Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

NASA’s new frontier – Muslim self-esteem?

It appears so.

Charles Bolden, head of NASA, tells Al Jazeera that the "foremost" task President Obama has given him is "to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering." Thus, NASA’s primary mission is no longer to enhance American science and engineering or to explore space, but to boost the self-esteem of "predominantly Muslim nations."

Seriously.  Watch the video at Powerline.  An 18.5 billion budget spent on self-esteem outreach?  Because, per the Obama administration, NASA no longer has a space exploration mission.  In fact, as Powerline points out, space exploration didn’t even make the top three priority missions Bolden is charged with:

The other two are "re-inspire children to want to get into science and math" and "expand our international relationships.

So essentially NASA’s new mission is a) muslim outreach and self-esteem bolstering, b) exciting kids about science and math and c) expand international relationships, obviously not for space exploration though.  Now that’s leadership.

And you wonder why we’re going broke, heading toward mediocrity and have clueless leadership engaged in misusing an expensive agency for self-esteem projects on your dime?

See the results of the election held in November of 2008.

~McQ

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It isn’t rocket science, Mr. President

Seriously, by now just about anyone – to include the President’s panel of economic advisers – should be able to figure out why there are no jobs. The QoD below tells you why in so many words. Fareed Zakaria tells you why without mincing words:

The key to a sustainable recovery and robust economic growth is to get companies investing in America. So why are they reluctant, despite having mounds of cash? I put this question to a series of business leaders, all of whom were expansive on the topic yet did not want to be quoted by name, for fear of offending people in Washington.

Economic uncertainty was the primary cause of their caution. "We’ve just been through a tsunami and that produces caution," one told me. But in addition to economics, they kept talking about politics, about the uncertainty surrounding regulations and taxes. Some have even begun to speak out publicly. Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive of General Electric, complained Friday that government was not in sync with entrepreneurs. The Business Roundtable, which had supported the Obama administration, has begun to complain about the myriad laws and regulations being cooked up in Washington.

In other words, back off, get out of the freaking way, quit talking about massive new taxes and programs that deincentivize investment and employment, and let the 1.8 trillion in cash sitting on the sidelines in private hands do its job.

Wow, I wish I’d been saying that for, oh, 18 months or so.

It still astounds me, though, that I and others are still beating this drum this late into this economic disaster.  As the title points out – this isn’t rocket science.  Incentives work to increase behavior you want, disincentives work to discourage behavior  you don’t want.   If you talk about making it harder and more expensive to hire someone, you disincentivize hiring.  Same with investment.

And that’s precisely what’s going on.

One CEO told me, "Almost every agency we deal with has announced some expansion of its authority, which naturally makes me concerned about what’s in store for us for the future." Another pointed out that between the health-care bill, financial reform and possibly cap-and-trade, his company had lawyers working day and night to figure out the implications of all these new regulations.

The immediate implication is they’re sitting on the sidelines, sitting on their cash instead of investing it, and they’re not hiring.  And every reason you seen listed above has to do with government.  Not down markets, or lack of demand, or whatever else one might want to blame on “capitalism”. 

Of course, as an aside, I have little sympathy for many of these CEOs.  They’ve learned you get what you vote for:

Most of the business leaders I spoke to had voted for Barack Obama. They still admire him. Those who had met him thought he was unusually smart. But all think he is, at his core, anti-business.

Yet these titans of industry and banking apparently weren’t astute enough, or didn’t want to look under the veneer this “smart” guy presented.  Seems interesting to me that they never got it, but many of us out here in fly-over land saw through candidate Obama immediately. 

Now they – and we – are paying a pretty high price for voting for someone they see as “anti-business” and apparently clueless about how to do what is necessary (or, perhaps, unwilling) to settle the markets, help establish a positive business climate and provide incentives for flowing that 1.8 trillion (it won’t cost the taxpayers a dime) into the economy and spur expansion and hiring.

They must be so pleased with the regime they’ve helped put into place, given their current positions on the sidelines trying to figure out how to stay in business.

Brilliant!

~McQ

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Quote of the day – jobless “recovery” edition

Great rant in the Las Vegas Review Journal by Wayne Allyn Root in which he points out the obvious – President Obama wouldn’t know how to create a job if his life depended on it.  However, it appears he certainly knows how to kill any incentives to create jobs.  Key graf:

I’ve polled all my friends who own small businesses — many of them in the Internet and high-tech fields. They all agree that in this new Obama world of high business taxes, income taxes, payroll taxes, capital gains taxes, and workers compensation taxes, the key to success is to avoid employees. The only way to survive as a business owner today is by keeping the payroll very low and by hiring only independent contractors or part-time employees provided by temp agencies.

There in a nutshell is why you see employers sitting on the sidelines – government has made it too expensive to hire new ones.  Literally.  So businesses are looking at ways to do the same thing they’re doing with fewer employees, and, if they need some help, looking to independent contractors (1099 hires) to fill the void.  They require nothing in terms of health care, social security, or other tax collections.  They can be let go at a moment’s notice.  They are, at least in my opinion, the way many small businesses will choose to “hire” in the coming years, or, as long as they are essentially penalized for hiring new employees.

Root goes on to call Obama the “great job destroyer”.  I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I think the policies he and the Democrats are putting in place (to include their obvious union preferences) are extremely damaging to the employment outlook and because of them, we’re going to see high single digit unemployment for a while.  In fact, because of the fact that employers are being penalized for hiring new employees, high single digit unemployment may become the new “norm”.

~McQ

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Krugman and Pelosi – two peas in an economic pod

Remember a few days ago I pointed out how Nancy Pelosi was out and about claiming that unemployment benefits was the greatest job creator in the world?

Well guess where she probably got it from – Paul Krugman?

Wait: there’s more. One main reason there aren’t enough jobs right now is weak consumer demand. Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.

I won’t bother you with the reasoning that says this is absolute nonsense – that was covered in the Pelosi post.  What’s surprising is how desperate Krugman is to have his way with increased deficit spending – to stoop to this level of argument.  Suffice it to say, this doesn’t increase “consumer demand” or support “consumer spending”.  Unemployment benefits are a fraction of what the household was making before so what it goes toward is the maintenance of necessities and not much else.

To see a Nobel prize winning economist reduced to this  – a political hack – is rather revealing.  It certainly, at least in my mind, makes everything he writes that is purportedly about his specialty suspect.  If this is his argument, then he hasn’t got an argument, and if you read the rest of his screed you’ll discover it is only an excuse to attack the GOP – falsely, of course.

Krugman has all but ruined his reputation as an economist with nonsense like this. Of course when a person becomes identified with the clueless, like Nancy Pelosi, and their arguments, the decent into full “hackery” is complete.

~McQ

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Rent seeking Republicans

That would include almost all of the establishment beltway Republicans:

Ethanol subsidies, oil drilling incentives, government insurance and loan guarantees for nuclear energy, natural gas subsidies: These proposals tend to have as many or more Republican advocates as Democratic advocates. Even worse, self-described free-market conservatives often rally for energy subsidies and claim it’s not a deviation from their principles.

Timothy Carney is exactly right. And in fact, defenders of these sorts of subsidies are easy to find – Newt Gingrich for instance:

Q. Your energy proposals consist largely of incentives — essentially, subsidies. You’ve also fought efforts to remove subsidies from fossil fuels. If you support free, open, and competitive markets, shouldn’t you support removing subsidies that distort the market?

A. [Gingrich] Not if you believe that a low-cost energy regime is essential to our country — both in terms of its internal transportation cost and its competitiveness in the world market.

Of course that argument can be made for absolutely any politically desired program.  In fact, Democrats make it for solar and wind power.

So, when you hear establishment Republicans talk about “free markets” it’s really not what they’re talking about – instead they’re talking about favored businesses.  Or, as Carney points out, they’re more pro-business than pro-market.  Crony capitalism – not free markets.

As Dan Riehl argues that’s why grassroots conservatives and establishment “conservatives” really don’t see eye to eye:

Herein lies the dirty little secret of why the GOP is slow to actually empower the grassroots and conservative movement. It’s also why, in some measure, we can no longer rely on the so called Beltway conservative establishment. Just like Republicans, they’ve come to rely on corporate money, allowing them to drive a large part of their agenda.

Or, unsurprisingly, they’ve been co-opted – more in a long line politicians reduced to rent-seeking for favored corporations to fund their re-election campaigns.

When the GOP talks about being “pro-market”, you’re advised to take that with a grain of salt.

~McQ

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Big Peace launches

One of the reasons I’m highlighting this is I’ve been invited to write for the site and will be doing so.

It’s Andrew Breitbart’s latest website in his “Big” genre.  Big Government, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism and now Big Peace.  The focus will be on national security topics and it has an impressive collection of editors to include Peter Schweizer of the Hoover Institute, Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and Jim Hanson of BlackFive.

It should be an interesting experience.  And the 4th of July seemed to be an appropriate launch date – wouldn’t you say?

I’ve also started contributing to the Washington Examiner (as has MichaelW) as a paid blogger (hey, the best kind, no) with opinion pieces and QandO blog reposts. 

Anyway, that’s the story – give Big Peace a chance. 

Sorry, couldn’t resist it.

Happy Independence Day – relatively speaking.

~McQ

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Michael Steele – shut up and raise money

As I’ve mentioned in past criticism of Michael Steele, his job isn’t to go around making controversial statements, his job is to quietly raise money for the RNC.

Apparently, the money raising isn’t going that well, but the controversial statements – abundant.

Steele’s latest:

In his comments caught on camera at a fundraiser in Connecticut, Steele said Afghanistan was “a war of Obama’s choosing” and “not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” He also questioned Obama’s strategy. “If he’s such a student of history,” Steele said, “has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.”

He also called the relief of Gen. McChrystal “comical”. 

I’m not sure what Steele is thinking when he says Afghanistan is a “war of Obama’s choosing”.  We’ve been on the ground in that country since 2001.  Nor do I understand what is meant by “not something the US had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in”.  Again, we’ve been in country since 2001 and we’ve been prosecuting a war there.  Perhaps not to the extent that some would prefer, but to claim it isn’t something “actively prosecuted” is nonsense.  Pure, utter nonsense.

Now I’m pretty sure what he meant by a “war of Obama’s choosing” is Obama thought Afghanistan was a much more important war than Iraq.  But that’s not how it came out, did it?  Instead it make Steele look dumber than a box of rocks.

Lastly, the history lesson – it implies you don’t try because history teaches us those who have done so, have failed.  Well, yeah, but their aim wasn’t nation building, it was conquest.  Speaking of students of history, you’d think Steele might see that as a significant difference.

He’s right, there are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.  Dozens.   But, in the end, do they support the endstate goal of a country that can self-sufficiently govern itself, protect itself and not allow terrorist organizations a foothold there?

For the vast majority of them – no.

It becomes evident that even the tone-deaf Michael Steele has figured he stepped on it big time when a statement like this is issued on his behalf:

Steele later issued a statement saying he supports the president’s strategy in Afghanistan. “The stakes are too high for us to accept anything less but success in Afghanistan,” he said.

Of course the DNC didn’t waste anytime in cashing in on the bonanza of stupid Steele had provided:

“The American people will be interested to hear that the leader of the Republican Party thinks recent events related to the war are ‘comical’ and that he is betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan,” the DNC communications director, Brad Woodhouse, said in a statement. “It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences.”

Unfortunately the GOP can’t argue with a single word or thought within the statement.  In fact, they’d have issued exactly the same sort of statement had it been the chairman of the DNC saying such nonsense.

William Kristol and Liz Cheney are among a chorus of Republicans calling for Steele to resign after the remarks.  Perhaps it is time for the GOP and RNC to hire a less controversial chair whose orientation is more on raising much needed funds  and less on making dumb statements that embarrass the party and have a tendency to hurt fund raising efforts.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-02

CA Appeals Court: The governor may lower state workers' pay to the minimum wage if a state budget isn't in place. http://bit.ly/b3sk99 #

HCR may mean longer emergency room waits and more crowding. Unexpectedly! http://usat.me?39117590 #

RT @LeftCrusader: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that non-farm jobs fell from 133,549k in Jan09 to 130,470k today. That's -3.079m. #

RT @LeftCrusader: The 3 million jobs lost is a complete bullshit talking point by fixed news. | Its the official BLS non-farm employm't no. #

RT @LeftCrusader: @DaleFranks CLinton creatd 20 m and Carter created 10m n 1 term. | Under Reagan, 17.7m jobs were created. So do I win? #

RT @LeftCrusader: Bush creatd just over a million [jobs] n 8 years. | And 3m+ jobs have disappeared in 18 months of Obama. #

RT @LeftCrusader: @DaleFranks CLinton creatd 20 m and Carter created 10m n 1 term. | *shrug* That's irrelevant to your claim about Obama. #

RT @LeftCrusader, re: Obama creating jobs v. Bush. BLS payroll employment: 2001-2009, +1.86m jobs. Since 2009, -3.079 jobs. Ur math sucks. #

Factory orders fall 1.4% in May after 9 months of gains http://usat.me?39114292 #RecoverySummer #

Official unemployment rates: Jun 09: 9.5%, Jun 10: 9.5%. Actual unemployment rates: Jun 09: 11.4%, Jun 10: 13.1% #

Isn't it interesting how, as unemployed people get discouraged and stop looking for work, the unemployment rate declines? That's by design. #

Using the historical labor force participation rate (66.2%), the actual unemployment rate is 13.1%, up from 12.8% last month. #

In June, 125k jobs lost, yet the unemploym't rate went DOWN to 9.5%, says the BLS. Unemploym't rate is really lowballed. #RecoverySummer #

Anderson Cooper: It's inconceivable that on Day 73 of the oil spill, we're still talking about getting skimmers to start working on the oil. #

The general opinion seems to be that the Feds are incompetent buffoons. #

Billy Nungesser, Plaqumines Parish President, says he's not asking the CG permission to do anything, and the Feds can suck it. #

Watching Anderson Cooper on CNN right now, tearing the Feds a new one for lack of transparency in the oil cleanup efforts. He seems PO'd. #

RT @AblativMeatshld: CA Welfare Recipients Withdraw $12k From Strip Club ATMs http://fxn.ws/d5s4EY" | Meh. I could do that by myself. #

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