Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Thank You, Mr. Greenspan

Well, this is as good a day as any to get back to blogging. Samuel Alito is now Justice Alito, President Bush will give his fifth State of the Union Address in just a few hours, and Alan Greenspan retires today as the most celebrated "head of the Fed" ever. His 18-year leadership of the Federal Reserve came to a close with today's meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee and his successor, Dr. Ben Bernanke, took over his post at the meeting's close.

First off, Samuel A. Alito's nomination to the United States Supreme Court finally made it to a full Senate confirmation vote today, and the former Appeals Court judge has been confirmed by a 58-42 vote. All Republicans but one (RI's Chafee), and four Democrats (WV's Byrd, ND's Conrad, SD's Johnson, and NB's Nelson) voted to confirm Alito. The Alito nomination had been hotly contested for three months since President Bush named him to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on October 31, 2005.

A simple analysis reveals how politically charged the confirmation process has become in certain cases. For instance, Antonin Scalia was unanimously confirmed (98-0) in 1986 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg received 96 of 99 votes for confirmation in 1993. That's right, the most conservative and most liberal justices, respectively, were both confirmed with more than 95 votes. Meanwhile, a far less conservative (according to his Segal-Cover score) justice, Clarence Thomas, was nearly "borked" (coined from the rejection of Judge Robert Bork in 1987) in 1990 when he received only 52 votes.

The main topic of judicial debate in the early 1990s was abortion, as it is again today. An important fighter for civil rights in the Reagan administration, Thomas's nomination was opposed because of his views on affirmative action and abortion. Let me get this straight, a black man opposes a process of racial preferencing and he's not qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice? Even though he received a "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association (referred to as the "gold standard" in 2001 by Senators Leahy and Schumer)?

The political litmus test for the Supreme Court is a travesty that betrays the Senate's constitutionally-guaranteed right to approve the president's nominations. Politicians have no place in analyzing the rulings of career litigators with an unsurpassed expertise in constitutional law. They do have a place in judging their qualifications, but when senators reverse their beliefs on a candidate (Alito was confirmed unanimously to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in 1990) they are playing games with a qualified nominee's career. Is a judge good enough for the Appeals Court but not the Supreme Court? Come on ...

State of the Union live blogging will begin at 7:55pm CST ...

On to Alan Greenspan. Some say he was a failure, including Republican Senator Jim Bunning. However, about 99% of the economic community agrees that he has been the best "Fed head" to date. His 18-year career spanned several recessions and a stock market collapse in 1987. His policies prevented an economic recession that would've created the "Great Depression: Redux".

Greenspan has received worldwide praise and recognition for his efforts as the Federal Reserve Chairman. The Swiss claim that his handling of the United States economy did good for the rest of the world, namely "bringing down the long-term cost of debt", according to swissinfo. Greenspan has been bestowed the title of "Knight Commander of the British Empire", usually referred to as "being knighted", but is not called "Sir Alan" because he is not a subject of the Queen of England. He has also been awarded the "Commander of the Legion of Honor" by France.

The Detroit Free-Press says:
Alan Greenspan is like a rock star. He plays it cool, no matter how crazy the world around him. He speaks in code few can understand. If you listen to him long enough, your head will pound.
An accurate summation of a man noted for confusing the economic community in his cryptic speeches and lectures. One time, he said in a speech, "I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I said."

The end of an era is upon us. Tomorrow is Dr. Ben Bernanke's first day as the Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve. One can only hope he has an impact resembling that of Greenspan over the last 18 years.

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