Free Markets, Free People
An address that has become popularly known on blogs and Twitter as the SOTU. In the case of the one scheduled for tonight, some think it should be abbreviated as the STFU address, but then there are always some who’d prefer silence to the usual nonsense that takes place at the Capitol.
So what will we hear tonight? Well as we get closer, more and more is leaking out. One thing that leaked earlier than the rest is the spending freeze we’ve written about. 25 billion a year for three years. Make sure you listen for what the president talks about spending tonight to balance it against that huge spending freeze. As mentioned, we do many more times that amount of deficit spending each month. If that is the sum of his plan for addressing the deficit, he’s not at all serious about it.
The NY Times has an interesting paragraph in their preview of the SOTU.
When Mr. Obama presents his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening, aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame, for failing to deliver swiftly on some of the changes he promised a year ago. But he will not, aides said, accede to criticism that his priorities are out of step with the nation’s.
First, he will accept the “responsibility” but not necessarily the “blame”? How’s that work? If you’re responsible for something and it doesn’t get done, who else is to blame? Another in a long line of indicators that this guy is not a leader. One of the first things any company commander makes clear to a new platoon leader is the platoon leader is responsible for everything that does or doesn’t happen in his platoon. And that platoon leader knows exactly who the company commander will blame. The same is going to happen here. Obama may decide he’s not going to accept blame, but he’s really not the final arbiter on that, is he?
However, if that’s the Obama game plan, it will be interesting to hear to whom or what he tries to shift the blame. Bush, of course, is in for a round of finger pointing (perhaps more obliquely than usual, but I’m sure it will be there). One thing to remember when he begins that is the Congress – the branch of government that appropriates and spends money as well as making laws (and regulations) – has been in Democratic hands for the last 4 years.
I’d bet he’ll also set his sights on blaming “obstructionist” Republicans. Of course to buy into the “obstructionist” argument you have to again be ignorant of the fact that Democrats have enjoyed overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress to include, until recently, a super-majority in the Senate. So it is unclear who he can credibly blame, other than himself, for not passing his agenda items except, perhaps, the leadership of the Congress. And we all know how that would be received.
Then there’s the sentence that Obama refuses to “accede to criticism that his priorities are out of step with the nation’s”. Pure arrogance. Pure hubris. Poll after poll have made it clear the majority of Americans do not want this monstrosity of a health care bill specifically and in general they want government’s size and expenditures reigned in. And the sooner the better.
Obama and his team still haven’t recognized the fact that the entire political landscape changed with the financial crisis. He seems to think if he gives that crisis enough lip service while proceeding with an agenda ancillary to it, he can still do the agenda. No. Not true. All one has to do is read the Pew survey I posted yesterday to understand where the public’s attention is and where the public wants government’s attention focused. Almost without exception it’s the economy and jobs. All the rest is simply not important. The bunch in DC better figure it out and do so quickly or, as has been promised, they’ll get someone who will – beginning this year with the mid-terms.
So in effect, doubling down on an ineffective and unpopular decision doesn’t make one a strong leader. Instead, in the face of what those who put him in office want him to focus on, it makes him seem more of a petulant and stubborn adolescent who refuses to change because the adults want him too.
As Mr. Obama navigates a crossroads of his presidency, a moment when he signals what lessons he has drawn from his first year in office, the public posture of the White House is that any shortcomings are the result of failing to explain effectively what they were doing — and why. He will acknowledge making mistakes in pursuit of his agenda, aides said, but will not toss the agenda overboard in search of a more popular one.
That’s incredible. It is the very same fallback Democrats took when they lost the presidency in 2000. It wasn’t the message, it just wasn’t properly conveyed. For them it is never the message, even after poll after poll tells them it is. The man gave almost 30 speeches on health care and the public still has said – repeatedly – “no”. What part of “no” doesn’t he and the Democats understand? Which again brings us to the last sentence and the petulance I describe above. It also points to a man who has yet to understand what I pointed out previously – the political landscape has irrevocably changed since he introduced that agenda on the campaign trail. In politics those who can’t adapt “die” electorally – and that is precisely where he and the Democrats are headed.
Finally, it gives lie to the contention that Obama is a pragmatist. If what the NYT is claiming is true, he’s the very antithesis of a pragmatic politician. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool ideologue who will not give up his ideological agenda regardless of the hand reality deals him. And that sort of ideological intransigence will cost him politically. While I can admire those who try to live their ideology, I don’t particularly care for those who try to force it on others. And that’s precisely what he is attempting here.
I’m sure there will be some surprises tonight. I’m interested to hear his “pivot” toward jobs and the economy. And I’m sure the speech will be eloquent. But we’re over the awe of his eloquence. It’s means zip anymore. Those 30 eloquent speeches on health care delivered what? Nothing. Even though I’m quite happy about that, it makes the point that he’s all speech and no action. He is “just words”.
Speaking of words, I’m trying to get an idea of what the over/under is on how many times he’ll say “I”, “me” or “my” tonight. This is the first SOTU for the most self-absorbed president in my lifetime and I can’t help but believe the count will be high.
It started as a trickle and is now turning into a flood. More claims found in the “bible of the alarmists”, the UN’s 2007 IPCC report, have been found to be false.
The two latest have to do with extreme weather increases and the disappearance of the Amazon rain forest.
The IPCC 2007 report claimed that global warming was leading to an increase in extreme weather, such as hurricanes and floods. Like its claims about the glaciers, this was also based on an unpublished report which had not been subject to scientific scrutiny — indeed several experts warned the IPCC not to rely on it.
The author, who didn’t actually finish his work until a year after the IPCC had used his research, has now repudiated what he sees has its misuse of his work.
His conclusion: “There is insufficient evidence to claim a statistical link between global warming and catastrophe loss.”
Yet it was because of this — now unproved — link that the British government signed up to a $100 billion transfer from rich to poor countries to help them cope with a supposed increase in floods and hurricanes.
Peer review? Obviously impossible since the work hadn’t even been finished by the time the IPCC report was published. And much the same has been found concerning the IPCC claim that 40% of the Amazonian forests were at risk from global warming and would likely be replaced by “tropical savannas” if temperatures continued to rise.
This claim is backed up by a scientific-looking reference but on closer investigation turns out to be yet another non-peer reviewed piece of work from the WWF. Indeed the two authors are not even scientists or specialists on the Amazon: one is an Australian policy analyst, the other a freelance journalist for the Guardian and a green activist.
The WWF has yet to provide any scientific evidence that 40% of the Amazon is threatened by climate change — as opposed to the relentless work of loggers and expansion of farms.
What was that question that alarmists like to ask about the IPCC report? Oh, yeah – “how can 2,500 scientists be wrong?” Here’s how – take unfinished research, fudged data and un-peer reviewed work and publish it claiming it is none of those things, that’s how.
The good news?
The sceptics may be about to get their first scalp. Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman often wrongly described in the media as the world’s leading climate scientist (he’s actually a railway engineer), at first attacked those who questioned the IPCC’s alarming glacier prediction as “arrogant” and believers in “voodoo science”.
He’s since had to retract the prediction but can’t quite manage an apology — and is now under mounting pressure in his Indian homeland to resign.
And resign he should – the IPCC report, for which he was responsible, seems to be a pack of lies promulgated to advance a political agenda designed to loot rich countries and transfer the wealth to poorer countries under the auspices of “science”. He and that group have, instead, tarnished the reputation of science and set it back at least 50 years. It’s time for a little accountability in this world. Pachauri should resign at a minimum and, if a way can be figured out to do it, brought up on charges of conspiracy to defraud.
If you were to ask them though, the taxes will be collected only from corporations and the rich. The idea is to stick them with the bill for services the rest of the voters have decided they’d like but can’t afford. It’s a bit like getting on a train without a ticket, finding a well dressed man, and having the ticket collector point a gun at him and demand ticket money for your trip.
If I were the well dressed man, I’d probably find alternate transportation for my next trip. If I was a “rich” person in Oregon, I might begin scouting out a new place to live. The voters have certainly made it clear they feel they have every right to loot my earnings at will. Why would I want to give them any more chances?
Measure 66 raises the income tax paid by households earning at or above $250,000 a year or individual filers who make $125,000 or more. Measure 67 raises the state’s $10 minimum corporate income tax.
Together they generate an estimated $727 million, which has already been budgeted by the 2009 Legislature for public schools and other state services.
So instead of cutting budgets at the state level to what they can afford, Oregon voters have doubled down and bought into the populist notion that they can do it on back of those demonized rich people and evil corporations.
Corporations, of course, have a number of choices. Among them, if the tax isn’t too high, is pass the cost on to their customers. That would most likely be those who voted “yes” on Measure 67 ironically. If it is a large tax which is not easily passed on to the consumer, the corporation has other choices. It can cut headcount – lay people off – to recoup the cost. Or, if it is really crippling, find a new home for their business in a state which is friendlier toward business than is Oregon. What they most likely won’t do, at least not anytime soon, is hire and expand. And if I was a corporation looking for a new home, this vote would have me cross Oregon off the list.
The “rich” also have options. Find ways to hide that income. Like increase 401k savings so that taxable income is below that number. Many are probably small businesses which will hide income in the business vs. putting it in the owner’s income. If none of that’s possible they may find a new home for themselves and their business. One of the benefits of being “rich” is it does tend to give one some options as to where to live.
That’s not to say they will or even that all of them object to this new tax, but Oregon voters shouldn’t fool themselves that this sort of taxation is beneficial in the long run to an atmosphere which will attract and keep businesses or people who have the money to help the economy. Oregon might be a nice place to live, but it’s not that nice – especially when alternatives exist.
UPDATE: Megan McArdle points out something about the tax on business that makes it even worse:
The business tax changes apparently include a gross receipts tax, which is really an awful tax, especially during a downturn. Companies which are actually losing money may still owe taxes, which could hasten their closure, and the evaporation of any jobs they provide.
Any business that took in a dollar last year owe taxes on it. That means, as McArdle points out, marginal businesses who have just managed to hang on (and continue to provide employment) may be forced to lay off or close their doors and liquidate to pay the tax. A particularly “smart” move in a recession.
Additionally, as Tonus points out in the comments – the $727 million will be spent on the static analysis which said such a tax would yield that amount of revenue. But life isn’t static and those effected will immediately begin to do things which will lessen the impact on them and, of course, make that revenue stream smaller than anticipated. That means two things – more deficit spending and, most likely, more taxes on those who approved these to measures in order to make up the revenue shortfall.