Presidential List Fun – More on Presidential rankings

All this talk of the best/worst President got me in the mood for a little exploration. After poking around the net for a while I came across a ranking done for the Wall Street Journal by the Federalist Society. The report is from 2000 so George W Bush isn’t included.

Much of the list is of no surprise to anyone. Washington, Lincoln, and FDR hold the top three spots respectively. Johnson, Pierce, Harding, and Buchanan are labeled as failures by the survey. The majority of our presidents (26 of 39 at the time) rank average or above.

The most interesting section of the survey is the overrated/underrated section.
Top Five Overrated

Top Five Underrated

Well if Reagan makes both the top of the overrated and underrated list I’d say his ranking is fair. Conservatives loved Reagan for brining their party back from the brink and liberals hated him liberals for, well, making liberal a four letter word. There was such an interesting duality to much of the Reagan presidency. Reagan showed a personal tolerance to the homosexual community, but did not support LGBT legislation. Reagan’s influence was a major factor in reducing nuclear weapons and helping to end the Cold War, yet Iran-Contra occurred under his administration(despite debate on Reagan’s actual involvement in the scandal). “Just say no” just didn’t work. Reagan’s record of the environment was dismal. The GPD grew during Reagan’s presidency as unemployment shrank. According to Milton Friedman, Reagan’s tax policies led to the boom of the 1990s. You can find as many pro Reaganomic articles as you can con. Mixed opinions too.

All right, who’s most overrated/underrated?


Is This Stimulus for Us? – Economic stimulus or government stimulus

I am an advocate for sensible stimulus spending. Spending that creates jobs, repairs our failing infrastructure, and reduces our dependence of foreign oil is fine. You’ve got to spend money to make money. For those who’ve had the time, and lack of sanity, to pour over the 700 page American Recovery and Investment Act there are big concerns over how much of this money is going into the government. Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal is one of those concerned citizens.

from Wall Street Journal:

Check your PC’s virus program, then pull down the nearly 700 pages of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Dive into its dank waters and what is most striking is how much “stimulus” money is being spent on the government’s own infrastructure. This bill isn’t economic stimulus. It’s self-stimulus.

(All sums here include the disorienting zeros, as in the bill.)

Title VI, Financial Services and General Government, says that “not less than $6,000,000,000 shall be used for construction, repair, and alteration of Federal buildings.” There’s enough money there to name a building after every Member of Congress.

The Bureau of Land Management gets $325,000,000 to spend fixing federal land, including “trail repair” and “remediation of abandoned mines or well sites,” no doubt left over from the 19th-century land rush.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are getting $462,000,000 for “equipment, construction, and renovation of facilities, including necessary repairs and improvements to leased laboratories.”

The National Institute of Standards gets $357,000,000 for the “construction of research facilities.” The Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gets $427,000,000 for that. The country is in an economic meltdown and the federal government is redecorating.

The FBI gets $75,000,000 for “salaries and expenses.” Inside the $6,200,000,000 Weatherization Assistance Program one finds “expenses” of $500,000,000. How many bureaucrats does it take to “expense” a half-billion dollars?

The current, Senate-amended version now lists “an additional amount to be deposited in the Federal Buildings Fund, $9,048,000,000.” Of this, “not less than $6,000,000,000 shall be available for measures necessary to convert GSA facilities to High-Performance Green Buildings.” High performance?

Sen. Tom Coburn is threatening to read the bill on the floor of the Senate. I have a better idea: Read it on “Saturday Night Live.”

Such as the amendment to Section 2(3)(F) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, which will permit payments to guys employed to repair “recreational vessels.” Under Incentives for New Jobs, we find a credit to employ what the bill calls “disconnected youths,” defined as “not readily employable by reason of lacking a sufficient number of basic skills.”

President Obama is saying the bill will “create or save” three million new jobs. The bad news is your new boss is Uncle Sam.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says, “Everybody agrees that there ought to be a stimulus package. The question is: How big and what do we spend it on?”

Sen. McConnell should reconsider. He knows that the Bush-GOP spending spree cost them control of Congress in 2006. Thus, “How big?” is not the question his party’s constituents (or horrified independents) want answered. This is a chance for the GOP to climb down from its big-government dunce chair. Until that reversal is achieved, there is no hope for this party.

I think that behind the bill’s sinking public support is the sense that it won’t work and its cost is dangerous. The bill’s design, an embarrassment to Rube Goldberg, is flawed. Even were one to grant the Keynesians their argument, this is a very mushy, weak-form stimulus.

Rather than try to “reform” it, which won’t happen, Sen. McConnell should ask President Obama to pull it and start over. One guesses that privately the president’s economic team would thank the senator. If he won’t pull it, the Senate Republicans should walk away from it. This bill is a bomb. It may wreck more than it saves.

This could go a few ways for the Republicans if they return to their smaller-the-government-the-better roots. If the stimulus should succeed without Republican intervention they will look like out of touch ideologues. Or the stimulus fails without Repubs help. They say I told you so, the people say that’s nice but why didn’t you do anything about it earlier. Those two scenarios aren’t likely. There are Republicans who are keen to do more than partisan posturing and are working hard on cutting the fat from the stimulus bill already.

If they Republicans can work with the Democrats to get this bill trimmed down to be most effective for the crisis they will be in prime shape. Faith will be restored that Repubs have left the big spending ways of George W. behind. I disagree with Henninger that this bill can’t be saved. Republican reform, or financial conservative reform rather, is just what we need to difuse this “bomb”

Agree to Disagree – Is compromise always best?

Rush Limbaugh has made it to the big time. Yesterday Limbaugh wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal detailing his version of the stimulus plan, which I covered last week. The column was a rehash of the proposal he released on his show as the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009. The column itself made for an enjoyable read. I could see all of Rush’s points, and agree with a few, without all that jargonizing getting it the way. I guess sensible talk is not what brings in Rush the big bucks.

Take the opening paragraph: There’s a serious debate in this country as to how best to end the recession. The average recession will last five to 11 months; the average recovery will last six years. Recessions will end on their own if they’re left alone. What can make the recession worse is the wrong kind of government intervention.

There are a some misleading facts. Only recessions counted from 1945 to 2007 average out to 5 to 11 months. Roughly ten recessions occurred prior, including the Great Depression. Most administrations did attempt to intervene in the crises with varying degrees of success. Rush and many others, myself included, question whether or not the current stimulus is the best approach.

The solution proposed by Limbaugh is a compromise between spending (Keynesian) and tax cuts (Supply-Side). Maybe a compromise isn’t the best solution either.

Compromises have brought us some great things in history. Our Bill of Rights is the product of a compromise between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Compromises don’t always produce the best results. The Reconstruction Era led to decades of discrimination, violence, and terrorism against religious, ethnic, and racial minorities.

A compromise just to prove Obama is bipartisan or to save hurt feelings of those who oppose the stimulus is wrong. This isn’t the schoolyard. No one should be forced to make compromises with our money and economy in the name of togetherness. I want the best plan there is. If that comes through a compromise then OK. If it comes from the Dems or if it comes from the GOP I don’t care. As long as this thing is not a waste of money and helps get us back on the right track quicker than doing nothing at all I’m behind whoever proposes the stimulus.

Now is the time for decisive action. Stop the in fighting, keep the debate going. Work the best solution to the problem. Quit the handholding kumbya and quit power games. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but there is a middle ground on how to approach the stimulus here.

Are You Listening? – Does the Government Listen to Pundits

Eliot Cohen brought something troubling to my attention in a recent Wall Street Journal article. Our government functions in a vacuum. The government doesn’t really listen to pundits and outside advisors say. If they rarely pay attention to people who study policy for a living, maybe even for fun, could we even hope that they listen to us?

Cohen said that in his time working for Condoleezza Rice in the State Department he read outside works with passing interest. He called outside sources, “a background noise of which I was dimly aware, unless it was either unusually nasty, or unusually perceptive, which often merely meant that it fit my own views.” So if you are only following that which supports what you think already, how can you be getting the full picture? You can’t, but most of us are guilty of that behavior. It’s a hardy soul that can read Ann Coulter and Michael Moore without becoming steaming mad at one of the two.

Cohen goes on saying that outside information is seldom listened to because it is just that, outside the circle. Those of us not right in the mix cannot have all the knowledge of what is going on. He compares it to the telephone game. “Government resembles nothing so much as the party game of telephone, in which stories relayed at second, third or fourth hand become increasingly garbled as they crisscross other stories of a similar kind”

I get a great deal of comfort from what commentary officials do listen to.

“What, then, is a pundit to do? The best commentary has an impact, less because it offers new ideas (most ideas have been considered, however incompletely, on the inside) than because it clarifies problems or solutions that the insiders have only vaguely or incompletely considered.”

Blabbermouths like Limbaugh, Ingraham, Olberman, and Matthews are seen for what they are; people with huge egos trying to see who can shout the loudest. “WATCH ME!” “NO ME!” I’LL SAY SOMETHING SHOCKING SO YOU LISTEN TO ME!” Bla, bla, bla. Only serious work gets the attention it deserves. Those talking heads have much less of an impact then they would like to think.

I have hope for the voice of the common people though. We are in the trenches. Policy choices have a direct impact on our lives. If you want to know if a policy is successful just look out in the streets. President Obama’s pledge for transparency and an almost wiki style government, coupled with the ease in contacting our reps through email and online petition sites like will give us unprecedented access to the halls of power. Will we make use of these tools or just get on TV and yell? It’s clear what gets better results.