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Susan Estrich - As a Democrat, I should be pleased

Here's a big news alert: House Republicans oppose Obamacare. That's why they've shut the government down.

No, doing so won't actually stop Obamacare. To a great extent, the program is on autopilot. The Republicans shut down the government, but the exchanges are open for business.

The last time the Republicans shut down the government, they at least had the fig leaf that they were doing so to protest the size of government.

Not this time. This time, it's not about the size of government. It's not about the deficit. The Senate already has gone along with the House's insistence that agencies cut their spending in the coming weeks.

This is pure symbolism — on the Republican side — at the expense of people who depend on the government and work for the government.

Maybe you or a loved one is trying to sign up for a potentially lifesaving clinical trial. Sorry. You can't.

Maybe you work as an air traffic controller or a prison guard. The "good news" is you're still working. The "bad news" is you don't get paid.

It's not right.

Make no mistake. This is not going to help Republicans in the long run. Playing games with people's lives is not smart politics. The fact that many well-known Republican senators have made clear that this is not an appropriate way to protest Obamacare underscores the ideological extremism that holds sway in the House.

Just the other day, a lifelong Republican sought me out to express his immense frustration. Why are they doing this, he kept asking me. Don't they understand that however unpopular Obamacare is, closing down the government as a symbolic protest is going to be seen as irresponsible? It's even more unpopular than Obamacare.

I have no answer. Or rather, I have no answer other than the obvious one: that the House is under the control of extremists who are throwing a political temper tantrum, and responsibility be damned.

As a Democrat, I should be pleased. As an American, I am deeply troubled.

We're used to having extremists hold sway on cable television. But that's entertainment. You can vote with your clicker. You don't have to watch. At the end of the day, no one gets hurt.

Congress should be different. It's not a TV show. It's not a tryout for the next round of "Crossfire," or at least it shouldn't be. This is real life. This is about parents not getting paid, people who need loans for their businesses not getting help, people who are sick having to wait for the ideologues to stop playing games.

"I'm always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better," the president said. "But one faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the entire government just to re-fight the results of an election."

Except that they did.

Obamacare was a central issue in the last election. By the time he won his party's nomination, Mitt Romney had effectively turned his back on his own (similar) program in Massachusetts and was urging voters who opposed Obamacare to vote for him. If you wanted to get rid of Obamacare, the way to do it was to elect Romney and give Republicans a majority in the Senate.

It didn't happen. Romney lost. The Senate remains in Democratic hands. That's how it works in a democracy. You win some, and you lose some. The tea party lost. Better luck next time.

Or not. There may be some new contestants for Newt Gingrich's slot on "Crossfire." Better there than in Congress.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 12:10

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Bob Meade - Some get it backwards

A few months back, President Obama, during a political speech, somewhat smugly commented to businesses, "You didn't build that.", and he went on to say that it was the government that built the roads and bridges and provided the education to workers, and so on. It may have been smooth political talk but it lost sight of the fact that none of those government "contributions" would have been possible had it not been for the tax revenues that emanated from the businesses he was trying to disparage. As an aside, the current administration has only 8 percent of its advisors with backgrounds in the business community. The historical average, Democrat or Republican, is around 50 percent. Perhaps that was a factor in the president undervaluing those people, those entrepreneurs, who risked all because they believed there was a market need they could fill. It was they who built this country, not the government. They took the risks, they competed, and the strong survived, and filled the market needs of the people. Their achievements are what led this country to become the most prosperous nation in the world.

Using Henry Ford as an example, we find an entrepreneur who literally changed the world. He took the risk, and all that that entailed, to build an automobile . . . before there were (government built) roads and bridges and super highways. Mind you, when Ford began, there were only 8,000 cars and 144 miles of paved roads in the entire country. It wasn't the government largesse that made Ford a success, it was Ford and others like him that spurred growth that provided the tax revenues that allowed the government to build those roads and bridges that the president talked about.

Ford's innovation of the assembly line was a manufacturing breakthrough that spurred heretofore unknown mass production. Even today, that process is a marvel as every single component that goes into an automobile arrives at its appropriate work station at precisely the right time. Each worker has been trained and has become skilled at performing the function necessary to install that component in the automobile.

In 1903, when Ford Motor Car started in business, the average U.S. worker earned between $200 and $400 per year; $4 to $8 per week. In 1913, Ford's offer to pay every worker a minimum of $5 a day, and reduce the work day from nine to eight hours, resulted in men lining up as far as the eye could see, all in hopes of getting hired by Ford. At that time, the average wage for workers in the auto industry was $2.36 for a nine hour shift; $0.26 an hour

Ford's concept of "Let the worker buy what he can produce." was a world changing idea. He understood that if the automobile market was to be expanded and grown, the average person would need to make enough money to buy the products they were producing. In 1909, the cost of the Model T automobile was $220. But Henry Ford understood the "Laffer Curve", even before Economist Art Laffer was born. Ford continued to lower the price of the Model T automobile and by 1914, they were being sold for $99. During that period, the company's net income rose from $3 million to $25 million and market share grew dramatically from 9.8 percent all the way up to 48 percent, dominating the world market for automobiles. (That same principle, now called the "Laffer Curve", shows that lowering tax rates actually increases tax revenues.)

As great as those achievements were, Henry Ford was not done. When World War II broke out, automobile production was suspended and manufacturers turned to producing military vehicles, armored vehicles, aircraft engines and airplanes. In 1942, Ford received a government contract to build aircraft engines. During the first year, it took Ford workers a little over 2,300 hours to build a Pratt and Whitney engine. True to form though, by 1944 Ford was able to produce the same engine in less than half that time; 1,028 hours. All told, by the end of 1944, Ford's Rouge plant had produced almost 58,000 aircraft engines for the war effort.

As great as was the Rouge Plant achievement, Ford's shining star was its plant at Willow Run where they manufactured the B-24 Liberator Bomber. In a three year period, Willow Run produced almost 7,000 of the B-24's and had manufactured and sent the parts for an additional 1,900 bombers to be assembled at Douglas Aircraft and Consolidated Aircraft plants in Oklahoma and Texas.

Ford also produced a large number of tanks, almost 15 percent of all military vehicles, over 27,000 tank engines, and various other items necessary for the war effort. Historians have noted that American businesses were able to significantly out produce the AXIS powers in providing weaponry and its associated equipment. That ability contributed significantly to the Allies successful war effort.

The facts are, Mr. President, that for the most part, the government has been the beneficiary of the largesse of businesses . . . not the other way around.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Pat Buchanan - Obamacare's bodyguard of lies and liars

"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies," said Winston Churchill.

What is the truth behind the Beltway lies about these crazy Republicans crashing our government?

Twice in the last week House Republicans have voted unanimously to fund the U.S. government. If national polls are to be believed, those House Republicans are doing exactly what America wants. A majority of Americans oppose a government shutdown. And a majority oppose Obamacare.

Who, then, is preventing the government from being funded?

Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Neither will accept any continuing resolution that does not contain Obamacare. Both will shut down this city rather than accept any such CR. It is Harry and Barry who are saying: If we don't get full funding of Obamacare now, we shutdown Washington until the House delivers.

The battle, then, is over this question: Will the next great liberal entitlement program, Obamacare, with its manifest failings and flaws, be imposed upon the nation — against its will? The House says no. The Beltway says yes.

Few disagree that, in any national plebiscite, Obamacare would be buried in a landslide. Few disagree that if Obamacare were put to a vote of the Congress today, it would fail in both houses. Why, then, is it radical for the House to use its power of the purse to defund a program America does not want?

Why is it statesmanship for Obama to say he will shut down the entire government if any resolution to keep it running contains even the slightest tweak to his cherished program?

What these questions suggest is that this is at root a political and ideological war, and the Beltway has assembled its usual bodyguard of lies and liars to conceal that truth. Consider this keening from the Washington Post yesterday about the terrible consequences of a government shutdown: "[W]e would hope that Mr. Boehner would have compassion for thousands of moderately paid breadwinners who would find themselves in very difficult circumstances. We would hope he would be troubled by how a shutdown would disrupt research at the National Institute of Health and safety inspections at the Food and Drug Administration."

About this lugubrious passage, several questions: Since Reid and Obama have both said they will block any CR that does not contain Obamacare in its pristine form, why are they not charged with some responsibility for a shutdown? Answer: The Post is not interested in conveying the truth about this conflict, because in this battle it is as much a political ally of Obama as Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But it is a more effective ally, since some still presume it is being truthful and objective.
Assume that today John Boehner came out and said at a press conference: "I have taken note of the Post's concerns about an interruption of service at NIH and the FDA. I share those concerns. Therefore, at my direction, the House will vote this afternoon to fully fund both agencies." Anyone think the Washington Post would celebrate Boehner's compassion and statesmanship the next morning?

Of course not. All this weeping and gnashing of teeth about the terrible consequences of a government shutdown is designed to whip up political animosity, direct it at House Republicans, and break John Boehner. Failing that, it is to foist upon the House Republicans full responsibility for a shutdown that the House has voted twice to avoid.

What this battle confirms is that, on major national issues that pit social and populist conservatives against Big Government liberals, the Beltway press corps invariably acts like a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee.

More problematic, there is a slice of the Beltway right — the contributions bundlers and kennel-fed conservatives, the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, the George McClellans — that prefers prancing, parading and posturing to the actual fighting.

With them the excuses are always the same. We can't win. We have been beaten on this terrain before. The press will kill us. The White House has a microphone we can't match. We will only hurt ourselves in the polls and throw away our great opportunity in the coming election. Besides, our corporate contributors don't want this fight.

Some "conservatives" even cynically suggest that the GOP let Obamacare take effect, as it will prove such a disaster there will be a backlash against it in 2014 — and from that we can benefit.

With Reid's refusal to accept the House CR with the one-year suspension of Obamacare, a shutdown became certain.

Every Republican should be out front, on TV, radio and in print this week with a simple message: "We have twice voted to fund every agency and program of the U.S. government (save Obamacare) in a single CR. We will proceed now to pass CRs for each department and agency of the U.S. government, separately and individually. And if Harry Reid's Senate refuses to pass a single one of those CRs, who then is shutting down NIH and the FDA?"

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Susan Estrich - I hate al Quida, I just disagree with Ted Cruz

In the latest polls, just 14 percent of all Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.

You might think that number would inspire fear in people who stand for reelection every two years. You might hope that members of Congress would see in such numbers a mandate to do better — to stop playing games (hello, Ted Cruz) and focus on actually getting things done.

Nope.

There are at least two reasons for this. First, most Americans draw a line between the institution as a whole — which they disapprove of — and their own representatives. Second, and no doubt related, most members represent "safe" districts in which one or the other party dominates; most members have more to fear from primary challenges by ideologues in their own party (hello, tea party), which means that reaching across the aisle is riskier than destructive partisanship.

But what is good for individual members is not what is good for Congress as an institution, or for the country.

Indeed, after watching Cruz's non-filibuster filibuster, after hearing John Boehner tie defunding Obamacare (which is simply not going to happen) to keeping the government open, it's hard to believe that even 14 percent of all Americans could possibly approve of the way Congress is doing its job. And if all these machinations should lead to a shutdown of the government or a default by the United States, the bottom line is that no one should approve of what Congress is doing.

I visited the Capitol for the first time decades ago as a Girl Scout. We had our picture taken with our congressman. We sat in the gallery and watched a vote being taken. I was awestruck.

How lucky I was, a decade later, to be hired to work for the Senate Judiciary Committee, to rub shoulders with the giants of American politics, Democratic and Republican. I could think of nothing, and nowhere, that I would rather be. A little more than a year later, the Democrats lost both the White House and the Senate. Nonetheless, Sen. Strom Thurmond, the ranking Republican and a man who, in terms of ideology, could not have been further apart from Sen. Ted Kennedy, the committee chair, agreed that the committee should move forward with the nomination of my boss, Stephen Breyer, to serve on the United States Court of Appeals in Boston. That would not ever happen today.

I used to think money was the cancer that was threatening to destroy Congress. For most members, the next campaign begins the moment the last one ends; raising money occupies more time than any other activity. The way you deter someone from challenging you, either in the primary or the general election, is to raise a huge war chest that you actually don't need. What could be more debilitating?

Ugly partisanship. A complete absence of respect. The dominance of angry ideology and vicious and personal attacks.

We live in such a dangerous world, where we have so little control. We are vilified by those who would destroy everything we hold dear. We are hated by people who reject all of the values we hold dear. We face challenges that I could not have imagined.

We have real enemies.

I hate al-Qaida. I do not hate Ted Cruz or John Boehner. I disagree with them. There is a huge difference. We are all Americans. Sappy, but so important. The enemy is not Obamacare. The enemy is a terrorist group that attacked an upscale shopping mall on a Saturday morning in Kenya, a group that sends children with bombs strapped to their bodies out to kill.

Vigorous debate is essential to a healthy democracy. But when civil discourse gives way to ugly demagoguery, we put at risk the miracle that is our democracy.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

 

Last Updated on Friday, 27 September 2013 11:11

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Houses by the pound

August was another banner month for residential home sales in the twelve communities covered by this report. There were 123 sales at an average price of $302,861. That's a pretty good number compared to just 93 sales last August even though the average is down from the $345,750 posted then. That brings the total of sales for the first eight months of the year to 679 at an average of $287,037 compared to 584 sales at an average of $296,262 for the same period in 2012.

As of January 1, 2014, the long awaited Fair Weight Housing Act will take effect. These federal consumer protection regulations are being implemented to ensure that home buyers can compare the costs of homes in an easy to understand format. Since the early days of home ownership, the general rule has been that heavier houses are worth more than lighter ones. One needs only to think back to their childhood and recall the story of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf at the door trying to blow the place down. As you most likely recall, neither the straw home nor the custom built stick home stood up as well as to the elements as the heavier brick home. Weight matters.

Today, things are a little more complicated, but it is still a well known fact (at least for the most part) that the heavier homes are worth more and are better built. The one notable exception to that is of course the mud hut category which will be granted a waiver on these regulations. Stop and think about it a second and you'll understand the basic premise here. Every building material that goes into making a better and more desirable home adds significantly to the home's total weight. Things like granite or marble countertops, tile floors and baths, hardwood flooring, beamed ceilings, wall to ceiling fireplaces, plaster walls, indoor pools, home theaters, and Jacuzzi tubs all add weight and cost to any home.

The main thrust of the new regulations will be that all homeowners will be required to have unit price labels affixed to their homes in a prominent location showing their property's price per pound. You know, just like the supermarket. The location, weight, style, age, and price per pound of each home will then be entered into a national data base so consumers can compare costs in a given area or all over the country for that matter. These labels will be available through the newly created Residential Weight Watchers Board which will have at least one office in each community across the country.

Now, even though you may agree that this is a good bill, there are still a few kinks to work out and this will undoubtedly be a very expensive program to run. Unfortunately, the legislators did not read this massive 4,000 page bill before they passed it and people are just beginning to realize that there is not really a good system available to accurately weigh each house. Apple is currently working on an iPhone app but it may not be available for at least six months and unfortunately it won't work on Android Phones. They are still working on the infrared density measurement technology.

I did some research on line and found several web based companies that are also trying to provide solutions. A company called Movoto is working on a system to weigh houses using balloons, but they are having trouble with the standardization of the balloon size. For more info you can go to this website: http://www.movoto.com/blog/novelty-real-estate/balloons/ . Please note that the link has "novelty" in it, but this is no laughing matter.

Anyway, they have established a rough mathematical calculation for the weight of various homes that they will verify with the balloons once they get things a little more precise. For now you can use these figures to calculate the weight of your home:

200 pounds per square foot for a single-level home;
275 pounds per square foot for a two-level home; and
350 pounds per square foot for a three-level home.

They have established (inconclusively) that it takes 2,976,470,589 balloons to lift the White House and 500,800,000 balloons to lift the Playboy Mansion. There is some question over whether hot air would be used to lift the White House which might thrown off the calculations a bit.

Anyway, these new regulations will make it a lot easier for home buyers in the future if they can get the bugs worked out. Maybe, we should have just stuck the price per square foot? Nah! That would make too much sense...
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 9/22/13. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 September 2013 08:44

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