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Obama: Smartest guy in the room?

Last night on our podcast we discussed some of the economic arguments and statements President Obama has been making lately.  Among us we can’t quite figure out if they are the sum of an abysmal understanding of basic economic theory or a result of ideology or a little bit of both (one feeding the other).  But I continue to see such statements filter out from various speeches, statements and interviews.  For example, this from Steve Kroft’s 60 minute interview:

KROFT: [Republicans] say it’s your insistence on raising the taxes to the wealthiest Americans, that you’re fixated on that. And that there are other ways to raise revenue.

OBAMA: Steve, the math is the math. You can’t lower rates and raise revenue, unless you’re getting revenue from someplace else. Now, either it’s coming from middle-class families or poor families or it’s coming from folks like you and me that can afford to pay a little more. I mean, I think the average American understands that.

Well, Americans certainly understand that the “revenue has to come from someplace else” if the tax base has shrunk, but my guess is they also understand that you can lower taxes and increase revenue in what situation?

Oh, yeah … in a period of economic growth.  So perhaps the answer is to work on a long-term solution, you know, like stimulating economic growth, instead of a temporary, short-term half-assed solution like raising taxes on the “rich”?  Perhaps?

Not to the smartest man in the room.  Not even a mention of economic growth or stimulating it.  Instead it’s all about raising taxes on the class he’s attempted to demonize for months.

And he’s invented a new “bargain” for his campaign to do so:

People in the audience at his speech, Obama said, want to know, “What’s happened to the bargain? What’s happened to the American deal that says, you know, we are focused on building a strong middle class?” Americans are “concerned about inequality” and he’s trying to remedy it by placing new rules on Wall Street, by intensifying consumer protections by getting his Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fully up and running, and by asking the rich to pay more in taxes to fund government spending on investments in the future like education and health care.

“To fund government spending on investments in the future like education and health care”?  When did we make that a part of any sort of a “bargain”?  What “American bargain” is he talking about? I know about the “American dream”, but that has nothing to do with a “bargain”.  When did we enter into this so-called bargain that apparently guaranteed a middle class life even if it has to be funded on the back of others?  How is that an “American bargain”?

Of course this cobbled up premise takes our man to these sorts of simplistic (but politically expedient) conclusions:

OBAMA: If I can’t get Republicans to move, partly because they’ve made a political, strategic decision that says, “Anything Obama’s for, we’re against, because that’s our best chance of winning an election,” I don’t think the American people would see that as a failure on my part. My preference is that they’d have a different attitude. You know, I’ve been joking with my staff lately that I think in my next speech, I am gonna say, “I am adamantly opposed to investing in education and putting teachers in the classroom. I’m adamantly opposed to rebuilding America and putting construction workers back to work.” And I’m thinking maybe suddenly Republicans might be for it. But, you know, keep in mind, I’m talking about Republican members of Congress. I’m not talking about Republicans around the country.

Mr. Black and White.  It is either “I’m totally behind Obama’s plan or I’m totally against it”.  Stark but utter nonsense.  An attempt at political framing which ignores the reality of the day – we can’t afford most of the things Obama wants and the fact that he continues to want them doesn’t change that.  So instead of bowing to reality (like he has most foreign leaders), Obama chooses to pretend that’s not the problem and Republicans oppose him simply because they want to win an election.  And throwing lines like this out there about essentially opposing things that might help teachers and construction workers is another among many attempts to demonize the opposition with baseless claims.

In the meantime he’s punted a decision that would indeed employ thousands of construction workers and, oh by the way, raise tax revenues, by delaying the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Did anyone call him on that?  Of course not.

Did Steve Kroft remind him he had a majority Democratic Congress for two years and did nothing to address the economic situation or this “American bargain” he’s made up?  

Of course not.

The middle class wasn’t important then.  And frankly it’s not that important to him now.  It’s a political device he hopes to use to distract and demonize.  He has to distract the voting populace away from his dismal record (which finds 54% saying in a recent poll that he doesn’t deserve reelection) and he feels he has to demonize his opposition to do that – all the while waving the false flag of concern over the middle class.

For such a smart guy, this is an exceedingly transparent and obvious attempt to change the subject – yet somehow the media seems to have missed it completely (at least to this point).  There is no “American bargain”.  Never has been.  There is no guaranteed level living.  There is no short-term fixed to the problem of government insolvency, especially taxing the “rich”.  And the opposing party isn’t at all adamantly opposed to the things Obama would like you to believe they are opposed too.  What they’re opposed to is the huge debt Mr. Obama’s administration has piled up, the class warfare he wants to conduct rather than work on real solutions and his insistence that the cause of most of the problems we face is also the solution to them.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 13 Oct 11

In this podcast, Bruce Michael, and Dale discuss Obama’s “Americans are lazy” comment, the failing EU. and the presidential race.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Herman Cain’s “bimbo eruption”

I think we can officially call it that, although I’m not necessarily calling the women involved bimbos.  It’s a term, a phrase used to describe these sorts of situations that politicians seem to find/get themselves in.  Thus the scare quotes.  Perhaps it’s unfair to the women.  Maybe Cain’s the bimbo.

Anyway, the point of talking about it at all is to point out how poorly the Cain campaign has handled this.  No one is talking about Herman Cain’s politics or ideas.  Everyone is continuing to talk about this situation.  And to make it worse, you have his campaign manager on national TV least night accusing one of the women of having a son who works for POLITICO – the media organization which broke the story on Cain.

Mark Block, on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show:

Her son works at POLITICO," Block said of Karen Kraushaar, whose name POLITICO printed earlier today after other media outlets made her identity public.

"I’ve been hearing that all day – you’ve confirmed that now?" Hannity asked.

"We’ve confirmed that he does indeed work at POLITICO and that’s his mother, yes," said Block.

Uh, no.  They confirmed nothing.   While Josh Kraushaar did work for POLITICO a while back (he left in 2010 for the National Journal) and happens to have the same last name as one of the Cain accusers, he’s not related at all.

This has been confirmed by none other than Josh Kraushaar.  My guess is that’s something Mark Block might have wanted to ask Kraushaar who had been on Twitter tweeting his disbelief at the accusation.  But then you have to have been monitoring the social media to have picked that up (or even ask the man yourself).

This is beginning to smell of amateur hour.  You have a campaign who had 10 days notice this was coming and did nothing to get in front of it, choosing instead to ignore it.   The problem, as you might have noticed, didn’t go away.  In fact it got worse.  3 more women have come forward to say they too were sexually harassed by Cain.

These are the sorts of situations where everyone comes out looking worse in my opinion.  Cain is being killed in the media (partly I think because when he finally did choose to respond, his response was to lash out at the media) and of course the campaign and its supporters are trying to do everything they can to discredit the women who’ve come forward.

Nasty stuff.  Toxic stuff.  Stuff that can kill a campaign.

I’ve heard people say “well it didn’t kill politicians like Bill Clinton”.  True.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard, “well that has nothing to do with his ability to govern”.

However, I think Cain’s problems and sinking poll numbers (and campaign) have more to do with is base than anything.  When Bill Clinton was having these sorts of problems, his base simply didn’t regard them as serious enough to write him off.  I assume you can ascribe any numbers of reasons for that – not wanting to give up the presidency, not feeling (as often stated) that personal behavior effected his governing, or just feeling it wasn’t as important an issue as the opposition wanted to make it.

Regardless it is about the standards of conduct that are important to the base.  On the left, the crowd that talks about women’s rights are pretty flexible about that when it is their ox being gored.   But they have no problem denouncing someone on the right if political advantageous.  And that’s because on the right there is a higher standard applied.  That standard has gotten many a righty politician in trouble when things like this came out.   I’ve noticed Newt Gingrich talking about how he’s creeping up in the polls.  Newt just hasn’t plateaued yet.  He will – soon.  He’s going nowhere because he has similar baggage.

Get used to it Republicans.  Your candidate, barring the entrance of a dark horse who can and would capture the right’s vote, is Mitt Romney.  Perry, by his performances in the debates, has all but eliminated himself.  Cain was a contender, but this mess and how it is being handled is just killing him.  Gingrich is in fantasy land.

The only one left standing, when all the political smoke clears, is going to be Mr. Flexible – Mitt Romney.

Makes you fell all warm and fuzzy doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to monitor the train wreck Herman Cain finds himself in and, if appropriate, have more to say.  But it seems like the Cain campaign is trying its best, at the moment, to develop this into a worst case scenario.  And so far they’re doing a bang up job.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


China ignores sanctions to trade with Iran

For years I’ve heard people say that China isn’t an expansionist military threat on the par of, say, the old Soviet Union.  And for the most part, I believe that.  I do believe they’re a regional expansionist military threat and I also believe they’re building their military with unprecedented spending to fulfill that role.  That’s fairly obvious in their dealings with other Asian countries within the China sea area.

But are they an international threat to peace?

In some ways, absolutely.  For instance, their relationship with Iran threatens to make the unstable Middle East even more unstable.  And they’re blatantly disregarding UN sanction and breaking promises to the US about weaponry they are exporting:

China is continuing to provide advanced missiles and other conventional arms to Iran and may be doing so in violation of U.N. sanctions against the Tehran regime, according to a draft report by the congressional U.S.-China Commission.

“China continues to provide Iran with what could be considered advanced conventional weapons,” the report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission says.

According to the report, which will be made public Nov. 16, China sold $312 million worth of arms to Iran, second only to Russia, after Congress passed the Iran Freedom Support Act in 2006 that allows the U.S. government to sanction foreign companies that provide advanced arms to Iran.

So, essentially China is calling the US bluff and ignoring the UN.  And it is actively trading with a self- declared enemy of the US (and a country which has killed Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan). 

Speaking of the US, China has even gone further:

Most of the weapons transfers involved sales of Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles, including C-802 missiles that China promised the United States in 1997 would not be exported to Iran.

China also built an entire missile plant in Iran last year to produce the Nasr-1 anti-ship cruise missile.

While the article goes on to say that technically the sale isn’t a violation of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act of 2006 because the payload and range are below the specified minimums, what it doesn’t say is the value of the advanced technology such a sale brings a country like Iran.  Obviously what they learn from the C-802 will be incorporated in their own types of missiles.

The report in which these findings were contained makes a valid conclusion based on them:

The report concludes: “Despite Beijing’s stated claim to be acting as a responsible major power, China continues to place its national interests ahead of regional stability by providing economic and diplomatic support to countries that undermine international security.”

Of course China waves it all away.  I mean, what are we going to do about it?

Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong denied China violated U.N. sanctions.

“When it comes to the issue of nonproliferation, China has been strictly adhering to the relevant U.N. resolutions and faithfully carries out its international obligations while strictly implementing its relevant domestic policies and regulations in the field.”

He said the commission “should cast off its Cold War mentality, respect the facts and stop making unwarranted allegations against China.”

Of course what sales like the ones China has been making to Iran do indeed undermine international security, or, at least Middle East regional security.  Iran now brags about missiles it has that can hit its avowed enemy, Israel, and most of the world believes they’re pursuing nuclear weapons.  These sorts of sales only aggravate that situation.

Israel has to take them seriously and has:

Israel’s test launch of a ballistic missile at Palmachim Air Force Base on Wednesday, in an apparent show of military strength, has ensured the threat of Iran’s nuclear capabilities remains firmly on the public agenda.

International sources quoted in the Israeli media said the test appeared to have been conducted with a ”surface-to-surface” missile known as the Jericho 3, which has a range of between 3000 and 7000 kilometres and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Of course Israel has never publically admitted it has nuclear weapons (but most believe they do) and until this launch never publicly admitted it had a missile with this range.  It was indeed a show of force to make it clear to the Iranians that they had best mind their p’s and q’s.  But it certainly indicates in increase in tensions and a decrease in stability in a region already dangerously unstable.

So we have China ignoring or circumventing international sanctions to trade critical weaponry with a rogue nation with military and regional aspirations and essentially telling the rest of the world to bug off.

The question is “why?”

Is it because it perceives weakness in the US?   Europe?  The UN?   All three?  China has weathered the recession in relatively good shape.  It’s economy is still doing well.  It has been the recipient of a wealth transfer through trade that has enabled it to spend much more freely on its military and it seems to be recognizing a growing vacuum in the world power balance as the US is perceived to be withdrawing some from its position of dominance.

Is China just interested in a regional role, or does Iran signal that China hopes to expand into much more of an international power player?  China watchers who’ve been claiming that it is only regional power which interests the country may have to recalibrate their thinking.   It seems, at least to me, that China sees a much broader role for itself (and its self-interest) in the world and may be beginning to make moves internationally to fulfill that role. 

Of course time will tell, but Iran (and some of its activities in Africa and the China sea)  seems to be a good indicator of a larger desired international role for China  than that which was previously assumed for the country.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Anyone–who is the number 3 oil producer in the world?

This may surprise you, but it is the US.  In fact, it probably does surprise you,  given all the whining about our dependence on foreign oil.  You’d think that we were a poor nation when it comes to petroleum resources and the amount we import.

Quite the contrary.  And you’d think that it would be in the best interests of the US to exploit its resources to a) give us a larger percentage of secure oil and b) employ oodles and bunches of Americans in an industry that has some pretty good and high paying jobs.

You’d think.

First the news:

The study released Thursday by the National Petroleum Council, a collection of industry, academic, government and other officials convened by the secretary of energy, touted how advanced technology has unlocked vast formations of natural gas previously deemed uneconomic to tap.

But the report also said the same drilling and production techniques that opened up shale gas – combined with success in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, the Canadian oil sands and even surges in conventional oil onshore – are improving the nation’s potential to be more self-reliant for oil, according to the report.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom the North American oil resource base also could provide substantial supply for decades ahead," the report said.

FYI, this isn’t just some industry group turning out reports that favor drilling. 

The National Petroleum Council, a collection of industry, academic, government and other officials, convenes several times a year to gather information, give advice and issue reports on topics for the secretary of energy. The most recent report was a 2007 study on global energy supply and demand.

In 2009 Energy Secretary Steven Chu asked the group to look at U.S. natural gas and oil resources based on four concepts: economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, energy security and prudent development.

Optimistically, the Council believes that the US and Canada combined could produce 22.5 million barrels a day when the new resources are added in.  Secure oil.

And, if we’d just get to work and try to tap these assets, Goldman Sachs believes we’ll surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producer in the world by 2017:

And earlier this month, Goldman Sachs said in a note to investors it expects the U.S. – now the No. 3 oil producer behind Saudi Arabia and Russia – to take the top spot by 2017.

This, given the current economic (and political) conditions, should be a no-brainer, shouldn’t it?

Well shouldn’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 13 Sep 11

Today’s little economic snapshots:

A sharp drop in oil prices reduced import prices by –0.4%. Export prices, conversely, rose by 0.5%. On a year-over-year basis, import prices have risen by 13%, while export prices have gone up by 9.6%.

For the sixth straight month, business confidence has fallen as the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell 1.8 points in August to 88.1.

The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index fell 1.4% in August, with the index reading at 94.62, as nationwide trucking activity dropped slightly.

In weekly retail sales, ICSC-Goldman Store Sales rose 1.3% on a post-Hurricane Irene burst of sales last week, with year-over-year sales up 3.3%. Redbook, meanwhile, reports year-over year sales were up 4.5%.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed


Gloomy Goldman-Sachs

James Pethokoukis writes, "Goldman Sachs drops this H-bomb on the Obama campaign:

We have lowered our forecast for US real GDP growth further and now expect real GDP to grow just 2%-2½% through the end of 2012.  Our forecast for annual average GDP growth has fallen to 1.7% in 2011 (from 1.8%) and to 2.1% in 2012 (from 3.0%).  Since this pace is slightly below the US economy’s potential, we now expect the unemployment rate to be at 9¼% by the end of 2012, slightly above the current level.

Even our new forecast is subject to meaningful downside risk.

So, we got that goin’ for us.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed


Testing new ways to post

Yes, that’s what’s up … I’m looking at ways to further expand my ability to blog from various platforms and apps.

So far, so good with this one.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 24 Jul 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the fight over the debt limit again.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2009 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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