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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-28-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

Today, in his weekly address to the nation, President Barack Obama discusses his budget he submitted to Congress. He speaks on how his budget will fulfill his campaign promises in regard to a fair tax code, energy, health care, and education. WhiteHouse.gov has the full transcript of the speech and the video you can watch here.


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Health and Human Services Secretary to be announced next week - White house Press secretary Robert Gibbs says it is likely the president will announce his pick. This is the last Cabinet position and has been without a nominee since Tom Daschle withdrew due to embarrassing tax issues. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is said to be the front runner. TheHill.com has more here.

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Appeals Court allows warrantless wiretapping case can continue - in a case involving a Islamic charity in Oregon and the U.S. - the Bush administration and now the Obama administration had argued the case would jeopardize national security. McClatchydc.com has more here.

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Education Secretary Arne Duncan favor longer school year for students - this is one of the suggestions he is considering as a way to improve their academic achievements. He argues China and India have longer school years than the U.S. CNN.com has more here. I do not see the logic in this argument at all. if the current educational system is not working as well as we want, extending the length will not do a thing to improve what is presently broken.

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Sunday Morning "Talking Heads" Guests 3-1-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

This is only the fifth Sunday since Barack Obama was sworn in as President. He continues to operate at a frenzied pace putting the finishing touches on his Cabinet as well as addressing pressing domestic and international issues. Expect all to be discussed this morning along with reaction to his address to congress and the nation last Tuesday..

As to his Cabinet, the President has to be hoping Gary Locke will secure nomination as Commerce Secretary after the two previous nominations did not pan out. The remaining Cabinet position is Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Plenty of discussion will surround the budget summary President Obama released on Thursday for fiscal year 2010. The projected deficit for that year alone is 1.75 trillion with the budget total being 3.55 trillion. Also the 787 billion Stimulus bill will continue to be examined along with analysis of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's Republic response to Obama's speech. A speech which fell flat for the Republican Party.

The timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the increase of troops in Afghanistan announced by the President is sure to be discussed this morning.

Other topics which may receive some discussion is Senator Robert Byrd's (D-WV) letter to the President asking for him to define executive privilege and Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) naming a committee to investigate wrong doings in the George W. Bush administration.

As always, the Sunday Morning "Talking Heads" and Guests promise to be fun to watch. Remember to check your local listings for time and channel. Below is the list of the morning shows and their guests.

NBC "Meet The Press" - Dick Gregory will interview Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The roundtable discussion will include Harold Ford Jr., Mike Murphy, Dee Dee Myers, and Joe Scarborough.

ABC "This Week" - George Stephanopoulos will interview Peter Ozag, Director Office of Management and Budget and Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va.). The roundtable discussion will include Karl Rove, Stan Greenberg, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and George Will.

CBS "Face The Nation" - Bob Schieffer will have as his guest, White house chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Fox News Sunday - Chris Wallace will have Joint Chief of Staffs chair Mike Mullen, Senator Jon Kyl (R-Az.) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wi.)

CNN "State of The Union" - John King also interviews Mike Mullen. Other guests include Hawaii Representative Neil Abercombie (D), personal finance expert Suze Orman, and former NY Post gossip columnist Liz Smith.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-27-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

President Barack Obama's FY 2010 Budget to receive plenty of scrutiny - the summary for the fiscal year which begins October 1, 2009 was released yesterday. Full details of the budget will not be available until April. The total may reach 3.55 Trillion with the deficit near 1.75 Trillion. CNN.com has more here.

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President Obama proposes 1 Trillion in tax increases over the next decade on the wealthiest of Americans and companies - set to begin in 2011, this will reverse the Bush administration's policy and revert back to rates present during the Clinton administration. The highest rates of 33% and 35% would be increased to 36% and 39.6%. Capital gains tax would be increased from 15% to 20%. It is estimated this will affect 2.6 million taxpayers. The Republican trickle down theory has never proven to work. Bloomberg.com has more here.

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Vice president Joe Biden will be in Philadelphia today to chair the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force - the meeting will include many members of the Cabinet from Labor, Energy, Agriculture, HUD, Education and Transportation. The meeting will be held at the William B. Irwin Auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania. WhiteHouse.gov has more here.

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Washington D.C. close to receiving vote in Congress - the only city without a vote in Congress moved a little closer yesterday when the Senate voted 61-37 to add a floor vote to their Representative. Currently, their Representative could serve on House committees, but have no vote on the floor. The bill still needs to pass the House and is expected to do so easily. The strange part is a amendment attached to the senate bill repealing all of the gun control laws in the district. Expect this to be removed as the bill is reconciled. The Washington Post has more here.

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CPAC set to hold straw poll for Republican Presidential candidates tomorrow - The Conservative Political Action Conference will conclude their three day meeting with the announcement of the results of who won the straw poll. The contenders for the dubious honor are all former or current Governors. The usual suspects include Jindal, Palin, Huckabee, Romney, Sanford, and Pawlenty. First, I wonder who will win and second, I wonder if the winner will flaunt the honor - egaad! MSNBC.com has more here.

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Democratic Party Leaders not happy with Obama plan for withdrawal from Iraq - the issue is not the extension from 16 to 19 months but rather the change from all troops to two-thirds of the troops. The 50,000 Troops planned to remain in Iraq has angered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calf.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), and Senator Charles Schumer (NY). Stay Tuned. Politico.com has more here.

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Special envoy George Mitchell in Israel for talk with Leaders - Israel's recent election was extremely close resulting in the more hard liner Benjamin Netanyahu, who does not believe in Palestinian statehood, being designated as Prime Minister. The moderate Tzipi Livni who lost the close election has not agreed to work as part of the Netanyahu government. This is the second trip in the last month for Mitchell who met with both Livni and Netanyahu yesterday. You can read more here.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-26-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

Today, President Barack Obama will send his first Budget to Congress - this will be for fiscal year 2010 which begins October 1, 2009. Early reports indicate it will include a 10 year 634 billion health care plan and 537 billion for military spending. Reuters.com has more here.

The President will also be at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina today where he will lay out his U.S. troop withdrawal plan for Iraq. As we indicated yesterday, the plan will call for two-thirds of the troops out in 19 months with a residual force of 50,000 to remain in country. House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) has already said she wants less troops to remain in Iraq.

If you missed President Obama's speech to congress and the nation on Tuesday night, you can watch some of the clips here.

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Meanwhile, the House voted yesterday 245-178 to pass a increase in the budget for the remainder of this year - this is a 410 billion budget in spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year which ends September 30 and represents a 8% increase from the previous year. As expected the bill passed mostly along party lines. The Senate still needs to vote on their version. MSNBC.com has more here.

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In a symbolic move of "I feel your pain", the House voted to freeze pay increases - they automatically receive annual cost-of-living increases every year. Their current annual salary is $174.000. The Senate has yet to vote on freezing their salaries. TheHill.com has more here.

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Housing industry continues to suffer - reports out yesterday showed that home prices dropped 18.2% over the last three months of 2008. Since the peak in the second quarter of 2006, home prices are down 26.7%. CNN.com has more here.

Compounding the problem, the National Association of Realtors reported that sales in January dropped 5.3% to the lowest level since July 1997. WTOP.com has more here.

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Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) asks President Obama to define executive privilege - he sent the president a letter yesterday in which he questions the White House appointments of Czars for health care, energy, urban affairs and others. His concern is do these positions have responsibility to Congress or do they fall outside of their scope of power. A good constitution question. President Obama is also facing a decision as to his position pertaining to Karl Rove, the former White House chief of staff for President George W. Bush. Rove is claiming executive privilege while refusing to answer a subpoena from the House Judiciary committee in regard to his role in the firing of 9 U.S. attorneys. Politico.com has more here.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-25-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

President Barack Obama delivers powerful speech to Congress - Last night, in a "State of the Union" type speech, the President clearly outlined the economic problems facing Americans. He said as always Americans are up to the challenge and it was time for America to lead again. He explained the need for the recently passed 787 billion Stimulus bill and that the reduction of the deficit inherited from the previous administration would be reduced over the next four years.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll conducted after the speech showed 68% of Americans had a very positive reaction, 24% somewhat positive and only 8% had a negative reaction to the president's speech. CNN.com has more here.

In a wide ranging speech, he spoke of initiatives regarding health care, energy, education and foreign policy. Whether it was his statement saying education begins at home and the responsibility parents have, or his statement that the U.S. does not torture, he had members of Congress from both sides of the aisle standing and applauding. Even when Obama spoke of withdrawing from Iraq, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was standing and clapping. ThePage.time.com has the full text of his speech here.

The Republican response was delivered by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. While Obama hit a home run with his speech, Jindal clearly struck out. He delivered his speech in a monotone manner and it was obvious he was reading from a teleprompter. It is hard to find anything of substance to write about pertaining to what he said. If you want to read his prepared remarks, ThePage.time.com has them here.

The three current stars of the Republican party are Governors Jindal and Sarah Palin from Alaska along with Michael Steele as the chair of the Republican National Committee. With these three leading the way, the Republicans can count on being the minority party for some time to come.

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President Obama will announce withdrawal plan from Iraq on Friday - yesterday, it was leaked prior to his speech to congress and the nation, the president will be announcing his plan. It is said to cover a period of 19 months and involve a reduction of two-thirds of the present troops in Iraq. After discussing with military advisers this plan differs somewhat from his campaign commitment of a complete withdraw from Iraq within 16 months of when he took office. The NY Times has more here.

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Hilda Solis confirmed as Labor Secretary - finally, after a lengthy delay by some Republicans who did not like her pro labor positions. When the President's Cabinet was introduced last night, she was present. The vote yesterday was 80-17 and came after Republicans dropped a demand for a procedural vote which would have required 60 votes, thus ending a filibuster. A big issue for Republicans is the Employees Free Choice Act which allows employees to join unions easier. The bill is expected to be taken up this summer. TheCaucus has more here.

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Today, Gary Locke will be announced as Commerce Secretary - as we reported yesterday, the president has to be hoping the third time is the charm. The former two term Governor of Washington has extensive experience with China and has promoted expanding trade. The NY Times has more here.

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Stevie Wonder to receive award tonight from President Obama at the White House - the award is the Gershwin prize for popular song. Tomorrow, PBS will show the concert on their show "In Performance at the White House". It will air at 8:00 PM ET. USAToday.com has more here.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-24-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

Tonight, President Barack Obama will address a joint session of Congress - his speech is being billed as similar to a "State of the Union" speech and will last about one hour beginning at 9:00 PM ET. It will be carried by all the major television networks. Obviously, the president will address the economy, but also expect him to touch on foreign policy, education health care, and energy. CNN.com has more here.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will deliver the Republican response following the President's speech.

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Yesterday, President Obama held a White House fiscal summit - included were members of Congress, union and business leaders. In what I found to be a first, Obama answered questions from participants behind a podium at the end of the summit. It was similar to a White House press briefing except the questioners were members of Congress. The President did a good job answering the questions, including one from Senator John McCain (R-AZ) who asked about the need for a new fleet of Presidential Helicopters. MSNBC.com has more here.

Next week, the President will be holding a health care summit.

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Dow Jones drops to lowest point in a decade - yesterday, the Dow Jones dropped another 250 points to close at 7114.78. This is the lowest close since 1997. It will be important for President Obama to include some hope and optimism in his speech tonight as the overwhelming majority of Americans are in fear of the economy. Bloomberg.com has more here.

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Gary Locke to be named Commerce Secretary - is the third time the charm? The former two term Governor of Washington is expected to be named this week. He will follow the nominations by the President of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH). Politico.com has more here.

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Hilda Solis inches toward confirmation for Labor Secretary - her confirmation has been delayed by Republican concerns with her support of organized Labor. If a filibuster does not transpire by the Republicans, it is being reported she will be confirmed by the senate this week. Time.com has more here.

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Meanwhile, the Minnesota trial surrounding the Senate election continues - it has been almost three months since the November 2008 elections and Minnesota is still short one U.S. Senator. Arguments from the Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D) campaigns continue before a three judge panel over previously rejected absentee ballots. After a state required recount, Franken was declared the winner by a margin of 225 votes. The StarTribune has more here.

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Frederick Co. MD Democratic Buzz

George Wenschhof Bio

I started these weekly local posts only one month ago and they have rapidly become widely read among our local viewers. If you have some local Democratic news you feel we should be sharing with our readers, send me a email at GeorgeWenschhof@gmail.com and I will try to include in a future post on the site.

City of Frederick Election - The biggest news since last Tuesday was the announcement by Alderman Marcia Hall at last Thursday's City of Frederick Mayor and Board meeting she will not be running for office this year. Several weeks ago, on Katherine Heerbrandt's Saturday morning radio show "Frederick's Forum" on WFMD 930 AM radio, Marcia Hall indicated she would be running for Mayor.

Ms. Hall's reason for not running for any office was due to family issues. I had speculated she would be the front runner for the Democratic Party nomination, if former Mayor Jennifer Dougherty could stay out of the fray. The battle in the Democratic Party primary would have then been a battle of the surrogates of Ron Young - Jason Judd and Jennifer Dougherty - Marcia Hall. A somewhat remake of the 2005 Democratic primary.

Jack Lynch is the only Democratic candidate who has filed for Mayor. At this point, he is considered a long shot in securing the party nomination on September 7, 2009. However, as current Republican Mayor Jeff Holtzinger proved, nothing is a given until the voters have cast their ballots. In 2005, Holtzinger first beat heavily favored Joe Baldi in the Republican primary and then went on to upset Democrat Ron Young in the general election to become Mayor.

Before supporters of Jason Judd, who is likely to file his candidacy for Mayor within the next month, get too excited, Jennifer Dougherty still looms as a potential Democratic candidate for Mayor. I spoke with her briefly last Friday after Marcia's announcement and she indicated to me that this certainly does change things. In subsequent emails, she indicated she would be discussing entering the race as the issues facing the City of Frederick are big ones.

In the 2008 6th district election for Congress, Ms Doughery won 56.51% of the vote in Frederick County election district 2 which is the bulk of the voters in the City of Frederick. If she would announce her candidacy for Mayor, she would be the front runner in the Democratic primary.

Expect Dougherty to make an announcement sooner rather than later as incumbent Democratic aldermen Donna Kuzemchak and David "Kip' Koontz will be reevaluating their interest in Mayor with this announcement by Marcia Hall. If Dougherty files for Mayor, do not look for Kuzemchak or Koontz to run for Mayor. Otherwise, expect one or both to seriously consider a run for Mayor.

Meanwhile, Democrat Jason Judd continues to explore his candidacy for Mayor and is holding a fun-raiser on Thursday February 26 at Cafe Nola in downtown Frederick. The suggested donation is only $20 and the Band "Hard Swimming Fish" will be performing. The event begins at 7:00 PM and Cafe Nola is located on E. Patrick Street.

Last Sunday, Democratic mayoral candidate Jack Lynch met with the Frederick Young Democrats and discussed his positions on future growth for the City of Frederick.

On the Republican side for Mayor, incumbent Mayor Jeff Holtzinger filed his paperwork last Friday, making his reelection bid official. As I indicated last week, I had heard he would announce shortly after Randy McClement, the local deli owner, had filed for Mayor. There continues to be chatter among some Republicans that now that Holtzinger has filed for Mayor, Mr. McClement may withdraw and file for Alderman. Mr. McClement ran for aldermen in 2005 and lost and the thought is his run for Mayor is a bit of a reach.

Mr. McClement is a nice and thoughtful man. However, his chances of securing the Republican party nomination for Mayor is about the same as his supporter, Maryland delegate Rick Weldon (district 3-b which does not include the City of Frederick), getting on the ballot in the state of Maryland and winning a race as a Unaffiliated candidate. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, that is why we hold elections so voters and not pundits decide who is elected to office.

It is still early, as the filing deadline for candidates is not until July 7, 2009. So, there is still plenty of time for others to join the race.

The only Democratic alderman to file remains Kelly Russel, who so far is running a stealth campaign. Should neither enter the race for Mayor, Donna Kuzemchak and David "Kip" Koontz remain favorites to be reelected as aldermen.

Yesterday, I received a email from Ken Berlin who indicated he will not be running for alderman. He also indicated he is not bitter over his loss in the 2005 election and said he had met a lot of nice people during his campaign. However, he doesn't like how some things are being done by the current Mayor and Board.

Stay Tuned.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-23-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

President Barack Obama will name a Stimulus bill Oversight Board today - the Director of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board will be Earl Devany. Mr. Devany was a former fraud investigator. Vice President Joe Biden will make sure regular reports are posted on recovery.gov so Americans can track the progress. Politico.com has more here.

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Many Republican Governors support the Stimulus bill - if you were able to catch any of the Sunday morning "Talking Heads" political talk shows, you would have seen California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Florida Governor Charlie Crist speaking on how the Stimulus bill will be helping people in their states. Two Republican Governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Haley Barbour will be turning down the portion of the Stimulus bill that extends unemployment benefits - hardly a sign of their empathy for the situation many unemployed Americans are finding themselves in. So much for Republican party unity on this issue. The Wall Street Journal has more here.

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First Obama Budget due out Thursday - While the woes of the economy have been the focus, there is still a Budget to be submitted and approved. This is in addition to the Bailout and Stimulus bills. Expect expanding health care to receive a major emphasis in his Budget. Reuters.com has more here.

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The Senator Roland Burris (D-Ill) quagmire may lead to special elections in the future - Vacant Representative seats have long been filled by special elections while the Senate vacancies have been filled by Governor appointment. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Representative David Drier (R-Calf.) will be submitting legislation to change the process to filling vacant Senate seats to a special election. TheHill.com has more here.

This comes after the continuing saga surrounding the appointment of Burris by impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich. Burris was interviewed by federal agents on Saturday. The Chicago Sun Times has more here.

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1.7 ¢ for Your Thoughts

Ken Kerr Bio

We recently celebrated the 200Th birthday of our nation's greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. To commemorate the occasion, the US Mint released new pennies with four new designs on the reverse showing important scenes from Lincoln's life. It's a nice sentiment—only it's 100 years too late.

It is now time to eliminate the penny.

As of last March, it cost about 1.7 cents in labor and materials to make a penny. Let's say the average wage in the U.S. is about $17 per hour. If so, it takes about two seconds to earn one cent. Furthermore, if it takes only two seconds extra for a cash transaction that uses a penny, the cost of time wasted in the U.S. per person is about $3.65 annually. The cost for all Americans combined is about $1 billion.

Nothing takes a penny anymore—not gumball machines, not parking meters, not toll booths. Most Americans seeing a penny on the ground will not even bother to pick it up. It will take more than two seconds and they will be losing money. In fact, there has never been a coin in the US worth as little as today's penny.

As of 2007, Due to inflation, a nickel is worth approximately what a penny was as recently as 1972. In 1857, the United States discontinued the half-cent coin as no longer viable, and it had a 2008-equivalent buying power 13¢. That made the new smallest coin the penny, which (do the math) had a 2008-equivalent buying power of 26¢--the lowest denomination coin had the value of more than today's quarter. Now that's a pretty penny!

I'm not trying to be a penny pincher. I think I am being reasonable here—I am only saying, "Let's get rid of the penny." But while we are at it, let's look at the nickel.

Eliminating the penny would create a huge demand for nickels, which are already produced at a loss. The nickel has not been worth a nickel since 1974, and it now costs over a 10¢ to make one. So, maybe we should make the penny the new nickel and stop making nickels. The economist Fran├žois R. Velde has suggested such a plan and estimated that the change would cause minor monetary inflation of $5.6 billion. That's just a couple-of-year's bonuses for banking and financial executives. Since we are losing as much as $40 million a year in production costs and $1 billion in productivity, we'd be turning a profit in 5 years. I don't expect to see that kind of performance from my TIAA-Cref account anytime soon.

There are sentimental reasons to keep losing $1.04 billion in bad-coin policy each year: we love Lincoln and we owe it to him; if we eliminate the nickel, what happens to Jefferson? As you may suspect, I have answers.

Lincoln is still on the $5-bill. And, if we eliminate the nickel, Lincoln's penny will still survive but be worth 5¢. So, what about Jefferson? He's on the $2-bill. While we are overhauling our currency, let's eliminate the $1-bill (Washington can stay on the quarter), bring back the $2-bill (which costs 4¢ to make) and use the golden $1 coin (which costs about 10¢ to make). Our greatest presidents: Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln keep their honored place in American currency and we save money in the federal budget. Everybody's happy; everybody wins. Let's not be "penny wise and pound foolish."

Finally, the dime has not been worth a dime since 1980, and the quarter fell below its face value in 2007. But for now, it's one step at a time. I say we go for it—in for a penny in for a pound! If I have it my way, we'll all be saying, "A penny saved is a nickel earned."

Well, it's just my two cents, but I think I may have just figured out how to get us out of this financial crisis.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-22-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

Yesterday, President Barack Obama spoke of how he intends to reduce the budget deficit - this comes after a slew of government spending. Reuters.com has more here.

The anticipated annual deficit will be at least 1.5 Trillion this year alone and will most likely be higher after all the Stimulus bill funds and TARP funds have been added to the total. Using the White House projections, cutting this in half would still leave a annual deficit of 750 billion. The national debt will exceed 12 Trillion at the end of this fiscal year and appears it will reach 15 Trillion by the end of President Obama's first term.

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Tuesday night, President Obama will address Congress - this will be similar to a state of the union address and will be televised in prime time. Speculation abounds as to what he will focus in during his speech. Obviously, the economy will be the number one issue, but also look for him to speak on how his administration has moved quickly to send special envoys and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton around the world to begin the process of repairing the damage done by the previous George W. Bush administration. McClatchydc.com adds their speculation as to what the president will address in his speech here.

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Washington D.C. voting rights bill moving closer to passage - D.C. remains the only U.S. city without representation in Congress. Interestingly, D.C. currently is allowed a delegate similar to Guam, Puerto Rico and American Samoa but those delegates are only able to serve on committees and are unable to vote. This bill would give D.C. a Representative in Congress and add a fourth to the state of Utah. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill next week and the House in March. Bloomberg.com has more here.

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The Stimulus bill receives discussion at the annual meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) in Washington - the overwhelming majority of Governors, including Ed Rendell (D-PA), who is the chair of the NGA are thankful for the stimulus funds which will begin flowing to the states. The funds will help in education, health care and road improvements as well as help reduce the massive lay-offs that would have occurred. A few republican Governors dissented led by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who said he would refuse the funds for extending unemployment benefits while he would accept other funding from the Stimulus bill. Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) also said he felt the bill was wasteful. MSNBC.com has more here.

Many of these Governors are on the "Talking Heads" shows this morning. We have the scheduled guest list for the shows here.

The White House will host the Governors annual dinner tonight and the band will be "Earth, Wind and Fire".

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-21-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

President Barack Obama continued to speak about the recently passed 787 billion Stimulus bill in his weekly address to the nation - He points out that 95% of the working men and women will receive a tax cut. The President also said he will be addressing the massive deficits he inherited once the economy has recovered. You can watch the video of his address by clicking on the photo below.

White House photo 2/20/09 by Pete Souza

privacy policy download .mp4 also available here
(closed captioning coming soon)

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Some disagreement among Democrats over the idea of nationalization of failing U.S. banks - Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) the chair of the senate Banking Committee suggested some nationalization may be needed. While, Barney Frank (D-Mass.) chair of the House Financial Services Committee disagreed. There has been some speculation the talk of nationalization has led to some losses on the Dow Jones last week. The Obama administration has said it prefers a private banking system. Bloomberg.com has more here.
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi - Clinton discussed the importance of working together in solving the worldwide economic crisis. It seems Human Rights, long a topic of discussion between the U.S. and China, were not the main focus of this meeting. The U.S. is a large purchaser of China goods and china is a huge holder of U.S. debt. Reuters.com has more here.
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New Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) calls on Senator Roland Burris (D) to resign - adding yet another voice to the many calling on the embattled Senator to resign. The Governor also says he supports a bill introduced in the Illinois legislature which would establish a special election to be held in future vacancies in the U.S. Senate seats. CNN.com has more here.
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Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raises 3.5 million in January - this continues the success in fundraising the committee experienced last year. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) raised 1.63 million in January. Both committees are still paying off debt from the last election with the DCCC reporting a debt of 16 million and the NRCC reporting 6.5 million of debt. Politico.com has more here.
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Sunday Morning "Talking Heads" Guests 2-22-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

The economy continues to be the number one issue facing the Obama administration and Americans. The Dow Jones losses for the week left the close at 7365.67 on Friday, a six year low. So the 787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan (Stimulus bill) and the restructuring of the remaining 350 billion portion of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) will be the main focus this morning.

Expect a discussion on how all the billions in the Stimulus bill will be spent and on what - there are many Governors appearing as guests today, so how the states will spend their share will receive attention.

Sure to be mentioned at some point is the continuing saga surrounding Senator Roland Burris (D-Ill.) who was appointed to the vacant Barack Obama Senate seat by impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich. Recent revelations by Burris of previously undisclosed contacts with the Governor's staff and his brother concerning the appointment to the Senate seat has led to perjury inquiries in the state of Illinois and a investigation by the Senate ethics committee. Will Burris survive or will he resign will be the question?

On the foreign policy front, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoys have been busy traveling all over the world meeting with foreign leaders. Clinton is in the middle of a trip to Asia, Richard Holbrooke has been to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and George Mitchell has visited the Middle East. All have current pressing issues so there is a possibility any or all will be discussed this morning. Sure to be mentioned is the 17,000 troop build up in Afghanistan announced by President Obama earlier in the week.

So make sure your coffee is made and plan to settle in for some interesting discussion Sunday morning. The following is a list of the "Talking Heads" shows and their scheduled guests. Remember to check your local listings for the time and channel.

NBC "Meet The Press" - David Gregory will interview Republican Governors Bobby Jindal (LA) and Charlie Crist (FL). The roundtable discussion will include Michelle Norris, Becky Quick, and Al Hunt.

ABC "This Week" - George Stephanopoulos will talk with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. California just passed their budget after heated debate. The roundtable discussion will include George Will, Suzy Welch, Nouriel Roubini and Paul Krugman.

CBS "Face The Nation" - Bob Schieffer will have HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan along with Governors Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Mitch Daniel (R-IN), and Ted Strickland (D-OH).

Fox News Sunday - Chris Wallace will interview Governors Ed Rendell (D-PA), Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich), Mark Sanford (R-SC0, and Tim Pawlenty (R-MN).

CNN "State of The Union" - John King will also have California Governor Schwarzenegger (R). Additional guests are Governor Haley Barbour (R-Miss.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

What Will the Stimulus Bring to Maryland?

Ann-Marie Luciano Bio

The short answer is that Maryland will receive a whopping $3.8 billion share of the total $787 billion federal stimulus package. Where will that money go and how will it help create jobs and grow our economy?

Governor O'Malley announced earlier this week that Maryland's $3.8 billion share of the stimulus package will include about $610 million in transportation funds, which is expected to support about 17,500 jobs. As the economy continues to spiral down, the key question is one of timing: How can Maryland spend this money fast enough in order to stop the bleeding and get people to work?

Governor O'Malley's answer on Wednesday was that as much as $365 million in transportation projects will be funded by federal stimulus funds within 90 days. The Maryland Board of Public Works has already approved $2.9 million to repair the Laurel MARC station.

What's amazing to me is to see how closely the government is following through with the pre-stimulus promises that were made about potential projects. In early February Vice President Biden toured the Laurel train station with Governor O'Malley and referred to it as an example of one of the train stations across the country that would benefit from the stimulus. In politics, usually there is a disconnect between promises and action, especially once money is in hand and competing interests start clamoring for their share. This time around, it seems that our leaders are highly attuned to the growing public outrage at waste and mismanagement and are taking extraordinary measures to instill public confidence.

For example, Governor O'Malley has already set up a website that enables the public to track the spending of the stimulus package in Maryland. I was impressed by the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Summary of Phase 1 Transit and Highway Projects" chart, which provides a detailed description of each project – organized by category – showing the jurisdiction of the project, cost, and estimated jobs supported. (One wonders what "supported" really means – is it new jobs, jobs saved, a combination of the two or simply the number of people it will take to do the job?).

Marylanders are also expected to receive approximately $1 billion in tax relief through the stimulus package. One wonders where the rest of the money will go and how those decisions will be made. Lobbyists have already started to pitch their case as to why they should receive part of the stimulus funds. Hopefully our leaders have devised some type of plan to spend or provide tax relief to those businesses and sectors that could stimulate the economy most directly. It would be a shame if only those with the loudest and most organized lobbyists get a share of the stimulus pie.


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Democratic Chatter 2-20-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

President Barack Obama returns to Washington after a one day trip to Canada - his meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Halter in Ottawa, covered free trade and the use of environmental friendly technologies. While agreement was reached on the use of green energy, no agreement was reached on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Reuters.com has more here

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Today the President will host Mayors from across the country at the White House to discuss the Stimulus bill - You can read more here. On Sunday, the White House will be the site of the Governors Association Dinner. Earth, Wind and Fire will perform. WhiteHouse.gov has more here.

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Live-Blogging from the White House - how cool is this! The Website, WhiteHouse.gov has had a Blog since it's launch, but now it is providing live blogging as events unfold. The President's trip to Canada was the first use of the new feature. Check out the step by step posts, along with plenty of photos for you to view. Politico.com has more here.

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Dow Jones drops after gloomy economic forecast - the Federal Reserve forecast of a prolonged recession throughout this year lead to a drop in the Dow of 89.65 to close at 7465.95. This is a six year low. CNN.com has more here. The idea of nationalizing troubled banks may be picking up support as former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan feels it will be necessary. McClatchydc.com has more here.

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Pressure continues to mount for Senator Roland Burris (D-Ill.) to resign - Burris may face perjury charges based on his testimony to the Illinois impeachment panel and the Senate is taking up the issue in the Ethics committee. This, after revelations that former Governor Rod Blagojevich's brother had contacted him several times asking for campaign contributions and Burris attempted to hold a fund raiser for him. Now, it is being reported Black clergy who had previously supported his appointment, will be meeting with Burris to encourage him to resign. MSNBC.com has more here.

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Leon Panetta sworn in as CIA Director - Vice President Joe Biden handled the ceremonies making Leon Panetta official. There were concerns during the confirmation process, he did not have any experience in the intelligence field. Panetta, a former white House Chief of Staff under the Clinton administration vowed honesty from the agency. ThePage.time.com has more here.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-19-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

President Barack Obama to visit Canada today - he is expected to arrive mid-morning and meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the afternoon. ThePage.time.com has more here.

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Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke downgrades economic outlook for 2009 - in what should be no surprise by now, it appears the recession will continue throughout the year. Unemployment projections are as high as 8.8%. The concern remains falling prices and lack of spending. Reuters.com has more here.

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Last month's housing starts lowest on record - more economic bad news as town homes and multifamily starts dropped by 28%. The Northeast was particularly hard hit with a drop of 43%. The Midwest region experienced a drop of 29%. January has never been a big month for house starts, but a 28% drop was not expected. Bloomberg.com has more here.

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AP/Gfk poll shows 47% of Americans worry about losing their jobs - yikes! This is up from 28% in February 2008. Another 65% worry about paying their bills. 62% agree with what President Obama is doing to work with Republicans to aid the economy. The poll was conducted from February 12-17. MSNBC.com has more here.

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Clean Energy Summit to be held in D.C. next week - the invited guests will include former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens. Although the just passed Stimulus bill included funding for clean energy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Az.) intends to pass another energy bill within the next several weeks. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) who is chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee has been tasked with writing the legislation. Reid also says the Senate will be introducing by summer, legislation pertaining to climate control. The Washington Post has more here.

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Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius in line for Secretary of Health and Human services - this Cabinet position has been without a nominee since Tom Daschle withdrew due to tax issues. Sebelius was an early supporter of President Obama and at one time rumored as a candidate for Vice President. The HHS Secretary is very important in the Obama administration as they will be responsible for developing and shepherding through Congress his healthcare program for Americans. The vetting process is expected to continue for another week. The NY Times has more here.

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Attorney General addresses race during speech at Justice Department - during a celebration of Black history month, Eric Holder spoke of how race issues need to be openly discussed among Americans. Holder's use of the phrase we are "a nation of cowards" when referring to the need to discuss these issues will be debated by the pundits. CNN.com has more here.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Democratic Chatter 2-18-2009

George Wenschhof Bio

Today, President Barack Obama will announce his mortgage relief program in Phoenix, Arizona - this is the home state of his 2008 presidential opponent, Senator John McCain. Phoenix has experienced high levels of foreclosures. The program is part of the revised 700 billion Bailout bill (TARP), Secretary Timothy Geithner tried to explain last week. Reportedly, 50-100 billion will be made available to help banks restructure loans resulting in lower monthly payments to homeowners. CNN.com has more here.

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Unfortunately, the first reaction by Wall Street to the Stimulus bill signing yesterday was a 297.1 drop in the Dow Jones - the close was 7552.60, the lowest in ten years. We could see this coming as we reported the drop on Global stocks yesterday morning. It did not help when former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the U.S. is not doing enough to stabilize the financial markets. Bloomberg.com has more here.

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All of this while the auto industry asks for more money - the 13.4 billion GM and Chrysler received earlier under the bailout bill required restructuring plans to be submitted to congress yesterday. The plans were submitted and included - guess what? - a request for more money while cutting a total of 50,000 jobs. Chrysler wants 5 billion and GM wants 16.6 billion. Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union has agreed to restructure current agreements. MCNBC.com has more here.

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The President announces a 17,000 troop level increase in Afghanistan - hardly a surprise as he campaigned that the U.S. had lost it's focus in Afghanistan under the previous administration. Currently, the U.S. has 38,000 troops deployed and NATO has another 30,000 troops in Afghanistan. It is anticipated President Obama will increase the troop level again as he continues a review of the military strategy for the region. In Iraq, there are currently 146,000 U.S. troops. Reuters.com has more here.

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Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Illinois Democratic Senator Roland Burris - the more the former Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed Senator speaks, the more trouble he stirs up. First, it was an amendment to his statement to his testimony given to the Illinois impeachment panel which said the former Governor's brother had solicited campaign funds from him. The state of Illinois is considering charges of perjury. The latest revelation is Burris says he did try to hold a fundraiser for the Governor but no one was interested. Now it seems the Senate Ethics committee, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calf.) has opened an investigation. TheHill.com has more here.

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Frederick's "Up and Coming" Democrats

Joe Welty Jr. Bio

Stimulus Vote puts Spotlight on Democrats

There are a large number of topics I could write about for this week's edition of Frederick's "Up and Coming," but what's most on my mind and probably on the minds of most Americans is the stimulus bill. At the time of the writing of this column, the bill is on its way to the President's desk and will have no doubt been signed by the time this is posted.

To begin, it is great that Congress could get this thing passed, though I have some major issues with it. There is no doubt in my mind that a stimulus package is very much needed across the country, but I do not think it will be as effective as most are hoping it will be.

The primary goal of this stimulus package was to save or create 3.5-4 million jobs. I am confident that it has the ability to do so; on this point I believe the stimulus will be effective, but people are going to have to be patient to see results.

The area in which I believe the stimulus will be less successful is in the area of tax cuts. Don't get me wrong, I love a good tax cut for the middle class like every Democrat—that is where a tax cut will do the most good, in the hands of people that are statistically more likely to spend the money directly on consumer goods and services.

The only problem with the tax cuts in this stimulus package is that they are going to fall victim to the economic times and in my opinion be unable to fulfill their purpose. In general, the idea behind giving tax cuts to the middle class is that we are most likely to spend that money on consumer goods and services and thus cause an increase in consumer spending and stimulate the economy.

But, our current economic climate has created a situation where consumer confidence is extremely low. As a result, the majority of people receiving a tax cut check in the mail are more likely to save that money to pay rent or bills, or generally to feel some security; I know that is exactly what I am going to do with mine.

The question then remains: where do we go from here? At this point, now that the stimulus will begin creating jobs, it is most important to focus on the financial and banking industry. The truth of the matter is that the first half of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was an absolute waste of money in the truest sense of the meaning—we gave out $350B and have no idea where it went or what it did to shore up the banking and finance markets.

The entire purpose of (TARP) was to remove troubled assets from the market, shore up the finance markets, and to most importantly get the flow of credit and lending restored. Not surprisingly, a bill that had very little accountability exercised saw exactly zero of the intended goals realized.

The money which will be spent on tax cuts through this stimulus package would be better used to remove bad assets from the marketplace and restore the flow of credit in the financial and banking markets. If we're going to call this package a stimulus, then let's actually put the money where it has the best chance to create stimulus; and unfortunately for me, my rent and bills, that means not giving me $400 to save.

Quickly, I'd like to look forward to the mid-term Congressional elections in 2010 and say something about the Democratic Party's Congressional leadership. I'm not going to kid myself into thinking this bill could have been more bipartisan, this bill needed to pass and if the Republicans wanted to try and stand in the way—run'em over to get it passed.

But, an important thing to keep in mind is that President Obama is making real strides to increase the bipartisanship in Washington, something our politics desperately needs.

Though, if Democrats are actually serious about a new era of bipartisanship and governing from the center, while still holding fast to our democratic principles—I'm sorry, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) needs to be shown the door by the House Democrats.

The Stimulus bill easily passed the House with a 246-183 vote. However, no Republican voted for it and seven Democrats voted against passage of the bill.

She has done nothing but antagonize Republicans since she began as Speaker, something that is the right course when Democrats were in the minority. Now that Democrats are once again the majority party we need someone in that position that can exercise restraint. Someone with the political acumen to get legislation passed without leaving Congressional Republicans feeling burned—we need a Speaker more like Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill than Nancy Pelosi.

If Nancy Pelosi is Speaker much longer, I have serious fears that we will see the Democratic majority severely reduced in the House in 2010; that is if we can keep it at all.

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