Free Markets, Free People

Politics

$9.7 Trillion

That’s “trillion” with a capital “T“. And that’s the amount of money being spent by Congress to right our approximately $14.58 Trillion economy (source).

The stimulus package the U.S. Congress is completing would raise the government’s commitment to solving the financial crisis to $9.7

Capitol Spending

Capitol Spending

trillion, enough to pay off more than 90 percent of the nation’s home mortgages.

The Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have lent or spent almost $3 trillion over the past two years and pledged up to $5.7 trillion more. The Senate is to vote this week on an economic-stimulus measure of at least $780 billion. It would need to be reconciled with an $819 billion plan the House approved last month.

Again, that’s “trillion” with a “T”. In order to grasp the magnitude of that much spending, understand that you can reasonably round the number to $10 Trillion and thereby assume an extra $300 Billion, which is about the amount of TARP funds already pushed out the front doors of Congress. It’s also about one third of the amount being debated in Congress right now. In other words, the stimulus funds are pennies compared to amount of money already spent and/or promised.

Here’s another way to look at it (my emphasis):

The $9.7 trillion in pledges would be enough to send a $1,430 check to every man, woman and child alive in the world. It’s 13 times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Congressional Budget Office data, and is almost enough to pay off every home mortgage loan in the U.S., calculated at $10.5 trillion by the Federal Reserve.

It’s a lot of money. So why is it that we’re only privy to the debate (if it can be called that) over a measly 10% of the spending?

“We’ve seen money go out the back door of this government unlike any time in the history of our country,” Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, said on the Senate floor Feb. 3. “Nobody knows what went out of the Federal Reserve Board, to whom and for what purpose. How much from the FDIC? How much from TARP? When? Why?”

Financial Rescue

The pledges, amounting to almost two-thirds of the value of everything produced in the U.S. last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up about 18 months ago. The promises are composed of about $1 trillion in stimulus packages, around $3 trillion in lending and spending and $5.7 trillion in agreements to provide aid.

Many of us were disappointed with the spending habits of “compassionate conservativism” and lamented how it merely approximated socialist government policies with a friendly face. Of course, the alternative to Bush was real-deal socialist spending and a weakening of our national security.

Now we’re getting the full-on brunt of a dour-visaged collectivist government, employing a magician’s sleight of hand, and it makes the compassionate conservatism look positively stingy in comparison. While we argue over $800 Billion, another $9 Trillion is quietly being shoveled out the backdoor with little to no accountability.

When Congress approved the TARP on Oct. 3, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged the need for transparency and oversight. The Federal Reserve so far is refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return.

There’s no doubt that the Bush administration greased the skids, but Obama is running a rocket sled of spending, and there does not appear to be any end in sight.

One has to wonder when Atlas will finally shrug.

So When Is A Lie A Lie? (update)

Or is this just “cynical manipulation?”

President Obama in Elkhart, IN today (email transcript – Fed. News Svc) in answer to a question by Helen Castello, a person in the crowd attending the rally:

So — so we may — we may debate– we — we can debate, you know, whether you’d rather have this tax cut versus that tax cut or this project versus that project. Be clear, though, that there aren’t — there aren’t individual pork projects that members of Congress are putting into this bill. Regardless of what the critics say, there are no earmarks in this bill. That’s part of the change that we’re bringing to Washington, is making sure that this money is well-spent to actually create jobs right here in Elkhart.

No earmarks huh? Does President Obama really know that? Or even believe it?

Here he is addressing the House Democrats in Williamsburg last Friday night:

Then there’s the argument, well, this is full of pet projects. When was the last time that we saw a bill of this magnitude move out with no earmarks in it? Not one. (Applause.)

We report. You decide.

But you have to wonder how Ms. Castello, who gushed all over Mr. Obama, must now feel knowing he lied to her face about earmarks knowing full well, as indicated by his remarks to Democrats, that the bill indeed included earmarks?

Hope and change.

~McQ

UPDATE: Here’s a link from a local TV station in Indiana which validates the first quote (although they end up paraphrasing Obama).

CBO Not Impressed (Updated)

I‘ve just been watching Pres. Obama speaking to the Democrats at their luxury retreat.  He had a lot of red meat for them.  He also spoke passionately about the immediate need for the stimulus package, telling them–and the nation–that passing the bill is absotively necessary.  If we don’t pass it, he asserted, millions will be thrown out of work, the economy will collapse, blood and flaming frogs will rain down from the sky, etc., etc., etc.

Sounds scary.

But what’s even more scary is that the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ non-partisan budget analysts, has announced that this stimulus bill will do pretty much the reverse of what it’s designed to do.

President Obama’s economic recovery package will actually hurt the economy more in the long run than if he were to do nothing, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

CBO, the official scorekeepers for legislation, said the House and Senate bills will help in the short term but result in so much government debt that within a few years they would crowd out private investment, actually leading to a lower Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years than if the government had done nothing.

Apparently the president isn’t buying it, and the Democratic majority in Congress has decided that their own budget analysts are full of sh–shamefully inadequate analysis.  So,we’re being told by the politicians that their bill is necessary to prevent economic collapse, while the professionals they employ tell us that the bill is worse than inaction.

Who do you beleive?


UPDATE: The CBO’s web site is back up again.  The text of the letter states:

Including the effects of both crowding out of private investment (which would reduce output in the long run) and possibly productive government investment (which could increase output), CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net. H.R. 1, as passed by the House, would have similar long-run effects.

In other words, 2019 is the year that the bill comes due, and the crowding out effect begins to become a drag on the economy, presumably until that bolus of debt is paid off.  In other words, it becomes a long-term–and increasing–drag on GDP growth, as the crowding out effect overrides the increasingly smaller return, if any, from the stimulus.

Rangel to Be Cleared?

Given the vaunted status of tax cheats amongst the Democrats, you’re all shocked, I’m sure:

Charles Rangel in "Scold Finger II: The Speaker Who Loved Me"

Charles Rangel in Scold Finger II: The Speaker Who Loved Me

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel predicted, on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program that aired Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009, that his multitude of ethics woes would soon disappear. “I think that next Tuesday you will see a break in this and as soon as the Ethics Committee organizes they ought to be able to dismiss this,” National Journal’s CongressDaily quoted the Rangel as saying.

If so, it’s hard to imagine that the Select Committee on Ethics will have devoted anything more than a cursory glance at the various issues raised. Consider just one aspect, for which documents are in the public record: Rangel’s financial disclosure forms. We took a look at his filings going all the way back to 1978, the first year members were required to disclose information on their personal finances, and found 28 instances in which he failed to report acquiring, owning or disposing of assets. Assets worth between $239,026 and $831,000 appear or disappear with no disclosure of when they were acquired, how long they were held, or when they were sold, as the operative House rules at the time required.

This is all according to Charlie, of course. Much like the Obama team clearing itself of any inappropriate behavior in the Blagojevich troubles, taking Charlie’s word here would not be advisable. However, he seems to know that something is coming, and considering that Speaker Pelosi made little to no effort to support the investigation, we shouldn’t be surprised if Rangel walks away from this with his Chairmanship still intact.

Most ethical Congress ever!

Recipe for Realignment

Damon Linker at The New Republic has a thoughtful post about how President Obama can win and end the culture war. It goes against the intuitions of most of the Left, but I think he’s figured out something that has eluded almost all of them — a way to unravel some of the most significant bonds that have held the Republican coalition together for the last several decades.

While I think he’s right about same-sex marriage (social conservatives are losing ground steadily), I find his thoughts on abortion particularly cogent.

How could Obama — how could liberals, how could supporters of abortion rights — both win and end the culture war, once and for all? By supporting the reversal or significant narrowing of Roe, allowing abortion policy to once again be set primarily by the states — a development that would decisively divide and demoralize the conservative side of the culture war by robbing it of the identity politics that holds it together as a national movement.

If that sounds strange to you, read the whole thing.

I have said for years that overturning Roe v Wade, and thereby sending the issue back to the states, would effect a political realignment in this country.

Conservatives can’t enact a federal ban on abortion through Congress, RvW or not; whatever Republican politicians may say to win primaries, that would be mass political suicide and they know it. For social conservatives, there is one reachable goal — overturning RvW through the slow process of controlling Supreme Court appointments — meaning conservatives need to control the White House and the Senate for long, preferably unbroken stretches of time. That means that social conservatives expend a disproportionate amount of energy on the very top levels of national politics, allowing them to leverage their energy through GOTV efforts.

But like a dog chasing a car, they don’t have a clear idea of what they would do with it if they got it. If RvW were overturned or significantly narrowed, suddenly abortion would be a state-by-state fight.

It’s much easier to direct their energy into Senate races and presidential elections to win the broad-brush fight against RvW than to convince the state-level electorate on the nitty-gritty details of pro-life policy.

In the vast majority of states, social conservatives wouldn’t be able to put any but the most basic restrictions on the practice – perhaps limiting partial-birth abortions in some, third-trimester abortions in fewer. The options of limiting state funding for abortions, and requiring minors to obtain parental consent or at least knowledge, are both available under current constitutional law.

Virtually no one opposes abortions when the mother’s life is at stake, and while I haven’t looked at the state-by-state poll data, I doubt there’s a state in the union that would ban abortions even in cases of rape and incest. Finally, let’s put something simply: whether principled pro-lifers like it or not, there’s just not enough voter support to really punish women who undergo abortions. Practical pro-life politics would target doctors and institutions, not customers/patients.

And then? Then the fire would die down. Unlike taxes and spending or environmental issues, there are only a few ways to move the ball in either direction on abortion. Once elections make clear the basic outlines of what is achievable on such a narrow issue as abortion, the issue’s potency as a politically unifying force will diminish.

See, when there’s no way to compromise, the radicals control the conversation. So we have two starkly divided camps, each internally united by the near-fiat Supreme Court decision. If specific policy decisions were made by the people and representatives of each state, the camps would begin breaking down visibly based on actual policy preferences, roughly based on gradients of moderation.

At that point, those outside the mainstream have little choice but to begin the hard work of changing hearts and minds, and working through regulation and appropriations. That’s the moderating force of democracy.

The full effects on the national political scene are hard to predict, but they would be wide-ranging.

  • A powerful wedge issue would lose a great deal of potency, allowing people who are otherwise uncomfortable fits in their political coalitions to move between parties, or become less reliable partisan allies of politicians who take a hard line.
  • We would see moderation at both the federal and state levels, although evangelicals and Catholic groups would probably become more energetic for a while at the state level at the expense of federal efforts.
  • And finally, we would do the good work of returning policy and political focus to more local levels of government, and convert a great deal of energy spent on politics into energy spent on private education and outreach.

Whether the parties to this culture war want it to end is another matter.

Sarah’s Getting Ready for 2012

Sarah Palin has opened up a Political Action Committee called SarahPAC.  This is not the action of someone who thinks she’s had her brief day in the sun of national politics, and is preparing to retire gracefully to the wide open spaces of Alaska.This is as close to a declaration of candicacy for president in 2012 as it is possible to make three years in advance.

But, apart from the Hot MILF thing, what does Sarah Palin have going for her?

It’s an interesting question because, as Josh Painter at RedState writes, who Sarah Palin is, or what she believes, seems still to be in the eye of the beholder.  Painter surveys a variety of views about Sarah Palin, whose common thread seems to be that what one believes about Gov. Palin derives from one’s internal state of mind, rather than the external reality of what Sarah Palin actually stands for.

In examplum:

Self-described conservative Paul Mulshine, in his New Jersey Star Ledger column:

If anyone can think of a reason Palin qualifies as a conservative, please let me know. The truth is that Palin is a project of the so-called “neo” conservatives, who are actually a bunch of moony-eyed leftists masquerading as conservatives.

Patrick J. Buchanan, in an opinion piece for Chronicles magazine:

Make no mistake. Sarah Palin is no neocon. She did not come by her beliefs by studying Leo Strauss. She is a traditionalist whose values are those of family, faith, community and country, not some utopian ideology.

Michelle Goldberg, writing in the left wing magazine The Nation:

She has not always governed as a zealot; in fact, she’s a bit of a cipher, with scant record of speeches or writings on social issues or foreign policy. Nevertheless, several people who’ve dealt with her say that those concerned about church-state separation should be chilled by the idea of a Palin presidency. “To understand Sarah Palin, you have to realize that she is a religious fundamentalist,” said Howard Bess, a retired liberal Baptist minister living in Palmer. “The structure of her understanding of life is no different from a Muslim fundamentalist.”

Professional Palin critic Dan Fagan in a post on his Alaska Standard blog:

It is indisputable the governor has leaned strongly to the left with her policies in her first two years as governor.

Apparently, Sarah’s message–whatever it is–still hasn’t been clearly made to the literati.  It’s endlessly amusing to me, though, that she’s seen both as an unreconstructed  conservative, and a wild-eyed leftist.

Depending on who’s doing the viewing, of course.

Cake: Have it. Eat it. Choose One.

Maggie Gallagher says it exactly right over at The Corner, where she addresses the Bailout.

Here’s my take: The ongoing bailout of banks and business executives is not only wrong, it is deeply, deeply unpopular.  By taking potshots at executives–their salaries, their corporate jets, their redecorated offices–Obama hopes to deflect the unpopularity of his actual policies onto his opponents. He wants to channel voters’ entirely justified anger at the executives’ naked appeal for our cash towards the people who appear to defend them (because they are actually defending capitalism).

This way Obama can turn business executives into another Democratic interest group–and make Republicans pay the political cost. Expect very big campaign dollars flowing into Democrat coffers by scared, scared executives. A little public ritual humiliation in exchange for billions? Yeah, quite a few will go for that. Riding a car to DC should not earn your failed corporation a taxpayer bailout. It’s still wrong.

Defending the right of the free market and the goodness of business as an enterpirse [sic] is all true, but right now it’s besides the real point, and so plays into Obama’s hand.

The point is that these are failed business executives seeking taxpayer dollars to bail them out.

Republicans should be the ones making Obama pay for bailing out wealthy business failures with OUR money.

She’s right.  It’s Obama, not the Republicans, who are trying to turn businesses into government clients with taxpayer money.  If people are angry about it, it’s the guy who’s pushing it who should get the blame.