Monthly Archives: January 2011
Yesterday, after the SOTU had been delivered and all attention was on discussing it, the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (OCIIO), part of the US Health and Human Services Department, quietly announced that it had granted 511 new waivers to Obamacare (for a total of 733 as of this post) since its last report in November. Hot Air had been monitoring the site and found it rather interesting that a site that had been efficiently updated through November suddenly wasn’t updated until after SOTU. A bit like the CBO’s announced revision of this year’s deficit.
Anyway, the list contains businesses, local unions and other entities. Additionally, four states have applied for waivers (MA, NJ, OH and TN).
The reason for all these waivers (which, btw, only delay their integration into ObamaCare, it doesn’t exempt them)?
This ever-expanding list of waivers is the direct result of ObamaCare raising the annual benefit caps on certain health plans. Obviously, a plan with higher annual limits is potentially more costly than one without them. The money to cover the difference in premiums has to come from somewhere. Without the waivers, it will come from the employer who are forced by law to upgrade to the more expensive plan.
2.2 million effected with the waivers granted to this point. Part of that “less costly” promise Obama made when he was peddling this monstrosity.
Speaking of falsehoods, Jen Rubin at the Washington Post reports on an interesting exchange between Congressional reps and Medicare’s chief actuary (Robert Foster). In this particular exchange they discuss the “double-counting” that was used to justify ObamaCare (and which the Democrats and their pet economists like to claim is nonsense:
REP. JOHN CAMPBELL(R- Calif.): "Is it legitimate to say… that you can add a dozen years to the solvency of Medicare or that you can reduce the deficit, but it is not correct to say both simultaneously?"
FOSTER: "Both will happen as a result of the same one set of savings, under Medicare. But it takes two sets of money to make it happen. It happens directly for the budget deficit, from the Medicare savings, and then when we need the money to extend the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, we have a promissory note – it’s an IOU, not a worthless IOU, but it is an IOU – and Treasury has to pay that money back. But they have to get it from somewhere. That’s the missing link."
These are the sorts of budgetary tricks that Congress is famous for using (and it isn’t just the Democrats, although it was certainly the Democrats in this case)and one of the reasons we see government in the horrific financial shape it is in.
So, where is the money – promised in the IOUs for the money designated for Medicare but spent elsewhere – going to come from? Of course the Democrat’s answer is from higher taxes. But don’t worry – the result will be "lower health care costs" or so says the plan. Amazing.
Then Foster was asked about this:
Two of the central promises of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law are unlikely to be fulfilled, Medicare’s independent economic expert told Congress on Wednesday.
The landmark legislation probably won’t hold costs down, and it won’t let everybody keep their current health insurance if they like it, Chief Actuary Richard Foster told the House Budget Committee. His office is responsible for independent long-range cost estimates. . . .
Foster was asked by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., for a simple true or false response on two of the main assertions made by supporters of the law: that it will bring down unsustainable medical costs and will let people keep their current health insurance if they like it.
On the costs issue, "I would say false, more so than true," Foster responded.
Finally, this exchange:
McCLINTOCK: "The other promise… was the promise that if you like your plan, you can keep it. True or false?"
FOSTER: "Not true in all cases."
Really? Other than true believers, who else thought “oh heck yeah, we can add more people to the rolls, require insurance companies to take everyone regardless of their health and remove all payment caps and have a cheaper product too boot? The same people who swallowed “if you like your plan you can keep it”, I guess.
For those folks: welcome to reality. If you think the new revised budget deficit of 1.5 trillion this year is alarming, wait till ObamaCare kicks in fully. Oh, and repeat after me “this is not the government taking over health care”.
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Or so sayeth the CBO. Good thing they waited until today to announce it. Otherwise we might have heard snickering and outright laughter during the SOTU when our deficit-hawk President talked about how serious he was about reducing the deficit and the debt.
The budget deficit is now estimated to have widened this year to $1.5 trillion, the CBO said. That compares to a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
The increase in the deficit would bring it to 9.8 percent of gross domestic product, the CBO said, following deficits of 10 percent and 8.9 percent during the previous two years.
Do you remember how he promised to half the debt by the end of his first term in office? Yeah? Well that means he could run a deficit of $750 billion and keep his word. Funny how that works out, huh?
The CBO’s projections assume that current laws remain unchanged. If the nation continues on its current path, the CBO said, the total national debt will rise from 40 percent of GDP in 2008 to 70 percent by the end of 2011, reaching 77 percent of GDP by 2021.
But hey, this is all the other guy’s fault, remember? Oh, and one more point, those of you on the left having fun with Rep. Paul Ryan’s factual response? Make sure you go find someone who can explain the ramifications of this to you, ‘kay? And have them point out who it is that the CBO agrees with in principle as well:
“To prevent debt from becoming unsupportable, the Congress will have to substantially restrain the growth of spending, raise revenues significantly above their historical share of GDP, or pursue some combination of the those two approaches,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote in a blog post announcing the report.
While you’re at it, have them explain the appetite for tax increases. Wait, I’ll save you the question – there is none. See December’s extension of the current income tax rates. Now, given that – try to focus. What does that leave? Yes, they’re left with “substantially restrain[ing] the growth of spending”. As in “no more new spending” and “cut back existing spending”. Precisely what Ryan has been saying, isn’t it?
So when Rep. Ryan makes the point that:
Under the terms of a House resolution passed Tuesday, Ryan is to set ceilings at 2008 levels or less.
He has a good reason, one backed by the facts of the situation and not some meandering mewling from Paul Krugman. This is the medicine for the addiction. America has said and is saying again that the voters are not willing to give you a single nickel more until government proves it can significantly cut it’s spending habit. No cuts, no increased taxes. In fact, if the cuts are indeed significant enough, the perhaps no new taxes are needed at all.
Yeah, I know, living within your means like all the rest of us have to do – what a concept.
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So many words to translate from Obama lingo to English. For instance:
New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.
Translation: We’ve had our run for two years, spending trillions of dollars wastefully and jamming through a huge big government program for health care. Now, Repubicans, its time for “bi-partisanship”.
Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of the new investments they make this year. These steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.
Translation: I resisted it until the end and was backed into a corner, but hey, this is the SOTU and I’ll try to get out in front of all of that and claim credit since it seems to be working.
Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That’s what planted the seeds for the Internet. That’s what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS.
Translation: Please disregard the fact that I’m contradicting myself. Please understand that the first few sentences are only something to be used to justify further government spending. And here it is:
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”
Translation: I plan to call new spending “investment” so we can pretend it isn’t just more of the same. And if I couch it in high sounding rhetoric about research and development and use scare terms like “Sputnik moment”, it’s sure to make it all seem to be a net “good thing”.
We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.
Translation: In reality we are “just handing out money”. Your money. Money you earned and for which you probably had quite a different priority – like feeding and clothing your family and putting a roof over their head. Instead we prefer to subsidize marginal technology which to this point hasn’t shown the ability to effectively provide the energy we need to move forward instead of subsidizing those that do. And if you don’t believe me:
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
Translation: The war on domestic oil continues. It’s just nasty. And dirty. And we need “clean” energy. Forget the fact that the technology for such energy isn’t anywhere near ready for primetime and doesn’t appear it will be for years, decades even. Let’s dump on domestic oil now – that’s sure to make us less dependent on foreign oil – something I called on us to do earlier in the speech.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.
Translation: I love issuing challenges, especially when I can’t be held responsible for them if they don’t work out. We can’t even generate 10% of our needs through “clean energy” and it doesn’t appear we’ll be any closer in 2035 given the current state of technology, but it does help me justify my war on domestic oil when I say things like this.
Oh, and education? Well, it needs – get ready for it – more money:
Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”
Translation: We’ve had a Department of Education for decades and our education levels have slipped terribly … abysmally … for its entire existence. But this will fix that. All we need is to spend more. Trust me.
Oh, and did I mention more spending?
Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.
We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.
Translation: Yeah, see, we don’t want to leave it up to states and local communities to do this stuff – we’d rather take their money to a federal level and then hand it back with strings and after we’ve taken our cut. That way I and other politicians can take credit for it. And if you believe all the malarkey I’m spreading about high-speed rail (and the claim there’ll be no “pat-downs”), I have some government bonds in which you might want to invest. If you thought corn ethanol was a boondoggle, wait until we get involved in high-speed rail projects.
Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans.
Translation: That’s right, ‘we”. It will never happen unless government is involved. Businesses have absolutely no interest in deploying “next generation of high-speed wireless coverage” to everyone they can get it too. That 4G stuff? Oh, just ignore that. And admit it – you’re much happier now that government is involved in policing the internet, right? Hey, you can’t put the “BIG” in “big government” unless you’re involved in everything.
To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.
Translation: Not really, but it sounds good, doesn’t it? But you have to be reminded that without government, well, you’d just be in a freakin’ mess wouldn’t you?
But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.
Translation: Yeah, because without government, none of that would have ever happened, particularly the last and newest angle on the health care monstrosity we Democrats jammed through Congress last year.
Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law.
Translation: What do you mean 28 states are suing over the law?
We are living with a legacy of deficit-spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.
Translation: That spending a decade ago – bad stuff. Other guy’s fault. Not mine (sure I was in the Senate, so what?). That 3 trillion I threw to the wind. Good stuff.
I recognize that some in this Chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.
Translation: After all, if we let our “most vulnerable citizens” keep more of what they earn by cutting spending by trillions of dollars, they’ll just spend it on the wrong stuff. Only we know what is important and what we can “honestly afford to do without”.
The bipartisan Fiscal Commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it – in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.
Translation: Yes, you read it right. We’re now defining “excessive spending” as “spending” found in “tax breaks and loopholes”. That’s a method of “cutting spending” of which I approve.
This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. Health insurance reform will slow these rising costs, which is part of why nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.
Translation: But remember – government has not taken over health care. Say it with me – government has not taken over health care.
To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.
Translation: Let’s fix Social Security. But not by privatizing it or any portion of it. Only government is the answer and after all, we’ve handled it so well to this point we ought to be the go to entity, don’t you think? We actually make Enron look good, but let’s not mention that, okay?
And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.
It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.
Translation: I still want to tax the rich because we’ve screwed up the budget, the deficit and the debt so badly that we’re in horrible trouble and we need a fall guy to demonize for being selfish and not doing their “fair share”. Lord knows government has done its fair share in screwing this up. Seems to me the rich would be willing to part with their money to help us fix it. Right? Anybody?
In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote – and we will push to get it passed.
Translation: And if you believe they’re going to be substantial changes, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you need to see. But saying things like that allows me to push my “big government is good government” theme:
In the coming year, we will also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government.
Translation: If I can sell this, I can push government into everything I want it in.
We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.
Translation: Well, we believe in those “rights” if we can redefine them on the fly – you know, like the “right” to health care?
From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream.
Translation: That’s right – but now they must have government and government spending to make their dreams a reality. Just remember that. Meanwhile, start saving up for those coal-powered cars because we want millions of ‘em on the road in a few years. “ Dreams”, right? Oh you thought I meant the dreams of ordinary people? Uh, no, I meant the dream of government planners, of course.
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Well, thanks to a veterinary issue, the SOTU Liveblog, for the first time in years, is canceled for tonight.
Call this just a weird coincidence, but I happened upon an article in the Houston Chronicle that listed the best 10 burger joints in the US. And coming in at 10 was “Feltner’s Whatta-burger” in Russellville, Ark. I followed it to a local link.
I went to school there (Arkansas Tech University) and I worked for Bob Feltner in what was then known only as “The Whatta-burger” (methinks somewhere later on there must have been some sort of legal thing with big burger chain named Whattaburger that caused Bob to stick his last name in front of it).
The honor of being among the best 10 doesn’t surprise me, nor could it go to a more deserving person/family. Here’s the story:
Feltner’s Whatta-Burger in Russellville rounded out the Houston Chronicle’s top ten list of legendary burger joints this year.
"Well, it doesn’t surprise me. They do have great burgers," said Tim Macks, a customer from Fayetteville.
The restaurant opened its doors for the first time back in 1967. It started with a dream. "This used to be a dirt road out here. He sat in a lawn chair, counted cars, came home and said I’m going to open up a burger place and we thought he was crazy," said Missy Ellis, an owner.
Ellis now owns the restaurant her father started when she was just a child. She said, "To be chosen as one of the top 10, that is just unbelievable and I know he’s looking down from Heaven saying way to go."
If it is not fresh, it is not served. Food is not frozen at Whatta-Burger.
Even the pickiest eaters can find something they like and in big portions. "Our large fry is a good pound of fries, so you have to be starving to eat one of those by yourself," said Mandy Simons, general manager.
Eaters from Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and even Tulsa make their way to Russellville for a bite of the Whatta-Burger. "We always make it a point to stop here anytime we’re close," said Alan Young, of Tulsa, "We’ve been looking forward to it for two or three weeks."
A better person or a finer boss than Bob Feltner can’t be found (and I’m far from the only one who would say that). We were a college town and he located his place right on the border of the campus. You could walk there, and most did. Bob supported the college and the kids who went there.
And he hired as many as he could to work there, usually over staffing the place. His way of helping those of us who usually didn’t have two pennies to rub against each other. He also extended credit. Seriously. His system was to write it on a wooden ice cream spoon and keep the spoons in the cash drawer. I used to work behind the counter and it wasn’t at all uncommon to hear a student say “put it on my spoon”. I’d sort through, find their spoon (there were a bunch) and put the amount on there.
What was funny about it is rarely, if ever, did Bob have to collect. And when he did, he’s ask someone who was a friend of the person who owed more than he should to mention it to him. That was it. That was the sum of his collection effort. What he did was appreciated and students showed up constantly to pay on or pay off their “spoon”. I don’t think he was stiffed very often.
There was one thing Bob wouldn’t do – he wouldn’t put anything out that wasn’t fresh. None of the hamburger was frozen – it was all fresh. The vegies were cut up the night before (a friend used to do it and said he seemed to always smell like onions). The fries and the like were frozen, but none of the meat. It was the primary rule of the house – if it isn’t fresh or doesn’t look fresh it doesn’t go on a burger. And if you weren’t sure, it didn’t go on a burger.
I could sing this man’s praises forever. He was just a great person. He remembered everyone’s name, greeted them like an old lost friend and made you want to come back. The fact that his food was great was a bonus. When I first worked there (not long after he opened) it was a walk-in or walk up place. No seating for dining. Strictly to go. Over the years, Bob has added on and now it has a pretty good sized dining area.
Of course all of this reminds me of a story where my roommate and I got caught up in a Cool Hand Luke moment and bet someone we could eat 20 regular hamburgers at Whattaburger. I think alcohol was involved. The bet was if we did so, the other guys would pay for them but if we didn’t we had to pay for them. Well, neither of us could afford 20 hamburgers, but we figured we could eat them.
Over we went and Bob got into the fun of it and got the burgers ready. Well, I’m ashamed to say, I made it through 6 or maybe 7. I figured we were doomed. But my roomie scarfed down his 10 and the rest of mine. We won the bet, barely, in the time allotted. Me? I became a footnote in Whattaburger history, but my roomie, Denny, became “champ”. Every time Denny went in the place, Bob would yell out, “what it’ll be, Champ?”
Loved the place, loved the man, loved the whole family.
If you are ever anywhere near Russellville, Arkansas, do yourself a favor and hunt down Feltner’s Whattaburger. Missy Ellis, mentioned in the article, is Bob’s daughter (and worked at the Whattaburger with us). Tell her I said “hi” and enjoy a great burger in Bob’s memory.
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First up on the “thee but not me” list of being for “civil discourse” but not practicing it, is our old buddy from a show which should be called “Beanball”, Chris Matthews.
Chris is a great proponent of “civil discourse” unless you try to apply it to him. He is apparently attempting to repeal Goodwin’s law or to so cheapen the term “Nazi” that it no longer carries the horror it should. Mr. Moral Equivalence’s latest? Here’s his intro:
Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight: Glenn Beck shoots off his mouth. Today Jared Loughner pled not guilty. So has the right wing to the charge it promotes trouble with its endless rants about guns and hatred of government. Take Glenn Beck — please. He targets what he calls radicals in Washington who, quote, "believe in communism," and "you’re going to have to shoot them in the head." Gotcha!
We’ve got a Republican member of Congress out there going full bore on this stuff, saying he wants him and his fellow members of Congress to carry guns at the Capitol. Welcome to the State of the Union 2011. The violent rhetoric of the right won’t stop. It’s our top story tonight.
There’s your set up – the “violent rhetoric of the right won’t stop”, and it’s his top story. Lead with a discredited Glenn Beck story. Got it.
Commercial break and what do we see and hear? A few vids of Obama, McConnell and Cantor – discussing each side’s take on Obama economic policy.
And Matthews next statement? The next one after seeing the three vids noted?
MATTHEWS: Don’t you just love the new Republican Party? We have the Tea Party people with the placards and the Nazi stuff, and then you have these two Junior Chamber types representing them in Washington.
The irony bug hasn’t yet found Matthews apparently. The guy (and much of the left) are walking, talking hypocrites. Palin is lambasted for putting crosshairs on a campaign map months ago and 3 days ago, what does Matthews and company do? Yeah, put crosshairs on the US Capitol with the title “Fire on the Right”. Uh, the word “on” is significant when used in conjunction with a crosshairs graphic, wouldn’t you say – using the left’s standard for this sort of thing and all. Notice it isn’t “fire from the right” or “fire of the right” or even “fire by the right.”
It is “Fire on the Right” which, one assumes, given their instant pop analysis of the Tucson shooting would mean that if any assassin of a left leaning persuasion should shoot at a politician (or anyone) on the right in the next, oh, 6 months or so, it’s Matthews fault. Because his graphic and its title told them to do so.
Oh, and how did Matthews use the graphic? Hypocritically, of course:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Leading off tonight: Words and actions. Are people affected by what they hear? If not, why do people speak? If the messages people get day after day have no effect on their behavior, why do big corporations spend millions on advertising? Why do politicians? Does the daily climate of attack, the constant torrent of angry attack and questioning of loyalty, of legitimacy, of Americanness, stir people up? Does it trigger the zealots, the unstable, those who are a bit of both?
The politically correct judgment is that we can`t blame anyone for what we`ve seen recently, that words don`t matter in this discussion of people`s violent actions. But do we really believe words don`t matter, that they don`t incite, that they don`t cause trouble? Do we really believe you can say anything you want about someone and not expose them to the actions of a zealot or a nut?
Well we’ll see, won’t we Chris, now that using the left’s standards, you’ve done more than enough to incite “a zealot or a nut”.
Meanwhile down in GA, we have a different and appallingly ignorant revocation of Goodwin’s law and even more moral equivalence:
A Spanish-language newspaper in Georgia has drawn bipartisan criticism for publishing a doctored photograph depicting the state’s new governor as a Nazi.
Some whackado editor of a Spanish-language paper depicts a governor who has been in office all of a week as a Nazi. Why?
But Navarro said the picture represents the fear immigrants in Georgia feel with the arrival of Deal to the state’s top office, because of Deal’s strong anti-immigrant rhetoric during the last campaign.
Well there you go. He disagrees with Deal’s political approach to the issue – which is, btw, not “anti-immigration”, but against “illegal immigration” (I refuse to let the left conflate the two). So what do you do? Depict your political opponent as a Nazi obviously.
And here’s the irony – the boob depicts Deal as a Nazi (and everyone knows how they dealt with opposition press) and then says:
Navarro, who immigrated to the United States from Colombia, said he printed the picture knowing he didn’t have to fear retaliation from the governor because of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Yeah, that happened all the time in Nazi Germany Mr. Navarro, you ignorant jackwagon.
Yeesh … you just can’t make some of this stuff up.
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Apparently that’s what everyone expects to hear in the SOTU address. And most see it as a reflection of political reality. Independents deserted the Democrats fairly quickly after the Obama administration took office, apparently not liking what they saw developing at all. So here comes the inevitable shift – at least the perception of one – to the center in order to win them back.
The left? Where are they going to go? Who else would they vote for? They’re not going anywhere despite all their grumbling and mumbling about Obama’s attempt to move right (and yes, a move by Obama to the center means a distinct move to the right). Here’s the reality:
A labor official, who asked not to be identified in order to speak more candidly about the president’s political situation, noted that “the midterm elections freed” Obama to work independently and without regard to his party’s left.
“The left understands that the choice in 2012 will be Obama or somebody far worse,” the official said. “They will have no choice, no matter what Obama says in the State of the Union address. No matter how much we complain, he knows that at the end of the day, we will be supporting him in 2012 — and that affects what he can do now. The choice for us will be an administration that disappointed us or a Republican administration that will be out to destroy us.”
Colorful language, but you get the drift. The far left is stuck with him and Obama knows it. It is the center where elections are won, and right now they don’t belong to him.
So how does he win them back?
Well the Democrats hope that it will be through leadership. Rep Anthony Weiner lays it out:
“He’s the president of the United States, and he’s got to go in there and lean into the idea that he still has an agenda he wants to accomplish,” Weiner said. “He has to make sure he’s leading the debate and Paul Ryan is responding, not the other way around.
“He has to make it clear that he’s not going to be held hostage over issues like the debt-limit increase,” Weiner said.
But, as usual and instead, the President plans to vote “present”:
But the president’s decision not to lay out his own vision for reducing the national debt has infuriated balanced-budget advocates, who fear that a bipartisan consensus for action fostered last month by Obama’s commission could wither without presidential leadership.
"There is no way you get momentum without the president. If you don’t lead now, when is it going to come?" said Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "He has to go first and he has to be specific. He has to pivot to something hard."
And pander, of course:
The direction of Obama’s speech became apparent over the weekend, when the White House informed Democratic lawmakers and advocates for the elderly that he would not endorse the commission’s recommendation to raise the retirement age and make other cuts to Social Security – the single largest federal program.
The sound you hear, my friends, is that of the can being swiftly kicked down the road again – something candidate Obama said wasn’t going to happen on his watch.
The administration claims that it’s goals will be more specifically addressed in the budget request the White House submits in mid February. Per Robert Gibbs, the SOTU is just not the proper venue for specifics. Well, except when you want to take a shot at the Supreme Court, who, by the way, will only have partial attendance this year, with a group of conservative justices clearly deciding to show their disapproval of the partisan sniping they were victim too in last year’s SOTU.
Yup, all in all politics rules the day with the political advice being as predictable as sunrise. Obama, being the ultimate political animal, will indeed heed it, but the left shouldn’t look for any leadership to suddenly emerge where none has been evident in the past and the center should be wary of the now well-known smoke and mirrors show the administration puts on regularly – saying one thing and doing something else altogether.
Life in the Obama White House I’m afraid.
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In the online multiplayer game Final Fantasy, players must collaborate to get very far in the game. Individuals train up at the beginning by fighting weak mythical creatures, but taking on the powerful monsters they meet later requires teams with assigned roles.*
It’s all self-organizing; no one at the game maker assigns a player to a task. Players find roles they are good at, and team up with others who possess other skills.
Teams normally have an interesting role called a “tank”. This player has the capability to attract and hold a monster’s attention, absorb a tremendous amount of damage from the monster, and regenerate quickly from the damage. Other players use the distraction of the tank to attack the monster in various ways, and if the team does their job, eventually the monster succumbs to their combined efforts.
If you’re on a team with a tank, you don’t have to like the tank much. You just have to appreciate the tank’s capabilities. Your main objective is to subdue the monster.
In my mind, this maps very naturally to the role of Sarah Palin in bringing down the monster of collectivism.
OK, OK, this sounds like the kind of high-falutin’, silly comparison that people like Maureen Dowd use for a cheap column in the New York Times. But attend me: this kind of metaphor is going to work a lot better with someone in their twenties than something we old guys would naturally use from a 1960s TV show.
I came around to this comparison as a way of explaining my own opinions of Palin to the younger set that hangs around with my sons. It’s sometime hard for me to explain what I like about her, because I’m not overly impressed with Palin’s leadership potential or her deep thinking about the issues. I haven’t seen much evidence that she possesses leadership or deep thinking in any great quantity.**
I am impressed, though, with her intuition, her courage, and her resilience. She absolutely refuses to be intimidated by the usual post-modern, politically-correct leftist BS. She absorbs anything the self-righteous Olbermann types can throw at her, laughs it off, and “punches back twice as hard”, to follow the advice of a well-known leftist.
The constant, withering attacks from legacy media do cause some damage to her image, according to various surveys and polls. However, she has a core group that regards every such attack as proof that she’s right. These folks have been looking for someone of consequence to tell the left-leaning media to pi$$ up a rope for a long time. The fact that it’s a woman doing it just adds to the frission.
Of course, there’s a core group on the left that regards her as beneath contempt and laps up everything the legacy media hands out. They are joined by the pusillanimous establishment Republican types who still quiver in fear that the Washington Post might say something negative about them, and go into a fan-waving fainting spell when they see someone with enough self-confidence and guts to not give a whit what the lefties at the Post think.
Both groups attack her regularly. Amazingly, though, after the attacks die down and Palin gets back to her tweets and Facebook postings, the damage seems to dissipate. Her unfavorable numbers oscillate around, but the key is that they do oscillate; they don’t go negative and stay there. Plus, the more illogical and mean-spirited attacks sometimes have the opposite effect of damaging the attackers and helping Palin.
So my message to those on the right who are not especially enamored of Palin is this: you need her. She’s the tank on the team. The leftist monster must be slain.***
I’m not the only one thinking along these lines, of course. I first mentioned the tank comparison in a comment at Legal Insurrection last week, and William Jacobson seems to be on the same general page in his post yesterday. This is just my way of explaining why we need her, even if we don’t think she’s perfect.
I have no idea what her chances to become president are, and at this point it’s too early to care. She’s certainly not my top choice, but she comes in well ahead of Mitt “Plastic Fantastic” Romney. (Mike “Worst of Both Worlds” Huckabee isn’t even on the list; if the GOP is stupid enough to nominate him, they might as well prepare for a third party).
As long as she’s highlighting the dishonesty and mendacity of the left, the overall bias of the media, and the cowardice and privilege-protecting mewling of the establishment GOP, she has my support. It will take a team to do what has to be done, and we need a tank. She’s the best one we have right now.
(*) I’ve never playing Final Fantasy, but as the father of two teen boys, it’s a frequent topic of conversation around the house. Actual FF players, please forgive my no-doubt incomplete understanding of the game’s concepts.
(**) Not that these are necessary attributes to be elected president, based on some recent examples.
(***) For civility-obsessed idiots, that’s a metaphor.
Kevin Drum has a blog post up at MoJo in which he supports a claim by Tim Lee that American Liberalism “has incorporated libertarian critiques at a striking rate over the past few decades”. The claim is that is true especially in the area of economic policy. For instance:
Income tax rates are way down. Numerous industries have been deregulated. Most price controls have been abandoned. Competitive labor markets have steadily displaced top-down collective bargaining. Trade has been steadily liberalized.
I guess that can all be categorized as “it depends on your perspective”. While personal income taxes are down in comparison with where liberals would prefer them to be – especially for the rich – corporate taxes remain the highest in the free world. And, speaking of economics and libertarians, we at least understand who ends up paying corporate taxes – and it ain’t corporations.
This is major blind spot of the liberal side of the house. If they admit that corporate taxes are passed along to consumers, then their basis for taxing in such a regressive manner would be questioned. So they continue to pretend that by demanding higher and higher corporate taxes, they’re somehow calling for equity in income distribution – assuming government will take the money collected from corporations as taxes and parcel it out to those who need it most. And further assuming that’s a function of government.
Of course what they end up doing is having corporations take money from those who must have their products but can least afford the cost of the increase driven by the taxation. “Benevolent government” then takes the money, after it takes its cut, and passes it back to the “most deserving”, or the “most in need”. Corporations then, are a tax collection entity, not a tax paying entity.
What happens when corporate taxes are raised is it has an adverse effect on the corporation’s consumer base. If they get high enough, that base begins looking for less costly alternatives or quits buying altogether.
All that to set up this next Drum statement:
The problem is that a system that generates enormous income inequality also generates enormous power inequality — and if corporations and the rich are allowed to amass huge amounts of economic power, they’ll always use that power to keep their own tax rates low. It’s nearly impossible to create a high-tax/high-service state if your starting point is a near oligarchy where the rich control the levers of political power.
You could most likely spend all day on those two sentences. Completely left out, of course, is who is paying income taxes. What we all know is somewhere around 50% of us aren’t. So when we see discussions about taxes we have to keep that in mind. More importantly – and after all the talk of having much in common with libertarianism – check out what Drum’s ideal is: “a high-tax/high-service state”.
Obviously the libertarian camp would find nothing to agree with there.
Essentially Drum’s argument is that we, as a nation, have the right to demand such a state. But while the “corporations and rich” own the “levers of political power” we’ll never achieve it. Solution? Implied: take those levers away from them. Method? Well all of this has been a prelude to the real reason for the post:
I am, fundamentally, old fashioned about this stuff: I think of the world as largely a set of competing power centers. Economics matters, but power matters at least as much, and I think that students of political economy these days spend way too much time on the economy This explains, for example, why I regret the demise of private sector labor unions. It’s not because I don’t recognize their many pathologies, or even the fact that sometimes they stand in the way of economic efficiency. I’m all in favor of trying to regulate the worst aspects of this. But large corporations have their pathologies too, and those pathologies are far worse because there’s no longer any effective countervailing power to fight them. Unions used to provide that power. Today nobody does.
This is the common cry of the liberal today. The need for a “countervailing power” to fight the power of corporations – real or imagined. Weapon of choice? Unions. But the power that unions fight against has nothing to do with the supposed problem with corporations that Drum has outlined. Taxes. Name a single union that has, in any time in the past, rallied and protested to get their corporation’s taxes raised? They understand what such an increase could mean to labor. As for power, unions are more concerned with the internal power of a corporation as it relates to wages and benefits. It is only recently, with the addition of union PACs, that the union movement has begun to address corporate political power.
And if I had to guess, that’s what Drum secretly laments. As private sector unions decline, so does any “countervailing” political power he thinks unions could wield. Of course, it doesn’t help when they act like this . Unions are and have been the liberal left’s power center in their war against corporations for centuries. If you don’t believe that, you just need to review recent elections and their pattern of donations:
The UAW has considerable clout in the Democratic party. In the 2010 election cycle, the union spent $10.1 million through its political action committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That was down from $13.1 million in the 2008 election.
The center said that 100 percent of the union’s 2010 federal donations — $1.4 million — went to Democrats. The funds come from voluntary contributions by members and retirees.
That’s the real impact of the “demise of private unions”. It is also why those like Drum support any effort that makes organizing easier for unions today.
So when Tim Lee writes that "Competitive labor markets have steadily displaced top-down collective bargaining," I just have to shake my head. Competitive for whom? For the upper middle class, labor markets are fairly competitive, but then, they always have been. They never needed collective bargaining to begin with. For everyone else, though, employers have been steadily gaining at their expense for decades. Your average middle class worker has very little real bargaining power anymore, and this isn’t due to chance or to fundamental changes in the economy. (You can organize the service sector just as effectively as the manufacturing sector as long as the law gives you the power to organize effectively in the first place.) Rather, it’s due to a long series of deliberate policy choices that we’ve made over the past 40 years.
But here’s the bottom line: if there were indeed a crying need for unionization felt by the “average middle class worker”, the ability to join a union (or form one) still exists. The problem is, it’s mostly fair and thus doesn’t favor the union as previous organizing laws did. However, if the organizing drive meets the criteria outlined in labor law,bingo, a union is born and members are able to cash in on the supposed benefits of such a relationship.
The problem, however, is fewer and fewer people apparently see any advantage in such a relationship anymore, if declining membership is any indication. Like anything else in the world, the consumer of a product has to convince themselves that the product’s benefit justifies its price. It seems that is no longer the case when it comes to private unions. Drum prefers to blame the demise on “policy”. I see it as the consumer saying, “no thanks” after the price/benefit comparison is made. The fact is policy or law doesn’t prohibit the formation of unions. Only votes do. And for quite some time, the votes – of those they would unionize – haven’t favored private union organizers.
It’s worth noting, by the way, that corporations and the rich know this perfectly well, even if lots of liberals have forgotten it. They know exactly what the biggest threat to their wealth is, and it’s not high tax rates. This is why the steady erosion of labor rights has been, by far, their single biggest obsession since the end of World War II. Not taxes, unions. If, right now, you were to offer corporations and the rich a choice between (a) passage of EFCA or (b) a return to Clinton-era tax rates on high incomes, they wouldn’t even blink. If you put a gun to their head and they had to choose between one or the other, they’d pay the higher taxes without a peep. That’s because, on the level of raw power, they know how the world works.
Of course he’s right, but not necessarily for the reasons he believes. Unions have grown into an impediment. A costly impediment to competitiveness. Whether anyone likes to admit it or not, labor is a commodity. Despite the emotional arguments of the left concerning labor and “real people”, people who want to work aren’t owed a job or a certain level of compensation. They have to be worth it to earn it.
So yes, corporations are more concerned about unions than taxes, at least to the point that passing along increased taxes starts costing them customers. Then they pay more attention to taxes. And if taxes do start to cost them customers? Where is the easiest commodity for a corporation to cut in order to maintain a competitive price as it collects the increased taxes? Yes – labor.
Without apparently realizing, the liberal left’s call for increasing corporate taxes dramatically for their “high tax/high services” state is a call for more unemployment. Unions would attempt thwart the ability for corporations to adjust headcount to remain competitive. Result? The US steel industry redux.
Is that really what the liberal left wants? I can pretty much guarantee it isn’t what any libertarian would want. But perhaps it is the fact they don’t even realize how it all works (and what they’re really wishing for) that’s the most dangerous aspect of all of this.
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In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the sudden end of Kieth Olberman’s “Countdown”, the Republicans’ proposals to cut government spending, state bankrupties, and much more.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
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