Free Markets, Free People

failure


Is the Obama presidency failing?

Edward Luce, writing in the Financial Times, certainly seems to think so:

Anyone wondering about the scale of the anti-Obama backlash should look at its impact on the 2016 US presidential race. Both major parties are looking for candidates with genuine executive experience. The Republican list of hopefuls is filling up with sitting governors. Among Democrats, hopes rest mainly with Hillary Clinton. Should Elizabeth Warren, the popular senator from Massachusetts, enter the fray Mrs Clinton’s riposte would trip off the tongue. Ms Warren has no governing experience, she could say. And we all know the risks of that.

Having authored an inspirational politics, President Barack Obama’s difficulties are spawning a new fashion for perspiration. Given its limited powers, the strength of the US presidency derives largely from its occupant’s credibility.

Faith in Mr Obama’s competence was already negative. Doubts now extend to his personal integrity. A majority of Americans tell pollsters that they no longer believe he is always telling the truth. Were Mr Obama in a different system, he would be fending off a leadership challenge or facing a snap election. Since the US constitution rules out those options, Mr Obama is in danger of becoming a permanent lame duck.

I’d say that was a pretty fair summary of the depth of Obama’s problems.  It reminds many of the George H. W. Bush “read my lips” moment, only on steroids. In both cases, personal credibility suffered.  It is also interesting to read the first paragraph.  Suddenly the experience of actually having run something or done something besides promote yourself all your life is in demand.

But Luce makes some important points – especially with the line, “Given its limited powers, the strength of the US presidency derives largely from its occupant’s credibility.”  Mr. Obama has trampled his.  And, unfortunately for Democrats, he continues to do so.  Luce gives a bit of insight for that as well:

But Mr Obama’s problems derive chiefly from his tendency to react politically to events, rather than from a lack of time. His fumbling response to the woes engulfing the Affordable Care Act show how hard it is for him to kick the habit – even if the remainder of his presidency depends on it.

Pinpoint accuracy in describing the major problem of this administration.  As I’ve said many times, it is all politics all the time with them.  And for such a politically astute group while on the campaign trail, they are incredibly inept in the use of politics while governing.  That’s mainly because the only experience they have is with politics – certainly not with governing.

Finally:

Mr Obama has continually promised more from his signature healthcare reform than it can deliver. In addition to telling Americans that they could keep their insurance if they liked it – a pledge that millions now know was untrue – Mr Obama said the law would extend coverage to the one in six uninsured Americans, reduce costs for the other five and improve delivery for all six.

There ought to have been more scepticism about whether he could make a thing universally available, higher quality and cheaper all at the same time. Only price controls and public provision could conceivably have done that. And Mr Obama had ruled those out early on.

There ought to have been?  There was plenty of skepticism at the time among those who actually took the time to think it through.  And so far the only promises that have been kept are those the skeptics said would happen.  The fact is this was panned by the entire right, but that argument against was virtually ignored by the main stream press who, on the whole, thought this was a dandy idea.  There was plenty of skepticism … just no one willing to listen to it.  Instead, they chose to listen to the snake-0il-salesman-in-chief.

So is Obama’s presidency failing?  Of course it is.  It is a presidency built on a cult of personality.  And once that which held it together and gave it its strength and resiliency is destroyed, the whole house of cards collapses.  Mr. Obama’s credibility is in tatters.  While there are those who will claim this is recoverable, it’s not.  Even if they finally get the website fixed, they then have to deal with the sticker shock so many are going to experience when they see higher premiums and higher deductions and feel lied too again.

Is the Obama presidency failing?  In a word, ‘yes’.  And if, as Luce claims, Obama is relegated to “permanent lame duck status”, so be it.  That may give the country an outside chance to survive this administration.

~McQ


Unemployment rate rises to 8.2%

As a follow up to the post below, another indication of how anemic our recovery is can be found in the “official” unemployment numbers.  This week it rose .1% to 8.2%.  I don’t have to belabor the fact that the number is a real lowball of the true unemployment rate.  Suffice it to say, regardless of the number, the trend this month has been to the negative:

The American jobs engine hit stall speed in May, with the economy adding just 69,000 new jobs while the unemployment rate climbed to 8.2 percent.

As another summertime swoon looms, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job creation missed economist estimates for 158,000 new positions and the jobless rate rose for the first time in nearly a year.

Labor force participation remains near 30-year lows though incrementally better than last month, rising to 63.8 percent.

The unemployment rate that counts discouraged workers rose as well, swelling to 14.8 percent form 14.5 percent in April.

To put it succinctly, the employment picture sucks and doesn’t at all appear to be getting better.  Last months 115,000 new jobs has been revised down to 77,000 .  Couple all of that with what we see happening in the rest of the world and it paints a pretty bleak economic picture for at least the near future.

James Pethokoukis lays out some of that picture for you:

– 1Q GDP was revised down to 1.9% from 2.2%. The previous four GDP quarters of Obama recovery: 0.4%, 1.3%, 1.8%, 3.0%. Keep in mind that research from the Federal Reserve finds that that since 1947, when two-quarter annualized real GDP growth falls below 2 percent, recession follows within a year 48 percent of the time. (And when year-over-year real GDP growth falls below 2 percent, recession follows within a year 70 percent of the time.)

– Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 383,000. Claims have now risen in seven of the past eight weeks. The four-week moving average for new claims increased 3,750 to 374,500.

[…]

– Job cuts jumped by 53%  in May from April in the United States, according to a report by consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. CNBC also notes that “employers announced plans to cut 61,887 staff from their payrolls in May, 67 percent more than in the same month of last year. The figure represents the most job cuts since last September.”

– The  Rasmussen Consumer Index find that 59% think the U.S. is currently in a recession.

Politically, this isn’t at all good news for an incumbent President seeking another term.  With 14.8 percent of the workforce out of work or “discouraged”, the conventional wisdom says they’re unlikely to think signing on for another 4 years of this is worth it.  And the economy, at this moment, and under his leadership, is showing no indication the next 4 years will be any different than these past 4 years.

That’s just ground truth for all the wishful thinkers out there on the left.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The law of unintended (but obviously expected if you know anything about human nature) consequences

Remember the “digital divide”.  The bloviating over the “right” of access to the internet and how the “poor” were being left out and that was hurting their chances of advancement?

Remember how government decided it would fix that and take your money and provide hardware and connectivity to the poor?

Well it did, with predictable results:

As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show.

This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.

Is it?  So if it is a parent problem, what’s the solution?

Ha, ha, ha … you already know the answer, don’t you?

The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.

Yes, friends, the solution is just as predictable as the problem.

More government, of course.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Like other researchers and policy makers, Ms. Boyd said the initial push to close the digital divide did not anticipate how computers would be used for entertainment.

“We failed to account for this ahead of the curve,” she said.

Ya think?  Name another government policy or program that ever has accounted for consequences ahead of the curve.  Back to our most recent Quote of the Day.  How in the world do we continue to let this sort of inept, wasteful, ill-thought-out nonsense continue?

Who knew, when free access was provided to the internet, that most would use it to entertain themselves?  Nothing like free YouTube and porn, right?

Thanks, taxpayers.

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Tina Brown: Obama just doesn’t like his job

Aw, Bunkie doesn’t like his job?  The smartest guy in the room? 

You know I think back to all the times in the past three years I’ve pointed out the man has little if any leadership skills and now, it seems, even liberals are having to admit it, even if obliquely and wrapped in spin.  Check out this transcript on Morning Joe with Tina Brown:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Tina, what has happened to this president, the president from hope and change?  What has happened?

TINA BROWN: Well it’s so interesting. I think that Obama doesn’t like his job, actually. I think that he is genuinely of a professional disposition in the sense that I think that he’s interested in chewing over the pros and cons, and he doesn’t like, he doesn’t like power and he doesn’t know how to exercise power. And I think knowing how to exercise power is absolutely crucial.  He doesn’t understand how to underpin his ideas with the political gritty, granular business of getting it done. And that kind of gap has just widened and widened and widened. And so that every time there is a moment, a window where he can jump in, like something like a Simpson-Bowles as well, he just doesn’t do it. He hangs back at crucial moments when you have to dive through that window.

SCARBOROUGH: And regardless of your ideology, it is very safe to say, I think most people would agree: LBJ he is not, Bill Clinton, he is not, when it just comes to understanding how to make Washington work.

MIKE BARNICLE: It appears off of what Tina just said, you just said, it appears that you could make a case that Barack Obama doesn’t like politics. [emphasis mine]

He doesn’t like power?  Nonsense.  As Ace says, this is just a way of spinning failure.  It is an apologia.  He loves power.  He thought this was all about power.  All he had to do was win and have his way.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the Oval Office.  He found out he had to lead to wield his power and he hasn’t a clue about what that entails.  You see, he never thought he’d  have to actually do the “political gritty, granular business of getting it done” … i.e. lead.  He’d just wave his hand and demand it be done.

Just check his reliance on executive orders and executive branch agencies to see how he’d prefer to do business.   Dictate. 

And this claim just floored me:

He doesn’t understand how to underpin his ideas with the political gritty, granular business of getting it done.

State Senator and US Senator and he doesn’t understand the basic nature of politics today, the process  and what it requires?  And he’s the smartest guy in the room?  That’s just absurd.  He knows full well what it takes, he just doesn’t want to have to do it.

As the discussion continues, Tina Brown agrees with Mike Barnicle’s claim that Obama just doesn’t like politics:

BROWN: Right. I absolutely feel that.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Well who would today? I mean, I think it’s great that –

SCARBOROUGH: Oh come on. If you don’t like medicine, don’t be a doctor. If you don’t like politics, don’t put yourself out there to run the free world, Mika.

BRZEZINSKI: You know what?  Politics today need to be changed.

SCARBOROUGH: Stop the apologizing!

BRZEZINSKI: I’m not apologizing.

SCARBOROUGH: You’re apologizing. [Sarcastically imitates Mika's voice] Who would like politics today?  You know what?

BRZEZINSKI: Who would?

SCARBOROUGH: He is running the free world. He better know a lot of people love politics.  Bill Clinton loves politics. FDR loved politics.  Ronald Reagan loved politics. Great leaders love what they do. So who would love politics?

BROWN: Isn’t it really also about, well the other word for politics is just doing what it takes to get it done. Like, one of the things that’s interesting about Obama is that he kind of, and I think he does believe in this, that his idea of being a transformative figure who can cross many persuasions and orientations and aisles. And yet when it is actually taken to reaching out and really bringing that in, and trying, I don’t think that it really –

SCARBOROUGH: He doesn’t do that.

If he doesn’t like politics, why did he run?  If the first word that springs to your mind is narcissism, I think you’re on to something.  As many have already noted, to include authors on this blog, he took over in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and what did he do?  He immediately began working on his legacy – healthcare.   He waved away what was important and concentrated on legislation and the politics it took by the way, to get it passed.  Meanwhile, the real crisis was ignored.  For two years he had a Democratic Congress and he did nothing to address jobs or anything else economic.

Brown would like to spin his narcissism as his belief that he’s a “transformative figure” who just can’t be bothered with doing the mundane stuff necessary to get things done.  Again, and once more for the slow among us, ObamaCare.  It gives lie to the premise.  His problem isn’t that he doesn’t like politics, it’s that other than jamming through his health care fiasco, he’s been a failure.

His withdrawal now, spun as “staying above it all”, is because he’s never been an obvious failure in his entire life.   Remember this is the guy who won the Nobel Peace Prize without ever doing a single thing but winning a presidential election.  And he took it as his due.

Obama’s biggest problem is he thinks he’s smarter than he is and he had a misconception, for whatever reason (for, you know, such a smart guy) of the role and demands of the presidency.  Apparently the unicorns and moon ponies deserted him, he found out it is damned hard work that demands a competent leader and for the first time in his life, everyone wasn’t praising every little thing he did.  In fact, instead his shortcomings were being headlined.  And he has plenty of them.  Additionally, he’s now forced to actually run on a record of accomplishment if he wants to be reelected.  Of course, that’s slim to nonexistent.

No, he and his apologists are beginning to understand that they’re going to have to spin everything – everything – to try to make him the attractive candidate he was in 2008.  He’s really not cooperating which is what prompts people like Tina Brown to begin spinning like she does.  Its fairly obvious that even the liberal elite are having problems dealing with his failure and are in full “explain it away” mode.

Unfortunately, Obama has finally bumped up against “hard America” after spending most of his life in “soft America”.  Soft America is where everything done is touted and worshiped as wonderful and performance really doesn’t matter as much as just showing up.

Hard America demands performance and accomplishment.   He has precious few to show for his time in office and plenty of failure.  Its not that he doesn’t like politics or power.  Its that he is inept at both and is just now discovering that for himself.   Reaction?  Pull back.  He’s never “failed” before and doesn’t really know how to handle it.

And thus we have our present situation … a president who refuses to lead, tries to stay aloof and is seen to be withdrawing from his duties.

Gee, sure wish I could have seen that coming.

Oh, wait …

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Supercommittee failure

Question: is anyone – and I mean anyone – somehow surprised that the Supercommittee failed?

Seriously?  Is there anyone who actually thought that this collection of ideologically loyal representatives handpicked by leaders on each side was ever going to compromise and try to work something out?

I’m not suggesting that compromise was the right or best thing to do – I’m simply asking a question about the make up of the committee and how anyone who knows anything about how Washington DC works could have or would have expected success.

And, as Michael said in the podcast, there was no incentive for them to succeed.  There was every incentive to do exactly what happened, fail to reach any sort of consensus.

So, as Jim Geraghty quips in today’s Morning Jolt, they now get back to what they do best:

After the Supercommittee, Congress returns to its core competency: finger-pointing

And we will certainly see much of that in the next few weeks.  Already some in the media are trying to spin it a certain way.

The imminent failure of the congressional deficit “supercommittee,” which had a chance to settle the nation’s tax policy for the next decade, would thrust the much-contested Bush tax cuts into the forefront of next year’s presidential campaign.

Why do I consider that “spin”?  Because the “much-contested Bush tax cuts” are simply the current tax rate, nothing more.   Tax rates have changed over the many years of income taxation and never has one rate, which has been in effect for years, been referred too as a “tax cut”.  They certainly didn’t refer to tax increases under Bill Clinton as the “much-contested Clinton tax increases” did they?

No, they were simply the new tax rates.

So as with many things, the media has bought into the description that one side has put out there to keep attention focused in a negative way on the so-called “rich”. Rarely do they point out the amount of the total taxes these “rich” pay when they parrot the politicians call for the rich to pay their “fair share”.  Nor do they bother to point out that even if the “rich” pay 100% of their earnings in taxes it won’t solve the deficit problem.

Presented as the unchallenged panacea to all that is wrong is this tax increase.

Note what isn’t mentioned.  Spending.  In fact, we’ve quietly slipped past $15 trillion cumulative national debt in the last week.  That means that in less than a year, another trillion in spending borrowed money has occurred.  We’ve now managed to run up a debt equal to 100% of our nation’s GDP.

That should be what we’re talking about in the 2012 presidential campaign.  How we managed in 3 short years to push the debt from $9 trillion to $15 trillion.  It certainly wasn’t the “rich” who did that, nor would increasing taxes on them have stopped it.

While at some point revenue increases may end up being something the Congress will discuss, the problem to this point remains the fact that Congress has done absolutely nothing to stem the red ink that keeps running our national debt through the roof.

And the sequestration cuts supposedly triggered by the failure of the Supercommittee take place when?  2013 of course.  After the election and when a new Congress, which can’t be held to the cuts made by a former Congress, comes into existence.

In reality, this is nothing more than a new fangled way for our politicians to kick the can down the road while they squabble about something which really has no bearing and would have little effect on the primary problem: out-of-control spending.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Top Kill fails

Well it looks like I was a little premature, and I should have known better than to believe an LA Times story.

Live and learn.

The bottom line is that everyone, to include the President and a whole host of politicians (and me) thought the deep water oil leak had been plugged.

In the most serious setback yet in the effort to stem the flow of oil gushing from a well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico, BP engineers said Saturday that the “top kill” technique had failed and, after consultation with government officials, they had decided to move on to another strategy.

Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, said at a news conference that the engineers would try once again to solve the problem with a containment valve and that it could take four to seven days for the device to be in place.

“After three full days of attempting top kill, we now believe it is time to move on to the next of our options,” Mr. Suttles said.

Apparently the pressure of the escaping oil and gas was just too powerful to overcome and the disaster in the Gulf continues. BP’s next option is apparently a variation on the containment dome option they tried previously.

The new strategy is to smoothly cut the riser that the oil is leaking from and then place a cap. Pipes attached to the cap would then take the oil to a storage boat waiting at the surface.An effort at a containment dome was tried earlier this month, but failed when gases escaping from the oil, froze and blocked the pipe. Mr. Suttles said, however, that BP had learned from that experience and now believed that this cap, which is custom fitted to the riser, will be more successful.

Let’s hope they’ve figured out a way to prevent the causes of the failure the last time they tried to use a dome.

Option 2 is to attach another blowout preventer to the non-functioning one already at the wellhead.

If that doesn’t work, we’re most likely looking at a relief well (which will definitely stop the leak) sometime in August.

August.

If that’s true it is fair to say that Obama and his daughter will be having a few more bathroom conversations and that “plug the hole” failed.

In all seriousness though, this presents a big problem for the administration. Thinking they were past the leak and faced only with the clean up (a daunting problem, but not as visible as the leak), most of the building criticism of the way the President and his administration had handled the leak was subsiding. And, the President made an late PR effort by visiting the LA coast to blunt further criticism before heading to Chicago for the Memorial Day weekend.

All for naught now. Per the NY Times:

The latest failure will undoubtedly put more pressure — both politically and from the public — on the Obama administration to take some sort of action, perhaps taking control of the repair effort completely from BP — and increase the public outcry.

And what do we get from the Prez?

“It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking,” Mr. Obama said in a statement, “and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole.”

Manmade disaster? Wait I thought that’s what we were calling terrorism now. It’s all so confusing. As for the statement from Mr. Cool, Calm and Collected – a little over-dramatic maybe? All a part of keeping their boot foot on the neck of BP one supposes. In the meantime, the rest of us hope and pray that the “next option” BP tries succeeds. And we also have to hope that the government won’t “push BP out of the way and take over” or we’ll be out of options.

~McQ


Oh, by all means – tax the banks

And yes, if you’re wondering, I’m being highly facetious with the title.

But that’s the growing consensus among our political leadership – at least that brand of it which believes such taxes are actually paid by the institutions themselves.  And you have to love the reasoning:

The U.S. and European governments are moving toward a consensus on taxing large banks to cover the cost of any future bailouts rather than asking taxpayers to foot the bill, as happened regularly in past banking crises.

The tax proposals vary. Germany and Sweden would use the money to fund a “resolution authority” that would use the money to shut troubled banks whose failure would put the broader economy at risk. Others, such as France, would assess the fee after a crisis passed.

What’s wrong with that, you say? Well anyone – if you’re going to be bailed out and you know it, where the aversion to risk come from? Why not play with other people’s money a little more if there’s no death penalty for doing so? If you are a assured a fail-safe position, why not go for broke?

It seems to provide a perverse incentive to do exactly what you don’t want to see happen.

Our leadership is split on how they should approach it. I bet it doesn’t take you much time to figure out what part of the leadership sides with France’s concept and which would like to see an ongoing tax fund. You’re right, the administration wants to see assessments made after the fact and the Congress prefers a slush fund they can plunder an ongoing fund established (Unsurprisingly Ezra Klein of juicebox mafia fame finds this the most satisfying solution of the two).

Either way, it’s going to cost you money.

And instead of leaving the banks with the threat of punishment by the market for stupid risks (failure), they’ll collect money from you in the form of higher fees and other costs and pass them on to the government so it can subsidize their bad behavior and then wonder why its regulations didn’t work.

Oh, wait, we’ve already wondered about that, haven’t we? I know, let’s make even more regulations.

The core problem? It, like health care, remains unaddressed.

~McQ