Free Markets, Free People
You may remember the story from last week about the Idaho man who shot and killed a grizzly bear in his yard because he feared it would injure or kill his children (also somewhere in the yard). He reported the killing to fish and wildlife officials and that’s when his troubles began. Although the local and regional fish and wildlife people recommended no charges based on their investigation (they considered it a justified kill), federal officials decided to proceed, leveling federal misdemeanor charges against Jeremy Hill.
There was an outcry not only from the local population, but on blogs all across the land. It put the spotlight on the story and pressure on the U.S. Attorney’s Office to justify their decision. Obviously, they couldn’t. So, assuming a face-saving ploy, they’ve decided they’ll simply reduce the charges to a “citation” and a fine Hill $1,000.
Becky Kramer, writing for the Coeur d’Alene Spokesman-Review tells us the story:
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dropped misdemeanor charges against a Porthill, Idaho, man who shot and killed a grizzly bear in his yard.
Instead, Jeremy M. Hill was issued a citation for the May 8 shooting of the male grizzly, and paid a $1,000 fine.
A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that state and federal wildlife officials were unable to establish the location of Hill’s children when three grizzly bears were first sighted in the yard, about forty yards from the Hill home. Hill told law enforcement officers that he last saw his children outside playing basketball in front of their home, but that he didn’t know where his children were when he saw the three grizzly bears near his pig pen. The two other bears ran off after Hill shot the 2-year-old male.
U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson said that dismissal of the criminal charge was based in part on Hill’s prompt notification of the shooting to Idaho Fish & Game officials.
“The United States Attorney’s Office well understands Mr. Hill is a concerned husband and father who wants to protect his family,” said Olson. “Anyone who observes or hears of a grizzly bear near campsites or residences must immediately contact fish and wildlife officials.”
If that last bit of drivel isn’t a laugh I don’t know what is. He was charged by the feds after he notified the proper authorities. It wasn’t his “prompt notification” which caused the U.S. Attorney to drop the charges, it was public outcry and them looking like asses. The man should never have been charged in the first place as the fish and wildlife officials in the area recommended. And now they want to paper it over with the nonsense above after Hill has had to go to the time and expense of defending himself.
In reality, he’d have been much better off not notifying the authorities, but instead quietly disposing of the remains instead. And the authorities know it. Thus the fabricated reason for dropping the charges.
You may have heard that, at about 15:38 Pacific time yesterday, an APS worker outside of Yuma, AZ, accidentally tripped a fault that shut off power to parts of Arizona, California, and Baja California in Mexico. So, one guy, apparently, can shut down power to 3 states in 2 countries. That really fills me with confidence about the robustness of the electrical grid.
Anyway, I was one of the 6 million people who lost power during this horrific crisis. In an instant, we were thrown into the stone age by the loss of modern technology, living in a world lit only by fire. I kept a diary of this frightening experience. Below are my diary notes, written contemporaneously during the collapse. I append it here so that historians can know how it really was.
1538: Crap! I just lost all electrical power at my house! So much for liveblogging tonight. My netbook and 4G modem work though.
1550: Can’t get to the SDG&E web site, or through on the phone. Odd.
1605: Liveblogging president’s jobs speech. Streaming video from White House via 4G modem on my netbook with its tiny screen. Inconvenient. Like being a settler in a covered wagon. Will the power ever come back?
1724: I’m learning how people lived in Oldy Days without electricity. This sucks. Why do these things always happen to me?
1745: Power outages throughout San Diego County, reports of outages in Mexico, AZ, NM. Millions without power. Trolleys dead. Massive traffic.
1840: Went out on my motorcycle for a pack of smokes. Stores closed, smokes hard to acquire. Had to go to 2 stores to find them. Civilization is breaking down. Loading my rifles now.
1930: Darkness is falling. Dinner time approaching. Must resist cannibalistic urges.
2018: So, ONE GUY can cut off power to three states in two countries? One guy? Seriously?
2100: SDG&E says, "If you have a personal family emergency plan, activate it now." My personal family emergency plan is to kill my neighbors for their food. Too soon? Or do they already suspect my plans?
2140: No power for 6 hours. Veneer of civilization crumbling away. Typing on a netbook via 4G in candlelight like some sort of animal.
2230: 7 hours without power. My white wines are perilously close to room temperature. We’re just living like wild beasts now.
2316: Must go to bed and try to sleep now. All windows are open to try to cool the house. Temperature must be approaching 80°. May start sweating at any minute. Physical torture affecting my thought processes.
2330: With the candles out, it’s pitch black. Strange noises outside the windows. What was once civilization may now be infested by wolves and mountain lions. Or possums.
2340: Must try to sleep. Thank God for the protection offered by my four large dogs. If I am alive in the morning, it is thanks to them.
0230: Am awoken by lights, television. Air conditioning back on, so I have to get up and close all the windows. That sucks, ’cause I have to be up at 0700. Will this horror never end!?
0231: Oh, wait…
Some may try to trivialize this blackout in the future. But now you know how it really was.
The gift that keeps on giving: The White House’s chart of unemployment predictions in the Stimulus/no Stimulus world. Superimposed is the graph of actual unemployment, but now, with wall street economists predictions for the near-term future.
I think a big speech will help, though. ‘Cause that’s what we’ve been missing. Speeches.
The analysis of that speech is pretty straightforward and simple. We’ve spent $800 billion for TARP, $1.4 trillion in the stimulus package, and $2 trillion in quantitative easing from the Fed. Now, if we spend another $430 billion on the American Jobs Act, that’ll be the fix we’ve been looking for, and everything will be peachy.
The president’s child-like faith in the power of government is touching. And frightening.
Dana Milbank discusses the “atmospherics” of the speech last night. A bit of a look at how it was all perceived, regarded, treated by those in attendance. Some nuggets:
Presidential addresses to Congress are often dramatic moments. This one felt like a sideshow. Usually, the press gallery is standing room only; this time only 26 of 90 seats were claimed by the deadline. Usually, some members arrive in the chamber hours early to score a center-aisle seat; 90 minutes before Thursday’s speech, only one Democrat was so situated.
Relevance? When you can only inspire the filling of 26 of 90 seats in the press gallery, how relevant are you? Or perhaps a better question is, how much news does the press think will actually be made with the speech. If those numbers were a poll, they wouldn’t be a very favorable one.
And enthusiasm. One Democrat arrived early to grab a coveted isle seat? If you’ve ever watched the entrance of a president, it is clear those seats were claimed to get a little face time and flesh pressing with the President. One Democrat was interested.
In fact, as Milbank points out, most of the empty seats (those not in the press gallery) were to be found on the Democratic side:
Almost all Republicans ignored the calls of some within their ranks to boycott the speech. In fact, the empty seats were on the Democratic side. Democrats lumbered to their feet to give the president several standing ovations, but they struggled at times to demonstrate enthusiasm. When Obama proposed payroll tax cuts for small businesses, three Democrats stood to applaud. Summer jobs for disadvantaged youth brought six Democrats to their feet, and a tax credit for hiring the long-term unemployed produced 11 standees.
Obama spoke quickly, urgently, even angrily. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.) stared at the ceiling. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) scanned the gallery. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) was seen reading a newspaper.
In fact, it is apparent a whole lot of folks in that chamber really didn’t want to be there. Then there’s this:
Republican leaders, having forced Obama to postpone the speech because of the GOP debate, decided they wouldn’t dignify the event by offering a formal, televised “response.” And the White House, well aware of Obama’s declining popularity, moved up the speech time to 7 p.m. so it didn’t conflict with the Packers-Saints NFL opener at 8:30.
Priorities. A presidential speech to a joint session of Congress rates lower than an NFL game (ok, given, it is the opening game of the season, but still). And the GOP waives off a rebuttal? Again, the anticipation of anything new was just not there. And in that department, Obama did not disappoint, serving up old hash and calling it new.
And although Milbank still tries to push the “GOP forced Obama to postpone” meme, it is clear that the bloom is off the Obama rose for good. The supposed best orator of our era has been outed. He’s all blow and no go. Why be enthusiastic about that? Why even show up?
Well, most showed up because they had to or they were forced too by good old politics:
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) had planned to skip the speech to host a football party, but the Senate majority leader thwarted his plan. “Typical Harry Reid,” Vitter tweeted. “He’s now schdld votes that should’ve been this morn 4 right b4 & right AFTER prez’s speech. Pens me in 2 have 2 stay.”
Interesting when you have to go to lengths like that to assure attendance to a Presidential speech, isn’t it? Moves like probably wouldn’t be necessary if a president was still relevant, would they? The press gallery would be standing room only, Democrats would have arrived hours early to grab isle seats and standing ovations would have been a dozen a minute for a relevant president.
Or at least that’s what history shows us.
Respect is earned, not granted. This president has obviously not yet earned the respect he thinks he deserves. But he is certainly getting the level of respect he has earned.
A reasonable summary? How about, ‘”let’s put aside partisan bickering because I need a political boost and spend half of what was spent on the stimulus to do exactly the same thing that hasn’t yet worked.”
As most predicted two things were evident in the speech. A president out of ideas and trying once again to shift blame to Congress. And the fact that he still doesn’t understand that the spending spree is over.
Instead of suggesting a regulatory roll back, or cutting government red tape, or even, horror of horrors, a corporate tax cut, we’re essentially get much of the failed stimulus plan repackaged. The entire purpose of addressing a joint session of Congress (instead of doing the speech from the Oval Office) was to again attempt to establish the House GOP as the bad guys in all of this.
The proposal is simply a redo of the stimulus plan, something Obama has been trying to get Congress to do since the first one failed. Obama proposed a payroll tax cut extension, an extension of unemployment benefits, the creation of an infrastructure bank, a new job training initiative, and providing aid to state and local governments, which have been hard hit by job losses.
The infrastructure bank is somewhat new, but aimed at the same sort of programs at which we previously threw over $800 billion in stimulus money. How did that work out? The payroll tax and unemployment benefit extensions haven’t produced more jobs yet, have they? In fact some argue the continuing extension of unemployment benefits works to the opposite effect. We’ve had job training programs since time immemorial and they too have very little positive effect. The one key point that those who propose such initiatives always seem to miss is there have to be jobs available for such a program to be successful. And finally, pumping money into state and local governments is a very temporary fix. It allows them to keep employed workers who they otherwise couldn’t, at least for a while. But, as they learned with the stimulus funds, once the money ends, so do the jobs. Hardly what one would consider a “jobs program”.
Obama also tried to waive off criticism of cost by claiming his plan was all paid for. AP disputes that:
OBAMA: "Everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything."
THE FACTS: Obama did not spell out exactly how he would pay for the measures contained in his nearly $450 billion American Jobs Act but said he would send his proposed specifics in a week to the new congressional supercommittee charged with finding budget savings. White House aides suggested that new deficit spending in the near term to try to promote job creation would be paid for in the future – the "out years," in legislative jargon – but they did not specify what would be cut or what revenues they would use.
Essentially, the jobs plan is an IOU from a president and lawmakers who may not even be in office down the road when the bills come due. Today’s Congress cannot bind a later one for future spending. A future Congress could simply reverse it.
Currently, roughly all federal taxes and other revenues are consumed in spending on various federal benefit programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, food stamps, farm subsidies and other social-assistance programs and payments on the national debt. Pretty much everything else is done on credit with borrowed money.
So there is no guarantee that programs that clearly will increase annual deficits in the near term will be paid for in the long term.
To actually pay for this, the revenue must be diverted from this years budget, not some future year(s) budget. Again smoke and mirrors to sell more spending. Eric Cantor caught all sorts of grief for claiming disaster relief needed to be paid for elsewhere in the budget. That is how you cut and control spending. What Obama has again done is use the old DC jargon that claims something is paid for if they say they plan for it in the future.
That’s simply not acceptable.
Obama challenged the Republicans with a falsehood:
OBAMA: "Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans, including many who sit here tonight."
THE FACTS: Obama’s proposed cut in the Social Security payroll tax does seem likely to garner significant GOP support. But Obama proposes paying for the plan in part with tax increases that have already generated stiff Republican opposition.
For instance, Obama makes a pitch anew to end Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which he has defined as couples earning over $250,000 a year or individuals over $200,000 a year. Republicans have adamantly blocked what they view as new taxes. As recently as last month, House Republicans refused to go along with any deal to raise the government’s borrowing authority that included new revenues, or taxes.
So, as AP points out, the claim is fraudulent. In fact, there are many things in the proposal that the GOP has been against.
And perhaps the biggest falsehood of the night?
OBAMA: "It will not add to the deficit."
THE FACTS: It’s hard to see how the program would not raise the deficit over the next year or two because most of the envisioned spending cuts and tax increases are designed to come later rather than now, when they could jeopardize the fragile recovery. Deficits are calculated for individual years. The accumulation of years of deficit spending has produced a national debt headed toward $15 trillion. Perhaps Obama meant to say that, in the long run, his hoped-for programs would not further increase the national debt, not annual deficits.
Perhaps. But then if that was so, he should have said it, shouldn’t he? Instead he played politics.
Probably most interesting was the man who has been driving the lead clown car in the political parade admonishing Congress to “stop the political circus and do something”. It has taken the circus ringmaster 3 years to figure out this is what he should have been focused on from the beginning. And for 2 of those years, he had an all Democratic Congress.
They guy who called for an end to politics has done nothing but played politics throughout this whole ordeal. And now, with his popularity at an all time low, his political future dimming and with him finally turning from his political agenda to that to which he should have been paying full attention from day one, he falls back on one of his favorite political tricks – blame shifting.
What he doesn’t seem to understand is this is all his now. And while the GOP should consider the proposal, it should also be unremitting in pointing out that the proposal isn’t paid for, will add to the deficit and is simply another attempt at a second stimulus throwing money at old programs and ideas which have yet to prove their worth in either improving the economy or increasing jobs.
(UPDATE) If you really want to know how bad the plan is, Krugman liked it:
First things first: I was favorably surprised by the new Obama jobs plan, which is significantly bolder and better than I expected. It’s not nearly as bold as the plan I’d want in an ideal world. But if it actually became law, it would probably make a significant dent in unemployment.
Yeah, just like the last one did, huh Paul?