Sunday, September 30, 2012

Redistribution, No; Bushonomics, Not!

“I think the trick is figuring out, how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”

--Barack Obama (1998)

Here’s the basic difference between the two parties. Republicans believe in individual freedom to make money, in capitalism; that individual pursuit of wealth generates prosperity for the larger community. Democrats justify government’s central economic role on the need to redistribute wealth from the few undeserving to the many deserving. In short, Republicans want to grow the economic pie, while Democrats want to recut the pie.

Thomas Sowell, at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, is upset the president and others would so late in history attempt to sell the virtues of redistribution:
the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty. The communist nations were a classic example. . . You can only confiscate the wealth that exists at a given moment. You cannot confiscate future wealth -- and that future wealth is less likely to be produced when people see that it is going to be confiscated.
[The Bible says] giving a man a fish feeds him only for a day, while teaching him to fish feeds him for a lifetime. Redistributionists give him a fish and leave him dependent on the government for more fish in the future. . . Knowledge . . . can be distributed to people without reducing the amount held by others. That would . . . serve . . . the poor, but it would not serve the. . . politicians who want to exercise power, and to get the votes of people who are dependent on them.

“They want us to go back to the same old policies that got us into this mess in the first place.”

--Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and others at the Democratic National Convention

What caused the 2008 financial meltdown that led to the Great Recession? Answer: not proprietary trading, and not the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which lowered marginal tax rates and those on capital gains, triggering years of job growth. Not “Bushonomics.”

According to Caroline Baum at, our financial meltdown stemmed from bad government-backed housing loans; subprime and substandard mortgages that were bundled, packaged into securities, sliced, diced, squared, and sold to investors as AAA-rated securities. Baum says it began with housing’s taxed-advantaged status:
Mortgage interest and real-estate taxes are deductible. The first $250,000 of capital gains ($500,000 for a married couple) from the sale of a home is exempt from taxation . . . The tax laws on capital gains were relaxed in 1997, when Clinton was in the White House. [emphasis added]
Why is housing tax-advantaged? Because the folks who write the laws . . .decided it should be. The government [encouraged] lending to minorities and low-income households. [emphasis added] It established affordable-housing goals for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And it closed its eyes to financial chicanery at [both institutions,] now wards of the state.
[O]ther actors in this saga [include] lenders, who had no incentive to perform due diligence since they sold the loans as soon as the ink was dry; compliant rating companies that failed to understand that over-collateralized junk is still junk; Wall Street investment banks, which were only too happy to satisfy investor demand by feeding them high-yielding, AAA-rated securities; the Federal Reserve, which kept interest rates too low for too long; regulators, who were asleep at the wheel; and . . . homebuyers, who heard there was a free lunch and wanted a bite.
It’s untrue to say Republicans want a return to any of these policies. In fact, Bush and Republicans tried and failed to rein in Fannie’s and Freddie’s dangerous lending practices in 2001 and 2005, but were foiled by Democrats and some Republicans whose pockets corrupt Fannie and Freddie and their corrupt mortgage lending buddies had already lined.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Public No Longer Trusts Media

“There is not really any free press anymore, but instead a Ministry of Truth, in which PBS, NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Newsweek, TIME, AP, McClatchy, and Reuters are de facto extensions of the Obama campaign.”

--Victor Davis Hanson, “PJ Media” 


This is a remarkable chart. It shows how rapidly confidence in media accuracy is deteriorating. And according to the Gallup report where the chart appeared, “independents are sharply more negative compared with 2008,” meaning, Gallup says, those most up in the air about who to vote for are “quite dissatisfied” about lack of access to fair coverage.

Pew Research has compiled similar data on the public's declining belief in the media, with more specific information on how people view different news sources. Note that FOX News and the New York Times are the least believed (see chart below); many (not me) would be shocked to find both (not one or the other) at the bottom.

Seems to me that FOX News has had a strong influence on the legacy media, including the New York Times. Because FOX presents the conservative side with such vigor, mainstream liberal outlets ever more openly push the progressive view, showing less and less concern about bias. As a consequence, the public is now wary of all news sources, with a majority no longer believing the New York Times.

Don’t get me wrong. I see FOX as a net positive, and relatively balanced in its news coverage (outside of Sean Hannity and other openly conservative shows). But to the dominant legacy media, FOX is alien, very wrong, and liberals must fight fire with fire.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The True Divide: Washington v. Rest of Us

The Washington region, as the chart shows (click to enlarge), since the Great Recession is now more sharply separated than ever from rest of the U.S. Seven of the 10 counties with the highest household incomes in the nation surround Washington D.C.

America’s three wealthiest counties--Loudoun, Fairfax, and Arlington--are all Virginia suburbs of D.C. Other Washington area counties in the top 10 are Howard, Prince William, Fauquier and Montgomery (see map--click to enlarge).

And among states, Maryland--not Connecticut, not New Jersey, certainly not Massachusetts nor California--has the nation’s highest household income level. The above chart and related information are from a Washington Post local news article by Carol Morello and Ted Mellnik. The authors also point out that the Washington region
is rife with the kind of residents that have thrived even in tough times. The area has the nation’s highest level of adults with college degrees. It also is high in shares of households that have two incomes and married couples who postpone having children until they establish themselves professionally.
“A big sliver of American society that generally does well tends to cluster in Washington,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. “When people make the argument that $250,000 is middle income, that’s way higher than most of the country regards as middle income. But here in Washington, your next-door neighbor has that kind of income.”
“It’s to the Capitol’s advantage to have us divided among ourselves.”

--Attributed to Gale Hawthorne, character in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games

Hawthorne's words come from an earlier post about how our ruling class--concentrated in Washington--divides the rest of nation to retain the spoils for itself. I am surprised and pleased that Ross Douthat, the conservative New York Times columnist, looked at the same chart I reproduce above, and drew remarkably similar conclusions, even down to the Hunger Games lesson:
like the ruthless Capital in “The Hunger Games,” the wealth of Washington is ultimately extracted from taxpayers more than it is earned. And over the last five years especially, D.C.’s gains have coincided with the country’s losses. There aren’t tributes from Michigan and New Mexico fighting to the death in Dupont Circle just yet. But it doesn’t seem like a sign of national health that America’s political capital is suddenly richer than our capitals of manufacturing and technology and finance, or that our leaders are more insulated than ever from the trends buffeting the people they’re supposed to serve.
Douthat understands how wrong this picture is, and how it must change:
For Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, what’s happened in Washington these last 10 years should be a natural part of the case against Obamanomics. Our gilded District is a case study in how federal spending often finds its way to the well connected rather than the people it’s supposed to help, how every new program spawns an array of influence peddlers, and how easily corporations and government become corrupt allies rather than opponents.
The state of life inside the Beltway also points to the broader story of our spending problem, which [is less about spending] on the poor [and more about] subsidies for highly inefficient economic sectors, from health care to higher education, and on entitlements for people who aren’t supposed to need a safety net — affluent retirees, well-heeled homeowners, agribusiness owners, and so on.
this president’s policies have made [our] problems worse, sluicing more borrowed dollars into programs that need structural reform, and privileging favored industries and constituencies over the common good. . . our government [is] running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop. When you look around the richest precincts of today’s Washington, you don’t see a city running on paternalism or dependency. You see a city running on exploitation.
For more of this blog’s take on Washington v. the nation, please see:  

David Brooks: conservative, Democrat, why not?

“Over the past half–century, a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment. People are more likely to rise on the basis of grades, test scores, effort and performance. . . 

“I want to keep [this] social order, but I want [it to] believe in restraint, reticence and service.”

--David Brooks, New York Times

David Brooks is an elitist who believes in noblesse oblige, in “restraint, reticence and service.” Brooks’ meritocracy knows it is important to get education right. If education isn’t providing equal opportunity to all, if the privileged can game a system that disadvantages those who have less, then our rulers have lost their noblesse, their justification to rule based upon educational achievement.

Brooks sounds like a Republican when he writes:
In 1960, Americans spent roughly $2,800 per student, in today’s dollars. Now we spend roughly $11,000 per student. This spending binge has not produced comparable gains in student outcomes. Education productivity is down. [Business] is great at generating output without generating employment, [government] is great at generating employment without generating output. Republicans [say to reform government] so it looks more like [business]. Introduce vouchers and other consumer driven market mechanisms to . . . education.
Brooks, however, has found a way to support education reform and the Democratic Party: just endorse reform as practiced by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff:
Democrats reject [the GOP] approach[, arguing government can] control costs using its own internal means. Strong mayors, governors and presidents can make these systems work. Emanuel’s willingness to hang tough and accept a [teachers] strike [means] some Democrats are hardy enough to take on interests aligned with their own party. . . Chicago will move toward . . . reform. . . a national credibility booster for Emanuel’s party [and] a sign that Democrats may be able to successfully reform ailing public institutions, so that the nation as a whole can prosper.
Most conservatives, to put it mildly, have little faith in Democrats’ ability to “take on interests aligned with their own party,” i.e., the teachers’ unions. But Brooks believes in Emanuel and fellow meritocratic Democrats.

Brooks' “restraint, reticence and service” could mean form over substance.

Conservatives are appalled by what seems to be Obama’s and the legacy media’s willingness to lie.  They see Democrats lying about what actually caused the Great Recession, about the unprecedented lack of economic recovery, about the private sector’s prime role in job creation, about the deficit-busting threat of Obamacare, about the sheer phoniness of reducing the deficit by raising taxes on those earning over $250,000, about the vacuousness of Obama-centered foreign policy, about Obama’s abuse of executive power to change energy policy, welfare policy, immigration policy, birth control and abortion policy, and to advertise national security successes.

I think the Democrats' loose connection to the truth stems from one fundamental fact. Our national elite must fake it; they hide feelings of innate superiority under a cloak of acting on behalf of the less fortunate. This “burden of democracy"--minority rule over a majority--keeps them insecure, and seems to require deceit, fraud, lies.

Brooks sails along the elite’s sea of deception, concentrating on how those who fail to act with propriety threaten the elite’s grip on the rudder. This form of noblesse oblige enables the substance of unimpeded rule.

Brooks can sound like a Republican, as when he writes, “entitlement transfers to individuals have grown by more than 700% over the last 50 years. . . You could say that the entitlement state is growing at an unsustainable rate and will bankrupt the country.”

But spending is not what upsets Brooks. Instead, he is astounded that at a fund-raiser earlier this year, Mitt Romney “who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers.”

Bad form, Mitt. You should show “restraint" and  "reticence."  You don’t call moochers moochers.  And Brooks is right--elitist Romney did use bad form.

But Brooks continues:
Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62% of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now . . . only 40% of Republicans believe that.
The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted [to] a . . . hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t . . . provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.
The truth is that Mitt Romney, for all his faults, lives a life of helping those “who can’t help themselves” and providing “a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.” Brooks knows this. Brooks knows better.

David Brooks is committed to the Democratic Party and its rule by a meritocratic minority, will work to make their meritocracy one of “restraint, reticence and service,” and will pursuing that goal manage his sail along the Democrats' sea of deception.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Optimism, Business, not Dependency, not Government

“technological developments are laying the foundation for the greatest and most transformative global boom anybody’s ever seen.”

 --Walter Russell Mead, American Interest  

"If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." 

--Henry Ford

Are you optimistic? Then you may be destined for success in the market economy. Small business persons have to be optimists. Or would you out of fear rather prolong your childhood, and have the nanny state care for you cradle to grave? Then, my son, you will be a Democrat.

Within the national elite that through government runs the nation, many are optimists. But they are a relatively small group atop a meritocracy pyramid, perched above masses who don't share in the elite’s education-driven success and spoils. It’s Plato’s anti-democratic, philosopher king structure, and it’s as old as the Parthenon. Few share, most serve, those below are asked to trust the wise, to welcome the small rewards sent their way.

It's a world where a few brains uneasily rule over vast, less wise masses.

The Platonic order is built on fear. As Obama’s campaign is now saying, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

My preferred alternative is political and economic democracy, spreading individual decision-making as widely as possible, in the belief that tens of millions of optimists pursuing their dreams will generate job growth, produce a booming economy, and reignite the prosperity that marked most American history.

We need a market-based economic system.  We need freedom and individual responsibility.  We need set, well understood, simple rules insuring a level playing field, delivering fair competition and progress.

Government gets in the way of a successful market economy.  Here, from Washington Post house conservative George Will:
“People,” [Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank president Esther] George says, “will figure out a way to make a buck if they know what the rules are.” [H]iring. . . is a wager on the future. [But] government makes the future . . . opaque. Stanford’s John Taylor notes that “over the past 12 years, the number of provisions of the tax code expiring annually has increased tenfold,” the number of federal regulators has grown 25% in five years, and Obamacare and Dodd-Frank expand uncertainty by enlarging the government’s discretion.
Business optimism is up against fear-based government.

Unfortunately Mitt Romney, addressing a closed-door group of donors recently (time and place unidentified), spoke far too candidly for his own good about the electorate’s fear-based half--Obama’s coalition of government workers, youth, unmarried women, and minorities--the people inclined to side with government against business:
There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care of them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. That's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
Not so. Romney’s job, as an optimistic businessman, is to win over as many of the fear-driven dependents as possible, since they along with the rest of the nation benefit from the wealth a working, vibrant market economy produces. Optimism, Mr. Romney. Optimism.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Obama’s 9.11?

“Islamic supremacists see themselves in a civilizational war with us. When we submit on a major point, we grow weaker and they grow stronger.”

--Roger Kimbell, “PJ Media” 

It is too early to say conclusively what happened in Cairo and Benghazi on September 11, 2012. But the Obama administration says otherwise, maintaining the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi--an attack that murdered four American officials, including the U.S. Ambassador--were a spontaneous reaction to a U.S.-made anti-Islam video.

For the argument that both attacks were premeditated and coordinated, engineered by al-Qaeda, and deliberately timed to honor the 9.11 destruction of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, we turn to American-born and -educated Israeli Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post deputy managing editor. Glick writes:

  • The Islamic ideology of jihad is the predominant ideology in the Muslim world today. The rallying cry of al-Qaeda--the shehada--is the cry of Muslim faith. Jihadist Islam is the predominant form of Islam worshiped in mosques throughout the world. And the ideology of jihad is an ideology of war against the non-Islamic world led by the US. 

  • the much mentioned film about Muhammad . . . was apparently released about a year ago. It received little notice until last month when a Salafi television station in Egypt broadcast it. In light of the response, the purpose of the broadcast was self-evident. The broadcasters screened the film to incite anti-American violence. Had they not been interested in attacking the US, they would not have screened the film. [The Salafis] sought a pretext for attacking America. If the film had never been created, they would have found another--equally ridiculous--pretext. 

  • And here we come to the nature of the attacks against America that occurred on the 11th anniversary of the September 11 jihadist attacks. A cursory consideration of the events that took place--and are still taking place--makes clear that these were not acts of spontaneous rage about an amateur Internet movie. They were premeditated. 

  • In Egypt, the mob attack on the embassy followed the screening of the anti-Islam flick on jihadist television. [The mob] was led by Muhammad al-Zawahiri - the brother of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. The US's first official response to the assault on its embassy in Cairo came in the form of a Twitter feed from the embassy apologizing to Muslims for the film. 

  • The day before the attacks, al-Qaeda released a video of Ayman al-Zawahiri in which he called for his co-religionists to attack the US in retribution for the killing--in June--of his second in command Abu Al Yahya al-Libi by a US drone in Pakistan. Zawahiri specifically asked for the strongest act of retribution to be carried out in Libya. 

  • As for the attack in Libya, it apparently came as no surprise to some US officials on the ground. In an online posting the night before he was killed, US Foreign Service information management officer Sean Smith warned of the impending strike. Smith wrote, "Assuming we don't die tonight. We saw one of our 'police' that guard the compound taking pictures." 

  • The coordinated, premeditated nature of the attack was self-evident. The assailants were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. They knew the location of the secret safe house to which the US consular officials fled. They laid ambush to a Marine force sent to rescue the 37 Americans hiding at the safe house. 

We should await more facts before rendering final judgment. But Obama doesn’t wait, because he cannot afford to be labeled the second consecutive president caught napping on 9.11.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Democrats Win Convention War

“Did Obama’s convention go better than Romney’s? Probably. Will it make a difference? No.”

--John Podhoretz, New York Post 

Podhoretz, a conservative, got the first two sentences right. At this point, almost nobody argues the Republican convention turned out better than the Democrats’ a week later. Obama’s speech and the slick movie introducing him wildly outperformed Clint Eastwood and his empty chair. So the polls have moved Obama from a dead heat to a real lead.

As for Podhoretz’s last two sentences--of course Obama’s lead makes a difference. With only 56 days until the election, any kind of lead makes a difference. Romney (not Obama) . . . has. . . to . . . play. . . catch-up.

Republicans love the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Unbelievable. What are they thinking? As the liberal Froma Harrop writes:
Let's see. Four years ago ... four years ago. That was September 2008. Oh yes, I remember it well. It was a time of white-knuckled panic that a new Great Depression was upon us. . . I'd say [“better off”]. And so would most of us, if we really thought back to September 2008.
Or October 2008. Or November 2008. Unbelievable. What are Republicans thinking? Republicans have to benchmark from January 20, 2009 when Obama entered the White House (as have we), or from June 2009, when the recession actually ended, but not from four years ago!!

Obama wins (we repeatedly say) if he brings most of his natural base home. And when it comes to high unemployment and the Democratic base, Walter Russell Mead of the American Interest may be correct to write:
the jobs numbers pose less of a threat to Democratic president than they would to a Republican. Unemployment is heavily concentrated among people who are not very likely to vote for a Republican no matter what the economy is doing: unemployment is heavily concentrated among African Americans, Hispanics and the young. Those groups aren’t likely to vote Republican and are less likely than the general population to blame their problems on a Democratic president.
Republicans seem to face an uphill climb. I believe it’s in that context that former Reagan-Bush 41 speechwriter Peggy Noonan has offered her latest calming words, reassuring conservatives with these points:

1. Three debates lie ahead, and actually, Obama’s not a great debater (he only just held his own against McCain).

2. Obama’s disadvantage is that he is surrounded by “yes” men in awe of the presidency, so he will be thrown by harsh, pointed Romney attacks (unless Obama’s preppers are reading Noonan and therefore getting 44 ready for such attacks).

3. “Romney [is] likable enough.  He needs people to see certainty, guts, ability and heft.  Americans are tired of trying to like these guys, they want to respect them.” 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Where ARE the jobs?

The stock market’s at historic highs. Boosted by news of European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s large bond-buying plan to protect the euro, which sent Thursday’s market sharply higher, the S&P 500 is now at 1,438, its highest level since January 2008, the Dow’s at 13,307, where it hasn’t been since December 2007, and the NASDAQ, at 3,136, is higher than it’s been in 12 years, or since November 2000.

The FOX Index (chart), which tracks the distance from 15,800, a “healthy” market minimum total from a Dow of 12,000, an S&P 500 of 1,300, and a NASDAQ of 2,500, has never been higher, and never before above +2,000. (The FOX Index has just passed its fifth birthday.)

Though it’s at new highs, the market hardly moved today because of yet another weak jobs report. Nonfarm payrolls increased only 96,000 last month. Also, the government revised downward the June and July numbers by 41,000.

Economists--who say jobs must grow at least 125,000 a month to cut the unemployment rate--had expected payrolls to rise at least 125,000, with some even pushing their forecasts higher Thursday.

While the unemployment rate did drop to 8.1% from 8.3% in July, that was also bad news, because the lower rate came from 368,000 people giving up their search for work. Temporary employment, a sign of future permanent hiring, declined for the first time since March, and average hourly earnings fell one cent, which could hurt future consumer spending. And worst of all, the labor force participation rate, or the percentage of Americans who either have a job or are looking for one, fell to 63.5% in August, its lowest level since September 1981.

We follow two key metrics on Obama’s job creation since he took office in January 2009--the unemployment rate and the actual number of jobs. As the chart below shows, with two months remaining until the final pre-election jobs report, he seems unlikely to show net job gains on both measurements, and may fail to exceed either.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Some facts, as we pass the Labor Day campaign marker.

“The president . . . took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.”

--Mitt Romney

The parties both profess to help the middle class, but differ over whether to enlarge the pie or recut it. They differ over whether to grow the government at the expense of the private sector, or cut government to help growth. And the voters. Are they hostile to business, or do they appreciate where jobs come from?

 What are the facts?

  •  Fate of the Middle Class 

It’s ironic Democrats talk so much about the “middle class.” And this chatter isn’t new. Mike Dorning, at, notes that
in 2008, Obama blamed [middle class] reversals largely on the policies of Bush and other Republicans. He cited census figures showing that median income for working-age households -- those headed by someone younger than 65 -- had dropped more than $2,000 after inflation during [Bush’s] first seven years.
Democrats emphasized middle class decline 4 years ago, as today they emphasize uplifting the middle class. So what are the facts? Well, as San Francisco Chronicle house conservative Debra Saunders points out:
During the three years since [Obama’s] economy began to expand in June 2009, median household income in America fell 4.8%. . . median household income had fallen from $54,916 in December 2007 to $53,508 in June 2009. . . Under the Obama recovery, that figure dropped to $50,964 by June 2012.
And, as a Wall Street Journal editorial added,
Obama consistently labels the American families’ financial decline during his time as part of a decades-long trend.  Yet the facts are that real income for middle income households from 1983 to 2005 didn’t decline at all; it rose by roughly 30%.
Middle class income down $2000 in Bush’s first 7 years, and down over $3500 in just 3 Obama years. Real income growing 30% from 1983 through 2005, but falling since Democrats captured Congress in 2006. These are facts.

  •  Pie cutting, not growth 

Government doesn’t create jobs. Business does. Economic growth comes from the free market. Government is a kleptocracy; it sucks at the tit of the private sector. You want to raise government revenue? Enlarge the pie instead. Don’t cut the share going to job creation.

Amazingly we still don’t grasp that which conservative Louis Woodhill writes in Forbes, “If famed football coach Vince Lombardi had been an economist, he would have said, ‘Economic growth isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing.’”

According to Woodhill:
America’s 2011 GDP was the result of an average real economic growth rate of 3.73% over the 221 years from 1790 to 2011.  If, during this period, our economy had grown at 1.47% real, which is what we have averaged for the first 3.5 years of Obama’s presidency, our 2011 GDP would have been about $116 billion, which is about the same as that of Bangladesh.
Woodhall concludes, “The only thing that can truly benefit the middle class is more private sector jobs at higher wages.”

  •  Pie for the big government beast 

How can we afford Obamacare, a gigantic, new entitlement program? John McCormack writes in the conservative Weekly Standard:
during the first decade when it’s in full effect (2014 to 2023), Obamacare will cost about $2 trillion. That’s a lot of money. A decade of Obamacare will cost five times more than [Bush’s] Medicare prescription-drug benefit or two-and-a-half times the financial cost of the Iraq war. . . And the $2 trillion estimate is likely much too low. Because of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal government can’t deny states all Medicaid funds if they refuse to expand Medicaid, “up to 17 million people will go on Obama-care instead of Medicaid,” says House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan. “We haven’t begun to quantify the cost-explosion that’s going to happen.”
How do we possibly pay for Obama’s spending, or “investment,” as he calls it? Currently, we borrow over 40 cents of every dollar we spend.

As Michael Tanner of the conservative Cato Institute tells us, Obama will raise taxes, even if it threatens economic growth:
In January 2013, the Bush tax cuts will expire, leading to the largest tax hike in U.S. history unless Congress can reach an agreement. If reelected, President Obama seems determined to use this potential "fiscal cliff" to push for higher taxes on the wealthy, businesses, and investors. The president's insistence, in particular, on raising capital-gains taxes will discourage business investment and expansion, while the hike in federal income taxes will fall especially hard on small businesses and Subchapter S corporations, which often file taxes as individuals.
At root, Obama’s inability to expand the economy relates to his love of big government and lack of  business experience (see Romney quote, above). The president in his own words:
The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we’ve created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government—oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in. And so, if Republicans want to be helpful, if they really want to move forward and put people back to work, what they should be thinking about is, how do we help state and local governments.
The response from Commentary’s Peter Wehner:
What the president is arguing, then, isn’t simply that the private sector is doing fine; he’s also making the case that the federal government right now is not spending enough, that it’s too frugal, that our trillion-dollar-a-year-deficit is evidence of parsimony, and that creating post-World War II records in federal spending as a percentage of GDP, the federal debt as a percentage of GDP, and the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP hasn’t quite satisfied his spending ambitions. By his own logic, President Obama believes the path to prosperity is for the federal government to spend more, and more, and more – and that the GOP, if it was a responsible political party, would help him do just that.
But it won’t work to spend our way to prosperity. We know. It hasn’t worked in Mediterranean Europe. And it hasn’t worked in the U.S., though it's been tried since 2009.

  •  Democrats will win anyway 

Facts are, as John Adams said, stubborn things. Yet Democrats ignore the facts presented here; the party depends on feeding the big government beast, not cutting it off. And they may have the votes to prevail--as we have repeatedly noted--if they successfully unite their big government coalition.

One who thinks Democrats will win is liberal Ronald Brownstein, writing in the National Journal:
[In polls,] Obama [is] running near the 52% he won among those upscale white women in 2008, and also remaining very close to his 80% showing among all minorities. If Obama can hold that level of support from those two groups, Romney could amass a national majority only by winning nearly two-thirds of all other whites—the men with college degrees, and the men and women without them. To put that challenge in perspective, Reagan, while winning his historic landslide, carried a combined 66.5% of those three groups. To defeat Obama, in other words, Romney may need to equal Reagan.
It’s possible that for Romney to prevail, people will have to see the downside of Obama’s hostility to business. As conservative Robert Tracinski says,
his is not just a negative campaign against Romney. It is a negative campaign against capitalism and against success. And it's not just that the Obama campaign overreaching with their negative attacks on Romney. They are also overreaching with their negative attacks on success.
Or listen to Clive Crook, in the liberal Atlantic. Crook pointedly asks, “is Obama quite sure voters prefer a future of high public spending and high taxes to one of low public spending and low taxes?”

Two months to go.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Obama's “new city” coalition: Uppies + Minorities

Urban development expert Joel Kotkin, a conservative Democrat by background, has watched the drift of his party with concern:
The gentrification of the Democratic Party has gone too far to be reversed in this election. After decades of fighting to win over white working- and middle-class families, Democrats under Obama have set them aside.
Kotkin believes that Democrats are no longer interested in “white, largely Catholic working-class voters, the self-employed, and people involved in blue-collar industries,” families whose goals center around “achieving home ownership, basic essentials, and the occasional luxury”--folks moving to the suburbs. After all, Kotkin writes, Obama owes his success to
the urban “creative class” made up mostly of highly-educated professionals, academics, gays, single people, and childless couples. It’s a group [University of Chicago’s Terry Nichols] Clark once called “the slimmer family” [that views] “the city as entertainment machine,” where citizens are preoccupied with quality-of-life issues, “treating their own urban location as if tourists, emphasizing aesthetic concerns.”
This “new city” focuses on recreation, arts, culture, and restaurants, emphasizing jobs done by social-media sector and traditional entertainment professionals, or else service providers— waiters, toenail painters, dog-walkers—jobs “that cater to the gentry of the urban core.” In this “new city,” Kotkin says, the family, “long the basic unit of society, becomes peripheral”:
With more than half of all American women now single and more than half of all births to women under 30 now occurring outside marriage—both historic developments—Obama has targeted “single women” as a core constituency second only to African Americans. Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg has dubbed them “the largest progressive voting bloc in the country.”
The “new city” dominant group are “Uppies" (my term)--urban professionals. They are no longer “Yuppies,” young urban professionals of the baby boomer-dominated 1980s.

Of course, the other main prop of Obama’s “new city”-based coalition are the generally poorer, urban-centered minorites, who account for 80% of urban area population growth. Ironically, Kotkin notes, they support Obama even though black unemployment (with blacks 12% of the population) accounts for 21% of the nation’s jobless, even though black net worth has fallen 53% since 2005 as against a white drop of 16%, and even though Latino net worth has fallen a staggering 66% of their pre-crash wealth.

Yuval Levin, in the conservative National Review, has his own take on Uppie separation from traditional blue collar values. Levin writes:
The Left’s disdain for civil society is . . . driven . . . by a deeply held concern that the mediating institutions in society — emphatically including the family, the church, and private enterprise — are instruments of prejudice, selfishness, backwardness, and resistance to change, and that in order to establish our national life on more rational grounds, the government needs to weaken and counteract them.
Live large in an American metropolis where most are in or near poverty, and feel morally righteous about it at the same time.