Free Markets, Free People

Quote of the day

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Quote of the day – Joe Biden edition

Leave it to Joe Biden to provide the answer to the question everyone is asking: if the Democrats did so well, why aren’t they running on their record?

Democrats aren’t running on the administration’s accomplishments like health-care and financial-regulatory overhaul and the stimulus because “it’s just too hard to explain,” Biden said. “It sort of a branding, I mean you know they kind of want the branding more at the front end.”

Or maybe it’s not like “branding” at all.  Maybe it’s more like assuming that those in flyover land are too freakin’ dumb to understand the positive nuance of spending 1.4 trillion dollars we don’t have or nationalizing car companies or socializing health care.

Or maybe it’s because they know admitting to those things would kill them if they actually did run on them.  After all it’s hard to explain, among other things, why “health care reform” requires 16,000 new IRS agents, isn’t it?

~McQ


Quote of the day – health care version

Got a huge chuckle out of Steven Levitt’s opening sentence at the Freakanomics blog:

Many economists view the health-care bill passed in the U.S. earlier this year as falling somewhere between “a complete waste of time” and “actually making the situation worse.”

Indeed.  In fact, I’d have to go with the “actually making the situation worse” determination, given what we’ve seen this past couple of weeks as more and more companies react to the impact of the legislation.

The context of Levitt’s remark is a story by Delia Lloyd talking about the UK going in precisely the opposite way.  Yes, a country which has had socialized medicine for over 60 years is looking at taking steps for a more market-based health care system, with the belief it will improve the British system.

Markets?  Pricing signals?  Competition? 

Nah, our Congress just rejected all of that – couldn’t be a good thing.

[/sarc]

Why are we always 60 years late and a dollar short?

~McQ


Quote of the Day – I’m exhausted defending you edition

She was probably not what the President wanted at one of his staged “town hall” meetings – but apparently they had to recruit people to fill the audience and this was one of the recruits:

"I’m one of your middle class Americans. And quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for," a woman told President Obama at a town hall.

"My husband and I have joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives, but, quite frankly, it’s starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we’re headed again, and, quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly. Is this my new reality?," she added.

This is probably one of the most obvious of the problems Obama and the Democrats face.  Note there’s not a word of “blame Bush” in this Obama supporters words – those quoted or unquoted.  She essentially says, “hey, you’ve sold me a bill of goods, or so it seems after 2 years”.  In fact, she also said she was “deeply disappointed with where we are right now”.

This disappointment is likely to translate into non-votes for Democrats.  Not necessarily votes for the GOP, but lack of votes for Democrats as the “deeply disappointed” and “exhausted” supporters (or former supporters) stay home.

The problem – as we’ve noted many times – is enthusiasm.  Relative to the right, there is none on the left, or certainly not as much or enough to get people to the polls.  In two short years, Obama and the Democrats have gone from owning significant and filibuster proof margins that seemed safe for quite some time to a vulnerable status that may see them in the minority in at least one chamber of Congress and with enough gains in the other to stall the president’s agenda.

Many of us, of course, see that as a feature, not a bug.

But again, I think this woman very articulately and succinctly puts the frustrations of not only the average American, but the average Obama supporter in focus.  She is the face of defeat and she tells them precisely why that’s so.

Very interesting.  The answer Obama gives is just as telling.  Make sure you listen to it as well.

~McQ


Quote of the Day – master of understatement edition

But, I would guess, a pretty typical story:

"I’m disappointed that we’ve only created or retained 55 jobs after receiving $111 million," said Wendy Greuel, the city’s controller. "With our local unemployment rate over 12 percent we need to do a better job cutting red tape and putting Angelenos back to work." According to the audit, the Los Angeles Department of Public Works spent $70 million in stimulus funds — in return, it created seven private sector jobs and saved seven workers from layoffs. Taxpayer cost per job: $1.5 million.

Anyone – tell me again how efficiently government does things and how we should "trust" it with our money because it will always spend it wisely? This, as we’ve seen, isn’t the only wasteful spending of taxed and borrowed money under the supposed stimulus. We also have funded such things as a study (for $823,000) by a UCLA research team to teach uncircumcised African men how to wash their genitals after having sex.

Certainly "shovel ready" wouldn’t you say?

~McQ


Quote of the day – Prince of fools edition

It’s actually from a commenter at Free Republic, found in an on-line article I was reading. It is interesting for a number of reasons, but I think it distills very well the real problem we face here in this country – and it isn’t politicians:

"The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. … The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. … The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. … It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president." – Prager Zeitung

We talk about "due dilligence" a lot when it comes to journalists doing their job or politicians doing theirs. What about the electorate? Doesn’t it too have a duty in that regard?

An educated, informed and engaged electorate is vital to any democratic form of government – at any level. Without it you get – well, what we’ve gotten and have gotten for quite a few years.

How do you reverse that? How do you engage people who show no real interest in the effects of politics – something that increasingly touches every aspect of their everyday life? How do you educate and inform a public that seems less inclined to involving themselves in the substance of debate about the importance of issues and more inclined toward the theater that is modern political campaigns?

Barack Obama won on the Unicorn and Moon Pony ticket. His promises were whatever you wanted them to be. You want change? You define it then. Hope? Same process – take the blank slate and write what you want. Whatever you want it to be is what it will be. Count on it.

And amazingly a majority of Americans bought into it – hook, line and sinker.

So I find the quote to be on the mark.  Unfortunately, the solution to the problem remains a mystery.

~McQ

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Quote of the day – why we’re not yet in a recovery edition

Yeah, I know, there are technical definitions of what constitutes a recession and a recovery.  But if you’re unemployed, underemployed or given up on finding a job, you find  none of those technical definitions unimpressive.

Anyway, this particular quote, in a nutshell, tells you why the “recovery” isn’t much to write home about:

Data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Commerce Department this morning shows that Americans earned a bit more, spent a bit less and saved more in June — all in line with economists’ expectations. Consumer spending drives about 60 percent of the economy, therefore, economists do not expect the recovery to take strong hold until American families feel secure enough and are earning enough to spend again. Unemployment, of course, remains a major drag on the economy.

So, while savings is good in general, it’s not good in a macro sense when you’re in a recession.  And, as the quote notes (and I frankly think the number is low) when 60% of the economy is driven by consumption, increased savings and less spending is not a good sign.  It’s all about confidence, and consumers simply aren’t feeling it.

That may be because of the last sentence which has my vote for the understatement of the year. 

The good news, however, is there was nothing, apparently, “unexpected” about these numbers.

~McQ

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Quote of the day – why we’re not yet in a recovery edition

Yeah, I know, there are technical definitions of what constitutes a recession and a recovery.  But if you’re unemployed, underemployed or given up on finding a job, you find  none of those technical definitions unimpressive.

Anyway, this particular quote, in a nutshell, tells you why the “recovery” isn’t much to write home about:

Data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Commerce Department this morning shows that Americans earned a bit more, spent a bit less and saved more in June — all in line with economists’ expectations. Consumer spending drives about 60 percent of the economy, therefore, economists do not expect the recovery to take strong hold until American families feel secure enough and are earning enough to spend again. Unemployment, of course, remains a major drag on the economy.

So, while savings is good in general, it’s not good in a macro sense when you’re in a recession.  And, as the quote notes (and I frankly think the number is low) when 60% of the economy is driven by consumption, increased savings and less spending is not a good sign.  It’s all about confidence, and consumers simply aren’t feeling it.

That may be because of the last sentence which has my vote for the understatement of the year. 

The good news, however, is there was nothing, apparently, “unexpected” about these numbers.

~McQ

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Quote of the day – Iraq is a success edition

Seriously. President Obama thinks if we work really, really hard and do a great job, Afghanistan can be a success – just like Iraq!

And if you look at what’s happening in Iraq right now, we have met every deadline. By the way, there was a timetable in place, and we are – we have – by the end of August, will have removed all of our combat from Iraq. We will maintain a military presence there. We will maintain military-to-military cooperation. And we are providing them assistance, but we’re meeting this deadline.

And I think it is worth the extraordinary sacrifices that we are making – and when I say “we” – not just the United States, but all coalition members – to try to see a positive outcome in Afghanistan, as well.

Of course the "timetable" he’s touting was the one put in place by the SOFA agreement negotiated by the Bush administration.

But you have to admit it is kind of ironic to see the guy who, when a Senator, declared the war in Iraq a lost cause and derided the general he’s now putting in command in Afghanistan, using Iraq as an example of a “positive outcome” don’t you think?

~McQ


Quote of the day – forget what I said the first time edition

Coinciding with and probably as a result of the McChrystal firing, a lot of questioning has been directed toward the Obama administration about its previously announced decision to begin the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2011. That was originally announced by the President when he outlined his new strategy about a year ago. Since then, as administration officials have been questioned about the date, mixed messages have been the result. VP Joe Biden has said the date is “firm”. SecDef Robert Gates has said it would be based on “conditions on the ground”.

Critics have rightfully said that announcing a firm withdrawal date is a strategically self-defeating thing to do. It gives the enemy a finish line they simply have to survive long enough to make. It also isn’t great for the morale of those US soldiers there now fighting in this war.

So it was interesting to hear the president – who originally announced the withdrawal date for next year -deny it was what he said it was:

“We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,” Obama said. “We said we’d begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more and more responsibility.”

Well that’s not exactly how it was interpreted then (light switching and door closing were certainly implied). Nor was that interpretation of the date then ever denied by the president or his staff – until now.

The announcement above is actually a change. White House spinmeisters will most likely characterize it as a “clarification”. But the bottom line is, the “firm” July 2011 withdrawal date announced by the president last year is much less “firm” with this “clarification”.

And, if I know my wars, the ANA and Afghan government are far from being ready to “transition” into taking “more and more responsibility”.

That, in fact, is why critics in the Senate are telling the president that the problem lies not with the military side of the house, but with the civilian/State Department (and other Departments) side of the house.

Until a credible and competent diplomatic staff is assembled in Kabul and is able to begin to do what was done in Iraq, there will be nothing to which to hand this “transition” off.

Yes, there’s corruption. Yes, we don’t like it. But Afghanistan isn’t the US and corruption and the like have been an integral part of their lifestyle for centuries. Is our goal to make them a mini-US, or to have them develop a functioning government and security apparatus that can hold the country and keep terrorists from basing there and threatening the US?

Two things to take from this – this is a mild presidential rebuke to the “this is a firm date” crowd (*cough* Biden et al *cough*). That may have further implications down the road. And it is also a case where strategic ambiguity – at least in this specific area – is a help and not a hindrance.

~McQ


Quote of the day – Helen Thomas edition

As it turns out the quote isn’t from Helen Thomas, it’s about Helen Thomas:

Helen Thomas is as fair and open minded as she is good looking.

Usually I’m not one to attack an almost 90 year old woman, but then this particular 90 year old woman doesn’t at all mind attacking others, so it seems a wash.

And usually I’m not one to dwell on superficial things like physical appearance, but let’s face it (or not), she’s ugly. But what she said was very ugly as well. Another wash.

So now that I’ve totally rationalized it (hey, at least I’m honest about it), I found Jeff Dunetz line above to be hilarious. What more perfect a sentence to describe her?

Helen Thomas has now issued an “apology”. The scare quotes are to denote yet another in a long line of non-apology apologies. See if you agree:

“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

Apparently that “heart-felt belief” about respect wasn’t very deep when she made the statements below in Billy’s post, was it?

~McQ

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