Good Monday morning . . .

| October 5, 2009
Nothing to see here. Move along.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

. . . and things are already getting interesting.

ITEM: Obama throws the Dalai Lama and the entire country of Tibet under the bus (emphasis mine):

In an attempt to gain favor with China, the United States pressured Tibetan representatives to postpone a meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Obama until after Obama’s summit with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, scheduled for next month, according to diplomats, government officials and other sources familiar with the talks.

For the first time since 1991, the Tibetan spiritual leader will visit Washington this week and not meet with the president. Since 1991, he has been here 10 times. Most times the meetings have been “drop-in” visits at the White House. The last time he was here, in 2007, however, George W. Bush became the first sitting president to meet with him publicly, at a ceremony at the Capitol in which he awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’s highest civilian award.

There were rumblings about this some weeks back, but I couldn’t track down a firm source and so didn’t post about it. I swear, Jimmy Carter — at least, the 1970s version — is looking better by the minute.

ITEM: You know how Obama is going to pay for Obamacare by combating waste and fraud in the Medicare program? It looks as though he may be throwing Granny under the bus after all:

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The nation’s nursing homes are perilously close to laying off workers, cutting services — possibly even closing — because of a perfect storm wallop from the recession and deep federal and state government spending cuts, industry experts say.

A Medicare rate adjustment that cuts an estimated $16 billion in nursing home funding over the next 10 years was enacted at week’s end by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — on top of state-level cuts or flat-funding that already had the industry reeling.

And Congress is debating slashing billions more in Medicare funding as part of health care reform.

Add it all up, and the nursing home industry is headed for a crisis, industry officials say.

Move along folks, no rationing or cutting of services here.

ITEM: Meanwhile, if Obama is serious about cutting waste and fraud, maybe he should start with the Pentagon:

The agency, which last year was responsible for ensuring that taxpayers got good value for more than a half-trillion dollars in defense contracts, revised audits to curry favor with contractors, promoted a supervisor responsible for such revisions to a top position and rushed through other audits out of fear that the work would be outsourced if employees took too much time, the GAO said.

“Unbelievable problems at Def Contrctng Agncy [sic],” Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, wrote on her Twitter account just before a recent hearing on the report. “Top of my head is about to pop off.”

“I read a summary of the GAO report last night and quite frankly got sick,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, adding that he would not use all his allotted time for questions because he was “a little bit too upset to go where I really want to go.”

Oh, wait — this is the organization that was supposed to be preventing waste and fraud.  At least this seems to be something that both parties can agree upon.

ITEM: The TARP Inspector General, Neil Barofski, issued a report saying that US TreasSec Henry Paulson and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke were less than forthcoming during the bailout last year:

BFederal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. misled the public about the financial weakness of Bank of America and other early recipients of the government’s $700 billion Wall Street bailout, creating “unrealistic expectations” about the companies and damaging the program’s credibility, according to a report by the program’s independent watchdog.

Not exactly earth-shaking news, but something to keep in mind as the Obama Administration tries to assure us that their economic strategy is sound and working well. To quote from Raiders of the Lost Ark: “We have top men working on it. Top men.”

ITEM: On the other hand, misleading the public about the soundness of these institutions may have been just the right thing to do, if I read the always-excellent Robert Samuelson correctly:

Something analogous happened over the past year. Scholars will debate which interventions — the Federal Reserve propping up a failing credit system, the Troubled Assets Relief Program, Obama’s “stimulus” plan and bank “stress test” — counted most. Regardless, they all aimed to reassure people that the free fall would stop and thereby curb the fear perpetuating the free fall. Confidence had to be restored so the economy’s normal recovery mechanisms could operate. This seems to have happened. By last month, the consumer confidence index had rebounded to 53.1. Housing prices had stopped falling. By the Case-Shiller index, they’ve increased for three months.

Read the whole thing — it’s not an apology for the Administration but rather an analysis of just how close we may have come to a full-blown economic depression.

ITEM: Still, there are plenty of jobs available — they just require skills different from those held by the folks who have been laid off:

It’s become especially hard to find accountants, health care workers, software sales representatives, actuaries, data analysts, physical therapists and electrical engineers, labor analysts say. And employers that demand highly specialized training — like biotech firms that need plant scientists or energy companies that need geotechnical engineers to build offshore platforms — struggle even more to fill jobs.

The trend has been intensified by the speed of the job market decline, Koropeckyj said. The nation has lost a net 7.6 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Yet it can take a year or more for a laid-off worker to gain the training and education to switch industries. That means health care jobs are going unfilled even as laid-off workers in the auto, construction or financial services industries seek work.

“So we have this army of the unemployed” without the necessary skills, Koropeckyj said.

This is a constant issue in the modern economy, as some sectors dwindle and others continue to expand. But it’s a lot harder to deal with as unemployment approaches 10%.  Happy days are here again!  ..bruce w..

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Category: 2010 Election, Business, Economics, Geopolitics, Healthcare Reform, Main, Obama Administration, Sea of deficits, Stimulus, US Politics

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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