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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Taxes

The most interesting (and silly) questions Obama didn't answer in Twitter town hall

Obama and Jack Dorsey of Twitter

President Obama spent more than an hour Wednesday answering questions during the first "Twitter Townhall @ the White House." At his side was Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey serving as the stiff, sweaty and serious emcee.

While the president answered many questions about jobs, the debt and taxes, as well as letting America know that he doesn't think "the continuing decline in the housing market is something that hasn't bottomed out," there were several controversial questions that weren't fed to him by any of the eight "moderators."

Some of the unanswered questions were serious, some were not. Kevin Rhea asked a simple question that could have been answered in one syllable, "will Vice President Biden run on your ticket in 2012?"

Another Twitter user asked, "does it bug you that the tea party hates you, when youve upheld or magnified all the policies of the bush administration?"

After the jump many more silly and interesting unanswered questions that appeared on Twitter with the hashtag #askobama.

Continue reading »

No recession for Obama's 454 White House aides: They'll make $37,121,463 this year

Democrat president Barack Obama addresses his staff in the Oval Office-file

In his numerous fund-raising and policy speeches around the country these days, President Obama often bemoans the difficult economic times and uncertainties afflicting millions of Americans, including the nearly 14 million still seeking work unsuccessfully.

The Democrat argues that his administration needs more time to straighten out the economic mess left by somebody else, who's been gone almost 900 days now.

But good news this morning: The challenging Obama era and 9.1% national unemployment rate do not include the 454 people now helping President Obama do presidential things.

This crowd is being paid a total of $37,121,463 this year. That's up seven staff members and nearly $4 million from 2008, the last year of George W. Bush's presidency.

Fully 141 Obama aides -- or nearly one-in-three -- earn more than $100,000 a year. That's also up from the 130 with that scale salary in Bush's last year.

Twenty-one Obama aides earn the top-dollar $172,200.

The staff names and salaries report, required annually by Congress, was released on Friday by the White House. The timing, however, was probably an accident because last Friday most Americans were not watching the news closely and were thinking of not working for a three-day holiday weekend.the Obamas wave to White House partygoers 7-4-11

Because Americans would no doubt be pleased to know of the Obama staff's economic success amid the bleak national scene for so many others, we saved the information for today, when most Americans who are still employed are back at their own jobs and can share the joy.

The 2011 White House salary report does not include mention of the 41 unidentified Obama staff members who owe the Internal Revenue Service $831,000 in back taxes. That report came out last fall (Scroll down for the link.)

The report comes as Republicans and Democrats, led from behind by Obama, appear stalemated in closed-door negotiations over a package deal to raise the national debt limit by Aug. 2 and begin spending cuts to tame the $14.2-trillion national debt, up 35% since Obama's inauguration. Obama maintains a deal must include new revenues to cover the rising costs of government.

Having Chicago connections appears to be useful for obtaining the maximum $172,200 salary from the Illinois ex-state senator Obama, who is paid $400,000 a year, almost twice the amount paid to Joe Biden for doing whatever he does. But he's only from Delaware.

The top paychecks include:

Chief of Staff William Daley, who is the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who just retired and left the top Democratic-machine job there to Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama's chief of staff and before that held the Chicago House seat of Rod Blagojevich, who had given it up to become governor of Illinois, which he no longer is due to impeachment and, now, conviction on 17 counts of fraud.

The Daleys' father, Richard J. Daley, was also a longtime Chicago mayor whose operatives provided Illinois' crucial electoral votes to elect John F. Kennedy president back in 1960 before Obama was born.

Valerie Jarrett has a White House title as long as Chicago's winters (senior advisor and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement). Before this, she was a chief of staff for the most recent Mayor Daley and hired an assistant named Michelle Robinson, who went on, of course, to become Mrs. Barack Obama, whose chief of staff also earns the top $172G paycheck.

This year, the one before Obama's attempted reelection, he reduced his staff by 15 people and $1.7 million.

Some White House aides have already returned to Chicago as campaign employees, including political strategist David Axelrod, who helped elect the most recent Mayor Daley, as well as, briefly, Sen. Obama and then President Obama. Axelrod also made the top salary when he had to live in Washington.


41 Obama aides owe the IRS $831,000 in back taxes

Complete list of 2011 White House staff and their current salaries

861 days and $787 billion in, Obama pleads for more time on creating jobs

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pete Souza / White House (Obama addresses his staff, file); Kevin Dietsch / EPA (the Obamas greet guests at another White House party, July 4) .

Obama says Congress could learn a lesson from his daughters

President Barack Obama talks with daughters Sasha and Malia in the Oval Office

President Obama on Wednesday used a simple example to show his frustration with a Congress that seems, in his mind, to be dragging their feet to reluctantly make the hard choices that face them in order to reach a deal on debt reduction.

Instead of waiting until the last minute to make the needed compromises to cut the federal deficit the president held up his own young daughters as examples of how lawmakers, who are eying a recess on Friday, should be working.

"Malia and Sasha, generally finish their homework a day ahead of time," Obama said at a news conference at the White House. 

"Malia's 13, Sasha's 10," the president reminded reporters. "They don't wait until the night before. They're not pulling all-nighters. They're 13 and 10. Congress can do the same thing. If you know you've got to do something, just do it."

Following up on that theme, the president later questioned Congress's habit of leaving Washington even though there's work to do.

"They're in one week, they're out one week and then they're saying 'Obama's got to step in," the president said. "You need to be here. I've been here. I've been doing Afghanistan and Bin Laden ... Greek crisis. You stay here. Let's get it done."


861 days and $787 billion in, Obama pleads for more time on jobs

President Obama is the key to decriminalizing marijuana, Tommy Chong says

President Obama says 'solar cells you can brush onto a house for the same cost as paint' are real

-- Tony Pierce

Andrew Malcolm is on vacation

Photo: President Obama talks with daughters Sasha and Malia in the Oval Office before pardoning a turkey named Apple in the Rose Garden on Nov. 24, 2010.  Credit: Pete Souza / Official White House photo

As Obama talks war, Americans see economic gloom: 66% wrong track and only 23% sense any recovery

an angry Obama responds to hecklers in boston, 10-16-10

It's been 11,194 days since Gov. Ronald Reagan delivered his devastating closing lines in Cleveland during the last debate of the 1980 campaign against President Jimmy Carter.

Reagan said:

Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago?

Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we're as strong as we were four years ago?

And if you answer all of those questions yes, why then, I think your choice is very obvious as to whom you will vote for. If you don't agree, if you don't think that this course that we've been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have.

Within three days, internal Carter tracking polls detected the incumbent's narrow lead melting into a Reagan avalanche that cascaded into 12 years of Republican dominance in the White House.Reagan Carter Debate 10-28-80

In the 503 days remaining before the 2012 presidential election, you may hear a Republican candidate ask some similar rhetorical questions, according to a new Bloomberg National Poll out this morning.

In fact, you may have already heard something along these lines.

Twenty-five months into what was supposed to be the economic recovery of the Obama-Biden administration, the poll finds a whopping 66% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. They no longer buy the oft-used inherited-big-economic-hole line.

Reagan had some rocky economic times too during his first two years, but his wrong track numbers never topped 57%.

Despite all the Joe Biden promises, only 23% of Americans say they see any signs of economic recovery. Only one-in-ten expects employment to recover within two years.

In fact, Americans 44-34 say they are worse off now than when Aretha Franklin sang and Barack Obama took the oath of office with a 69% approval rating.

Ominously for Democrats, who already suffered the loss of the House last election day, a sizable majority (55%), including 40% of Democrats, now agree with the congressional GOP position that tax and spending cuts are more likely to reduce unemployment than Obama's preferred stimulus spending.Republican governor Jon Huntsman announces his presidential campaign near the Statue of Liberty 6-21-11

Even worse for national leadership campaigns that usually rely on morning in America optimism for success, another 55% of poll respondents say their children are condemned to a lower standard of living than their parents have today.

This all sounded somehow strangely familiar to us early this morning. But how could that be? The Bloomberg findings had just come out.

So, we went back and re-read our published transcript of the GOP presidential campaign announcement speech of Gov. Jon Huntsman from Tuesday. His new advance people experienced a rash of rookie mistakes on opening day.

But here's what Huntsman said on the same site near the Statue of Liberty where Ronald Reagan launched his successful 1980 campaign:

Today Americans are experiencing, through no fault of their own, something that is totally alien to them -- a sense that the deck is stacked against them by forces totally beyond their control.

No matter how hard they work, save and plan, the opportunities are not there for them as were present for previous generations. Perhaps saddest of all, we have lost faith in ourselves.

For the first time in history, we are passing down to the next generation a country that is less powerful, less compassionate, less competitive and less confident than the one we got.

You don't suppose Huntman's done some polling too and detected the same corrosive currents that are historically so politically lethal for incumbents?

 -- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press; Associated Press (Reagan-Carter debate, Oct. 28, 1980); Shannon Stapleton / Reuters (Huntsman, June 21).

Gov. Rick Perry: What he would be saying if he were running for president, which, of course, he isn't -- yet

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry speaks at Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans 6-18-11

Many of the big-name Republican presidential candidates spoke to the Republican Leadership Conference meeting in New Orleans this weekend -- Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum.

Jon Huntsman begged off sick. Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney were no-shows. And Ron Paul's fervent supporters among the 2,000 attendees pushed him over the top as a runaway straw poll winner, as we reported in detail here Saturday.

You'll never guess who did show up -- someone who's not officially running. (see video below.)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who said he really came to next-door Louisiana to persuade fellow Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal to stop stealing Texas football players.

By all appearances Perry and his top campaign aides, back from their brief stint helping Gingrich, are doing everything to prepare for a run starting later this summer.Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry's enthusiastic audience at Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans 6-18-11

Perry would clearly fill a gaping slot in the existing field, a Southerner, chief executive-type, governor with an anti-Washington ID.

Plus he's got a record of new conservative legislation (loser pays lawsuits and election day voter photo ID) and the kind of robust job creation that Washington is still only talking about.

Just by its own pro-business attitude, fiscal restraint and low taxes, Texas, according to Perry, has created 47% of all the new private sector in all 50 states during the last two years.

"I stand before you today," Perry told the crowd which chanted "Run, Rick, run," "as a disciplined, conservative Texan, a committed Republican and a proud American, united with you in the desire to restore our nation and revive the American dream."

Because we suspect you'll be hearing much more on the national stage from the longest-serving governor in Texas history, we're publishing this morning a video of his complete New Orleans speech. Watch below and see if you think he's running.


The telltale signs of a Rick Perry 2012 campaign

What the Ginrich staff implosion means for the 2012 GOP race

Rick Perry: United in telling Washington clearly and simply: 'Enough!'


-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photos: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images (Perry speaking in New Orleans, June 18); Lee Celano / Reuters (Perry's enthusiastic audience).

Golf summit goes great: Bosses Obama and Boehner beat Biden and Kasich

Golf Summit 6-18-11 Obama Boehner Kasich Biden

President Obama's not big on Oval Office addresses; no audience to play off of.

But he does love his outdoor summits.

Remember the White House beer summit after he called Cambridge police actions stupid after they handcuffed a Harvard professor friend? So POTUS had the cop and the professor and VP Joe Biden out back for a well-photographed beer.

Well, today was supposed to be the Golf Summit with the country's top two Democrats golfing all-friendly-like with Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner and his Ohio GOP pal, former representative and now Gov. John Kasich.

Republicans and Democrats in D.C. are currently arguing over trillions of dollars in cuts (scroll down for detailed stories) in order for the GOP-controlled House to go along with raising the national debt limit before the de facto Aug. 2 deadline.

They did play golf today. It was reportedly a $2 game (each), decided on the 18th hole and -- who would have guessed? -- thObama signature Golf Balle duo of bosses, Obama and Boehner, beat the other two.

There are ample news pool photos of the collegial gathering that were allowed to be taken at one hole. Back-pats and all that.

But judging from the official White House photo released above, it looks like it could have been the Schmooze Summit (also, there's at least one beer in there somewhere).

News consumers need to be careful on controlled events like this where the only official photo is, well, official. Like advance speech excerpts, the photos are carefully chosen to create a politically desirable impression. Remember the president lecturing the Dalai Lama photo?

In this scene, the president and VP know the photos are being snapped and look profoundly entertained by their guest speaker Speaker.

Anyway, this photo of a nonpolitical political moment in time appears to show the bipartisan quartet had a good time on a summer Saturday. No harm in that, even if they're back at it after Father's Day.


Boehner assaults Obama over Libyan no hostilities claim

Obama's unathorized Libya war is costing U.S. taxpayers $9,241,000 a day

Boehner: Spending cuts must be larger than the increase in the national debt

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle.Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Pete Souza  / White House (Boehner tells a story to Obama, Biden and loyal Ohio State fan, Gov. John Kasich); Associated Press (Obama signature golf ball).


The telltale signs of a Rick Perry 2012 campaign

Texas Republican governor Rick Perry prepares to take off with his presidential; campaign 2011

There are several ways to tell if someone is really running for president. One is for them to comment publicly that today's voters are obviously seeking other options from the current field.

A second is to say 1) you are exploring the possibility and then add 2) a gratuitous pitch that your state has created more private-sector jobs in the last decade than all other states combined. Who cares, unless......

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry did both Tuesday. (And produced a surprise video below.)

Speaking self-servingly on behalf of millions of Americans he did not identify, Perry told the Texas Tribune, "People would like to have some other options in the race, obviously."

With his top campaign strategists having deserted Newt Gingrich last week, Perry is manned and ready. And who wouldn't want to escape Austin in the summer? As chairman of the Republican Governors Assn., Perry's on the horn every day with political and financial heavy-hitters nationwide.rick Perry Book Cover Fed Up

On Fox Business Network on Tuesday, Perry was asked if his aides' return was a clear sign of a candidacy. The longest-serving governor in Texas history told Neil Cavuto, "I think it’s a clear sign that I’m certainly giving it an appropriate thought process. Six weeks ago, this was not on my radar screen."

In fact, on Tuesday night he was in New York City speaking at a Lincoln Day dinner, and he's to meet Wednesday morning with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Perry, who says he has "some time" before a decision is necessary, will no doubt seek Giuliani's insights on what not to do in a primary campaign. (See Giuliani, Florida, 2008.)

As exciting and refreshing as the opportunity might be for Perry and his fiscally conservative fans, these campaigns are complex operations, not one national campaign but basically a different campaign for every state targeted. Mitt Romney's been organizing since the day after he conceded to the old Arizona guy three years ago.

However, Americans, especially Republicans, love chief executives (or generals) as presidential candidates. In the last nine presidential elections, eight of them were won by governors or a vice president. And five of the losers were or had been senators.

Look at the current Republican field: Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman, maybe Palin, all ex-governors, who do not live in a presidential bubble and create a grassroots public reputation on balancing budgets, getting things done, not endlessly talking, squabbling, maneuvering, fighting like D.C. legislators (Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul).

Romney looked presidential, poised and did pretty well in Monday night's first New Hampshire debate, which was more of an Obama beat-up than a GOP set-to. But few Republicans are overwhelmed by the current lineup even when Huntsman formally enters next week.

So, someone from the South, a former Eagle Scout who doesn't raise taxes, whose state is gaining electoral votes this time just might see an opening. And he's certainly established his opposition to Washingtonitis and Obama. “You have a president who is anti-job and I have no idea why," Perry told Cavuto.

A third way to spot a likely presidential candidate is if they volunteer that they did not watch the latest political event on TV. Perry happened to mention that he didn't catch the New Hampshire debate. He was watching Texas A&M's baseball team defeat Florida State.

Dead giveaway.

And then there was this strange, allegedly unscheduled, cameo appearance by Perry on Tuesday night's "Glenn Beck Show." Watch the video.


Mitt Romney surges as GOP debates open

NH Debate: Bunch of GOP colleagues get together to criticize Obama

Guess what, Sarah Palin was right about Paul Revere warning the British

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images (Perry).

Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin has a nifty idea to create jobs: Another stimulus spending plan with new taxes

With unemployment back up above 9%, President Obama stops off in North Carolina today to do more talking about jobs, en route to some Democratic National Committee fundraisers in Miami.

On Sunday, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz looked at a 'Meet the Press' chart showing unemployment up 25% since Obama's inauguration, the national debt up 35% and gas prices up 104%.

Then she tried to claim that her party was "able to, under President Obama's leadership, turn this economy around.Debbie Wasserman Schultz 6-12-11"

However, a growing number of Senate Democrats lead by Iowa's Tom Harkin have become increasingly concerned over what they regard as the president's passive rhetorical approach to the issue of job creation, which polls indicate has been and remains the top national concern of voters.

Here, according to Alexander Bolton of The Hill, is Harkin's stunning solution: A massive new federal spending package on the country's infrastructure funded by -- wait for it -- new taxes.

The first massive federal stimulus spending bill in 2009 of $787 billion didn't work (54,000 new jobs created last month vs the oft-predicted 200,000+).

So, Harkin thinks another one would.

"We really do need some economic pump-priming by the federal government," Harkin says.

"There's very broad support," adds West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller, who claims to see "no other way to get at this problem."

A calendrical coincidence may help explain the bizarre thinking of these two: Both are in their fifth six-year term working in Washington now. And neither senator must face strapped voters next year.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: William B. Plowman / NBC (Wasserman Schultz).

Herman Cain promises he wouldn't sign any bill over three pages long


Herman Cain

Herman Cain has discovered a way to stand out from all the other Republicans running for president.

The former president and chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza wants to make an offer to Congress that it can't refuse. Unfortunately, it may be an offer so idealistic that it could have Cain swimming with the proverbial fishes -- politically speaking.

Cain wants to stop lawmakers from passing bills that are over three pages long. Talk about small government.

"Don’t try to pass a 2,700-page bill," Cain said to a responsive audience in Pella, Iowa, on Monday. 

"You and I didn’t have time to read it. We’re too busy trying to live — send our kids to school. That’s why I am only going to allow small bills — three pages. You’ll have time to read that one over the dinner table," Cain said.

But as Marie Diamond of Think Progress wrote, "Cain wouldn’t have signed such landmark pieces of legislation as the Civil Rights Act, the Social Security Act or the Patriot Act. In fact, he wouldn’t have even been able to sign the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which ran 114 and 18 pages, respectively."

Continue reading »

Ron Paul tries to convince Iowa that he's mainstream

Ron Paul

Ron Paul, the conservative Texas congressman who believes the Commerce Department should be abolished along with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, personal income tax and the IRS, told a crowd of Iowans that he is their mainstream candidate.

"We are mainstream if you believe in the things that I believe in," Paul said Tuesday in a banquet room at the Rose Bowl Lanes in Mason City, Iowa, the Des Moines Register reports. His beliefs are that the government should be small and responsible, and personal freedoms should prevail.

"Why shouldn't it be mainstream to have balanced budgets and sound money and limited government, personal liberty, keep the federal government out of the business of the state government here in Iowa?" Paul asked the crowd. "That, to me, seems to be mainstream."

Big government, Paul said, "is a very subtle, if not direct, attack on the way we live."

One area that Paul feels that government should restrict personal liberty is in regards to abortion.

"Life comes from our creator, not our government," Politico reported Paul saying in April. "Liberty comes from our creator, not from government. Therefore, the purpose, if there is to be a purpose, for government is to protect life and liberty."

Many have called Paul the godfather of the "tea party" movement, which has adopted his mantra of limited government. His son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is a tea party favorite.


Another side to Ron Paul the pol: Dad

Ron Paul of Texas wins CPAC presidential straw poll

Trump on Ron Paul: 'He has no chance of getting elected'

-- Tony Pierce

Photo: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) in Iowa this month. Credit: Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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