Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: April 2011


Budget battles–the same old stuff from Obama

Tomorrow night President Obama will address the nation in an “important” speech – or is it “major” speech – about how he thinks we ought to cut both the deficit and the debt.

Clue:  It involves raising taxes.  

Yeah, the backhanded way of saying, “our problem is one of not enough revenue instead of too much spending”.  And how does the President plan on selling this?  Well if his spokesman, Jay Carney is to be believed, an old bromide is the answer:

“You can’t — you can’t simply slash entitlements, lower taxes and call that a fair deal.”

Everyone,” he said, must “share in the burden of bringing our fiscal house into order.”

You could spend all day on those two sentences alone.  Yes, Mr. Carney and Mr. Obama, you can “simply slash entitlement, lower taxes and call that a fair deal”.  Despite rhetoric to the contrary, our problem is growing government and out of control spending.  Slash both the size of government and severely limit its ability to spend more than it takes in and you’ve taken a major step in “bringing our fiscal house into order”.  That’s what’s fair.

But of course, that assumes you don’t by the implication that this problem we suffer under is one of all our making.  Because if you do, then you buy into the assumption that we must all “share in the burden” of fixing it.  No sale here.

First, we don’t all agree that it in order to fix what profligate and incompetent legislators have done over the years we must give them more money to waste.

No matter how many times they say it, it doesn’t make it right.  They have more than enough revenue to properly fund the Constitutionally mandated government.  What they don’t have enough revenue to continue carrying on is the extra-Constitutional nonsense called entitlements.  That means entitlements must be “slashed” to the point that they’re self-sufficient and don’t add to either the deficit or the debt.  Additionally, once those are addressed, government should be trimmed of all the bureaucratic fat it has built up over the decades.  If there’s a problem with morbid obesity in this country it is found in the size of government.

Oh, and don’t forget that the guy who is going to lecture us about fiscal responsibility on Wednesday night has doubled the debt and is running a deficit this year over a trillion dollars (drinking game – knock it back every time he pawns all of that off as an “inherited” problem), not to mention adding a huge new … entitlement program.

The budget deal just negotiated take a first tentative swipe at the size of government.  No, it’s not what I’d prefer, but then given what it could have ended up being, I’ll take it.  Here’s a rundown of some of the cuts.  Ed Morrissey has a few more:

The CR terminates funding for more than 55 programs, for a total savings of well over $1 billion.  In addition, the bill terminates two programs funded in ObamaCare (the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) and the Free Choice Voucher programs).

The CO-OP, according to some critics, is nothing more than a stealth public option.  But to the point – 55 programs is 55 programs.  We could probably easily eliminate 5,500, but that’s not the point at the moment – a journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step in that direction.  That’s what this should be considered and we need to encourage (and reward) this sort of thinking and action.

Another I like:

The legislation also eliminates four Administration “Czars,” including the “Health Care Czar,” the “Climate Change Czar,” the “Car Czar,” and the “Urban Affairs Czar.”

That’s why you have Department Secretaries, although I’d love to see some of the departments eliminated as well.  Speaking of those Departments:

  • Agriculture: $3 billion cut from FY10 level, $3.2 billion less than Obama budget request
  • Commerce/Justice/Science: $10.9 billion cut from FY10 level, $7.1 billion less than Obama request
  • Defense: $5 billion increase from FY10
  • Energy/Water: $3.6 billion cut from FY10, $1.7 billion less than Obama request
  • Financial Services: $2.4 billion cut from FY10, $3.4 billion less than Obama request
  • Homeland Security: $0.784 billion cut from FY10, $1.9 billion below Obama request
  • Interior: $2.62 billion cut from FY10, $2.8 billion below Obama request
  • Labor/HHS/Education: $5.5 billion cut from FY10, $13 billion below Obama request
  • Legislature: $0.103 billion cut from FY10
  • Military Construction/Veterans Affairs: $0.6 billion increase over FY10, $3.4 billion more than Obama request
  • State/Foreign Operations: $0.504 billion cut from FY10, $8.4 billion below Obama request
  • Transportation/HUD: $12.3 billion cut from FY10, $13.2 billion below Obama request

Like I said a first tentative step, but definitely a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, I just can’t wait to hear what Mr. Deficit Hawk has to say Wednesday night.  In a sad sort of way, it ought to be a howler.

~McQ


Nanny goes to the school cafeteria

I get so tired of these stories, but they have to be pointed out because they indicate a disturbing trend.  In this case, it’s just another in a long line of examples of bureaucrats unilaterally deciding to remove choice for everyone based on their arbitrary assessment of what is “good for you”.

The example this time is about some of the Chicago Public Schools, and in particular the Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, have decided not to allow packed lunches from home.  This line in the story just drove me up the wall:

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

It is like parents don’t even exist in her world.  It is like they should have no say in what their children eat if it doesn’t jibe with Ms. Carmona’s idea of what that should be.  Mona Charen calls it “coercive humanitarianism”.  I think that’s way too kind.  I call it bureaucratic authoritarianism and typical of petty bureaucrats who have the power to impose their will on others with little or no accountability requirements.

Perhaps the biggest point to made about this is parents are again marginalized with these sorts of decisions.  They’re forced to do what the bureaucrat decides they should do.  And it costs those parents who do take their child’s nutrition seriously and who do pack nutritious lunches the option (the freedom) to do so.

Of course, one supposes that part of the reason for imposing this unilateral ban on lunches from home is so the kids will “eat well”, yes?

At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.

But as with most things, if you really drill down and “follow the money”, some of the bureaucratic insistence becomes a little clearer:

Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district’s food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.

And they really don’t care if the food goes in the child’s stomach or the trashcan.

Which brings us to this line in the story:

Such discussions over school lunches and healthy eating echo a larger national debate about the role government should play in individual food choices.

Frankly, I see no reason for debate – none of the government’s business.  I don’t need a super-nanny deciding what I can or can’t eat and I darn sure don’t want the government deciding what my children or grandchildren eat.

But … and you knew there was one … when government “pays” for health care, government will feel entitled and empowered to decide such things for individuals because bad decisions may affect your health and that would cost the government more than if you were forced to eat like it decides you should.

Yes there are national implications to this sort of bureaucratic nonsense, and somewhere out there in the bureaucratic/political incubator is a man or woman who will self-justify attempting to impose such a fundamental infringement on your freedom to choose for your own good.  And unfortunately many others will blithely go along.

~McQ


Egypt: So how’s that “revolution” going?

Not so hot if this story is any indication:

An Egyptian blogger was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for criticizing the military in what human rights advocates called one of the more alarming violations of freedom of expression since a popular uprising led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two months ago.

The blogger, Maikel Nabil, 25, had assailed the Egyptian armed forces for what he called its continuation of the corruption and anti-democratic practices of Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Nabil often quoted from reports by established human rights groups.

[…]

The charges against Mr. Nabil included insulting the military establishment and spreading false information about the armed forces. The tribunal charged him with spreading information previously published by human rights organizations like Amnesty International on the army’s use of violence against protesters, the torture of those detained inside the Egyptian Museum and the use of forced pelvic exams, known as “virginity tests,” against detained female protesters.

Can’t have anyone “insulting the military establishment” or protesting against torture and “virginity tests” can we?  Sure seem much like the regime they just “threw out” doesn’t it?  Next: Islam begins to push the secular to the side. 

Yup, I can feel freedom ringing out from here.

~McQ


Krugman finally notices Obama’s an empty suit

Funny stuff.  Paul Krugman, representing much of the left, has apparently finally noticed what an empty suit Obama is:

What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?

I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.

Of course Krugman is pretty much focused on economic issues and so seemingly hasn’t been watching Obama through most of his presidency, as many of us have.  He’s finally noticed the “timid guy” who doesn’t seem to stand for anything but does enjoy a good round of golf.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it has taken this long – the blinkers had to be firmly in place to elect him in the first place.   You had, to quote Hillary Clinton as she addressed Gen. Petraeus about the situation in Iraq some years ago, “willingly suspend disbelief” in order to vote for the guy in the first place.  What you had to suspend was the belief that experience and leadership count for something, especially when you’re talking about the highest office in the land.

This timid guy Krugman is talking about has shown the rest of us over and over he’s really unsuited for the job.  And now, even the Krugman’s of the world are beginning to take some notice.

I have to admit to laughing out loud at Krugman’s example – apparently the one that finally clued him into the problem:

His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point.

Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.

And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr. Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months.

Of course Krugman, as typified by his one-trick pony policy of more and more government spending to cure all ills is bound to be upset by any spending concessions a Democrat might make.  However, I loved his characterization of Obama’s bargaining style.  It is true  and not only does it point to someone totally out of his depth, but someone with no real principles upon which to make a stand.

Krugman turns his attention, after wondering what happened to Obama, to trying to trash everything the GOP has put forward or will put forward.  But so captured is he by his discovery of what Obama isn’t that he has to return to that subject:

You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.

What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.

But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.

Baloney.  Krugman has to have lived in a cave if he believes the rhetoric has even come close to matching the reality of the Obama presidency.  He is not a transcendent figure by any stretch.  He is, instead, a true exception to the Peter Principle and has indeed risen to a level above his incompetence. 

But to Krugman’s last point – Obama believes in one thing – Obama.  And any objective appraisal of his performance in office these past 2+ years cannot give him very high marks on “principle” or a willingness to take a stand.   There’s a reason for that.  Obama traded principle for the achievement of his ambition years ago.  He’s intelligent enough to talk the talk, but he seems absolutely incapable of walking the walk or even attempting to do so.

As Dale said on the podcast last night, you sometimes get the feeling that when he says something he truly believes it becomes reality.  In this world you actually have to take action and lead to have things happen.  Obama has no idea how to do that.

~McQ


You knew it was coming–Arab League wants UN enforced No Fly Zone over Gaza

It was only a matter of time for the real reason behind the “right to protect” (R2P) principle the UN has adopted to become apparent.

The Arab League provides it in its appeal to the UN:

The Arab League (AL) said on Sunday it would ask the United Nations to consider imposing a no-fly zone over the Gaza Strip to protect the civilians against Israeli air strikes.

In a statement issued after an emergency meeting of the pan- Arab organization at the permanent delegates’ level in its Cairo headquarter, the AL said it would ask the United Nation Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the Israeli aggression over Gaza to lift the siege and impose a no-fly zone against the Israeli military to protect civilians.

The statement rejected the double standard policies towards the Palestinian case, urging the UN Security Council and the Quartet committee to bear all responsibilities for halting the subsequent massacres and provide an international protection for the unarmed citizens.

Now, this shouldn’t have a chance since it takes a vote of the Security Council to pass something like this and the US, with a permanent seat, has the right to veto any resolution calling for such a measure.

And a few years ago I’d have had no worries about there even being a ghost of a chance of such a measure being agreed too by the US.  I have no such assurance now with this administration.  And don’t forget, they got the cooperation of the Security Council recently for the imposition of the Libyan NFZ, so they’ll be asked for cooperation on this – it’s the trap that may have been set from the outset.

Of course, unaddressed by the AL is the provocation for the latest round of air attacks from Israel by the terrorist group Hamas:

Violence in Gaza started when Hamas, which holds sway there, fired a rocket at an Israeli school bus, critically wounding a 16- year-old student. Hamas later said it did not know the bus was carrying students.

Hamas more than “holds sway there” – Hamas “governs” there.   What it continues to do is execute acts of war against Israel and then whines when Israel reacts.  What the AL is doing is attempting to get the US to level the playing field and create better opportunities for Hamas to continue firing rockets into Israel.  And, of course, brave Hamas always ensures it does its provocations from areas with high densities of civilians.  And Hamas could give a rip whether there were students on the bus.  Read the description again – it was a freakin’ school bus.  What else did they expect to be on it?

Note too that the AL uses precisely the argument that I and others who wrote about the application of R2P said would happen.  The citing of a “double-standard” (you’ll do Libya but not Gaza?).  It’s nonsense on a stick, of course, because supposedly R2P is there to protect civilians from their own government, not another government retaliating against deadly attacks by their own government.

This again illustrates the danger of such “principles” as the UN’s R2P.  It is now being considered a tool by the weak but tyrannical in an effort to downgrade the defensive abilities of Israel to protect itself. 

I say give them the go-ahead and let the AL enforce the NFZ.  It will be good for fighter jet sales as the IAF will scatter pieces and parts of the various AL air forces over the Gaza strip as a result.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 10 Apr 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss this week’s government shutdown battle and the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

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.


Radio Free Internet

If you ever share anything on the web, you know that when you hear an interesting clip of someone speaking — part of an interview, speech, or podcast — you pretty much automatically resign yourself to the fact that it’s hard to share, so it’s unlikely to spread far even among people who you think might like what they hear.

But even that’s getting ahead of ourselves.  How often do you happen upon a piece of audio that says something interesting about the topic you’re researching?  And even when you do find a promising piece of media, is there anything you’d rather do less than sift through it for the useful parts, which you can’t easily break out and share anyway?

These problems can be solved with current technology, and open up new avenues for profit while we’re at it.  That’s what I discuss in a series at the blog of CRAFT | Media / Digital, where I work with QandO founder Jon Henke and one of the earliest bloggers, Sean Hackbarth.

Enjoy, and please share with anyone who might find this a cool idea:

Radio Free Internet

Part I: How Much of the Web Hears You?

Part II: Grasping and Spreading the Word

Part III: Integrating the Spoken Word into the Web


Fiscal reality–one step forward, two steps back

The averted government shutdown in which the budget for the remainder of 2011 has apparently been agreed too with $38.5 billion in spending cuts is better than one with no spending cuts, obviously. 

But we should keep the cuts made in context, because what is happening right now, beside the caterwauling by the left about grandma and cat food, is the ship of state is still filling with the water of increased debt faster than we can bail.  The context?

The federal debt increased $54.1 billion in the eight days preceding the deal made by President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) to cut $38.5 billion in federal spending for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, which runs through September.

Yes, praise indeed for persevering and getting some manner of cut out of this deal with Democrats fighting the Republicans every step of the way.  Lord knows if the Democrats had actually passed a budget last year we wouldn’t even see the cuts they got.  And keep in mind that we’re talking about the rest of the year’s discretionary spending for the most part – entitlements can’t be cut until and unless the laws controlling them are addressed and that won’t be until later on in this year. 

Also remember, what you’re witnessing here is a mere skirmish.  The “war” comes when the president’s budget meets the Republican House’s budget (with the Senate thrown in to completely confuse the situation).  The real war takes place with the 2012 budget. 

So for those hollering that the GOP should have gotten more, I’m not so sure that’s a useful argument at the moment.  The fact that they’re in a mode to cut and have done so in this rump year “budget” where they can only have an effect on part of the spending is laudable.  Personally I think it is more important to make that point than to worry about how much we’d prefer they cut.  We need to keep them in that cutting mode and get the American people used to it (and on-board) as well.

The GOP also needs to get their message out there in a way which helps the American people understand the critical nature of cutting spending to our future long term solvency as well as getting government back under control and out of areas in which it doesn’t belong.  Believe it or not, numbers like the above help make that case.  Instead of using them as a downer, they help illustrate the problem and which side abets that problem.

Numbers like those above are startling for most –  their usefulness can’t be overstated. It puts an exclamation point on the argument Republicans have been trying to make.  As hard as the GOP had to work to wring that $38.5 billion out of the spending spree this administration is on, it still managed to spend more than was saved and add to the debt.

There’s a campaign advert in there somewhere.

~McQ


In Egypt, “Arab Spring” begins to turn into winter

For those of us actually somewhat tuned into the region, the dynamics of the power structure there, grounded in reality and, well, basic human nature, what is now happening in Egypt comes as no surprise:

Demonstrators burned cars and barricaded themselves with barbed wire inside a central Cairo square demanding the resignation of the military’s head after troops violently dispersed an overnight protest killing one and injuring 71.

Hundreds of soldiers beat protesters with clubs and fired into the air in the pre-dawn raid on Cairo’s central Tahrir Square in a sign of the rising tensions between Egypt’s ruling military and protesters.

Armed with sticks and other makeshift weapons, the protesters vowed not to leave until the defense minister, the titular head of state, has resigned.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  And the boss is now starting to exert control.

The troops dragged an unknown number of protesters away, throwing them into police trucks, eyewitnesses said.

The military issued a statement afterward blaming "outlaws" for rioting and violating the country’s 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, and asserted that no one was harmed or arrested.

"The armed forces stress that they will not tolerate any acts of rioting or any act that harms the interest of the country and the people," it said.

Sounds pretty, oh I don’t know, 2010 in Egypt to me.  The point, of course, is the military, who has essentially been in control of Egypt for the past 60 years was willing to trade Hosni Mubarak to retain control over the government.  It took a neutral stance during the riots, threw Mubarak under the bus, put itself in charge of the “interim government” and now is exerting control.

“Arab spring” has sprung and it is now turning into the usual totalitarian winter but this time with elections!  Well, at least one.

~McQ


Quote of the Day–how screwed up are we edition

Actually we have a pair of quotes of the day.  First from Roger Pilon who is the VP for legal affairs at Cato”

Our tax system sucks the substance and spirit of entrepreneurs and workers alike, filters that substance through Washington, then sends it back through countless federal programs that instruct us in minute detail about how to use the government’s beneficence. Manufacturing, housing, education, health care, transportation, energy, recreation — is there anything today over which the federal government does not have control? A federal judge held recently that Congress can regulate the "mental act" of deciding not to buy health insurance.

Steel on target.  Key word?  “Control”.

Our next quote in this edition comes from Mark Steyn about our Sneerer in Chief who addressed the concerns of an American had about gas prices by telling him maybe he ought to get rid of his gas hog:

America, 2011: A man gets driven in a motorcade to sneer at a man who has to drive himself to work. A guy who has never generated a dime of wealth, never had to make payroll, never worked at any job other than his own tireless self-promotion literally cannot comprehend that out there beyond the far fringes of the motorcade outriders are people who drive a long distance to jobs whose economic viability is greatly diminished when getting there costs twice as much as the buck-eighty-per-gallon it cost back at the dawn of the Hopeychangey Era.

Bingo. Definitely  campaign advertising fodder.  A “let them eat cake” moment. The man defines “don’t care” and “out of touch”. One assumes he considers statements like that to be "leadership".

~McQ