Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-27

Raising taxes in the middle of a recession is stupid. Both Hoover and FDR did it, with disastrous results. Cut spending, don't raise taxes. #

RT @MelissaTweets @ScottBrownMA: The blatantly partisan 'Disclosure' Bill was defeated. | Woot! #

RT @dmataconis @DavidCornDC @NewtGingrich: Odds of a Newt 2012 bid at 97%. | Odds of a Newt 2012 win at 0%. #

Heh. The new Harley-Davidson Street Glide will have an integrated stereo w/ 8gb iPod nano. Nothing says "outlaw biker" like an iPod nano. #

Victory announced their 2011 motorcycles. All of them will sport the big 106ci, 92+HP, V-Twin, and a newly designed 6-speed transmission. #

Harley-Davidson says it has 32 models of motorcycle this year. But it's really 4 models of motorcycle with 32 trim packages. #

Harley-Davidson introduces its 2011 models. http://is.gd/dMQc6 #

Obama: Reducing influence over elections should be non-partisan. Dems made it partisan by exempting unions. http://bit.ly/9feNSR #

Quarterly economic forecast takes a turn for the worse http://usat.me?39422252 #RecoverySummer #

Consumer confidence drops for second straight month, according to the Conference Board. http://usat.me?39442884 #RecoverySummer #

Victory's 2011 motorcycles will all have the 106ci Big Twin. 97HP and 116 ft-lbs or torque. Not bad at all for V-Twin cruiser. #

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Why "me first" in the market is different from "me first" in entitlements

If you’re interested in reading one of the most mixed up pleas to get entitlement spending under control, I invite you to read Neel Kashkari’s (I love the last name though)op/ed in the Washington post.

His premise is that entitlements are breaking us.

Sold.

His assumptions, however, are all over the place and misrepresent the real problem.

He claims that it is a ubiquitous "me first" mentality that both drives the market and also drives entitlement. That self-interest drives the boat.

Yes, self-interest is always a motivator. But when it comes to the market and entitlements, "me first" mean entirely different things. In the market, "me first" means seeing what you want, earning what is necessary to get it and then obtaining it. Pricing and demand come from that – and jobs, expansion, etc. The point is, in the sense of the market it’s "me first because I’ve earned what is necessary to purchase it".

Not so when it comes to entitlements. In that case, "me first" means, "I want what someone else has earned because I (excuse goes here) and therefore I’m owed this".

That’s an entirely different concept of the market "me first". In the latter, money is taken from the earner (thereby limiting his ability to act on his "me first" priorities), the market is denied whatever percentage as it is taken by government, wends its costly way through the system, and ends up in the pocket of someone who has determined that the benefit of earning the equivalent through work is just not worth it.

Kashkari then tries the “fairness” argument:

Cutting entitlement spending requires us to think beyond what is in our own immediate self-interest. But it also runs against our sense of fairness: We have, after all, paid for entitlements for earlier generations. Is it now fair to cut my benefits? No, it isn’t. But if we don’t focus on our collective good, all of us will suffer.

Fairness has nothing to do with this. Is it fair when you take money from one person to give to another for whatever arbitrary reason? Of course not. So if we want to play the fairness game, the first stake holder on the "not fair" side of the game is the taxpayer who has his earning taken to subsidize someone’s entitlement benefit.

And, honestly, our "collective good" would be better served by getting government to hell out of the entitlement business (and there by reducing its size and the size of the chunk it takes out of our wallets) and getting back to what has made America both great and, despite Obama’s claims, exceptional.

… [B]ailing out the financial system went directly against our shared beliefs in free markets and fair play. While the vast majority of Americans did not cause the financial crisis, we all had to sacrifice to stop it. Such a cultural violation has angered people nationwide, which makes cutting entitlements more difficult because it will again betray our sense of fairness.

Here’s where he almost gets a clue, except he attributes it to “fairness” again.  Instead it was a revolt of the taxpayers, already enraged about the cost of government and the impact it had on their own choices, saw government suddenly expand that cost exponentially, head into areas it had never been before and indenture their grandchildren and great grandchildren to a tune of multi-thousands of dollars each.  It wasn’t about “fairness” it was about “get the hell out of my life and wallet”.  The Tea Party movement wasn’t formed because anyone was concerned with “fairness” – it was formed to cut taxes, reduce the size of government and demand government spend less.  And yes, if that means cutting entitlements, then by all means, do so.

Kashkari’s concludes with 3 steps to cut entitlements:

– Our economy needs to experience sustained growth, creating good jobs, so Americans feel economically secure. It is hard for anyone to think about long-term sacrifice when they are worried about how to pay their bills today.

– The emotional bruising inflicted by the financial crisis needs to heal. Along with the passage of time we need a renewed sense that people are succeeding and failing on their own merits.

– Our leaders need to make the case for cutting entitlement spending by tapping into our shared beliefs of sacrifice and self-reliance. They must be willing to risk their own political fortunes for the sake of our country.

Or to paraphrase myself from above, we need to get government back to basics and Americans back to a culture that made this nation great, rich and exceptional.  And that includes self-reliance, sacrifice and earning our own way in life.  It is the latter part of the equation that will solve the entitlement problem and something Kashkari doesn’t include.

~McQ

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Another Obama supporter finds “disappointment”

I think we could probably make this a regular feature on Q&O – this week’s Obama supporter who finds that he who was wrapped in all the hype of the presidential campaign was mostly an empty suit.

This week it is the editorial board of the Denver Post – who admits to endorsing Mr. Obama in 2008 because they thought his ideas for recovery from the financial crisis were better than McCain’s. 

But we also hoped he would restore the nation’s reputation with the rest of the world. But instead of being vilified, as we were under Bush, the United States is now suddenly bordering on being irrelevant.

So glad you noticed – a man with no executive experience and no foreign policy experience was somehow going to be an instant foreign policy success?  Those that supported Obama had to fool themselves into believing none of that was important.

They’re also discovering, in the world of foreign policy, that it is much better to be respected and feared than liked and irrelevant.   And, as the Post notes, we’re on the latter side of the equation with “liked” being a relative term.

Look, foreign policy and diplomacy takes place in a world of relative anarchy.  Big dog politics if you will.  If you’re the alpha male, other countries defer to your judgment, strategies and ideas.  If you refuse the role, someone will attempt to take it.  It isn’t a matter of our “decline” that’s caused this, but Obama’s refusal to lead.  The Denver Post is honest enough – now – to note that.

The Post lists the results of the Carteresque foreign policy of the last 18 months and, as you might expect, it’s not pretty.   And even while claiming that at least on the domestic front he’s “accomplished” something, they’re not particularly impressed with that either:

His health care plan, approved only after the type of backroom, sleazy deal-making he crusaded against during his campaign, does little to bring down exorbitant costs and could bankrupt states once higher Medicaid costs are passed down.

The $1 trillion stimulus provided only a blip of a recovery, while saddling the nation with an unsustainable debt load. And the federal government’s reach into business and the financial world, for better or worse, is now deeper than ever.

Welcome to finally beginning to figure out who this guy is and what he’s about.  Too bad it’s about 20 months to late.  You get what you vote for (or endorse) which is why it is so important to do a thorough job of vetting a candidate, something the media, to include the Denver Post, didn’t do.  And now we have an unqualified person in the Oval Office doing the only thing he knows to do – pushing an ideological agenda.  But, as is becoming apparent now, he’s not a leader.  That takes us back to another leaderless era in America that this presidency is coming very near to replicating:

There’s also been an intangible, yet inescapable, sense of unease in the country, reminiscent of our late- 1970s malaise. Faith in Obama’s "Yes we can" slogan has faded faster than the Obama-Biden stickers still clinging to bumpers.

Indeed.  The Post then wonders:

One media outlet asked last week: Can Obama get his groove back?

Someone tell me – other than campaigning, has he ever actually had a “groove” since he’s been in office?

The answer is an obvious “no”.  And it’s thanks to “media outlets” like the Denver Post that we’re in the middle of the presidency of an unqualified man who is doing possibly irreparable harm to this country.  They didn’t do the due diligence expected of the media but instead became cheerleaders.  Now suddenly, they’re concerned.  Excuse me if I answer that with a giant “I told you so” and dismiss their sudden angst as too little and, unfortunately, too freakin’ late.

~McQ

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Oliver Stone’s Take on History

Oliver Stone has long been known to have an…unorthodox view of history.  But in an Interview for the Times of London, he may have gone a bit too far.  Sadly, the original link is behind the Times’ firewall, but Stone, who’s working on a 10-part historical documentary for Showtime called “Secret History of America”, was a gold mine of quotes. It seems his documentary has a…refreshingly different interpretation of history.

For instance, why do Americans think about the Holocaust so much?

The Jewish domination of the media. There’s a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has fucked up United States foreign policy for years.

Hmm.  Well, what about Herr Hitler, modern history’s bad guy?

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply.”
“We can’t judge people as only ‘bad’ or ‘good.’ ”
“[Hitler] is the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect. People in America don’t know the connection between WWI and WWII.”
“Hitler was a Frankenstein, (but) there was also a Dr Frankenstein.”
“German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support.”
“He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect … People in America don’t know the connection between World War I and World War II.”
“We’re going to educate our minds and liberalize them and broaden them. We want to move beyond opinions … Go into the funding of the Nazi party. How many American corporations were involved, from GM through IBM. Hitler is just a man who could have easily been assassinated.”
“Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 [million killed].”

And, of course, we can’t leave out the Big Mustache, the Man of Steel himself, Josef Stalin:

Stalin has a complete other story. Not to paint him as a hero, but to tell a more factual representation. He fought the German war machine more than any person.

I think the best comment about this comes not from a political pundit, but from Tyler Durden:

It would be like if someone made a documentary about pandas, and it claimed that pandas invented movable type, were immortal, and could shoot fireballs from their paws. It’s that level of wrong.

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-26

RT @dmataconis: ObamaCare Doesn’t Justify Secession http://bit.ly/afyqNx | Given the tone of that article, one wonders what would. #

RT @dmataconis: Re: Political Discourse? http://bit.ly/9IdNtR | Was the 'net causing riots, demonstrations, and domestic terrorism in '68? #

RT @MelissaTweets @La_Shawn: Re: Oliver Stone, Hitler: http://bit.ly/bpEtfG | How do these people even pretend to moral seriousness? #

RT @MelissaTweets @La_Shawn: Re: Oliver Stone, Hitler: http://bit.ly/bpEtfG | If only we knew more about the CONTEXT of Nazism. And Stalin. #

RT @ewerickson: The reviews at Amazon.com for uranium are priceless. http://is.gd/dK2ce | Those reviews are hilarious. #

Geithner defends allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. This is the same policy mix that extended the Great Depression. http://bit.ly/aM346a #

New home sales increased 23.6% to an annual rate of 330,000..
the second lowest on record since 1963. http://bit.ly/aFuuUe #RecoverySummer #

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Talking the deficit talk, but – as usual – not walking the walk

Democrats and President Obama have been talking the talk about deficit reduction – yesirree. Why to hear them talk about what has to be done, you’d think they were the second coming of the Republican caucus.

But when it comes to walking the walk? Not so much:

A new White House forecast predicts that the federal budget deficit, which hit a record $1.4 trillion last year, will exceed that figure this year and again in 2011.

The $1.47 trillion budget gap predicted for 2010 — when 41 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government would be borrowed — represents a slight improvement over the administration’s February forecast. The estimated gap for next year, $1.42 trillion, is larger than what was predicted in February, primarily because of a drop in expected tax receipts from capital gains.

So here the government is in one of the biggest fiscal holes it has ever dug for itself, and the answer the Democrats come up with is “let’s dig it deeper and call it ‘fighting the deficit’”.

How else do you explain budgets like the one offered by the Obama administration and especially in light of Tim Geithner’s pronouncement yesterday (see below) that it was time for the private sector to start investing?   Forty one cents of every dollar spent under this budget from President Obama will be borrowed.

Of course, Obama has told us that the goal is to balance the federal budget by 2015.  That’s what he’s said – and for what its worth, that’s certainly a worthy goal.  But you have to do more than try to talk it down.   The action taken have to reflect that goal.  And this budget doesn’t.   Nor, really, do his future ones.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reviewed this year’s presidential budget proposal and the deficit reduction plan and this may come as a surprise to you, but it is all smoke and mirrors.

The budget proposes $3.8 trillion in spending and receipts of $2.6 trillion, resulting in a deficit of $1.3 trillion – or 8.3 percent of GDP. This is higher than the 7.4 percent deficit projected from the Administration’s proposals in its August Mid-Session Review (MSR) and significantly higher than the 6.0 percent deficit projected under their “current law” (BEA) baseline. It is a decrease from the 9.9 percent deficit in FY 2009, and the projected 10.6 percent deficit in FY 2010.

Over the ten year window from 2011 through 2020, deficits are estimated to total $8.5 trillion – or 4.5 percent of GDP. This is significantly higher the $5.5 trillion (2.8 percent of GDP) deficit projected under “current law” which assumes expiring policies would end as planned.

Or under the “current law”, deficit stays at 6% of GDP (still too much) but under the “deficit reduction/balanced budget” plan of the administration, it balloons up to 8.3% GDP (way freakin’ too much).

So we’re being sold a load of unicorns with this totally misleading nonsense being spouted by Obama and Democrats.  Their budgets do only one thing for deficits (and the debt) – they add to them.   And, if followed, by 2020, here is what the debt will be:

Under OMB’s new estimate of the President’s budget, the debt held by the public would grow continuously as a share of the economy, passing 60 percent this year, 70 percent in 2012, and 77 percent in 2020.

Now someone, anyone – tell me how this plan of theirs reduces the important number in all of this – the debt?  Obviously it doesn’t.  They’re talking about spending less borrowed money than they have previously, that’s all.  And when you are spending trillions in deficits, dropping it down to 900 billion in deficit spending is “deficit reduction”.

Don’t let them sell you the bill of goods they’ve prepared here. 

Cut spending, cut it now and do what is necessary to reduce the debt.

~McQ

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Geithner makes unsubstantiated claim in an attempt to establish a meme

W

hat do you do if you’re a politician and you promised that if you did something good results would be assured. And then you did it and, in fact, things got worse?

Well that’s the situation the administration faces. It claimed that the "stimulus" was a bit like a FedEx package – something that absolutely, positively had to be done or we would be facing horrific unemployment – over 8%. So the Democratic Congress (alone) jammed through a pure pork package of almost a trillion dollars and sure enough unemployment which was below 8% at the time, eventually shot to 10% (and has now receded to 9.5% "officially").

Faced with that, what the administration has decided to do is run Tim Turbo Tax Geithner, the Secretary of Treasury, out there and pretend like the “stimulus” worked.  No, seriously, that’s their plan – damn the facts, go out and essentially say they’ve got the economy in good enough shape that they can now step back and let the private sectors take over:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the economy has now recovered sufficiently for government to begin to make way for private business investment.

Mr. Geithner’s comments on Sunday, which echo previous sentiments expressed by President Barack Obama, reflect a turning point in the government response to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, a period marked by deep federal intervention in the financial, housing, auto and other industries.

“We need to make that transition now to a recovery led by private investment,” Mr. Geithner said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Now that takes some stones.  To pretend that government intervention has done much of anything requires Hillary Clinton’s “willing suspension of disbelief”.  The GDP is limping along in the 1 to 2% growth area, debt has shot through the roof, unemployment remains stubbornly high (and higher than when government “stimulated” the economy) and legislation passed by this administration – and its legislative agenda – has businesses sitting on the sidelines with a pile of money and refusing to participate because of the unsettled business climate.

However, running this meme allows the administration to step back from its failure by calling it a success and passing the blame, now, to the private side.  This can have a two-fold effect for them if they can successfully run this bluff.  

For one, they can claim the private sector is to blame for continued weakness.  That’s very useful to them.  Why?   Because it sets up what they really want – a second stimulus and more government control. 

“There’s going to be a good case for the government preserving some type of guarantee to make sure people have the ability to borrow to finance a house even in a very damaging recession,” he said on “Meet the Press.”

He said the administration would begin developing such a program very soon. “We’re going to take a careful look at a set of reforms that are going to be good for the country going forward and don’t leave us vulnerable to this kind of crisis in the future,” Mr. Geithner said.

And it provides something this administration desperately wants and needs: a scapegoat.

Of course, with midterms coming soon, this may end up being an attempt that is too little and too late.  But frankly I don’t think it will take.  It is far too cynical an attempt to sell something that already smells terribly rotten.  Just as the majority saw through the attempt by Obama to claim that the “stimulus” didn’t have a gram of pork in it (as stated earlier, it was pure pork), they’ll see through this attempt to sell “the economy is better and it’s because of the “stimulus”” that Geithner is attempting here.

This, as usual, is more about political posturing and meme creation than it is about reality.  And with this administration, that’s something people have already come to recognize and dismiss.

~McQ

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John Kerry "swift boats" himself

You may have figured out by now that I think we pay much too much to government in taxes and that I’m usually all in favor of anyone who figures out how to dodge them legally.

However, there are exceptions to that rule, and all politicians are one of them. If they’re going to make tax law, pass tax law and stick it to all of the "little people", then they should strictly abide by those laws at all levels and not seek to dodge taxes. Especially if they’re the type who have never met a tax they didn’t like.

Call it part of the price they must pay – literally and figuratively – for that power.

John Kerry, or as Jules Critenden calls him, Thurston Howell III (from Gilligan’s Island) has apparently decided that taxes are strictly for the little people and, by the way, job opportunities aren’t his responsibility.

Mr. Howell, er Kerry (who, it is rumored, once served in Vietnam), recently purchased a luxury yacht. The Senator from Massachusetts, however, won’t be docking the yacht there. Instead Rhode Island is his port of choice:

News that Kerry was docking the 76-foot custom-built sloop in Newport, R.I., was first reported in the Herald Friday. Sources told the Herald the yacht cost $7 million, meaning Kerry would owe the state more than $500,000 in excise and sales taxes.

Tsk, tsk – is that a good example to set, sir?  And that’s not all that’s rankled the good folks of Massachusetts (who, by the way, with Romneycare, have the highest insurance premiums in the US).  The yacht was foreign made, while ship builders in Massachusetts claim that it could have just as easily been built there:

With the nation enduring a nasty economy, painful joblessness and extreme belt-tightening, word of the luxury yacht’s foreign construction – as Americans yearn for work – could create a political tempest for Kerry.

“The message is, ‘The American boat builders aren’t good enough, and the Massachusetts people aren’t good enough to maintain it.’ It’s just a bad message all around,” said Connecticut boater Steve Potter, who docks in Charlestown.

Mr. Kerry’s reaction?  Why the great and powerful Oz works in mysterious ways:

When asked to respond to criticism of Kerry’s decision not to buy American, his state director, Drew O’Brien, said: “When it comes to creating and preserving jobs and economic opportunity in Massachusetts, no one has worked harder in Washington than John Kerry. Sen. Kerry is using smarts, clout and good old-fashioned hard work to make the Massachusetts economy grow and prosper.”

Yeah, it’s really hopping, isn’t it?  With an unemployment rate over 9%, I guess that’s good enough that the additional jobs "created and preserved” by having the yacht built in his  home state just didn’t qualify as “smarts”.

Great example set there, Mr. Kerry.  If this is an example of the “smarts” you employ, everyone should be on their knees thanking the deity of their choice for the fact that you lost the presidential election and didn’t get anywhere near the Oval Office.

~McQ

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Observations: The Qando Podcast for 25 Jul 10

In this podcast, Bruce and Dale discuss the dissatisfaction about President Obama’s competence, the oil spill, and the American stranded in Egypt.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

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 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (Tonight)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s):

Cap-and-Trade: Is it really dead or is it “dead” like health care?

 

Race Relations:  Is this administration helping the problem or aggravating it?

 

Rule of Law: Are we a nation of laws?  Or are we a nation of arbitrarily enforced laws?

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