Monday, March 31, 2014

“Something’s Rotten in DC”--the Media

“were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

--Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson                            Attkisson                            Eilperin
Jefferson’s words are among the strongest ever endorsing a free press. What worried Jefferson, though, along with “no press” was “a compliant press” that simply pushed the government’s line. Recall that Jefferson also wrote:
The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers... [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.
Today we have a press, and it works with the government--the “standing army of newswriters” Jefferson feared.

We earlier wrote about Sheryl Attkisson’s resigning from CBS News because the network didn’t appreciate her investigative reporting’s touching the Obama administration along with Republicans. Attkisson recently opened up to a CBS colleague, saying:
Nobody was interested in. . . [i]nvestigative reporting[. It] gets a lot of backlash. They don’t quite know how to deal with it. Why not just put on stories that don’t draw [trouble]?
She drew a clear picture of how tightly the “standing army of newswriters” works with (liberal) government:
If I need something answered from the White House. . . I’ll call our White House Correspondent[, who] may ask [White House Press Secretary] Jay Carney or one of his folks about an issue and they will be told “ask that at the briefing and we’ll answer it.” They want to answer it in front of everybody. They do know it’s coming and they’ll call on you. . . I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s sometimes more coordination. . . I think people would be surprised at the level of cooperation reporters have in general with politicians.
About her planned book, Attkisson added:
I’ve been wanting to write about the unseen influences on the media by coordinated, paid factions, whether they’re from political, corporate or other special interests, the tactics they use to manipulate the images we see. . .It’s become a way of life and I don’t think the public is aware of how much nearly everything you see today may be influenced, in some fashion, by a paid interest that wants you to think something.
We’ve also shared news about Democrats’ obsession with billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch. Los Angeles Times house conservative Jonah Goldberg tells us:
The Democratic party raises vast sums off demonizing the Koch brothers. (Slate’s David Weigel reports that fundraising e-mails mentioning the Kochs raised roughly three times as much as those that didn’t mention them.) [And] many media outlets are all too willing to take their cues from Democratic talking points.
Goldberg mentions a recent Washington Post story “insinuating that the Kochs have a lot to gain from the Keystone pipeline.” Conservative “PowerLine” blogger John Hinderaker had earlier provided the details: Washington Post reporters Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin story was headlined, “The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.”

According to Hinderaker, the story came from a two-page report by the far-left International Forum on Globalization. In truth, the Koch brothers aren’t the biggest lease holders--their holdings are but 3% of Alberta’s total reserves--and in fact the Kochs stand to lose more from the competition the Keystone pipeline will pose to their U.S.-based refining interests than they would gain from their Alberta fields.

Hinderaker asks:
Why would the Washington Post embarrass itself by republishing a thoroughly discredited attempt to link the Koch brothers to the Keystone Pipeline? Because that is a Democratic Party talking point, and the Post is a Democratic Party newspaper. But the truth is a little worse than that. Who is Post reporter Juliet Eilperin? Among other things, she is married to Andrew Light, who writes on climate policy for the Center for American Progress. The Center for American Progress is an Obama administration front group headed by John Podesta, who is a “special advisor” to the Obama administration.
As we see, Elperin is one of the “standing army of newswriters” Jefferson warned us about, those who “serve the ministers.”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How Democrats Plan to Hold the Senate

Brown (R)            Shaheen (D)
Here is “Politico’s” (James Hohmann’s) tip-off on how Democrats will defend in 2014 their vulnerable Senate seats (in this case, New Hampshire):
Jeanne Shaheen starts with a double-digit lead in recent polls and a $3.4 million war chest. . . she’s seeking to portray herself as independent from Obama; playing up her historic achievements as a woman; and, certainly not least, preparing to rip [Republican Scott] Brown to shreds. [emphasis added]
It’s the 2012 Democratic playbook “to a T”: suck up the available money, rally the base (in this case, unmarried women), and best of all, “rip (the opponent) to shreds.” But there’s a new twist for 2014--separate the Democrat from Obama and Obamacare.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Democrat Harry Reid: Nevada’s Dirty Money + DC’s Swamp

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Harry Reid is going after the billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, spending $3 million of PAC money on anti-Koch TV ads and on the Senate floor, attacking the two as “un-American.”

Matthew Continetti, writing in the conservative Washington Free Beacon, finds this all ironic, especially when Reid says the Koch brothers “rig the system to benefit themselves.” Reid “should know,” Continetti writes, then proceeds to document how thoroughly Reid has turned the system to Reid’s advantage:
  • the “Clark County Conservation of Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002” delivered a “cavalcade of benefits” to real estate developers, corporations, and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to Reid’s sons’ and son-in-law’s firms. 
  • Firms tied to the Reid family, the Los Angeles Times reported, earned more than $2 million from 1998 to 2002 “from special interests that were represented by the kids and helped by the senator in Washington.” How much more have they earned in the 11 years since--9 of which Reid has been Senate Democratic leader? 
  • After a 2011 trip to China, Reid began touting the virtues of ENN Energy Group, a Chinese firm that sought to build a $5 billion solar farm in Nevada. Reid’s son Rory represented ENN, and commissioners friendly with Reid’s family agreed to sell property to ENN for one-sixth of the land’s appraised value. 
  • Reid pressured Homeland Security officials to approve the visas of Chinese casino investors represented by Rory Reid. 
  • Reid has “sponsored at least $47 million in earmarks that directly benefited organizations that one of his sons, Key Reid, either lobbies for or is affiliated with.” 
  • Reid sponsored a $22 million earmark to buy a bridge over the Colorado River connecting Laughlin, Nev. gambling resorts to Bullhead City, Ariz., where Reid owns 160 acres. 
  • Reid benefitted from Nevada lobbyist Harvey Whittemore using associates as “straw donors” to run more than $130,000 in dirty money to Reid’s campaign. (Whittemore unfortunately was sentenced to two years in prison for violating campaign finance laws.) 
Ryan Elisabeth Reid
  • Reid used $31,000 in campaign funds to buy “gifts for my staff and supporters” provided by granddaughter Ryan Elisabeth Reid, Rory Reid’s daughter, a “performing arts professional” living in Brooklyn. 
  • Ryan Reid is the artistic director of the Sprat Theatre Company, which benefits from Caesar's Palace--a Reid supporter--funding a proposal to bring Ryan Reid’s play to Vegas, “because she needs the help.” 
 Continetti concludes:
“I must study politics and war,” John Adams said, “that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” In Harry Reid’s America a man must win political office so that his sons may have the liberty to practice law and register as lobbyists, engage in rent-seeking and government relations and crisis management and communications, in order to give their children a right to live in Brooklyn, to enroll in the New School, to visit the Vermont Studio Center, to have cronies finance their off-off-off-Broadway shows, to enjoy their allowance from grandpa.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

News Viewership: Fox v. the Rest

Pew Research has taken a fascinating look at the news business. It shows what readers here already know--Fox is way ahead of the cable news competition. Look at the following graph:

But how do the cable news audiences compare to viewers of the broadcast channels’ evening news programs?

Prime time is three hours--it’s six 1/2 hour slots. Since Fox News averages 1.75 million viewers over six 1/2 hour slots, that’s a count of 10.5 million viewers for the 3 hours, even if many or most are the same person (they aren’t). The total of CNN and MSNBC audiences over the same period is (0.62 x 6 =) 3.7 million for MSNBC, and (0.54 x 6 =) 3.2 million for CNN, equaling 6.9 million for the two networks combined.

Here’s a graph of the network evening news audience, showing the networks are maintaining their ratings:

Pew has supplied the audience average for each of the three network shows separately, enabling us to compare the networks, which only capture viewers for 1/2 hour leading into prime time, to cable news channels with their total (3 hour) prime time audience:

Pew also has a graph showing how cable news revenue has increased over time:

Using Pew’s figures for the evening broadcast news show earnings, multiplied by 4/3 to achieve an annual total, we can compare the current revenue picture for the three cable news networks with the advertising revenue earned from the three network news shows. The cable news channels, with more time to sell, naturally earn much more than network news.

Fox earnings at $1.9 billion, in fact, almost match the $2.1 billion total earned by CNN, MSNBC, and the three evening network news shows combined.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Sweet Smell of DC (Loot)

From a Washington Post article last November by Greg Jaffe and Jim Tankersley, we learned that the Washington DC region “added 21,000 households in the nation’s top 1%,” while “no other metro area came close.” The authors wrote about the importance recycled taxpayer money plays in generating DC wealth (see charts):
[military] service contracts nearly tripled in value. At the peak in 2010, companies based in Rep. James P. Moran’s congressional district in Northern Virginia reaped $43 billion in federal contracts — roughly as much as the state of Texas. At the same time, big companies realized that a few million spent shaping legislation could produce windfall profits. They nearly doubled the cash they poured into the capital.
You sense Jaffe’s and Tankersley’s regional pride as they tell us:
The signs of the new Washington are everywhere — from the Tiffany & Co. store that Fairfax County development officials boast is the most profitable in the country to the new Tesla dealership in Tysons Corner. Tens of thousands of the nation’s best-educated workers have flocked here, some for contracting jobs, some simply to be part of the newly energized business climate. The money and brainpower have supercharged the region.
Life imitates art. Washington is becoming the “Capitol” one sees in “The Hunger Games”:
Washington has been the beneficiary of a ­decade-long, taxpayer-funded stimulus package. “We could have been a dodo bird,” said Mark Muro, policy director at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “Instead we are the center of the universe.”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Illinois’ Rauner Stops Unions from Dictating GOP Winner

Says the conservative National Review’s Eliana Johnson, private-equity millionaire Bruce Rauner is “poised to give Illinois governor Pat Quinn a run for his money” and become the state’s first Republican governor in 12 years. A minor surprise--Rauner, like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, isn’t afraid to battle the state’s public unions:
Rauner’s targets didn’t take it lying down: The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the Democratic Governors Association spent north of $3 million attacking him and trying to divert votes to one of Rauner’s primary opponents, state senator Kirk Dillard.
That’s far more than Democrats spent — $1.2 million — trying to steer Republican votes to Todd Akin in the 2012 Senate primary in Missouri, where Akin was viewed as the weakest candidate to take on vulnerable Democrat Claire McCaskill. [No kidding. Akin lost after calling some rapes “legitimate”.]
Of course, the Missouri race isn’t the only time Democrats fixed an election by supporting a weaker Republican or third party candidate. Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid helped nominate Sharron Angle over a stronger opponent in the 2010 Nevada Republican primary. Obama campaign chief (and Montana native) Jim Messina in 2012 arranged funding for a no-chance Libertarian in red state Montana who took enough votes from the Republican candidate to push Democrat John Tester back into the Senate. And Bill-Hill Clinton bagman Terry McAuliffe similarly arranged for money to go to a Virginia no-chance Libertarian who took votes from McAuliffe’s Republican gubernatorial opponent.

Finally, in Illinois in 2014, the Democrats’ dirty tricks didn’t work. The Rauner forces--they haven’t won yet!--remain defiant. Said one,
We have to be bold, tough, and fundamentally change government. Lobbyists run the government for special interests, and career politicians let it happen — powerful union bosses and trial lawyers on the Democratic party . . . and a large part of the Republican party too.

Washington’s Clueless Elite on Road to Ruin

Louis XV
Conservative political wonk Michael Barone recently compared the debacle Obamacare poses for Democrats to the French Army’s situation in 1940--stunned, and out of options following the Nazis’ surprise panzer blitz through the Ardennes.

But to me, the France analogy Washington Democrats face today is not to war. It is to an earlier French era marked by decadence in the capital, poverty elsewhere. It is to the 18th century collapse of France’s Ancien Régime, which led to revolution.

Here is the city (Washington = Paris), described by Georgetown resident George Will in his hometown newspaper:
D.C. is awesomely wealthy, full of fine clothes, sumptuous food, gleaming restaurants, and . . .attractive people. . . The recession missed Washington, a town that produces nothing except problems for the rest of America yet is better off than anywhere else in America.
We spend $1 trillion annually on federal welfare programs, decades after Daniel Patrick Moynihan said that if one-third of the money for poverty programs was given directly to the poor, there would be no poor. But there also would be no unionized poverty bureaucrats prospering and paying dues that fund the campaigns of Democratic politicians theatrically heartsick about inequality.
Corruption 2014 style, versus corrupt France in 1789.

Will himself places liberal Washingtonians in British country estates more than in French chateaus, a minor difference considering how debt and taxes overwhelmed both:
“Downton Abbey” . . . is a languid appreciation of a class structure supposedly tempered by the paternalism of the privileged. And if progressivism prevails, the United States will be Downton Abbey: Upstairs, the administrators of the regulatory state will, with a feudal sense of noblesse oblige, assume responsibility for the lower orders downstairs, gently protecting them. [P]eople smitten by “Downton Abbey” hope to live upstairs during a future reign of gentry progressivism.
Of course, there is a television show that purports to capture the actual lifestyle of today’s Washington, and the conservative City Journal’s Andrew Klavan notes the show’s popularity with the left is a surprise, given its damning message:
"House of Cards" relentlessly and continuously undermines the left-wing narrative, whether it intends to or not. In its heightened way, it shows the government as exactly what it is: a power center, inspiring all the soulless perfidy and amoral ambition that any power center is prone to inspire.
This is devastating to left-wing philosophy, because the central flaw of leftism is not its ceaseless cynicism about business, individualism, religion, or the common man—it’s that its cynicism evaporates into unicorn-and-rainbow stupidity when it comes to government. Insurance companies are too greedy to handle health care, but not the government. Individuals are too reckless to own guns, but not the government. Religion is too corrupt to preach morals, but not the government. The people are too foolish to know their own good, but not our old friend Uncle Government.
The liberal elite running Washington, you see, remain clueless about the bad job they are doing, much as were the 18th century French nobility. Again, George Will:
it is so sublime to be a liberal nowadays. Viewed through the proper prism, most liberal policies succeed because they can hardly fail. Each achieves one or both of two objectives — making liberals feel good about themselves and being good to liberal candidates. [In this respect,] Obama’s proposed $1 billion “climate resilience fund”. . . will succeed. It will enhance liberals’ self-esteem — planet-saving heroism is not chopped liver — and will energize the climate-alarmist portion of the Democratic base for November’s elections.
Don’t buy this portrait of a rich, indifferent upper class, mismanaging the country down the path to revolution? Then at least listen to Sean Blanda of 99U (a website for young creatives), who tells us "How Barack Obama Gets Things Done:"
The president wakes up at seven o'clock. He works out 45 minutes a day every day, not including his regular basketball games. He watches a lot of "SportsCenter." Dinner each night with his family. To limit "decision fatigue," he likes to set policy via memos where he can check the box on "agree," "disagree," or "let's discuss."
Or, as France’s Louis XV supposedly said, “Après moi le déluge.”

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Seasons change; media continues offing conservatives.

"Barack Obama, who was the embodiment of liberal hopes and dreams, is turning out to be a one-man political wrecking ball when it comes to his party–and to liberalism more broadly."

--Peter Wehner, Commentary

Liberalism is down in America today because it isn’t working--slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, a stimulus law that went “pffft,” and that “wrecking ball” itself--Obamacare. Liberal troubles mirror those of Spring 2006, when after the Hurricane Katrina debacle, with an Iraqi civil war exploding during Bush 43’s failing presidency, and fueled by a relentlessly anti-war media, pundits predicted the Republican loss of Congress come Fall.

In 2006, liberals, including Alan Wolfe in the Washington Monthly, knew Republicans were unfit to rule. In an article titled, “Why Conservatives Can’t Govern,” Wolfe wrote:
Unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve it, conservatives attempt to split the difference, expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding. The end result is not just bigger government, but more incompetent government. . . . As a way of governing, conservatism is another name for disaster.
Eight years later, conservative Jim Geraghty in a National Review article titled, “Why Liberals Can’t Govern,” has turned the tables, writing:
Liberals’ belief in the inherent goodness of a far-reaching federal government drives them to avert their eyes from its wildest abuses, even when they are occurring right in front of them. Waste and mismanagement are ignored, dismissed, downplayed, and excused, because confronting them too directly would undermine the central tenet of their worldview: that the federal government is an irreplaceable tool for making the world a better place.
Members of the Obama administration judge the federal bureaucracy the way they want the electorate to judge them: by their good intentions, not their actual results.
Still, the very media that tipped the scales against Bush in 2006 remain committed to helping liberals in 2014--a big difference between the challenges facing Obama in 2014 and those Bush confronted eight years ago. In the face of bad progressive government, today’s media advance the liberal cause the same way they did in 2006.

Indeed in every election since they contributed to Democrat Jimmy Carter’s defeat in 1980, the media go after Republicans; successively Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, George W. Bush, Dick Chaney, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, the “Tea Party,” Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie. As Kevin D. Williamson in the conservative National Review points out, its a wall-to-wall media effort, from comedians to wonks:
there is no substantive difference between what [Jon] Stewart does and what, e.g., Ezra Klein does because for the Left the point of journalism is not to criticize politics or to analyze politics but to be a servant of politics, to “destroy” such political targets as may be found in one’s crosshairs. For the Left, the maker of comedy and the maker of graphs perform the same function. It does not matter who does the “destroying,” so long as it gets done.
Mike Hashimoto, in the Dallas News, surprises by telling the back story of what happens to reporters who stray from the “destroy conservatives” Job #1. He writes that Sharyl Attkisson, who “made a career of holding both sides of official Washington to account, announced with a five-word tweet that . . . ‘I have resigned from CBS.’”

Hashimoto quotes “Politico’s” Dylan Byers:
Attkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias. . . She increasingly felt like her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air. . .
Attkisson’s own reporting on the Obama administration. . . had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book — tentatively titled Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington — which addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the Obama administration.
Hashimoto notes that Attkisson was one of the few Washington reporters to cover the “Operation Fast and Furious” story--the Obama Justice Department’s gun-walking fiasco, for which her reporting won both Edward R. Murrow and Emmy awards. But Attkisson also won an Emmy for her investigation into shady Republican fund-raising--in the end, not enough to keep her at reliably-liberal CBS.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wealth and the Staying Power of Nationalism

“in Crimea right now[, w]e're approaching this in the language of Marxism. . . We're the ones that believe in economic determinism if the stock market tanks, if the oligarchs have trouble with their wealth. I'm not sure Vladimir Putin thinks that way. He's thinking like a nationalist, not in terms of economic categories.”

 --George Will, Conservative Panelist, “Fox News Sunday”

This blog believes the success of capitalism and democracy will bring about peace. If the people have their way, government will allow the market to flourish, because people want “peace and prosperity.”

Unfortunately, government, activist government, gets in the way--a kleptocracy that has to justify its existence by searching for problems to solve. So governments tend to fan nationalism (government as protector) and push socialism (government as provider)--two “isms” that cut against “peace and prosperity.” (With Hitler, the two came together as “National Socialism,” forming a true witches' brew.)

So no surprise, really, that Vladimir Putin would risk damaging his nation’s economy in order to advance Russian nationalism. No surprise, but sad anyway.

If you look at the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of world nations, measured in purchasing power parity and using CIA data, Russia at $17,200 is roughly half as wealthy as the European Union as a whole, and as Japan, France, and Israel individually.  Russia instead is in the same neighborhood as Argentina, Malaysia, and Panama.  Russia’s per capita GDP, in fact, is only $4,500 above the world average.  No wonder Putin boosts nationalism, not economic progress.

Hong Kong
In a ranking of nations by per capita GDP, who are some of the surprising winners?

Singapore’s per capita GDP is $61,400, near the very top and ahead of the U.S. at $50,700. Also ahead of the U.S.--Hong Kong at $52,300. In my lifetime, what a change! Taiwan, another Chinese entity, is at $39,400 nipping at Germany’s heels ($39,700), and ahead of the United Kingdom, Japan, and France. This truly may be China's century.

The Czech Republic has come out from behind the Iron Curtain to lead the old Soviet Warsaw Pact nations at $27,600, now ahead of old NATO’s Greece ($24,900) and Portugal ($23,800). Botswana, at $16,400, leads Sub-Saharan Africa, and ranks ahead of European Belarus, North American Mexico, and NATO member Turkey.

What about struggling nations?

Modolva’s per capita GDP is only $3,600, leaving a European nation that borders the Ukraine trailing India ($4,000) and just ahead of Ghana ($3,500). Thailand, at $9,900, is now barely ahead of China ($9,800). It used to be the rich rice bowl of Southeast Asia.

The Philippines, at $4,700--less than half Thailand’s per capita GDP--continues its economic struggle. Sadly, the West Bank and Gaza have a per capita GDP of only $2,900, less than 9% of Israel’s $32,800.  Finally, Haiti ($1,300), Nepal ($1,300), and Afghanistan ($1,100) are the poorest non-African nations.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Ukraine = Poland, “that little corner of the world”

"The fact that Putin has seized Crimea, a Russian-speaking zone of Ukraine, once part of Russia, where many of the citizens prefer to be part of Russia and where Russia has a major naval base, is not like taking Poland."

--Thomas Friedman, New York Times

I find it beyond belief that Tom Friedman could write such a sentence. Friedman knows better, but he is cynically counting on his audience--the supposedly-sophisticated New York Times readership and their syndicated counterparts elsewhere in the country's wealth pockets--not knowing enough about Europe in 1939 to call him on it. Danzig was at the time a German-speaking zone in Poland, once part of Germany, where most citizens preferred to be part of Germany and near where Germany had a major naval base.

Had Friedman uttered the word “Danzig,” his sentence justifying Russian seizure of Crimea would have immediately sunk, having struck against thoughts of Crimea's parallel to Danzig and Hitler’s conquest of Poland. So Friedman deliberately avoided saying Danzig, instead rolling on to write thoughtlessly:
that little corner of the world is always going to mean more, much more, to Putin than to us, and we should refrain from making threats on which we’re not going to deliver.
“that little corner of the world”?! That’s the way the West treated Czechoslovakia when it gave up the Sudetenland at Munich in September 1938, paving the way for Hitler to grab the rest of that unfortunate nation six months later.

But concerning Danzig, in March 1939 according to Wikipedia:
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, [sought] a deal with Hitler regarding Danzig (and possibly the Polish Corridor), and Hitler hoped for the same. Chamberlain and his supporters believed war could be avoided and hoped Germany would agree to leave the rest of Poland alone.
Yes Mr. Friedman. The parallel between Putin in 2014 and Hitler 75 years earlier seems almost exact.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Ukraine: Washington Post Tells President to Buck up

A Washington Post editorial Sunday titled, “President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy,” cautions the free world's leader to “get real” when it comes to Russian aggression in the Ukraine:
The urge to pull back — to concentrate on what Obama calls “nation-building at home” — is nothing new. . . There were similar retrenchments after the Korea and Vietnam wars and when the Soviet Union crumbled. But the U.S. discovered each time that the world became a more dangerous place without its leadership and that disorder in the world could threaten U.S. prosperity.
as long as some leaders play by what [Secretary of State John] Kerry dismisses as 19th-century rules, the United States can’t pretend that the only game is in another arena altogether. Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not.
While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too. As Putin ponders whether to advance further — into eastern Ukraine, say — he will measure the seriousness of U.S. and allied actions, not their statements. China, pondering its next steps in the East China Sea, will do the same. Sadly, that’s the nature of the century we’re living in.
Comment: There are signs Germany is an even weaker link than Obama in forging a necessarily-strong response to Russian aggression.

Living the Worst Economy Since Great Depression

The Democrats gained control of Congress in 2007. On January 1, 2008, as the Great Recession began, 138,365,000 Americans were working out of a population of 302,786,000, or 45.7%.

On the first day of January 2009, the fourth month of a steep economic decline and also the month Barack Obama became president to complete Democratic control of government, only 133,976,000 Americans were working: 43.9% of a 305,529,000 population. Bad times.

Under Obama, we have undergone a far too slow recovery.  This past  January 1, the job count stood at 137,386,000, but population had increased to 317,298,000, meaning that during “recovery,” the working population share fell further to only 43.3%.  If employment had merely kept pace with population growth since Obama took over, we would have had 1.94 million more people working. But if the economy had recovered to the 45.7% share of population working when the recession began in 2008, then 7.6 million more people would be employed!

As for real GDP under Obama, it fell -2.8% in 2009, grew by 2.5% in 2010, only 1.8% in 2011, and rose 2.8% in 2012. In 9 previous post-World War II recessions (excluding the brief 1980 recession), the GDP recovery rate 3 years from the recession's start averaged 9.5%, with no recovery less than 5.3%. But 3 years after the current recession began, recovery stood at -0.8%!

Now we have learned that real GDP grew at an annual rate of just 2.4% in the fourth quarter of 2013, 80 basis points below January’s +3.2% estimate. That means last year’s real GDP rose only 1.9%, a drop from 2.8% in 2012. Our GDP growth rate is actually stalling, falling to just 1.2% above population increase.

Why don’t we grow? Joe Rego at the conservative Wall Street Journal writes the Keynesian economists who dominate Democratic Washington are fixed on demand, explaining that high post-recession unemployment and slow growth stem from weak demand for goods, producing weak demand for labor.

But Rego looked elsewhere for an explanation, quoting University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan, who
studies the supply of labor and attributes the state of the economy in large part to the expansion of the entitlement and welfare state, such as the surge in food stamps, unemployment benefits, Medicaid and other safety-net programs. As these benefits were enriched and extended to more people by [Obama’s] stimulus, he argues in his 2012 book The Redistribution Recession, they were responsible for about half the drop in work hours since 2007, and possibly more.
there [may have been] "a general lack of awareness" and economists simply didn't realize everything that government was doing to undermine incentives for work. "You have to dig into it and see it," Mulligan explains. "[Obamacare]'s not going to come and shake you out of your bed and say, 'Look what's in me.' "
Rego is less charitable than Mulligan, guessing liberals prefer the public remain ignorant of how government is growing our dependent class.  And speaking of our lower class, Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post writes
the official poverty rate is a lousy indicator of people's material well-being. It misses all that the poor get -- their total consumption. It counts cash transfers from government but not non-cash transfers (food stamps, school lunches) and tax refunds under the [Earned Income Tax Credit]. Some income is under-reported; also, the official poverty line overstates price increases and, therefore, understates purchasing power. Eliminating these defects, economists Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago and James Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame built a consumption-based index that estimates the 2010 poverty rate at about 5%. People at the bottom aren't well-off, but they're better off than they once were. Among the official poor, half have computers, 43% have central air conditioning and 36% have dishwashers.
Samuelson’s point is that above the bottom 5%, we have an underclass able to survive in its present state. Samuelson continues,
"a hand up, not a handout". . . failed dismally. America remains a tiered society with millions at the bottom still living more chaotic and vulnerable lives. Government's capacity to boost them into the mainstream was oversold. Although Head Start produces some gains for 3- and 4-year-olds, improvements dissipate . . . by third grade. . . the breakdown of marriage and spread of single-parent households suggest that poverty may grow. . . Low-income men may flunk as attractive marriage mates. Or, "women can live independently more easily rather than put up with less satisfactory marriages," as Brookings' Isabel Sawhill says.
We are back to the link between family breakdown, dependency, and poverty.