Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Tax Man Cometh

We earlier talked about Obama’s dependency Americans: people employed by the government or helped by the federal government to stay at home (30%), people outside the workforce or in part-time jobs (45%), people not paying federal income taxes (50%).

Now I’ve learned that House Budget chair Paul Ryan is concerned about “a moral tipping point” reached by Americans becoming increasingly dependent on government services and lulled into a life of complacency. According to Ryan, a remarkable 70% of Americans get more out of federal government services than they contribute in taxes.


Let’s be crystal clear about what’s coming, if we award Obama the freedom of a second term. He will raise taxes on all of us. He needs us, not just the rich, to pay for his big government. We should all pay. It’s the fair thing to do; it’s the moral thing.

It’s what they do in Northern Europe.

And don’t you see it coming to the U.S.?

All Obama has to do, once the election is over, to get the tax ball rolling is block any effort to prevent the Bush tax increases planned for January 1, 2013 from going into effect. Bingo. Veto. And all our taxes go up.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Intellectual Bankruptcy: The Signs

"If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from."

--Barack Obama (2008)

Our national elite is divided into two tribes that speak mostly to themselves. Though there's a possible biological basis for this, our current stand-off shouldn’t last. Life moves on.

I see signs those in power are weakening. After all, top-down rule hasn’t delivered the strong economic growth our nation needs. For those who prefer hope to fear, it’s reassuring to know today’s principal practitioner of scare tactics, our president, once told us (see above) that negative campaigning stems from a bankruptcy of ideas. First bankruptcy, next change.

It’s hopeful that the New York Times, America’s font of liberal wisdom, in the person of politics editor Richard W. Stevenson openly worries about a 2012 Democratic campaign based not on ideas, but on brawling:
Democrats are primed to play rough in 2012. To conservatives, it is all just more evidence that hope and change was never more than bait-and-switch. To some liberals, it is about time the White House showed a willingness to brawl. [emphasis added]
Please note Stevenson refers to “conservatives” on the one hand, and “some liberals” on the other. By doing so, liberal Stevenson revealingly tells us that he’s in the middle, between “some liberals” and “conservatives.” Ah, the view from Manhattan, with its rich diversity of liberals (who combined make up just 20% of the country).

It’s hopeful that the Democratic case for Obama’s re-election is so weak, at least as presented by CalArts teacher Steve Erickson in the progressive journal American Prospect:
the Republican [line] on Obama is that he has no record to run on . . . Obama has a record, and hardly a disreputable one. It encompasses the prevention of an economic Chernobyl by which the world’s entire financial system verged on meltdown, the passage of the first major regulatory reform of Wall Street in 30 years, the salvation of the auto industry and the creation of more jobs in three years than during the previous administration’s eight, the signing of a law codifying equal pay for equal work for women and the passage of the first major health-care reform since Medicare
Let us, if we may, deconstruct Erickson’s argument.

“prevention of an economic Chernobyl”

The Bush 43 administration developed and passed the Troubled Assets Relief Program in October 2008, a bill both Barack Obama and John McCain supported. The chief “preventers” of our 2008 “economic Chernobyl” were Bush, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke. As president, Obama went along with their plan, as would have McCain.

“major regulatory reform of Wall Street”

Dodd-Frank. Says the conservative Weekly Standard:
The best way to understand the Dodd-Frank Act is to think of it as Obamacare for the financial industry. Like its health care counterpart, it leaves the members of the massive financial services industry as privately owned firms, but blankets them with so much regulation that . . . a U.S. industry once so aggressive and innovative that it came to dominate the world’s financial markets will be reduced to a ward of the U.S. government.
“salvation of the auto industry”

Bush 43 authorized emergency loans to GM and Chrysler totaling $18 billion before Obama went through the White House door. The two auto companies could have then proceeded through a normal bankruptcy, restructuring labor contracts and becoming leaner and meaner as did reorganized U.S. Steel and most domestic airlines before them. Instead, Obama pumped another $60 billion into GM and Chrysler, oversaw Chrysler becoming foreign-owned (thus helping it compete with all-American Ford), and restructured both GM and Chrysler to benefit labor unions, improperly placing unions ahead of secured creditors for payouts, and setting a national industries-socialist precedent for future large bankruptcies.

“the creation of more jobs in three years than during the previous administration’s eight”

This statement is flat wrong, disproven by going to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Bush 43 created 1.1 million jobs in 8 years. Obama thus far has lost 740,000 jobs, putting him -1.8 million jobs in the hole to Bush.

“equal pay for equal work for women”

The Lilly Ledbetter Act, signed by President Obama in 2009, only extends the deadline, already in law, during which people victimized by unequal pay may sue to secure back pay due them. The Equal Pay Act became law in 1963, so had existed for 46 years before Obama’s tweek.

“the first major health-care reform since Medicare”

Obamacare is, in the words of Vice President Joe Biden, “a big fucking deal.” We’ll soon learn how much of it will survive constitutional muster, a “BFD” if it does, since it will mean the federal government can force us to buy any product or service it in its wisdom feels is in the national interest for us to have.

One hopes the “brawl” Democrats plan to unleash on Republicans—because they have no record to run on—will backfire. One hopes future campaigns will instead offer contrasting programs for a better U.S. One hopes.

Finally, it’s hopeful that such a good-hearted singer/songwriter as Bono, the unusual liberal who is friends with Bush 43, sees so clearly the bankruptcy of Democratic efforts to build class envy in America. Listen to Bono, who has said, "In America, you look at the mansion on the hill and think, 'One day that will be me.' In Ireland, people say, 'One day, I'm going to get that bastard.' "

I hope America retains the significant difference with Europe that Bono brings to our attention. Bono's Democratic friends are certainly trying their best to do otherwise.

Friday, April 13, 2012

New York and London English

Click to enlarge map.

In very rough terms, the American English world has over 400 million English speakers in the U.S., plus Canada, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Its cultural capital is New York.

The British English world is quite large. At minimum, it has 210 million English speakers in Great Britain, the old (once white) dominions (Australia, South Africa, Ireland, New Zealand), and in the former colonies (especially India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Jamaica). The British English speakers look to London.

We don’t count so much countries dominated by Pidgin English (led by Nigeria), which may not look to either outside capital.

Americans keep this in mind—the British-speaking world is large, roughly 65% the size of the U.S.

New York and London.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Obama’s Couch Potatoes

Source: Wall Street Journal

“Government's telling them ‘stop dreaming, stop striving, we'll take care of you.’ We're turning into a paternalistic entitlement society. That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally. We'll have a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check.”

--Chris Christie, New Jersey governor

We have decried how the national elite—Democrats—no longer agitate for jobs as in Franklin Roosevelt’s time, but agitate instead for “fairness” (“pie recutting”). And we have “viewed with alarm” the shocking discovery that the federal government sends money to 30% of the population.

Still, it comes as a surprise—at a time when women make up 47% of those employed; the workforce long ago made room for 1950s-style (Ozzie and) Harriet stay-at-home moms—to find that only 55% of Americans over 16 work full-time (above chart, adjusted for part-time work [LNS12032194]).

30% of the population on the federal government dole. 45% of the population not working, or working part-time. 50% of the population paying no federal income tax. Many wish they could work, but there are presumably a number of “couch potatoes” who love Obama’s big government—while it lasts.

As Christie suggests, the morally right thing to do is get off the couch and go to work—at a job a healthy private sector creates.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Not the Economy: Obamacare & Social Issues (II)

"Obamacare was supposed to be the capstone in the arch of a new progressive era. The Dems were going to show us all that government really does work. Smart government by smart people, using modern methods and the latest up to the minute research from carefully peer reviewed articles in well regarded social science journals can solve big social problems. . .

"But even if the Supreme Court doesn’t pull the trigger and kill the law in June, the darn thing won’t fly. The public hates it. . . A legislative body trying to write a health care law for a country like ours is like a neurosurgeon operating, drunk, with one hand holding a chainsaw and the other in a boxing glove. . . Obamacare . . . is a 20th century solution for a 21st century society."

--Walter Russell Mead, American Interest

In Part I, we talked about the central role Obamacare plays in liberal efforts to make politics not about equal opportunity, but rather about government-engineered equality. We quoted Stanford economist Victor Fuchs’ statement that a “most effective” way to build “allegiance to the state is through national health insurance”—as European social democracies have done.

Health care is one way to shift voters’ attention from job creation failure to social issues; ironic because morality is usually associated with conservatives, not liberals. We earlier mentioned Washington Post commentator Robert Samuelson’s realization that portraying issues in moral terms dodges the need, in a bad economy, to pay for solving a problem:
politicians prefer framing issues in moral terms. Global warming is about "saving the planet." Both sides of the abortion and gay marriage debates believe they hold the high ground.

Obama pitches his health care plan in moral terms: health care is a "right;” its opponents less moral. . .Supporters . . . back expanded health care as "the right thing"; it makes them feel good about themselves. They get "psychic benefits," [whereas e]conomic benefits [including expanded health care] cost money. Psychic benefits make them feel morally upright and superior at no monetary cost to politicians! The magic solution. [emphasis added]
Social issues—universal health care, abortion, the right to free morning-after pills/contraception, saving the planet—seem aimed at women, a top liberal target group. Unmarried women already vote Democratic. But David Paul Kuhn, in “RealClearPolitics,” reports on polls that remind us morality doesn't automatically turn women into progressives. According to Kuhn:
more women are social conservatives than men. 57% of white Republican women attend church at least once a week, compared to 42% of white Republican men. . . among whites, women attend services and Bible study at a significantly higher rate than men. . . Republican women are more likely than Republican men to believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Job growth cut almost in half.

Today’s employment numbers for March showed jobs grew by only 120,000. That was 90,000 below estimates, 107,000 below the previous month, and the lowest job growth total since November. And while the all-important unemployment rate fell to 8.2%, the decline stemmed entirely from people dropping out of the labor force—a negative development. Furthermore, employers cut back on workers’ hours and on temporary hiring, both signs the job growth rate may fall again next month.

Still, our chart of Obama’s unemployment goals (below) continues showing he is likely to be able to claim net job growth by the October report, out just before the election.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Holy Week Message: President compares his troubles to Christ’s crucifixion.

From the White House: “Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast”
like us, Jesus knew doubt. Like us, Jesus knew fear. In the garden of Gethsemane, with attackers closing in around him, Jesus told His disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He fell to his knees, pleading with His Father, saying, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” And yet, in the end, He confronted His fear with words of humble surrender, saying, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

We all have experiences that shake our faith. There are times where we have questions for God’s plan relative to us -- (laughter) -- but that’s precisely when we should remember Christ’s own doubts and eventually his own triumph.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

“I couda been president.”

“There was a time when Obama was the candidate of smart people who wanted real solutions to complex problems. That feels like 100 years ago, doesn’t it? The man who once reminded so many of Martin Luther King Jr. is now in full Lee Atwater mode: Attack, attack, attack — with brief respites to raise millions for more attacks.”

--Michael Graham, Boston Herald

(Asked about concerns that Romney may have tacked too far to the right) “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.”

-- Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney campaign press spokesman

Aren’t you just excited about the choice we have in November—major league mudslinger v. major league flip-flopper?

Here’s major league political guru Stu Rothenberg, speaking about Romney’s primary campaign performance:
Romney’s great problem in the GOP race, as pretty much everyone has already observed, is that conservatives don’t really believe that he is one of them. Despite all his conservative rhetoric — on taxes, government spending, traditional marriage, immigration, abortion and health care — conservatives aren’t buying it. They believe that Romney is simply pandering to them because he knows that is what he needs to do to lock up the Republican nomination.

despite his conservative rhetoric, moderates and country club conservatives continue to support his candidacy. . . Clearly, establishment Republicans also don’t believe Romney when he talks about his views and his agenda. . . The bottom line, of course, is that nobody — not his critics and not his allies — really believes Mitt Romney.

The day after Santorum's March 13 Alabama and Mississippi victories, I noted Romney’s 53% of the total delegates was down from 55% the day before, and if Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich combined could continue cutting into Romney’s share of the total delegates, Mitt might be stopped.

Well, after yesterday’s contests in Wisconsin, Maryland, and D.C., Romney’s share of total delegates is up to 58%. With less than half the delegates selected, Mitt already has 58% of the delegates he needs.

The “ABM” (Anybody but Mitt) strategy I talked about has failed, and ex-Republican Mark McKinnon, writing in the “Daily Beast,” thinks he knows why:
Santorum's problem right now is not Mitt Romney; it's Newt Gingrich. Despite all the fanfare about Santorum needing the contest to become a two-man race, just the opposite is true. The only way for Santorum to make a real play would be for Gingrich to remain viable and attract enough delegates so that between them they can keep Romney from reaching a majority. Alas, the wind has gone out of the gasbag we call Gingrich.
Newt is no help whatsoever to Santorum’s ABM effort. In the 7 contests since Alabama and Mississippi, Gingrich has won just 1 delegate total.

But I haven’t thought since two days after Alabama and Mississippi that Gingrich would be a real asset, or that ABM would help much. On March 15 I concluded, “It’s going to come down to Santorum’s ability or inability to excite the conservative Republican masses.” And in the end, Santorum did himself in, as the Hill’s A.B. Stoddard accurately reported:
Santorum often made the point that nominating Romney . . . would take the issue of healthcare off the table and benefit President Obama, [since] Romney had declared support for mandates to purchase healthcare . . . Santorum also repeated, early on, that [Romney had] supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program as well as cap-and-trade proposals, making [Santorum] the only true conservative in the race.

Santorum blew it. He veered off course, and out of this millennium, enthusiastically bemoaning birth-control pills, free prenatal testing and college education. He insulted Obama, calling him a snob, and President Kennedy. Santorum, a devout Catholic, said Kennedy’s insistence on a strong separation of church and state made him want to throw up.

On the night he lost the Michigan primary to Romney by 3 points, the exit polls told the story. He could have easily made up the votes to win from some of the women Romney won, the Catholics Romney won, the older voters Romney won, the voters earning more than $100,000 whom Romney won, and those voters with college degrees Romney won.

[Once again] he strayed, and lost Ohio by 1 percentage point. Then he strayed again, decrying the dangers of porn, claiming the Obama administration “seems to favor pornographers over children and families” because it has “refused to enforce obscenity laws.” So . . . he lost Illinois by more than 11 points.
Now he’s added Wisconsin to his string of Midwest industrial state defeats. Couda Wouda Shouda.

Just before the Wisconsin vote, Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times was on the receiving end of a testy Santorum response that seemed to encapsulate a lost campaign. According to Zeleny, "I said, ‘Do you think that Mitt Romney is really the worst Republican in the country to run against Obama?’ - which is what he said. And he said, ‘I didn't say that. You guys are distorting what I'm saying.’” Then, Zeleny said, Santorum asked him to “quit distorting my words. It’s bulls-. You don’t care about the truth at all do you? You really don’t. Asking that question tells me you don’t care at all about the truth.”

OK, so it’s Mitt. Rah.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Not the Economy: Obamacare and Social Issues (I)

“Obama's solicitor general . . .is part of a political culture that has never thought seriously about the Constitution, has never thought that our masters in Washington need to beg the people for any permission beyond their vote every two to six years. . . The Washington conventional wisdom has long been rooted in constitutional contempt.”

-- W. James Antle, III, American Spectator

Let me keep it simple. The people want jobs. Business people create jobs. If the election is a battle between the party of business, which creates jobs, and the party of government, which has proven unable to create jobs, then the business party should win.

So Democrats, the government party unable to grow the pie, wish to recut the pie, redistributing wealth. Government can recut the pie, if that’s what voters want. President Obama, with his (inaccurate) 99% v. 1% rhetoric, is focused on redistribution.

Even without proof that government, in the absence of job creation, can provide the country with more pie, redistribution speaks to the Democrats’ natural constituencies—liberals, government workers, unmarried women, minorities, and youth—a potential 60% of voters that embraces government as its friend.

Democrats begin with a majority base, and a belief they are America’s future. Government helps people, people support government, freedom of choice. It’s how democracy works in Europe, under democratic socialism.

I have been struck by the insight liberal Stanford economist Victor Fuchs’ expressed in his 1976 article "From Bismarck to Woodcock: The 'Irrational' Pursuit of National Health Insurance." Fuchs understood that health care leads the way to permanent control of our country:
one of the most effective ways of increasing allegiance to the state is through national health insurance. We live at a time when many of the traditional symbols and institutions that held a nation together have been weakened and fallen into disrepute. A more sophisticated public requires more sophisticated symbols, and national health insurance may fit that role particularly well.
We are less than 90 days from a Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. At this stage, Obama’s signal achievement is in trouble (see quote above), because of its apparently unconstitutional mandate to buy health insurance. As health care reaches the crucial point along its path toward securing the liberal agenda, it seems Democrats may have avoidably over-reached.

It’s an error Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal alluded to when he said:
Democracies always begin in liberty, but they don't always keep it. [In] The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bernard Bailyn [wrote,] "At the Philadelphia convention, with exquisite care and with delicate nuances, they devised a complex constitution that would generate the requisite power but would so distribute its flow and uses that no one body of men and no one institutional center would ever gain a monopoly of force or influence that would dominate the nation." We shall see.
We shall see.