1.) Ray LaHood imitates a fish out of water when asked about $328 billion highway provision in Obama’s budget — It’s been four weeks since Pres. Obama sent his budget to Congress, and yet no one in the White House can explain the five W’s of a $328 billion provision for highway projects. In the Senate, the irritation is bipartisan. “We have to know where the money is going to come from,” Democrat Sen. Jay Rockefeller said yesterday, according to Cox Media’s Jamie Dupree. “A sustainable source of funding is the real question here,” added Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was the target of these questions, which he failed, with little panache or style, to answer. But at least he was emphatic about where the money would not come from. Obama “is not in favor of raising the gas tax when unemployment is at 8.9%,” LaHood told the Senate committee. “There are some people in this country that can little afford to buy a gallon of gasoline, let alone one that’s been increased by an increase in the gas tax.” Other places the money will not come from: Bernie Madoff’s mattress, a magician’s hat, the moon.
2.) Death of deficit commission hasn’t stopped Bowles and Simpson — Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson will not be ignored, dagnabbit! On Tuesday, they launched the Moment of Truth Project, “adopting the title of the final report issued by the panel they led, the Bipartisan Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform,” reports the LA Times. In an appearance before the Senate Budget Committee, Simpson and Bowles reiterated that out of control spending will lead to what the LA Times calls “the most predictable economic crisis in history,” with Bowles taking point: “If we just take the ostrich theory in this room, then we’ll be spending $1 trillion a year in interest cost alone by the year 2020,” the former Clinton staffer said. “That’s a trillion dollars that won’t educate our children. It’s a trillion dollars that won’t build a highway or won’t bring broadband infrastructure to rural South Carolina. … It’s crazy.” In other words, it’s a trillion dollars that will be wasted in the least creative way possible.
3.) Is Mitt Romney a control freak? — “In gearing up for a second run for the White House, Mitt Romney has stealthily gotten his desired message out to the masses through a succession of opinion editorials – all while avoiding the press,” reports Real Clear Politics. “Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC website includes a section for nearly all of the op-eds the former governor has authored since President Obama’s election in November of 2008. There are 19 posted on the site, and 16 of them take direct aim at the president. Not on his site is a Nov. 18, 2008, piece in the New York Times entitled, ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,’ in which he argued against the auto bailout.” When will Romney surrender himself to the whims of an increasingly sycophantic political press? According to one Romney flack, “Mitt’s not a candidate right now. If he becomes a candidate, he will give more speeches and more interviews.” That haircut he got in Atlanta, of all places? Just a haircut!
4.) Revolving door has been replaced with a gaping hole in the side of the Capitol — “Rules enacted in 2007 by a Democratic Congress haven’t slowed the revolving door linking Capitol Hill to nearby lobbying offices. Even as they must wait one to two years before attempting to directly influence former colleagues, ex-lawmakers can immediately plot strategy, offer advice and help their new clients navigate both Congress and federal agencies,” reports Bloomberg News. The latest name on a list rapidly approaching toilet-paper length is former Senator Robert Bennett, who is just one of “at least 17 ex-lawmakers who left office in January to join law firms, trade associations or other lobbying enterprises, or set up their own consultancies.”
5.) What’s the difference between a real estate bull and a goldfish? — Answer: No one expects a goldfish to remember what caused the financial crisis. Reuter’s Felix Salmon catches personal finance guru Linda Stern moaning about how hard it is to save for a down payment. “If you think about the cost of paying rent for five or more years, you may be better off jumping into a home with a low down payment now. That’s true even if you have to spend more money on fees and mortgage insurance to get one of those low down payment loans,” Stern wrote. If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine, try this advice on for size: “Why not put your money to work for yourself and borrow as much as you can reasonably afford, on a monthly basis, at today’s rates? You can put the money you’re not paying into a down payment to work elsewhere. If home values rise, you will have done your best to leverage a small down payment into bigger equity. If they fall, you’ll have less skin in the game, and that could put more pressure on your banker to improve your loan terms lest you walk away.” And people wonder why journalists didn’t see the subprime meltdown coming!
6.) Rick Scott to Florida GOP: ‘Don’t blink’ — “Gov. Rick Scott gave state lawmakers the hard sell in a measured and positive State of the State speech Tuesday, urging them to embrace his vision of a transformed Florida that would serve as a national model of job creation with fewer taxes and less regulation on businesses,” reports the St. Pete Times. “Scott criticized lawmakers, saying they had ‘not dared to face the full extent of our financial problems’ while letting government grow ‘way beyond its ability to pay for its promises.'” He also reminded residents and lawmakers, “We build magic kingdoms. We launch ships that fly to the moon.” The response from Republicans in the state legislature was lukewarm. “We’ll have to see how much substance he has,” said one legislator. “I liked the speech, but the TelePrompTer sure helped him.”