Free Markets, Free People

ideology


What if Obama can’t lead?

That’s the question headlining a Ron Fournier article in National Journal.  My first reaction was to laugh out loud.  My second reaction was to wonder why it has taken all this time for someone in the press to actually ask that question.

The evidence of his lack of leadership has been on the table for 4 plus years.  And for me that’s a double edged sword.  On the one side, I’m happy he’s such a dismal leader because it limits what he can destroy.  On the other side, especially the policy side both foreign and domestic, it has led to a decline in almost all areas.  A decline a real leader will have to address when Obama is finally relegated to history. 

Anyway, here’s Fournier’s take:

In March, a reporter asked Obama why he didn’t lock congressional leaders in a room until they agreed on a budget deal. Obama’s answer was based on two assumptions. First, that his opinion is supreme. Second, he can’t break the logjam. What a remarkable combination of arrogance and impotence.

"I am not a dictator. I’m the president," he said. "I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that’s been floating around Washington; that somehow, even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree I’m presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right."

Obama could still do great things. But not if he and his advisers underestimate a president’s powers, and don’t know how to exploit them. Not if his sympathizers give Obama cover by minimizing his influence. Cover to fail. Not if the president himself is outwardly and boundlessly dismissive of his critics, telling The New York Times, "I’m not concerned about their opinions."

To say the situation is intractable seems akin to waving a white flag over a polarized capital: Republicans suck. We can’t deal with them. Let’s quit.

I’m afraid they have quit—all of them, on both sides. At the White House and in Congress, most Democrats and Republicans have abandoned hope of fixing the nation’s problems. If leadership was merely about speaking to the converted, winning fights and positioning for blame, America would be in great hands. But it’s not.

Well I’m not so sure they’ve quit … or at least Obama hasn’t quit. He has no desire to persuade or do the hard work of  a leader and work with Congress.   Instead, where he’s headed does give lie to his claim of not being dictator.  That’s precisely what he’d prefer to be.  And Daniel Henninger brings you that bit of insight:

Please don’t complain later that you didn’t see it coming. As always, Mr. Obama states publicly what his intentions are. He is doing that now. Toward the end of his speech last week in Jacksonville, Fla., he said: "So where I can act on my own, I’m going to act on my own. I won’t wait for Congress." (Applause.)

The July 24 speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., has at least four references to his intent to act on his own authority, as he interprets it: "That means whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I’ll use it." (Applause.) And: "We’re going to do everything we can, wherever we can, with or without Congress."

Every president since George Washington has felt frustration with the American system’s impediments to change. This president is done with Congress.

The political left, historically inclined by ideological belief to public policy that is imposed rather than legislated, will support Mr. Obama’s expansion of authority. The rest of us should not.

And Obama is engaged in the systematic demonization of the other two coequal branches of government in order to sway the public toward his dictatorial inclinations:

To create public support for so much unilateral authority, Mr. Obama needs to lessen support for the other two branches of government—Congress and the judiciary. He is doing that.

Mr. Obama and his supporters in the punditocracy are defending this escalation by arguing that Congress is "gridlocked." But don’t overstate that low congressional approval rating. This is the one branch that represents the views of all Americans. It’s gridlocked because voters are.

Take a closer look at the Galesburg and Jacksonville speeches. Mr. Obama doesn’t merely criticize Congress. He mocks it repeatedly. Washington "ignored" problems. It "made things worse." It "manufactures" crises and "phony scandals." He is persuading his audiences to set Congress aside and let him act.

So too the judiciary. During his 2010 State of the Union speech, Mr. Obama denounced the Supreme Court Justices in front of him. The National Labor Relations Board has continued to issue orders despite two federal court rulings forbidding it to do so. Attorney General Eric Holder says he will use a different section of the Voting Rights Act to impose requirements on Southern states that the Supreme Court ruled illegal. Mr. Obama’s repeated flouting of the judiciary and its decisions are undermining its institutional authority, as intended.

Clearly, Obama’s arrogance leads him to believe that a ruler is what we need, not a president.  And he’s up for that job, because it doesn’t brook interference and it doesn’t require leadership.  Tyranny is the the usual place people who couldn’t lead an alcoholic to a bar end up.  And we’re watching that happen now. 

Henninger ends his piece with a final, ironic quote:

"To ensure that no person or group would amass too much power, the founders established a government in which the powers to create, implement, and adjudicate laws were separated. Each branch of government is balanced by powers in the other two coequal branches." Source: The White House website of President Barack Obama.

Our Constitutional scholar is now involved in a process to wreck that balance and enhance executive powers to the point that he really doesn’t need Congress or the courts.  And a compliant media along will the left will do everything in their power to enable the transition.  Because their ideas and ideology would never pass the test of a real democracy and they have little chance of persuading the population to go along with them.  So imposition is truly the only route open.  That’s precisely what you’re going to see in Obama’s remaining years as president.  Executive imposition of his version of laws or, if you prefer, a brand of executive lawlessness unprecedented in our history.

But then, that’s what dictators do, isn’t it?

~McQ


GM bailout costs even more than previously reported

And there is more.   Shikha Dalmia details it at Reason:

The Treasury Department yesterday revised its loss estimate for the Government Motors bailout from $14.33 billion to $23.6 billion, thanks to the company’s sinking stock price. GM’s Sept. 30 closing price, on which the new estimate is based, was $20.18, about $13 less than its December IPO price and $35 less than what is needed for taxpayers to break even.

The $23.6 billion represents a 25 percent loss on the feds $60 billion direct “investment” in GM. But that’s not all that taxpayers are on the hook for. As I explained previously, Uncle Sam’s special GM bankruptcy package allowed the company to write off $45 billion in previous losses going forward. This could work out to as much as $15 billion in tax savings that GM wouldn’t have had had it gone through a normal bankruptcy. Why? Because after bankruptcy, the tax liabilities of companies increase since they have no more losses to write off.

This means that the total hit to taxpayers, who still own about a quarter of the company, could add up to $38.6 billion. That’s even more that the $34 billion on the outside I had predicted in May.

You’ll remember we were vociferously against the bailout, saying the company should proceed through normal bankruptcy despite the absurd nonsense being spread about the effect of bankruptcy on jobs and the like.  Had that been done, a much more stable and lean GM would have emerged.  And taxpayers, meaning government, wouldn’t still own 25% of the company – in fact the government wouldn’t own any of it.  Nor would unions.

The effect of government intrusion has been to worsen the company’s outlook.  Again Dalmia explains the reason that the political priorities of the Obama administration will lead the company into even more troubled financial waters:

Although GM will never, ever make taxpayers whole, taxpayer losses could be mitigated if GM’s stock price rises before the Treasury sells its remaining equity, something it was supposed to do by year-end but has postponed under the circumstances. But right now at least the prospects of a serious upward move in GM’s stock don’t look too good for reasons at least partly beyond GM’s control.

GM actually has been doing quite well in North America and China with profit margins of 10 percent, among the best in the industry. How long that will last is an open question. That’s because GM’s new competitors are not Toyota and Honda that share its cost structure but Hyndai and Kia that have a far leaner one. These companies concentrate on the small car market and don’t offer a full product line so GM and Ford’s most profitable vehicles—those evil, gas-guzzling, greenhouse-gas emitting SUV’s and pickup trucks—are somewhat insulated from the downward price pressure. But the greens and Obama administration want GM to reorient its product mix away from big cars and toward money-losing hybrids and electrics, something that could well put GM back in a hole.

But that’s part of the administration’s long-term strategy for ruining GM. The company’s big weak spot right now is Europe for two reasons: One, thanks to political pressure and labor resistance, it hasn’t been able to address its bloated cost structure there. Two, Europe’s economy is imploding, weakening car sales.

That’s right, government is steering the company in which it owns 25% of the stock, to orient in a direction that is bad business, but as far as the administration is concerned, good politics.  

There’s a reason central planning always fails.  It’s because it ignores market demand.   Central planning’s core belief is it can anticipate accurately the public’s demand and produce products it will buy.   See the Chevy Volt.  Then see the Chevy Tahoe. 

As Dalmia points out, the market for small cars is very competitive.   But the sector that GM has an advantage in is politically unpopular with the party the administration represents (note again the party ideology running the agenda and not what is good for the company or the country).  So the government attempts to focus the company in a direction away from its most profitable business and toward the politically acceptable but unprofitable small car sector.

Another in a long line of lessons on how central planning always fails.  This particular example also points out that when ideology is left to dictate the direction of a business instead of the market the likelihood of failure goes up exponentially.

And when the strategy fails it will not be a “market failure”.  It will again be government doing its usual lousy job of picking winners and losers.  We, of course, end up being the ultimate losers when it makes its picks.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Dems–boot blue dogs, fold big tent

Ari Berman of "The Nation” does an op-ed for the New York Times in which he pushes for the removal (or at least the non-support) of the blue dog Democrats such as Heath Schuler of NC. 

Now that doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me – just as the Tea Party wants the less than conservative members of the Republican party replaced with more reliably fiscal conservative members.

That said, however, I loved the “reasoning” quoted for this desire:

Margaret Johnson, a former party chairwoman in Polk County, N.C., helped elect Representative Shuler but now believes the party would be better off without him. “I’d rather have a real Republican than a fake Democrat,” she said. “A real Republican motivates us to work. A fake Democrat de-motivates us.”

Well there you go – remember the left has been lambasting the right for who knows how long for not offering a “big tent” but essentially being a narrow based “all white male” party.  Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel concocted the 50 state strategy which recruited blue dogs like Schuler because they were “electable” in those districts and that strategy gave Democrats a “super majority”.  But what real good did it do? 

The argument is “wouldn’t you rather have someone that would vote with you 70% of the time rather than someone who will vote for your programs 0% of the time?  The answer is “no”.  Not if you actually want to get those things done which require critical votes and the 30% of the time they don’t vote with you is when those votes occur.  Tea Partiers figured this out a while ago.  And again, they’ve been lambasted for being so non-inclusive.  Karl Rove, an inveterate seat counter, focuses solely on the number of “Republicans” in each chamber.  Tea Partiers and conservatives focus on the ideology of those running and only support those who are, in Ms. Johnson’s words, “real Republicans” as the TP and conservatives define them.

It appears Democrats, lately of the “big tent”, are now looking toward a smaller tent.  That would include the architect of the 50 state strategy, Howard Dean:

Ms. Johnson is right: Democrats would be in better shape, and would accomplish more, with a smaller and more ideologically cohesive caucus. It’s a sentiment that even Mr. Dean now echoes. “Having a big, open-tent Democratic Party is great, but not at the cost of getting nothing done,” he said.

Yeah … exactly what a number of us have been saying for years.  Look, people throw the word “ideology” around like it is some sort of bad word.  It’s not.  It is your political philosophy, your principles, your belief in what politics should reflect.

Does anyone believe those that founded this country weren’t ideologically driven?   That they didn’t have a definite set of principles  that were foundation of what they created?

“Big tent” is a wonderfully nebulous and useless concept that implies that inclusiveness is more important than principles.  It’s nonsense as both sides are discovering.  You’re either for something, in terms of principles, or you’re not.  “Including” others who don’t necessarily share your principles is simply an exercise in, well, seat counting, which as both the GOP and Democrats have finally discovered, is a waste of time.

~McQ


Obama: Ideologue selling what no one is buying

Two articles of interest this week which caught my eye.  On comes from the NY Times and is headlined, “Obama pushes agenda, despite political risks”.

One of the things I remember clearly from the campaign is how the lapdog media – and that would include the NY Times – kept telling us what a “pragmatist” Barack Obama was.  That we would most likely see the 2nd coming of Bill Clinton with this guy.

Meanwhile there were a small group of us out here pointing out that there was nothing in this guy’s scant background that pointed to pragmatism and a lot that pointed to an idealist, activist and ideologue.  We were scoffed at quite consistently.

I love “I told you so moments”.  While Sheryl Gay Stolberg can’t quite make herself use the “ideologue” word, pragmatism is a word unheard.  And she does say:

What Mr. Obama and his allies portray as progressive, activist government has been framed by his opponents as overreaching and profligate when it comes to the economy.

Remember, she’s supposedly portraying the Obama administration as they’ve portrayed themselves – as ideologues.

Her essential message is, while he and his cronies may have managed to pass some legislation they tout as historic or landmark, that’s not how it is perceived by the seething, voting masses.  But, ever tuned into the electorate (yeah, that’s sarcasm), he’s pushing ahead with those legislative agenda items his ideology favors despite the electorates rejection of them in poll after poll.  That includes stimulus, health care and now financial regulation.

That brings us to the financial regulation bill and an article by Kimberley Strassel.  You need to read it, but again, it is the way she phrases a certain part of it that I find interesting:

Which brings us to yesterday’s passage of Mr. Obama’s financial overhaul bill. The press is hailing it as another big Obama victory, one that allows the president to brag about fulfilling his agenda and allows Democrats a "reform" to wave going into midterms.

Certainly that can be read a couple of ways, no doubt.  But in the context of the next paragraph, not so much:

Maybe. Or maybe there’s every reason to believe the financial overhaul—like stimulus and health care—proves more political liability than political benefit.

Of course, stimulus and financial regulation were not “agenda items” of the campaign.  Health care certainly was, even if the final law was a progressive monstrosity of which the majority of Americans wanted no part.  Same with the “stimulus”.  But, the ideology Obama believes in dictated those moves regardless of the public’s wants and desires.

Financial regulation, however, was a target of opportunity.  It was the crisis opportunity Rahm Emanuel spoke about early in the administration which allowed them to push their ideological even a step further.  Another 2,500 page bill filled with who knows what aimed specifically at the private sector, while the role of the mismanaged Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have all but been ignored and they’ve been fed another half trillion dollars with little fan fare (they’ve also been delisted from the stock market making it even harder to monitor their activity).

The whole point here is only an ideologue would push an “agenda” so hard that it harmed him and his party politically to the point that they may be voted out of power and stay out for some time (assuming the GOP can field better candidates than it is right now or seems likely to field in 2012).  A pragmatist would favor an incremental bi-partisan approach that is politically healthy.  An ideologue, while mouthing platitudes about bi-partisanship, wouldn’t really care that much as long as he had the votes needed to pass his agenda item.

That’s the real Obama.  That was pretty clear to those of us who weren’t wearing blinders or rose colored glasses (or both) during the campaign.  It is clear we were right.  It is also clear that the media was complicit in selling us a bill of goods on this man that was never evident nor believable to those with a discerning eye.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, the media was going through Sarah Palin’s underwear drawer.

Yeah – they should indeed be ashamed (and the “journalists” wonder why they’re held in such low esteem and they have to hint at government subsidies as a good idea for their survival.  They earned that  low esteem and they can go under with it as well.).

~McQ

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Was health care reform about health or wealth?

Byron York is of the opinion it was as much about wealth as health and has come quotes to back it up.  First Senator Max Baucus:

Health reform is “an income shift,” Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said on March 25. “It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans.”
In his halting, jumbled style, Baucus explained that in recent years “the maldistribution of income in America has gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind.” The new health care legislation, Baucus promised, “will have the effect of addressing that maldistribution of income in America.”

Lest you feel York is making a one-quote mountain out of  a molehill, Howard Dean follows:

At about the same time, Howard Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and presidential candidate, said the health bill was needed to correct economic inequities. “The question is, in a democracy, what is the right balance between those at the top … and those at the bottom?” Dean said during an appearance on CNBC. “When it gets out of whack, as it did in the 1920s, and it has now, you need to do some redistribution. This is a form of redistribution.”

And to make “three’s a crowd”, David Leonhardt:

Summing things up in the New York Times, the liberal economics columnist David Leonhardt called Obamacare “the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.”

And, of course, if true that makes the “reform” as much about ideology as health insurance.  It is also exposes one of the most cherished but false myths of the left – that economics is a zero sum game and that it is up to government to level the income playing field via redistribution in the name of “fairness”.  Of course they couldn’t be more wrong on both counts.  As John Steele Gordon points out, poker is a zero sum game and so is robbery (which is why it is illegal) – economics isn’t nor has it ever been and it is a fallacy to believe so. He asks, as an example, “Paul McCartney was born into a poor family in rundown Liverpool and is now one of the richest men in England. Whom, exactly, did he rob?”

The answer is obvious.  Given the answer then, why should he be punished?:

Every major technological development has produced an inflorescence of fortune making. The Industrial Revolution produced so many new rich that Benjamin Disraeli had to coin the word millionaire in 1827 to describe them. Railroads, steel, oil, automobiles, the movies, television, all produced prodigious new fortunes.

But the people who rode the railroads and automobiles, watched the movies and television didn’t get poorer by doing so. Just like the millions who so willingly bought Paul McCartney’s music, they got richer too. They had quicker, cheaper transportation, and better and cheaper entertainment. No one forced them to buy the product, which is a good deal more than can be said for ObamaCare.

Of course, one of the benefits of all the fortune making are the innovations brought to market by those making a fortune. They’ve made life better and cheaper for the rest of us.  Electricity and the light bulb changed the cost and way we illuminated our night and was cheaper, better and safer.  The money we saved was spent on other things in life that may have been previously unaffordable. And that’s the case for most such innovations. Take the microprocessor and what it has done.  The reason we can afford all the gadgets and goodies we have (enjoying that flat panel TV in HD?) is because of those who’ve become rich introducing innovative and cheaper products that have allowed us a standard of living unimagined by our grandfathers.

I don’t begrudge Steve Jobs or Bill Gates a single penny of their fortunes, nor do I believe they “owe” me any of it. I benefit every day in ways unthinkable years ago (this blog post is an example) because of the innovations they, and many others, helped develop and bring to market.

However, what I don’t want, and in fact detest, is a parasite class of politicians engaging in false moral preening under which they claim to be the arbiters of what is “fair” and “unfair” in terms of the distribution of wealth. And I certainly don’t want them attempting to “fix” it through government.

The Howard Deans and Max Baucus of the world don’t seem to understand the very basic economic truth that economics is not a zero-sum game, or if they do, they choose to ignore it for ideological reasons. I have to believe it is for the latter reason. If they didn’t ignore that economic truth they’d have give up their claim (and  power) that acting on that erroneous ideological premise is morally correct. Life, per the Democrats and the left, is not fair and the job of the left is to make it “fair”. The one thing that should be clear by now is they see political power as the way of fulfilling that ideological principle and the control of the federal government as the means of imposing their false Utopian vision. They’re all about gathering power centrally, not diffusing it. That scares people (see the Tea Parties). It should be just as obvious that they’ll do it by any means necessary (review how we got health care reform) and for any reason -right or wrong- needed to accomplish it. “Fairness” works as well as any.

I’d venture to guess most Americans feel the way I do. And that’s why the argument was never made about redistribution while the bill was being sold to the public. It is not a popular argument. York is surprised it is now being made. So is a Democratic strategist he quotes:

But he quickly saw that Democrats talking about redistribution could be politically damaging, echoing the controversy that erupted when candidate Obama famously told Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

” ‘Redistribution’ is an easy charge to make,” the Democrat said. “I’m not surprised that it’s an argument critics make; what I’m surprised at is that Democrats are making it.”

I’m not. It’s arrogance. Hubris. The passage of HCR has emboldened them. They’ve convinced themselves, despite the polls, that since HCR has passed it will become accepted and loved. Now, since its passage, they feel they can safely lay out the dirty little secret reason they wanted it passed. Ideology – and the power to impose it. All under the false flag of “fairness”.

And they want the chance to do more.

~McQ

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