Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: May 29, 2012

Quote of the day: About those self-styled “elite” edition

The quote comes from Walter Russell Mead and is pretty self-explanatory needing little in the way of explanation or exposition from me.  Needless to say, I agree:

There was a time — as recently as early 2010 — when the Great and the Good, the Champions of the Conventional Wisdom and the Oracles of the Davoisie identified the UN’s forlorn climate change negotiations as the wave of the future and the last best hope of man. Let the futility and failure to which all this led be a reminder to us and to them: those who guide the world’s destiny aren’t nearly as discerning as they think they are. Between the American housing bubble, the European meltdown and the climate policy disaster, it almost begins to look as if the Establishment consists mostly of overpaid, egotistical blowhards.

Amen.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Economic Statistics for 29 May 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The Dallas Fed Mfg Survey’s Business activity index fell to -5.1 from -3.4. The production index fell to 5.5. from 5.6.

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index rose 0.1% in March; however, it’s still -2.6% lower than March 2011.

The Consumer Confidence Index fell 4 points to 64.9.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell a bit more than a point to 86.4.

~
Dale Franks
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Circling the drain

The NY Times has an article out saying that extended unemployment benefits are beginning to wind down.  Of course that’s in the face of at least 5 million still unemployed.   And while it obviously has to happen, i.e. the cut-off of extended unemployment benefits,  my guess is that Democrats are less likely to want it to happen than Republicans.

In case you haven’t heard there’s an election soon.

But, that said, it does take us to a number that should concern everyone:

49.1%: Percent of the population that lives in a household where at least one member received some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2011.

Cutting government spending is no easy task, and it’s made more complicated by recent Census Bureau data showing that nearly half of the people in the U.S. live in a household that receives at least one government benefit, and many likely received more than one.

Yes, that number.  49.1%.  Why should we be concerned about it?  Well if I have to explain, you most likely won’t get it anyway.  Make this comparison:

The 49.1% of the population in a household that gets benefits is up from 30% in the early 1980s and 44.4% as recently as the third quarter of 2008.

That’s a very large increase from 1984.  It speaks, at least to me, of dependence.  Now I know the recession has somewhat skewed the numbers.  Got it.  And, as the unemployment benefits wind down, the number will probably drop.

But in reality it points to a trend in which more and more people depend on less and less working people to help pay their way (CBO says food stamp rolls will continue to grow through 2014).  What this points too is increased government spending (no matter how you slice it – those drawing money from the government is up and that means government is spending more) in an era we can’t afford it.

With increased government spending comes the need to pay for it, and if taxes aren’t going to increase that means deficits. Nearly three-quarters of Americans blame the U.S. budget deficit on spending too much money on federal programs, according to a Gallup poll last year, but when the conversation turns to which programs to cut, the majorities are harder to find. For example, 56% of respondents oppose making significant changes to Social Security or Medicare.

Why do you suppose that is? Why would 56% oppose making significant changes to Social Security or Medicare?

Because they have a vested financial interest in the two programs.  Government has, for decades, taken money out of their pay check, spent it on other things and over promised the benefits.  Or to simplify it for you, they’ve grossly mismanaged the two programs to the point that anyone in the private sector would be in jail.

And yet, the number of Americans getting benefits from government continues to trend upward.

Can you not spot the big red kangaroo here?

Why is it obvious to everyone but our politicians (yeah, that’s a rhetorical question for those wondering)?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

R2P, Syria and “dumb wars”

Remember the war in Libya?  Remember how the doctrine Responsibility To Protect (R2P) was invoked as the reason to intervene? 

Libya was somehow chosen as a country in which R2P must be exercised and quickly.  Of course NATO airpower and arms shipments to the rebels did the job of overthrowing Gadaffi, and what has since established itself in Libya is as bad if not worse than what the people of the country suffered under the dictator.

But more important than where the doctrine was exercised is where it hasn’t been exercised.  Syria … no R2P for you!

The U.N. said Tuesday that entire families were shot in their homes during a massacre in Syria last week that killed more than 100 people, including children. Most of the victims were shot at close range, the U.N. said.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the conclusions were based on accounts gathered by U.N. monitors and corroborated by other sources. He said U.N. monitors found that fewer than 20 of the 108 people killed in the west-central area of Houla were killed by artillery fire.

"Most of the rest of the victims were summarily executed in two separate incidents," Colville told reporters in Geneva. "At this point it looks like entire families were shot in their houses."

He said witnesses blamed pro-government thugs known as shabiha for the attacks, noting that they sometimes operate "in concert" with government forces.

I recall the justification for intervention in Libya quite well – “we” had to protect civilians who were being killed by their government.

Ahem.  Question for the decision makers – why did Libya qualify and Syria doesn’t?

Daniel Larison figured out the reason months ago:

Paradoxically, the Libyan war and its aftermath have had the unintended consequence of undermining the doctrine of "responsibility to protect" (R2P) that was originally used to justify the intervention. Many advocates of intervention believed Western involvement would strengthen the norm that sovereignty may be limited to protect a civilian population from large-scale loss of life. Instead, the Libyan intervention helped discredit that idea.

A key requirement of the "responsibility to protect" is that intervening governments assume the "responsibility to rebuild" in the wake of military action, but this was a responsibility that the intervening governments never wanted and haven’t accepted. All of this has proven to skeptical governments, including emerging democratic powers such as Brazil and India, that the doctrine can and will be abused to legitimize military intervention while ignoring its other requirements. The Libyan experience has soured many major governments around the world on R2P, and without their support in the future, it will become little more than a façade for the preferred policies of Western governments.

One of those “dumb wars” Obama condemned as a Senator.  Meanwhile our Prez said yesterday, when speaking of war:

"I can promise you I will never do so unless it’s absolutely necessary, and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation."

“Absolutely necessary?”

You mean like Libya?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO