The [Thursday] Papers
Pat Quinn was asked on Good Day Chicago this morning about the Tribune's report that he's been making money off his old U.S. Senate campaign fund by loaning the fund his own money and then raising money from contributors to replace it while charging interest on his "loans."
Legally you can't use money from a fund like this for personal use, so Quinn is essentially running a money-laundering operation; contributors can't directly give money to an office-holder to use for personal expenses so Quinn washes the money through his loans.
The fact that the $24,000 he's put in his pocket the last 13 years amounts to less than $2,000 a year, as pointed out by an unexcited Rich Miller, doesn't make it any better.
(I could do a lot with an extra $24,000 right about now; at what level should we be outraged? $48,000? $72,000? Just tell me when we cross the line from acceptable to not. Additionally, this once again goes to Quinn's competence - did he really think the law required interest? - and lack of straight-shooting from the original straight-shooter. And really, it's just crass.)
Neither do answers like this, to the Good Day Chicago hosts who asked him if he was making money off the fund:
"Not really. I had two sons who went to college."
So he's "not really" making money off the fund, though he used the money - ultimately from campaign contributors - to help defray the costs of his kids' college tuition.
And that's not all.
"The rule is you have to pay interest, or you could pay interest."
So . . . the law requires interest, as Team Quinn first claimed despite expert opinion that says otherwise, or interest is optionable and therefore was opted for?
COMMENT 11:23 A.M.: From Brian Rhodes:
Did he pay taxes on the interest?
The State Of The Union Sucks
* You can even ride horses and go swimming while using the iPad.
* Not tonight, honey, I'm on the iPad.
"Now get this. If workers volunteer to take two days off without pay, they'll get a third day off with pay.
"Yes, the governor who is presiding over a massive financial crisis has agreed to pay workers not to work."
Now, given the Tribune's allergy to unions, this might be a simplistic formulation. Please enlighten me if I'm missing something. But geez.
"The State of the Union address is the time for a president to establish his ambition, and Barack Obama has had plenty of that in his first year as president. On Wednesday night, he delivered ideas on taxes, jobs, health care, nuclear energy, national security and much more, designed to please all of the people at least some of the time.
"But there was one area where his ambition fell short: making the government live within its means."
Speaking Of Which . . .
Here's the problem: We need to spend money to create jobs, but the more money we spend the worse our deficits become, leading to service cuts and increases in fees and taxes. Which leaves regular folks hurting even more. It's a vicious cycle and the truth of the matter is that the single biggest factor in turning around local and state economies is the turnaround of the national economy. And this is my problem - well, one of many - with Obama's first year, and what I think has been his biggest mistake: He has not, as Bill Clinton once promised to do, focused on the economy "like a laser." He's gallivanted around the globe - more travel than any other first-year president - pursuing long-term goals or trying to rebuild our image abroad or something while we've been hurting here at home. Now, I'm not one of those "let's take care of ourselves, first" types, because that almost always smacks of isolationism - and a failure to understand global interconnectedness. But still, Obama hasn't felt our pain. You can't just "pivot" to jobs and the economy when it becomes a political imperative. You have to feel it so badly that you tell your advisors that this is the new agenda. That should have happened last January.
Obama instead has acted like Republican presidents often do (see Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush), pursuing a long-term agenda regardless of events on the ground. Remember tax cuts because the economy is good, tax cuts because the economy is bad? So when Obama has argued that health care reform is economic policy because it will reduce the deficit in the long run - a dubious proposition, but let's go with it for now - the problem is that, as John Maynard Keynes famously said, in the long run we're all dead. We don't need deficit reduction in the year 2016. We need jobs now.
A better approach would have been passing health care provisions immediately available - even Republicans are on-board with prohibiting excluding insurance to those with pre-existing conditions - in the manner that the federal government extends unemployment benefits in tough times. Obama could have done that right away instead of delegating the porked up stimulus bill to Rahm Emanuel that leaves us still pining for a jobs bill.
Obama has been similarly criticized for handing health care reform over to Congress. Surely that was a strategy in part driven by not wanting to repeat some of the mistakes made by the Clintons, but it leads you to wonder: What does Obama care about? Wouldn't you want to get in there and mix it up? Drive the process? Put your stamp on it?
Instead, Obama seems to treat every immediate issue as a distraction to his long-term, academic concerns. Let's just get on with these bailouts, even though they stink, because I've got other things on my mind I want to get to.
What a missed opportunity to reshape our economy and our economic rules on the fly while fighting for the American people.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not against long-term thinking. I'm a big fan of it. But a lesson many managers learn - and maybe Obama never did not having been a chief executive before - is that all of your big ideas tend to go by the wayside because you've got to put out fires and actually administrate day-to-day. And while delegating tasks is a good idea, delegating priorities, goals and strategies - and therefore responsibility and accountability - isn't. You have to work on the long-term in the background or connect your short-term tasks to your long-term goals; it's not dissimilar to a beat reporter always having an investigative project in progress in the background while attending to daily duties - daily duties that often can feed into that long-term project.
I don't have any idea of what Obama's priorities are; I don't know what it is he wants to do as president. He wants to change things, but what things? The way Washington works? The health care effort was the epitome of everything folks hate about Washington (and that Obama promised to change), that's why everyone is so angry - the sellouts to lobbyists; the backroom secrecy; the disgusting horsetrading; the incomprehensibility of the legislation; the political stratagems; the arrogance of the technocrats; the lack of public input; the cavalier handling of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars; and yes, the partisan bickering.
Nothing has changed. So far we've basically gotten the presidency that John Kerry would. have brought us. Even I had hoped for more.
Ace Zambrano: Pet Detective
The Beachwood Tip Line: Regret floats.
Posted on January 28, 2010
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