help regional development banks accelerate lending. Meanwhile, America will support meaningful investments in food security that can help the poorest.

While these actions can help get us out of crisis, we cannot settle for a return to the status quo. We must put an end to the reckless speculation and spending beyond our means, and to the bad credit, overleveraged banks and absence of oversight that condemns us to bubbles that inevitably bust. Only coordinated international action can prevent the irresponsible risk-taking that caused this crisis.

All of our financial institutions--on Wall Street and around the globe--need strong oversight and common sense rules of the road. All markets should have standards for stability and a mechanism for disclosure. A strong framework of capital requirements should protect against future crises. We must crack down on offshore tax havens and money laundering. Rigorous transparency and accountability must check abuse, and the days of out-of-control compensation must end. Instead of patchwork efforts that enable a race to the bottom, we must provide the clear incentives for good behavior that foster a race to the top.

I know that America bears our share of responsibility for the mess that we all face.

But I also know 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. This G-20 meeting provides a forum for a new kind of global economic cooperation.

The nations of the world have a stake in one another, and the United States is ready to join a global effort on behalf of new jobs and sustainable growth.»

Obama promete que os EUA «vão continuar na ofensiva» no Afeganistão

O Presidente reconhece que «mandar mais 17 mil soldados para o Afeganistão» foi a «decisão mais difícil» que tomou nestes dois meses e uma semana de mandato

terça-feira, 24 de março de 2009

Especial Tim Geithner (IV): 'Why Geithner Must Go'

Um artigo de Arianna Huffington, no Huffington Post:

«On February 10th, the New York Times reported that there had been a "spirited" battle within the Obama administration over restrictions on executive pay and bonuses, and over attaching stringent conditions to any bailout money given to banks.

The clash pitted Tim Geithner, who opposed the restrictions and conditions, against David Axelrod, who favored them. According to the Times, Geithner had "largely prevailed."

In light of what has happened since then, that outcome must now be viewed as a tragic surrender to Geithner, Summers, and the political/Wall Street class -- a "victory" that could lead to the unraveling of the president's entire economic policy.

Maintaining the public trust is always important for a leader, but especially so during hard times. There is a fascinating chapter on Nelson Mandela in Stan Greenberg's new book, Dispatches from the War Room, in which Greenberg writes about how even the revered Mandela suffered a loss of public confidence when change did not come fast enough after he took office. "Don't assume the current euphoria, even with your high approval rating will carry you through," Greenberg counsels Obama, stressing the need to try to build up enough trust so that the public will stay with the president until they can actually experience change.

The Axelrod camp understood this and, according to the Times' February story, argued that "rising joblessness, populist outrage over Wall Street bonuses and expensive perks, and the poor management of last year's bailouts could feed a potent political reaction if the administration did not demand enough sacrifices from the companies that receive federal money."

Axelrod was right. And his loss has already cost the young Obama administration a lot.

No wonder the public is not convinced when Geithner, having laid the groundwork that made the AIG bonuses possible, and having gotten Chris Dodd to include a bonus loophole in the stimulus bill, now acts shocked over the bonuses.

Geithner's feigned surprise at AIG has been a body blow to public confidence in the president. According to Sunday's Rassmussen poll, just 12 percent of those Rassmussen defines as "Populists" have a favorable opinion of Geithner while those Rassmussen identifies as "America's Political Class" have a 76 percent favorable opinion of him.

It was painful to watch Obama, just hours after Geithner had admitted his role in the Dodd/bonus loophole affair, go on Jay Leno and say that Geithner is doing an "outstanding job." Even before Frank Rich's Sunday column was titled "Has a 'Katrina Moment' Arrived?," Obama's assessment had more than a whiff of Bush telling Brownie he was "doing a heck of a job."

My dictionary defines outstanding as "excellent, exceptional, superior to others in the same category." So how could Obama say that and then, not a minute later, tell Leno that his administration plans to "open up separate credit lines outside of banks for small businesses" and "set up a securitized market for student loans and auto loans outside of the banking system" in order to "get credit flowing again"?

Back in January, after the Senate voted to release the second $350 billion tranche of TARP money, Obama had told the nation that he was "gratified" he'd been given the authority to "maintain the flow of credit to families and businesses."

Now, here he was, just over two months later, basically admitting that we have to find other ways to "maintain the flow of credit to families and businesses" -- completely contradicting a central tenet of the bank bailout, expressed by Axelrod in January when he told George Stephanopoulos that the president was "going to have a strong message for the bankers. We want to see credit flowing again. We don't want them to sit on any money that they get from taxpayers... And we have to make sure that the money doesn't go to excessive CEO pay and dividends when it should be going to lending."

Then Geithner happened. According to the Times, during the internal debate the Treasury Secretary "resisted those who wanted to dictate how banks would spend their rescue money." And we see how well that turned out.

The AIG bonus backlash is the first serious threat to the Obama administration. It has created an opening that allows conservatives to storm the populist barricades, suddenly acting like the second coming of Huey Long or Upton Sinclair.

Shameless opportunists like Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby, and Eric Cantor, who have all argued against limiting executive pay and bonuses, are now positioning themselves in front of the populist parade, railing against AIG and pointing the finger at Obama for allowing this to happen on his watch.

Yes, the same free-market ideologues who were instrumental in bringing America to the brink of economic disaster are now arming themselves with pitchforks and torches.

It would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous -- serving to undercut the essential narrative of how we got into the current crisis and, therefore, how we can get out of it.

On Leno, the president lauded Geithner as "a smart guy...a calm and steady guy" who is dealing with a surfeit of crises "with grace and good humor." And he's clearly very hard working, reportedly arriving at the Treasury at 6:30 in the morning and leaving at 9:30 at night. But no one disputes Geithner's intelligence, steadiness, and work ethic.

And neither is the problem Geithner's lack of comfort in the public arena. "When you run a Fed bank," a senior Democratic operative told Chris Cillizza, "you live deep in a cave. [Geithner] just needs to get used to the sunlight."

But the issue isn't Geithner's delivery, it's what he's delivering: an approach to the crisis that is as toxic as the assets that have hamstrung the economy. Geithner, brilliant and hardworking though he is, is trapped within a Wall Street-centric view of the world and seems incapable of escaping.

That's why every proposal he comes up with is déjà vu all over again -- a remixed variation on the same tried-and-failed let-the-bankers-work-it-out approach championed by his predecessor, Hank Paulson. For Paul Krugman, this "insistence on offering the same plan over and over again, with only cosmetic changes, is itself deeply disturbing. Does Treasury not realize that all these proposals amount to the same thing? Or does it realize that, but hope that the rest of us won't notice? That is, are they stupid, or do they think we're stupid?"

I don't believe Geithner thinks we're stupid (although he almost certainly doesn't think we're as smart as he is). He just can't change who he is: a creature of Wall Street, habitually sympathetic to the people at the top of the financial system, who he clearly thinks were born to run the world.

Geithner's actions throughout his career are proof that the toxic thinking that got us into this mess is part of his DNA.

While President of the New York Fed, he eliminated two key regulatory measures -- a quarterly risk report and a ban on major acquisitions -- that may have prevented (or at least lessened the impact of) the unraveling of Citigroup, which his office was responsible for supervising. Then, together with Hank Paulson, he was instrumental in the original bailout of AIG and the creation of the TARP plan. And he was a key player in the decision to let Lehman Brothers fail.

And now he surrounds himself with others who share his Wall Street Weltenschauung, including his chief of staff Mark Patterson, a former lobbyist for Goldman Sachs who had lobbied against then-Senator Obama's 2007 bill to reform CEO pay.

Geithner's Masters of the Universe, the people he still thinks are the ones we should turn to to save the day, are the same people who brought us here. And that is why Geithner either needs to go or keep his job but have his authority stripped and transferred to someone who does not share his Wall Street DNA. Call him or her the "Recovery Czar."

In other words, use any window dressing you want, just take the steering wheel out of Geithner's hands.

It might seem extraordinary to be calling for the resignation or demotion of President Obama's point man on our financial system.

But let me remind you of a few other things that are extraordinary: the government has spent $2.2 trillion and committed another $7.7 trillion to bolster America's struggling financial system; $7 trillion of shareholders' wealth was lost in the stock market in 2008; over 4.2 million jobs have been lost in the last 14 months; 2.3 million houses were foreclosed in 2008, with another 121,756 foreclosures last month alone.

Things that we never would have imagined are happening all around us. So this is a time for doing things that might have seemed unthinkable just a month ago.

A month ago... when Tim Geithner gambled the administration's political capital, putting his money -- actually our money -- on the behavior of bankers and CEOs who continue to operate as if it is business as usual.

A month ago... when Geithner crossed swords with Axelrod, winning the battle and losing the war.»

A filha de McCain apoia o direito dos homossexuais ao casamento civil

Foi isso que Meghan defendeu em entrevista ao «Larry King Live», na CNN

Especial Tim Geithner (III): será que este plano vai resultar?

'Will the Geithner Plan Work?', artigo de David Gergen, analista político da CNN, antigo conselheiro dos Presidentes Nixon, Ford, Reagan e Clinton:

«In a famous exchange in Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV, Part 1, two characters by the name of Glendower and Hotspur are jesting over how to persuade others to follow them. Glendower says, “I can call spirits from the vasty deep,” to which Hotspur responds, “why yes, so can I and so can any man, but when you call them, will they come?”

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today summoned spirits from the vasty deep with his ambitious plan to persuade private investors to buy up the toxic assets of troubled banks. All of us have an interest in the plan succeeding – we need our banks to be healthy and able to lend again to consumers and small businesses; the stock market rallied sharply in the opening hours. But the real test will come over time: will the private investors actually come up and buy enough of the toxic assets? We may have to wait a number of weeks to know for sure.

What we do know is that the Obama administration is offering extremely favorable terms to the potential investors. The government, as The New York Times reported this morning, would lend private investors nearly 95 percent of the money for an investment. (Here’s an irony: at the very moment we are trying to deleverage the economy, the government is now using the principle of leverage to revive it). Moreover, if the investment goes bad, the private investor is only on the hook for the small portion it put in originally – not for the full amount of the purchase. Yes, the government will share in profits, but if the toxic assets go up sharply in value – as the government hopes – the private investor could make piles and piles of money.

Two questions immediately arise. The first is that raised by Paul Krugman, the Nobel-prize winning economist who has been slamming this plan unmercifully because he believes that Geithner has way too rosy a view of the underlying value of the assets. He thinks that investors, realizing that these assets aren’t really worth very much, won’t want to invest at the prices that the banks will insist on and the whole plan will ultimately fail. Instead, argues Krugman, the nation will waste incredibly valuable time on a flawed plan, allowing the economy to deteriorate still further, while instead we should be moving swiftly toward a government takeover of the banks, which he believes would stabilize the economy. We shall see who is right –Geithner or Krugman.

But there is a second question lurking that really only the President and Congress can answer: that is, whether private investors can have confidence that if they do invest, the lynch mob mentality we saw last week in Washington won’t come and plague them in the future. As the managing director of a major hedge fund told me recently, if this plan is good enough, our firm stands to make money. But then why should we invest if Washington is then going to get mad, take 90% of our profits from us retroactively and if I may be hauled up before Congress and vilified? Good question.

What this means is that the President and the Congress this week need to restore calm to the Capitol over the AIG bonuses, work out a solution that does not leave a threatening cloud over the financial industry, and provide more concrete assurances that the Geithner plan will work as advertised. Until they do that, it may be extremely hard for the Secretary – try as he might – to summon spirits from the vasty deep. Again, we all have a stake in his success.»

Especial Tim Geithner (II): artigo do secretário do Tesouro no Wall Street Journal

'My Plan for Bank Assets', por Timothy Geithner

«The American economy and much of the world now face extraordinary challenges, and confronting these challenges will continue to require extraordinary actions.

No crisis like this has a simple or single cause, but as a nation we borrowed too much and let our financial system take on irresponsible levels of risk. Those decisions have caused enormous suffering, and much of the damage has fallen on ordinary Americans and small-business owners who were careful and responsible. This is fundamentally unfair, and Americans are justifiably angry and frustrated.

The depth of public anger and the gravity of this crisis require that every policy we take be held to the most serious test: whether it gets our financial system back to the business of providing credit to working families and viable businesses, and helps prevent future crises.

Over the past six weeks we have put in place a series of financial initiatives, alongside the Recovery and Reinvestment Program, to help lay the financial foundation for economic recovery. We launched a broad program to stabilize the housing market by encouraging lower mortgage rates and making it easier for millions to refinance and avoid foreclosure. We established a new capital program to provide banks with a safeguard against a deeper recession. By providing confidence that banks will have a sufficient level of capital even if the outlook is worse than expected, more credit will be available to the economy at lower interest rates today -- making it less likely that the more negative economy they fear will take place.

We started a major new lending program with the Federal Reserve targeted at the securitization markets critical for consumer and small business lending. Last week, we announced additional actions to support lending to small businesses by directly purchasing securities backed by Small Business Administration loans.

Together, actions over the last several months by the Federal Reserve and these initiatives by this administration are already starting to make a difference. They have helped to bring mortgage interest rates near historic lows. Just this month, we saw a 30% increase in refinancing of mortgages, which means millions of Americans are taking advantage of the lower rates. This is good for homeowners, and it's good for the economy. The new joint lending program with the Federal Reserve led to almost $9 billion of new securitizations last week, more than in the last four months combined.

However, the financial system as a whole is still working against recovery. Many banks, still burdened by bad lending decisions, are holding back on providing credit. Market prices for many assets held by financial institutions -- so-called legacy assets -- are either uncertain or depressed. With these pressures at work on bank balance sheets, credit remains a scarce commodity, and credit that is available carries a high cost for borrowers.

Today, we are announcing another critical piece of our plan to increase the flow of credit and expand liquidity. Our new Public-Private Investment Program will set up funds to provide a market for the legacy loans and securities that currently burden the financial system.

The Public-Private Investment Program will purchase real-estate related loans from banks and securities from the broader markets. Banks will have the ability to sell pools of loans to dedicated funds, and investors will compete to have the ability to participate in those funds and take advantage of the financing provided by the government.

The funds established under this program will have three essential design features. First, they will use government resources in the form of capital from the Treasury, and financing from the FDIC and Federal Reserve, to mobilize capital from private investors. Second, the Public-Private Investment Program will ensure that private-sector participants share the risks alongside the taxpayer, and that the taxpayer shares in the profits from these investments. These funds will be open to investors of all types, such as pension funds, so that a broad range of Americans can participate.

Third, private-sector purchasers will establish the value of the loans and securities purchased under the program, which will protect the government from overpaying for these assets.

The new Public-Private Investment Program will initially provide financing for $500 billion with the potential to expand up to $1 trillion over time, which is a substantial share of real-estate related assets originated before the recession that are now clogging our financial system. Over time, by providing a market for these assets that does not now exist, this program will help improve asset values, increase lending capacity by banks, and reduce uncertainty about the scale of losses on bank balance sheets. The ability to sell assets to this fund will make it easier for banks to raise private capital, which will accelerate their ability to replace the capital investments provided by the Treasury.

This program to address legacy loans and securities is part of an overall strategy to resolve the crisis as quickly and effectively as possible at least cost to the taxpayer. The Public-Private Investment Program is better for the taxpayer than having the government alone directly purchase the assets from banks that are still operating and assume a larger share of the losses. Our approach shares risk with the private sector, efficiently leverages taxpayer dollars, and deploys private-sector competition to determine market prices for currently illiquid assets. Simply hoping for banks to work these assets off over time risks prolonging the crisis in a repeat of the Japanese experience.

Moving forward, we as a nation must work together to strike the right balance between our need to promote the public trust and using taxpayer money prudently to strengthen the financial system, while also ensuring the trust of those market participants who we need to do their part to get credit flowing to working families and businesses -- large and small -- across this nation.

This requires those in the private sector to remember that government assistance is a privilege, not a right. When financial institutions come to us for direct financial assistance, our government has a responsibility to ensure these funds are deployed to expand the flow of credit to the economy, not to enrich executives or shareholders. These provisions need to be designed and applied in a way that does not deter the participation by the private sector in generally available programs to stabilize the housing markets, jump-start the credit markets, and rid banks of legacy assets.

We cannot solve this crisis without making it possible for investors to take risks. While this crisis was caused by banks taking too much risk, the danger now is that they will take too little. In working with Congress to put in place strong conditions to prevent misuse of taxpayer assistance, we need to be very careful not to discourage those investments the economy needs to recover from recession. The rule of law gives responsible entrepreneurs and investors the confidence to invest and create jobs in our nation. Our nation's commitment to pursue economic policies that promote confidence and stability dates back to the very first secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who first made it clear that when our government gives its word we mean it.

For all the challenges we face, we still have a diverse and resilient financial system. The process of repair will take time, and progress will be uneven, with periods of stress and fragility. But these policies will work. We have already seen that where our government has provided support and financing, credit is more available at lower costs.

But as we fight the current crisis, we must also start the process of ensuring a crisis like this never happens again. As President Obama has said, we can no longer sustain 21st century markets with 20th century regulations. Our nation deserves better choices than, on one hand, accepting the catastrophic damage caused by a failure like Lehman Brothers, or on the other hand being forced to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into an institution like AIG to protect the economy against that scale of damage. The lack of an appropriate and modern regulatory regime and resolution authority helped cause this crisis, and it will continue to constrain our capacity to address future crises until we put in place fundamental reforms.

Our goal must be a stronger system that can provide the credit necessary for recovery, and that also ensures that we never find ourselves in this type of financial crisis again. We are moving quickly to achieve those goals, and we will keep at it until we have done so.»

Especial Tim Geithner (I): a entrevista à CNBC

1. O secretário do Tesouro explicou a Erin Burnett os pormenores do «Bank Plan», que já está a conseguir reacções positivas nos mercados bolsistas:

2. Apesar de ter estado sob fogo cruzado nas últimas duas semanas, Geithner resiste e parece vir a ser um dos elementos chave do sucesso da Administração Obama, pelo menos nos primeiros dois anos:

Obama está «muito confiante» no sucesso do Plano para atacar os «toxic assets»

segunda-feira, 23 de março de 2009

Barack Obama no «60 minutes» -- toda a entrevista


Watch CBS Videos Online


Watch CBS Videos Online

O cerco aperta-se, mas Christina Romer defende política económica de Obama

A chefe de conselheiros económicos da Administração Obama, especialista na Grande Depressão dos anos 30, reforça as escolhas económicas de Obama e Geithner, apesar da multiplicação de vozes, do lado republicano, que, nos últimos dias, exigem a demissão do secretário do Tesouro

domingo, 22 de março de 2009

'Obama Has Done Incredibly Well in First 50 Days'

Um artigo de Donna Brazile, superdelegada do Partido Democrático e directora da campanha presidencial de Al Gore em 2000, publicado no Washington Times:

«President Barack Obama is now halfway through the first 100 days of his presidency, and what a brief but interesting honeymoon it has been.

One of the most impressive things about Mr. Obama's first 50 days is how hard he is working. And the most glaring contrast between him and former President George W. Bush is how well Mr. Obama communicates what, why and how he is trying to accomplish the Herculean tasks before him.

The chattering classes, meanwhile, spend most of their waking hours looking for fights between the president and the Democratic-controlled Congress or the Republican opposition. They have even tried to revive Sen. John McCain's campaign role as Mr. Obama's lead critic. And when they tire of picking old fights, there are always the Democrats, who can be their own best enemy. Blue dogs versus the House leadership! Or all of the above versus the president! Whee!

There's no question the president will have to spar with members of his own party from time to time. Democrats are not monolithic. And those inside-the-Beltway Republicans? They deserve Oscars at next year's Academy Awards ceremony for a new category invented just for them: Worst Actors in a National Recession. Their whining, rantings and posturing have been pure theater. Too bad their script doesn't include fresh ideas and sound alternatives.

The Republicans' resistance to rolling up their own sleeves and working on important issues is disheartening. Even the loyal opposition has its own loyal opposition. Bill, a Republican friend of mine from Missouri, recently e-mailed me: "I'm embarrassed by the ongoing conservative rhetoric that is designed to divide, and by all those that continue to embrace it."

Mr. Obama has done incredibly well in his first 50 days in office. In addition to passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known far and wide as the stimulus bill, the president has been working hard to help transform our economy and reverse some of the misguided policies and practices of the last eight years. His ability to multitask, thank heaven, is amazing.

"What might look like a distracted focus to some," wrote another friend, Connie, from Illinois, "looks like a multiphased strategic attack to me. Without it, where would we be right now?" She's right. Where would some states and localities be right now without the stimulus money to keep teachers at work, police on the beat, and funds flowing to millions of newly unemployed folks whose families have lost their health insurance and are in jeopardy of losing their homes?

The administration must ignore the near-universal Republican rejection of its policies and continue to think big and bold.

Now, I'm not drinking the entire jug of Democratic Kool-Aid. We all know Republicans alone did not get us into this mess of spending money we did not have and going to war in Iraq when we should have finished the job in Afghanistan. And, yes, providing generous tax cuts to those who did not need them when we knew the bill would come due didn't help. We all knew where that AIG, Citibank, Bank of America and other bailout money would be going from the start. There are people pocketing our hard-earned tax dollars, and we're paying to cover their losses just so they can start loaning us money again. But now it is our own money they'll be loaning us. It is incredibly absurd when you think about it.

If we are to come out of this recession with any hope for a standard of living akin to what we've enjoyed for the last 50 years, the president and Congress must work together to change the securities markets. They are in need of major reform, which, I suggest modestly, should begin with the fundamental lessons on how credit should be managed.

It isn't Mr. Obama we should fear. We should be afraid of those who wish he had done nothing and those who hope he fails. After all, we are in this together. No one is immune, including me.

Over the last two months, I have seen my hours cut back, a newspaper column canceled, clients unable to renew their contracts with my firm, and others needing to renegotiate my modest fees. Business is drying up, and despite all my frantic maneuvers to move my little retirement funds out of harm's way, my 401(k) is disappearing faster than the snow from the recent storm. I don't want to see this president fail, and I suggest that to do so is a partisan luxury none of us can afford.

Fifty days is not nearly long enough to allay the personal fears we have about our future. We are all fearful of what's in store for us. Still, I am enjoying this change in government. The bad news is certainly tempered by Mr. Obama's actions. And I'm proud of him so far.

It's time we all hope for the best as well as do our best to help those suffering. As my Republican friend from Missouri reminded, "We all just have to wait and see how it goes from here."»

O lado dos conservadores (VII). Bill Kristol critica mensagem ao Irão

O colunista conservador considerou que o registo feito por Obama, na mensagem ao Irão, foi «um embaraço» para a América. Afinal, nem todos gostam de uma América mais tolerante e disposta ao diálogo...

Judd Gregg, que recusou o cargo de secretário do Comércio, arrasa o Orçamento de Obama

«Com este Orçamento, o país caminha para a bancarrota», disse o senador republicano do New Hampshire, o mesmo que chegou a ser apresentado como secretário do Comércio, ao lado de Obama, e dias depois recuou. Percebe-se agora porquê

'America Back in a Leadership Role'

Um artigo de David Ignatius, no Washington Post:

«Let's take a break from gloom and doom, and consider some bits of good news about the global economy, as seen by Kevin Rudd, the prime minister of Australia. He's visiting Washington this week, and in a telephone interview from Canberra he offered a preview of what he will be telling President Barack Obama.

The first positive development Rudd sees is a change in global governance. The world's executive committee is shifting from the small, Euro-American-centered Group of Eight nations to the wider Group of 20, which will meet in London April 2 to discuss how to fix the economic mess. As Rudd notes, the G-20 is an inclusive group that numbers five participants from Europe, five from the Americas, five from Asia and five others (not least, Australia).

Rudd's second encouraging sign, linked to the first, is the growing role of China in maintaining global economic stability. Chinese leaders will attend the summit and presumably endorse its collective response to the crisis. Beijing also wants a larger role in a revitalized International Monetary Fund. The details are still being discussed, but China is expected to contribute more of the IMF's capital and to have a bigger say in the fund's management.

The third upbeat observation from Down Under is that the United States is back as a leader of the network of global institutions. Where George Bush was a reluctant participant in last October's G-20 meeting, the Obama administration has been an enthusiastic player -- supporting plans for new global financial regulation and backing a doubling of IMF resources to $500 billion.

"What's been a breath of fresh air has been the return of U.S. global leadership on the financial crisis," says Rudd. He notes that America's embrace of the G-20 "was noticed by people around the world."

I hope Rudd is right in the picture he draws of China, the United States and the rest working together to coordinate a global response to the crisis. An alternative to this collective action is a repetition of the protectionist policies that many nations adopted during the 1930s, when they tried to save themselves at the expense of their neighbors -- and made everyone worse off.

Rudd's views about China are worth examining in detail, because he is that rare politician who is actually an expert Sinologist. He speaks fluent Mandarin and served a tour in the Australian embassy in Beijing, and he's one of the smartest China-watchers I've met anywhere. His expertise is a resource Obama should tap this week in analyzing intentions.

The Chinese are on "the sharp end of the crisis," says Rudd, as declining exports lead to a sharp drop in growth and rising unemployment. Like most governments, the Chinese worry about the political and social effects of having so many people out of work. But Beijing has dealt with economic downturns before, and Rudd argues that, so far, "China's leadership has handled this crisis confidently."

Despite the opaqueness of Chinese economic statistics, Rudd believes that Beijing's announced economic stimulus program is for real, and that there's also a sizable undeclared effort, through easier lending to Chinese companies. Because of these recovery efforts, Rudd said, it's possible that China will emerge from the global slowdown earlier than other major economies.

Rudd said the recent comment by Premier Wen Jiabao that he was "definitely a little worried" about China's huge holdings of U.S. Treasury bills reflects a larger political discussion in Beijing. "In China, there has been a debate about the causes of the global financial crisis ... and where some of its national investments have gone wrong." Concern about U.S. mismanagement was pointedly expressed by Vice Premier Wang Qishan last December when he said: "The teachers have much explaining to do."

But Rudd argued that despite recent reversals, China still sees its future prosperity within the U.S.-led global capitalist system. "China is always engaged in a strategic plan rather than a tactical one, and China's strategy is to secure its interests by deepened global engagement," the Australian leader said. The crisis hasn't changed that strategy.

The London summit will test whether the global consensus Rudd describes is more than skin-deep. There's still a wide gap between American views (more stimulus!) and European (more regulation!), and many of China's policies remain a mystery. But as Rudd says, it's at least modestly reassuring that the G-20 will be the forum, China will be a player and America will be back in a leadership role.»

Frase mágica: «Follow the money»

Sarah Palin rejeitou ajuda do 'stimulus package' para o Alaska -- e está a ser criticada por isso

Os republicanos, pela voz de Haley Barbour, replicam a mensagem do Presidente

O governador do Mississipi reagiu à declaração semanal de Barack Obama, acusando-o de «gastar demais e taxar demais»

Próxima prioridade de Obama: aprovar o Orçamento

Michelle Obama vai plantar uma horta biológica na Casa Branca

Parece um assunto menor, mas não é, se atendermos às intenções (reais) de Obama em virar a página na relação da Casa Branca com as questões ambientais:

«Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets — the president does not like them — but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot, in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It is just below the Obama girls’ swing set.)

Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs. Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”

Whether there would be a White House garden had become more than a matter of landscaping. The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.

Then, too, promoting healthful eating has become an important part of Mrs. Obama’s own agenda.

The first lady, who said that she had never had a vegetable garden, recalled that the idea for this one came from her experiences as a working mother trying to feed her daughters, Malia and Sasha, a good diet. Eating out three times a week, ordering a pizza, having a sandwich for dinner all took their toll in added weight on the girls, whose pediatrician told Mrs. Obama that she needed to be thinking about nutrition.

“He raised a flag for us,” she said, and within months the girls had lost weight.

Dan Barber, an owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, an organic restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., that grows many of its own ingredients, said: “The power of Michelle Obama and the garden can create a very powerful message about eating healthy and more delicious food. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it could translate into real change.”

While the Clintons grew some vegetables in pots on the White House roof, the Obamas’ garden will far transcend that, with 55 varieties of vegetables — from a wish list of the kitchen staff — grown from organic seedlings started at the Executive Mansion’s greenhouses.

The Obamas will feed their love of Mexican food with cilantro, tomatillos and hot peppers. Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. A White House carpenter, Charlie Brandts, who is a beekeeper, will tend two hives for honey.

The total cost of seeds, mulch and so forth is $200, said Sam Kass, an assistant White House chef, who prepared healthful meals for the Obama family in Chicago and is an advocate of local food. Mr. Kass will oversee the garden.

The plots will be in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs.

Cristeta Comerford, the White House’s executive chef, said she was eager to plan menus around the garden, and Bill Yosses, the pastry chef, said he was looking forward to berry season.

The White House grounds crew and the kitchen staff will do most of the work, but other White House staff members have volunteered.

So have the fifth graders from Bancroft. “There’s nothing really cooler,” Mrs. Obama said, “than coming to the White House and harvesting some of the vegetables and being in the kitchen with Cris and Sam and Bill, and cutting and cooking and actually experiencing the joys of your work.”

For children, she said, food is all about taste, and fresh and local food tastes better.

“A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” she said. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things.

“I wanted to be able to bring what I learned to a broader base of people. And what better way to do it than to plant a vegetable garden in the South Lawn of the White House?”

For urban dwellers who have no backyards, the country’s one million community gardens can also play an important role, Mrs. Obama said.

But the first lady emphasized that she did not want people to feel guilty if they did not have the time for a garden: there are still many changes they can make.

“You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.”»

in New York Times, edição em papel, 19 de Março, autora: Marian Burros

sábado, 21 de março de 2009

Popularidade de Obama resiste ao escândalo AIG

SONDAGEM CNN/Opinion Research Corporation:

-- Aprovação: 64 por cento
-- Reprovação: 34 por cento

(dados recolhidos entre 12 e 15 de Março de 2009)

'Barack Obama is a Terrible Bore'

Michael Wolff, colunista da Vanity Fair, assina um artigo Newser em que compara, de forma depreciativa, Barack Obama a Jimmy Carter:

«Sheesh, the guy is Jimmy Carter.

That homespun bowling crap on Jay Leno, followed by the turgid, teachy fiscal policy lecture, together with the hurt defensiveness (and bad script for it) that everybody in Washington "is Simon Cowell… Everybody's got an opinion," is pure I’m-in-over-my-head stuff. Even the idea of having to go on Jay Leno to rescue yourself from the AIG mess is lame. Be a man, man.

The guy just doesn’t know what to say. He can’t connect. Emotions are here, he’s over there. He can’t get the words to match the situation.

This began, I’d argue, from the first moment. He punted on the inaugural. Everybody ran around like crazy trying to praise it because if Barack Obama couldn’t give a speech then what?

But now, at week 11, we’re face-to-face with the reality, the man can’t talk worth a damn.

You can see the fundamental mistake he’s making. Having been so successfully elected, he’s acting like people actually want to hear what he thinks. He’s the great earnest bore at the dinner party. Instead of singing for his supper, he’s just talking—and going on at length. The real job of making people part of the story you’re telling, of having them hang on your every word, of getting the tone and detail right, the hard job of holding a conversation, he ain’t doing.

He’s cold; he’s prickly; he’s uncomfortable; he’s not funny; and he’s getting awfully tedious.

He thinks it’s all about him. That we want him for himself—that he doesn’t have to seduce, charm, surprise, show some skin.

So Jimmy.

It’s instructive and humorous to remember that Carter ran a brilliant campaign that succeeded largely because his voice was new. Simple, direct, basic, human. And then, of course, he turned into a sad-sack twit.

What happens when you move into the White House?

Well, shit, of course. The true secret of the power of language is in quickness. Barack Obama can’t keep up. He evidently needs too much preparation. And then there’s the organization. He’s undoubtedly got too many people debating what he should say. That’s the other secret of language: You’ve got to just go for it. Can’t think too much about it. It’s like hitting the ball. And then there’s knowing who you want to be—which is different than knowing who you are. You’re on the stage. You’re acting. You’ve got to make yourself believable, cleverly make yourself up as you go along.

This guy is leaden and this show is in trouble.»