Free Markets, Free People
When even Michael Moore gets it, perhaps it is time for Democrat politicians to finally let it go. Moore, appearing on “Real Time” with Bill Maher responds to Joe Sestack’s standard Democrat talking point of the last two years about “the damage done under the Bush administration”:
“No one’s forgetting the fact that this frat boy totally destroyed this country economically, our standing around the world– we all get that. But it’s two years later, and you can’t keep blaming the people who created the mess. Yes, we’ll never stop being pissed at Bush for what he did. But right now we’ve got to fix this, and you guys– the Democrats and Obama– have to be the ones that do it. If you do it– if you actually get in there and do it– you’ll have everybody behind you all the way.”
When even members of the radical left say "enough, for goodness sake – you can’t blame the other guy forever", perhaps, just perhaps, the canard has outlived its usefulness, you think? Any bets on how long it actually takes for this meme to finally die? Because, as we’ve all seen, some politicians are among the most tone-deaf people in the world as they constantly remind us by their inapt words and deeds. Moore is like the tire wear indicator on a tire. When he finally says, "that’s enough", you really need to change the tire.
In this podcast, Bruce Michael and Dale discuss the debt commission.
Due to sound quality problems, the podcast for this weeks is available at BlogTalkRadio, rather than as a local download.
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A New York Times editorial is all over the place today in its hysterical concern that Republicans are going to spend all their time investigating what Democrats have been doing these past 2 years. Let me say upfront that while there are certainly things which need investigation, the GOP can indeed hurt themselves if the investigations seem to be excessive or perceived to be "witch hunts". However, perhaps the most interesting part of the editorial is its title, an obvious shot directed at the GOP’s supposed preference for investigating over what the NYT feels is its real job – "Try Something Hard: Governing".
Funny – I don’t remember the NYT admonishing Congressional Democrats or the administration to do that when the obvious focus of both should have been jobs and the economy and not a horrific health care bill.
Also understand the premise the NYT tries to advance here. Using a Darrell Issa quote, "I want seven hearings a week times 40 weeks", they attempt to imply that’s all Republicans will be doing. That will hardly be the case.
Then we’re treated to absurdities like this:
This combativeness from the new House majority is an early symptom of its preference for politicking over the tougher job of governing in hard times. Its plans already feature the low cunning of snipping budget lines so the Internal Revenue Service cannot enforce key provisions of the health care reform law. (Why not defund Postal Service document deliverers while they’re at it?)
Why not – while the NYT calls it "low cunning", it is indeed a method by which the legislative chamber "governs". The NYT and similar media voices seemed to understand that when Democrats in Congress threatened to defund the war in Iraq. Now it’s "a feature of low cunning". A cry to govern by the NYT with a follow up criticism of doing so by the means the House is able to employ. Absurd.
Regulation? Well, last time I looked it was Congress who decided what regulations were and agencies who enforced them as the law provided by Congress said. Apparently that’s not the case anymore per the NYT:
The new majority will showcase hearings devoted to what Representative Fred Upton, the ranking Republican on the energy committee, called a “war on the regulatory state.” What he means by that is the Environmental Protection Agency’s daring to accept scientific evidence that human activity is driving global warming. Similar hearings, rooted in the vindictive rhetoric of the 2010 campaign, are likely for the new consumer protection bureau, immigration enforcement, and more.
How 2008 of the NYT to claim the EPA is accepting “scientific evidence” in its drive to regulate CO2. Obviously the carrier pigeon hasn’t made it to the Grey Lady yet that says not only is the “science” not settled, it is in total disarray and largely discredited. More importantly it isn’t up to the EPA to decided what science it is or isn’t going to accept. Its job is to enforce the law as it is written and amended by Congress. And to this point, there’s nothing in the law which allows the EPA the power or authority they are attempting to assume. What the Republican Congress wants to do is make that abundantly clear to the bureaucrats there. That’s governing. That’s oversight.
The same for the activist who has been named to the Consumer Protection Agency – the job there is to enforce existing law, not make it up as you go or enforce it arbitrarily according to an ideological agenda. And of course, immigration “enforcement”, which is again being arbitrarily applied by the bureaucrats as they see fit vs. applying it as the law demands, is in the same boat.
Reining in the bureaucracies as they attempt to overstep their bounds time and time again is “governing”. It is “oversight”. And those are two jobs the Democratic Congress has done poorly if at all as witnessed by the examples I’ve given. And there are plenty more.
The Times acknowledges, even after its ignorant tirade above, that it is the job of Congress to oversee how the laws it has passed are implemented and followed. And that it also has a duty to oversee the executive branch.
In principle, Congress’s oversight of the executive branch can be a vital necessity. Politically, however, both parties push its limits from time to time. Now is no time for myriad searches for sensational distractions when the nation’s voters cry out for solid progress.
This is the only worthwhile paragraph in the entire NYT editorial. If taken alone, it speaks perfect sense. When taken in the context of the rest of the editorial, it is a pitch for no investigations, since it is obvious that while the Times is pretending to call on the GOP House to “govern” it really doesn’t want it doing anything in that area which may point to administration malpractice or malfeasance or allowing executive agencies to interpret law as it sees fit instead of as it is written.
Tough cookies. To paraphrase Barack Obama – “they won”.
After the election, I saw several Republicans discussing who should deliver the SOTU response speech.
No one should.
First, any speech is bound to suffer by comparison to a speech before a joint session of Congress, with the Supreme Court in attendance. Republicans tried to capture some of the same spirit by having Bob McDonnell speak before a small crowd of supporters in the Virginia House of Delegates chamber, but if you can’t match the pomp and grandeur of the president, try to avoid a direct comparison.
Not only is the venue working against you, but the president is a nationally-elected official; no member of the opposition can have the same stature. Appearing to try to match the president’s status just plays to his strengths.
And finally, a speech, to be delivered immediately after the president’s carefully-planned opening move, puts the responder at a disadvantage. Since the response speech is written without knowing exactly what the president is going to say, what is supposed to be a criticism of the president’s speech or agenda is relayed in vague terms, not pointed responses. A prepared speech can only talk past the president, appearing deaf to what the president just said in the marquee event.
This precious free airtime could be spent dismantling the president’s argument, then pivoting to counterattack and providing alternatives.
How can the opposition do this?
Take advantage of the fact that they have fewer restraints.
First, make it a table discussion with more than one responder. As a suggestion, include at least one governor to remind the audience that there are independent sources of authority, laboratories of policy that should retain their power to handle local problems (a big-city mayor could also do), and also include a legislator representing the opposition in Congress to directly address the president’s agenda on the federal level.
This also takes the pressure off of any one person to speak for the party, and signals that the opposition is having a frank conversation, not speaking press-release style through the great filter of lawyers and focus-group-tested language. Make good use of stars like Paul Ryan and Chris Christie who have shown they’re champs at off-the-cuff communication and aren’t afraid to take on big issues. Bobby Jindal would have been far better suited to this than talking into a camera solo.
Second, use resources the president doesn’t have. The president is limited by the tradition of giving his speech in the chamber of the House of Representatives, which only affords him a microphone, a teleprompter and an audience. Instead of trying to beat the president at his own game, use a modern-looking studio, where the responders can make use of supporting staff and visual aids like charts and video.
And this extra content should come from a well-coordinated rapid-response team who provide ammunition for the response.
- The model for responding to a speech in progress is liveblogging. Certain people, by some mix of expertise, encyclopedic memory and quick wit, have proven they can tear apart a carefully-crafted speech in real time. Identify these people—bloggers, political operatives, think-tankers—and (with their advance permission) borrow their best arguments and lines.
- A media team would be responsible for matching the president’s remarks to earlier video and quotes from the president, his advisers and top congressional allies that contradicted the president’s SOTU message. Anyone with a good memory and a well-ordered catalogue of video and/or transcripts can do this. What could be more damaging than showing that the speech just delivered contained flip-flops?
- To respond to specific policy proposals and claims, have a team of stat junkies, economists and others who can call up relevant charts and other visuals to help the responders on-screen.
This kind of rapid counter-offensive would be much more entertaining than the president’s exhausting, conventional address, giving viewers a good reason to stick around afterward. And it would be much more effective than current efforts like sending out fact-check emails and post-speech press releases, the contents of which are read by only a tiny minority of people who saw the speech.
Don’t play to the president’s strengths. Use your own, leveraging all the media available to you that the president doesn’t have.
Seriously – that’s essentially the Matt Yglesias take on the recommendations published by the co-chairs of the president’s debt commission:
I’m not surprised that liberals don’t like the Simpson-Bowles proposals and I’m not surprised that people who aren’t liberal disagree with liberals about that. But I am surprised that there are people out there professing to be surprised that liberals are hostile to the proposal. But what are liberals supposed to think? It’s a proposal hashed out between a conservative Republican and a moderate Democrat. So of course liberals don’t like it. Imagine the conservative reaction to a deficit proposal written by Lincoln Chaffee and Russ Feingold.
Or instead of a hypothetical, how does Yglesias think the GOP would feel about a health care law written only by Democrats? To use his words, “if you want Republicans to like a deal, you need to invite Republicans to the table”. The irony, however, seems to have escaped him.
That’s not to say that pursuing a conservative-moderate deal was a bad idea. Self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals by a large margin and moderates are a much bigger force in the Democratic coalition than in the Republican one. So if you want a deal, appointing an orthodox conservative Republican and a moderate Democrat from North Carolina makes a lot of sense. But it also makes sense that liberals won’t be happy with the results.
But when the GOP was unhappy with the health care law, it was because they hated poor Americans and were the lackeys of the insurance companies, right?
In the Financial Times today, Martin Wolf comes out swinging (free registration required) against those who are afraid the Fed’s Quantitative Easing programs carry a danger of sparking serious inflation.
The essence of the contemporary monetary system is creation of money, out of nothing, by private banks’ often foolish lending. Why is such privatisation of a public function right and proper, but action by the central bank, to meet pressing public need, a road to catastrophe? When banks will not lend and the broad money supply is barely growing, that is just what it should be doing (see chart).
The hysterics then add that it is impossible to shrink the Fed’s balance sheet fast enough to prevent excessive monetary expansion. That is also nonsense. If the economy took off, nothing would be easier. Indeed, the Fed explained precisely what it would do in its monetary report to Congress last July. If the worst came to the worst, it could just raise reserve requirements. Since many of its critics believe in 100 per cent reserve banking, why should they object to a move in that direction?
Now turn to the argument that the Fed is deliberately weakening the dollar. Any moderately aware person knows that the Fed’s mandate does not include the external value of the dollar. Those governments that have piled up an extra $6,800bn in foreign reserves since January 2000, much of it in dollars, are consenting adults. Not only did no one ask China, the foremost example, to add the huge sum of $2,400bn to its reserves, but many strongly asked it not to do so.
Everything he says is correct, but that’s not really any help, because the implications are pretty severe, even if he’s completely right.
First, let’s assume the Fed can, via repos or changes in reserve requirements, sterilize the increase in the money supply. The problem then becomes when does the Fed do this sterilization. let’s go back to 1981-1982. When the Fed was looking at monetary aggregates in the wake of the 1981 recession, they saw the money supply growing far faster than their target. At the time, the Fed’s primary tool was securities sales and purchases to control the rate of growth in the money supply directly, while letting the markets set interest rates. (Today, the fed primarily uses changes in the Discount Rate and Federal Funds target rate to run monetary policy.)
When the Fed saw those big increases in money supply, they immediately moved to sterilize the increases, to keep inflation in check. Sadly, the lack of velocity in the money supply, i.e., its actual rate of use in transactions, was near zero. as a result, the Fed’s tightening threw the economy into another recession, with unemployment rising to 11%. The policy may have been correct, but the timing was wrong.
So, what guarantee do we have that the Fed will perform sterilization at precisely the right time? If they move too early, the economy shuts down, a la 1982. Too late, and inflation takes off. Then the Fed would really have to tighten, which would probably result in another recession to wring out the extra inflation.
The trouble with the Fed is that monetary policy moves take 6-18 months to fully percolate through the economy. And they make these decisions based on economic data gathered in previous months. It’s like driving down the street by looking only at the rear-view mirror.
That makes proper timing by the Fed…hard.
Perhaps the Fed will operate as if run by infinitely wise solons, who know precisely when to sterilize their quantitative easing, either through repo operations, or raising the banks’ reserve requirements appropriately.
If it doesn’t, however, we’re looking at either another steep recession, or a bout of serious inflation, follwed by another serious recession to tame the inflation.
Oh, and even if the Fed is that good, it doesn’t address the problem of how the Chinese will react to any increased currency risk they face by holding dollar-denominated securities if the value of the dollar falls in the FOREX. As Mr. Wolf admits, the Fed’s mandate has nothing to do with the foreign exchange value of the dollar. So, maybe, the Chinese will decide to sell as much of their holdings in Treasuries as they can. That implies a serious decline in treasury prices, and a concommittant rise in bond yields, i.e., interest rates. Aaaand, we’re back to a possibility of a steep recession again Especially if they do it while the Fed is already in the middle of money supply sterilization operations.
So, I guess the question is, “How much to you trust in the ability of the Federal Reserve to do exactly the right thing, at exactly the right time?” And, “How much do you trust the Chinese to go along with all this?”
More alarmist myths bite the dust. The claim that rain forests would be damaged by warming:
The threat to tropical rainforests from climate change may have been exaggerated by environmentalists, according to a new study. Researchers have shown that the world’s tropical forests thrived in the far distant past when temperatures were 3 to 5C warmer than today. They believe that a wetter, warmer future may actually boost plants and animals living the tropics.
There are many climactic models today suggesting that … if the temperature increases in the tropics by a couple of degrees, most of the forest is going to be extinct. What we found was the opposite to what we were expecting: we didn’t find any extinction event [in plants] associated with the increase in temperature, we didn’t find that the precipitation decreased.
Or the claim that melting glaciers would threaten 2 billion people:
The spectre of imminent thirst and/or starvation for billions by 2035 from melting glaciers would appear to have been confirmed as the worst kind of alarmist scaremongering.
Sea level increases and more violent hurricanes?
First, there is still no proof the Earth is experiencing “dangerous” warming. Temperatures have levelled off since 1998. Many measuring locations are also located in unsuitable areas. Furthermore, the methodologies of averaging temperature are inconsistent and full of problems. This is why “Global Warming” was replaced as a slogan by “Climate Change” (nobody denies that climate changes), and more recently by “Climate Disruption” (which is impossible define or prove).
Second, the increased temperature is supposed to increase sea level mainly by melting the ice-caps, which is impossible. Thermal expansion of the oceans seems to be of little consequence at present because the satellite measurements show the oceans are cooling. Le Mesurier gilds his picture with a few asides on “extreme climatic events” in general and hurricanes in particular. Recent studies, however, show no increase in hurricane activity in the last 40 years.
But remember, the "science is settled".
Then there’s the drive for “green jobs” , “green technologies” and how that’s faring:
MORE than $1 billion of taxpayers’ money was wasted on subsidies for household solar roof panels that favoured the rich and did little to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, a scathing review has found.
Despite a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government, Solyndra, a maker of solar panels in the southeast San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont, will close one of its manufacturing plants, lay off 40 permanent and 150 contract workers, delay expansion plans of a new plant largely financed with the government-guaranteed loan and scale back production capacity more than 50 percent. Despite the hype and tax money, Solyndra seems unable to compete with Chinese manufacturers, whose prices are lower. This is the latest bad news for the company touted by Mr. Schwarzenegger and President Barack Obama as one of the green industry’s supposed shining lights.
Because, you know, government’s do this stuff so much better than private markets.
Thought you’d want to know.
It is nanny-staters like Joe Ozersky who drive me up a wall. They represent that group of people with mindset that common Americans simply don’t have the ability and wherewithal to run their own lives or those of their families. And, as expected, they applaud government’s unrequested and unwanted intrusion in their lives to control aspects (or modify behavior) that they simply cannot fathom real Americans doing. Or at least not doing to their satisfaction.
Ozersky has decided obesity is a problem (he apparently was a fat kid who ate lots of hamburgers). Ozersky has decided that one of the main reasons for the problems is fast (processed) food and in particular McDonald’s Happy Meals. So Ozersky is just tickled to death that the intrusive board of supervisors in San Francisco has chosen to ban Happy Meals. He correctly identifies the source of such intrusion:
Last week’s elections may have seemed like a repudiation of liberalism, but the San Francisco board of supervisors appeared unfazed. The city’s governing body went ahead and fired a bunker buster into the Happy Meal, decreeing that restaurants cannot put free toys in meals that exceed set thresholds for calories, sugar or fat.
One of the reasons liberalism, or in its new incarnation, "progressivism" is in such disrepute is because of foolishness like this. Ozersky’s next line claims "libertarians are livid".
Everyone should be "livid". Since when is it up to a city board of supervisors – elected to keep the peace and make sure the garbage is picked up on time – to decide what is or isn’t appropriate to feed one’s child?
Ozersky, however, applauds the effort but believes it is just a beginning and, in fact, needs to go further:
No, the problem with the ban is that it doesn’t go far enough. America’s tots aren’t getting supersized simply by eating Happy Meals. In a recent nutrition commentary that is making waves in food-politics circles, in part because NYU’s Marion Nestle posted excerpts of it on her blog, University of São Paulo professor Carlos Monteiro makes the case that "the rapid rise in consumption of ultra-processed food and drink products, especially since the 1980s, is the main dietary cause of the concurrent rapid rise in obesity and related diseases throughout the world." And reversing that trend will be a lot harder than making Happy Meals a little less happy.
But still, you have to start somewhere, and I understand why the San Francisco supervisors picked Happy Meals as their beachhead.
So the war, apparently is on "processed food", all of which Ozersky would prefer to see eliminated. But is processed food really the culprit behind the obesity "epidemic". Ozersky cites Nestle’s work as a definitive yes. However, a nutrition professor recently shot the claim in the head with an experiment he ran on himself:
Mark Haub, who teaches at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., told FoxNews.com he has lost 27 pounds in two months eating approximately 1,800 calories a day – and those calories came from foods like snack cakes, candy bars and even potato chips – basically anything he could get from a vending machine.
Haub said before the diet, he was eating up to 3,000 calories a day and weighed 201 pounds.
Key take away – it isn’t necessarily the type of food that makes you obese – it is the amount of that food, in calories, that does so. Always has been.
The point, of course, is obesity is caused by eating too many calories and not exercising sufficiently to burn off the excess. Banning Happy Meals won’t change that at all. As Tanya Zuckerbrot, a NY dietician noted, “it doesn’t matter if you’re eating Twinkies or Brussels sprouts – it’s all about your caloric intake.”
And unless the state plans on issuing meals and monitoring your every bite, banning a specific meal isn’t going to change the habits that have caused someone to become obese. Nor will bans on salt, sugary drinks or any other choice the nanny-staters think they can take from the public. It is a fairly simple concept to understand – “The laws of thermodynamics dictate that if you consume fewer calories than your body burns, you will create a caloric deficit resulting in weight loss.”
Yet those like Ozersky choose to ignore it in favor of government action to take choices and freedoms away from people. McDonalds is obviously – at least in progressive circles – an evil purveyor of bad “processed” food. And progressives believe it is their sworn duty to protect you from yourself and those corporations which prey on you.
Why? Because you’re brainwashed:
Again and again, efforts to promote fresh fruit and produce in low-income urban areas have failed for the simple reason that Americans have been brainwashed. We have been conditioned, starting in utero, to prefer high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar concoctions rather than their less exciting, more natural culinary cousins.
Really? I simply don’t recall that as being conditioned preference of mine. Instead, visits to places such as McDonalds were irregular and not particularly common. They were “treats” on occasion. But they were hardly conditioning me for such a diet.
Where such conditioning takes place, if anywhere, is in the home. It is there the bulk of all food is consumed and, pretty much, in the quantities desired. It is there where children (and adults) are either encouraged to be active or left to decide for themselves (play outside or do XBox) their activity level.
Banning toys in Happy Meals is simply an intrusion with no effect. It’s an exercise in power, nothing more. It has no beneficial effect and it is another in a long line of government imposed restrictions on freedom.
In his conclusion, Ozersky asks, “And why are eight people in San Francisco the only ones who seem willing to step up and do something unpopular to address such a serious issue?”
Because they’re as enamored with the power they wield as Ozersky seems to be and just as clueless. This isn’t about doing anything to address a "serious issue". This is an exercise in power cloaked in some feel good nonsense. It is about a group of people who feel they are entitled by their position to decide what is or isn’t acceptable for others and how those others should live their lives. This isn’t about doing something good, this is about stretching the envelope and seeing if they can get away with it.
If in fact they are allowed too, you can spend hours imagining what they’ll next decide you’re too stupid to realize or control and need their enlightened and progressive hand to stay you from your self-destructive ways.
Freedom is choice – and this bunch of progressives are all about limiting choice.
ASIDE: check out the comments to the Ozersky article. Heartening.