Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

The Relevant Progressive President gambit

I think Toby Harnden of the UK Telegraph best captures what is going to happen with Obama and the Democrats as we go forward.  A couple of quotes say it best.  However, first Harnden addresses the Obama press conference following a stinging rejection of Democrats and the fact that Obama seemed clueless about the cause of the defeat – or, if not clueless, at least not prepared to accept the real reason for the defeat:

The one thing Obama was not prepared to admit was that his policies, which have led to a massive expansion of government power and the national debt, could in any way be at fault. The problem with health care reform, he said, was that the process used to achieve it was "an ugly mess" – no mention that it was hugely unpopular and pushed through on a partisan vote without a single Republican legislator’s support.

The reason that is important is what it portends for the future under Obama.  Harnden recalls Clinton’s reaction to the losses he suffered and how he decided, almost instinctively, to move to the center and “counterpunch” from there. 

Obama is not about to move to the centre. Whereas Clinton was an instinctive "Third Way" centrist from the South who had wandered too far Left, Obama is a standard-issue liberal of the type found in Ivy League commons rooms. Nothing in his career indicates he is ready to cut deals with political opponents. He is sure what he believes is right; if you don’t agree with him, he pities you for being so slow to understand.

It is his innate arrogance that will be his undoing.  He is going to try, as did Truman, to blame a Republican Congress for lack of progress.  Truman actually had a Republican Congress and so the strategy worked.  As I’ve said in the past, not gaining the Senate is almost a blessing in disguise for the GOP because the same sort of strategy will not work for Obama.

Harnden also makes a great point about the Tea Party and how establishment liberals are ready (and happy) to dismiss them because they “failed” to elect all their candidates.

The defeat of candidates like Christine O’Donnell of Delaware and Sharron Angle of Nevada has helped fuel a complacent Washington consensus that the Tea Party failed. Never mind that his grassroots anti-tax, small-government "constitutional conservatism" movement provided the energy and momentum behind the biggest congressional election victory in 62 years.

The true nature of the Tea Party is much better represented by the likes of newly-minted senators Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Rand Paul than the frankly wacky O’Donnell and Angle. It was hardly surprising that a spontaneous, chaotic movement managed to throw up some oddball candidates. The Tea Party is likely to readjust accordingly next time.

What the Tea Parties are likely to do now is begin the hunt for suitable candidates that reflect their principles and don’t carry the baggage of the insurgent candidates they were stuck with in various races.  The left has wanted to dismiss this movement from its inception and is ready to do so again right now.  Big mistake.

But again, the main point Harnden makes is one I agree with – Obama doesn’t accept the reasons for defeat and is unlikely to change in any substantial way to address the new reality:

Obama believes he can get by on Being Barack Obama. Last Tuesday was a setback like nothing else he had experienced in life and it appears to have left his enormous sense of self-assurance undiminished.

A majority of Americans voted against Obama’s agenda that day and Republicans dearly want to make him history. It is far too soon to write off Obama’s chances of re-election but his rhetoric of bipartisanship and forging consensus has been shown to be a sham, leaving his Left-wing core exposed.

But the first step to keeping him in the hole he has dug for himself is a counter-intuitive one. Republicans intend to capitalise on Obama’s vanity and highlight his default ideology and determination to push "progress".

He is about to become the Relevant Progressive President.

Exactly.  The GOP must pound on and point out the “progressive” ideologue that is the president.  They must keep him relevant in that way so they can run against his liberal ideology in 2012.  Obama gives every indication, at least at this point, that he’ll cooperate.   And such cooperation, given the results of this election, indicate a one-term presidency.

And that’s a good thing.


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Is MSNBC just tired of Olbermann?

Just as I thought NPR was wrong for firing Juan Williams, I’m of the same opinion about suspending Olbermann, at least for the reasons stated.  If MSNBC thinks there is anyone anywhere that doesn’t know Olbermann is a liberal pundit then I’d have to wonder about them.  Pundits, no matter how vile, are expected to have a bias.  Those that report hard new aren’t (even if they do).  What Olbermann’s contributions have to do with anything is beyond me.   Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me, nor would I care, if he gave the legal limit in donations to every one of those on the Democratic side running for re-election.

On the other hand, if you know the employer you are going to work for prohibits this sort of thing, and you sign the contract with that understanding, then they have every right – despite my disagreement – to do whatever they choose to do.   It would be hard for me to believe that Olbermann didn’t know about that rule.

So while I don’t agree with the rule (it seems a bit anachronistic given MSNBC basic declaration of a liberal news outlet  – “lean forward”) it is their rule.  Whether or not it has been applied rigorously and consistently is unknown to me although I’ve read that others who’ve made similar contributions have been ignored.

If that’s the case then this enforcement on Olbermann is arbitrary and there is probably something more behind it. I think NPR was looking for an excuse to cut Williams loose and the same may be happening with Olbermann.  He’s nasty piece of work and certainly not a ratings bonanza for the network.  So there may be more to this than the donations.


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Quantitative Easing II: Making No One Happy

The reactions to the Federal Reserve’s announcement that they would embark on a new, $600 billion round of quantitative easing is raising reactions from all around the world.


Unbridled printing of dollars is the biggest risk to the global economy, an adviser to the Chinese central bank said in comments published on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve unveiled a new round of monetary easing.


German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle said on Thursday he was concerned at U.S. efforts to stimulate growth by injecting liquidity into its struggling economy.

“I view that not without concern,” Bruederle said, adding that a variety of measures were needed to solve the problem and it was not enough to pump in liquidity alone…

Bruederle also said there was some truth to the criticism that the United States was influencing the dollar’s exchange rate with monetary policy and voiced concern about increased protectionism in different forms around the world.


Brazilian officials from the president down have slammed the Federal Reserve’s decision to depress US interest rates by buying billions of dollars of government bonds, warning that it could lead to retaliatory measures.

“It’s no use throwing dollars out of a helicopter,” Guido Mantega, the finance minister, said on Thursday. “The only result is to devalue the dollar to achieve greater competitiveness on international markets.”

Brazil, especially, seems to be treating this as a currency devaluation war, and, according to the Financial Times, really doesn’t like that.

But the worries go far beyond trade and protectionism issues brought about by fears of devaluation.  It’s the domestic inflationary effects which have many–including me–worried:

Federal Reserve policies have put the US dollar the risk of crashing, which will hammer consumers through higher prices, strategist Axel Merk told CNBC…

“So we will have a cost-push inflation. We’re going to get inflation but not where Bernanke wants to have it. We’re not going to get wages to go up. We’ll get the price at the gas pump to go up instead.”

We’re right on a path towards high inflation and slow economic growth, otherwise known as “stagflation”.  Except that there’s a lot more monetary expansion this time than we experienced in the 1970s.  Maybe we’ll have to coin a new term, like “hyperstagflation”.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it begins like this.

“So we will have a cost-push inflation. We’re going to get inflation but not where Bernanke wants to have it. We’re not going to get wages to go up. We’ll get the price at the gas pump to go up instead.”
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Obama discovers what leadership isn’t

In an interview for "60 Minutes" President Obama discusses the shellacking Democrats suffered:

President Obama tells "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft that one of the reasons the electorate has become disenchanted with him was his failure to properly explain his policies and persuade people to agree with them.


"You know, I think that over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn’t just legislation. That it’s a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand. And I think that we haven’t always been successful at that," Obama replied.

So, he’s at least figured out what leadership isn’t.   But there isn’t indication that he’s figured out what it is.  And he certainly doesn’t understand that the problems he and Democrats have suffered isn’t a problem of communication, but policy.  This is a classic example of denial.


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Looking into the October unemployment numbers

This is one of those cases where the headline numbers and claims of new jobs are so totally out of step with reality, that it’s hard to believe how badly the banner numbers reverse the actual employment situation.  In fact, I’d argue that this month highlights perfectly why the Bureau of Labor Statistics needs to thoroughly revise the way the Employment Situation is reported.

To understand why, let’s look at the “A” Tables of the Employment Situation report. Take a careful look at the “Employed” line in the table.  Last month, there were (in thousands) 139,391 persons employed.  This month, there were (in thousands) 139,061 employed. So, non-farm payrolls may have increased by 151,000 jobs, but there are 330,000 fewer employed Americans than there were last month.

The total civilian, non-institutional adult population, in thousands, was 238,530 this month.  With the historical long-term trend rate of labor force participation of 66.2%, that means the actual size of the labor force should be 157,907.  With only 139,061 persons actually employed, the real unemployment rate is actually 13.6%, up from 13.2% last month, and from 12.8% in May.

The current labor force participation rate of 64.5 is the lowest since November of 1984.

Essentially, the employment situation worsened last month, rather than getting better. The only reason it looks better is because so many people are just dropping out of the labor force. When they do so, they magically disappear from the official banner statistics.

What is actually happening is that job growth is not keeping up with population growth, so every month, real employment is declining. It’s nice to see that employers have added 151,000 payroll jobs, but that simply isn’t a rate that keeps pace with job force growth. To give you an idea of how this is working, since Oct 09, the civilian non-institutional adult population has increased by 1,980 thousand people, while at the same time, the number of employed has risen by 819 thousand.  That means that there is a deficit of 1,161 thousand jobs that has built up over the last year.

The banner statistics of payroll jobs and unemployment rate are increasingly out of step with the true employment situation.

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Republicans beware

harles Krauthammer issues the same sort warning we’ve been issuing here for some time:

Nor should Republicans over interpret their Tuesday mandate. They received none. They were merely rewarded for acting as the people’s proxy in saying no to Obama’s overreaching liberalism. As one wag put it, this wasn’t an election so much as a restraining order.

The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.

Yes I know I harp on this a lot.  But it is the key for the GOP if they want to continue gaining seats in 2012.


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“But, I’m not bitter…”

Would you like to get a crystal clear insight into the “progressive” mindset.  An informative look into the hard Left’s reaction to this week’s election.  Well, go no further than this diary by Tim Wise at Daily Kos. Mr. Wise is not only miffed at the election, he’s already laying out a picture of the future in which the tables are turned.

You really should read the whole thing. I’d be interested in your responses.

What made me laugh out loud was wondering who Mr. Wise is planning to tax to pay for his socialist utopia, after all the rich white people are dead.

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A pause in the cause (Update)

I’ll be out for a few days.  Going in to get my shoulder “scoped” today.  It’s an old injury from my “jumping out of perfectly good airplanes and landing in trees” days that has finally gotten so bad (and painful) that I’ve got to do something about it.  I can actually say I’m looking forward to this surgery with some modicum of truth.

Been through it before (the other shoulder about 12 years ago) so I know the routine.  The surgery isn’t such a big deal but the therapy is a b*tch.

Anyway I’ll be off of here for a few days and hopefully back on Monday (sooner if possible).  

Unless they give me some really good drugs.

(UPDATE)  Not so bad.  Good drugs, but typing with one hand is a b*tch.



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Does Obama get it yet?

I‘m not sure he does if his press conference yesterday was any indication. He handled it all right, I suppose, but his basic message was that he didn’t communicate his basic message. Not that his agenda had been rejected or that his policies were at fault. It was simply a matter of the poor dumb public not understanding what he was about and what he was doing. Victor Davis Hanson does a good job of dissecting the press conference (so I don’t have too) and states the problem I saw pretty darn well:

President Obama came close, but he still just cannot admit that his radical policies and their effects on the economy are the cause of his devastating political rebuke. For most of his press conference, an oddly depressed Obama voted present, as he all but said that the problems are mostly ours, not his — or at least not his agenda but perhaps an occasional inadequate communication.

In clingers fashion, he once more is talking down to us, explaining that we confused his necessary solutions with a bogeyman increase in big government, and so typically, in fright and ignorance, lashed out at his party. He is claiming the outrage grew from the same frustration that elected him, rather than arising precisely because of him and his agenda. In short, we are angry because his EU-socialist agenda is progressing too slowly and hasn’t delivered as promised — as it will in time. Perhaps then we will thank him for his proper big-government, big-spending solution.

The reasons this is so are many, but primarily they are because Obama doesn’t consider his ideas as radical or "big government" or, except out of an emergency necessity, "big spending." But obviously, given his year long focus on health care reform that involves much more government than ever before, he does think government is just not doing enough and is the solution for the majority of our problems. How he’s unable to reconcile that with not being a "big-government", "big-spending" type is left between he and his psychiatrist as the CEO of NPR might put it.

He seems bewildered (for the first time?) that his popularity as a campaign rhetorician did not last when he became responsible for actual governance. For most of the press conference, a humbled but deer-in-the-headlights Obama half-heartedly argued that the populist outrage against his own massive debt, huge wasteful government, and elitism was really outrage against the economy he inherited, an outrage that he shares. We don’t know it, the president hints, but we are still angry at the Bush years, and yesterday mistakenly took our wrath out on Obama’s methodical, albeit too slow, efforts at recovery. In short, there was little admission whatsoever that Obama’s message and the way he pushed it turned off millions — there was no repentant Clinton, circa autumn 1994, here; instead, a shocked Obama who seems hurt that we do not appreciate him.

That was pretty much my reaction as I watched him navigate the session (which, btw, was a press conference for only a selected number of journalists, called by name – the rest could have stayed home).  While he offered some hint he might be willing to compromise, the ideologue in him made it clear that such compromise would only take place at the margins.  When asked about the possibility of health care compromise to save it from repeal, Obama brought up the 1099 issue (something which has little if anything to do with health care but was a provision of the health care bill) as an example of something he might be willing to consider compromise on.  But it was clear there’d be none on the major provisions of the monstrosity passed by his administration.

He admitted he was insulated (a danger for all presidents).  He said “getting out” was good for him, implying that if he just did more of it, this pesky communication problem would clear itself up and all would be right with the “Hope and Change Express”. 

Except it won’t.  Even when he “gets out” he goes to carefully staged and managed events.  How he can think that he’s getting the true feelings of Americans out there after Tuesday night remains a mystery.  As Hanson says, he seemed bemused and bewildered by what had gone down.  He finally, well into the presser, called it properly a “shellacking”.

He mused about how it was the public’s perceptions about what he’d done in an “emergency” which was part of the problem and the other was the economy he inherited.  However he didn’t seem to understand that the public’s perception rests on how he reacted to the crisis – by expanding government and government spending.  And at almost light speed.    How he thinks he can now lay any legitimate claim to wanting to reduce the deficit after driving it to historic highs in each of first few budgets is beyond most.  But apparently he thinks all he has to do is communicate properly.

He threw out the usual platitudes about being the president and thus being responsible for what happened Tuesday, but you got the impression he really didn’t mean it.  He really didn’t think he or his policies were at fault.  Instead you felt he thought it was the voter’s fault for not being collectively bright enough to understand all the wonderful things he’d done.  All in all, despite some of his rhetoric, he seemed very disinclined to change his ways.

Hanson throws a little reality check the GOP’s way in his piece as well:

Some things also have to change on the conservative side. Congress must not remain hostage to farm-state representatives and senators, for whom the huge agricultural subsidy programs are sacrosanct; a decade ago, we went from “eliminating” those programs via the “Freedom to Farm” Act to calling farm pork a post-9/11 matter of national security. On the budget front, I doubt we will hear much talk, at least in the short term, of massive tax cuts that eventually will result in greater supply-side growth and thus greater revenue. Instead, I assume that any Republican tax-cut attempt will have to be matched in the here and now by a commensurate cut in spending, dollar for dollar — or rather, given the deficits, one dollar in tax cuts, two dollars in spending cuts. I also don’t think we will see representatives bragging of the new pork-barrel community centers they brought home, with their own names plastered on them — at least for a while.

If Boehner, et. al, don’t have a detailed plan in hand that address subsidies, corporate welfare and a number of other spending cuts when they take over this next January, they’re in for a 2 year run.  There are any number of recommendations for them out there they can incorporate into such a plan.  They had better show up serious about spending cuts or as I say, their days are numbered.  I don’t give a rip what Obama may do with the veto pen – the point is make him do it.  The can has been kicked as far down the road as possible.  Time to man up and live up to the principles the party claims it holds.

Meanwhile, expect Obama to cluelessly continue to try to polish up his message. As far as he’s concerned, the agenda is okey-dokey and he intends to proceed as if it is.


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32 percent of Tea Party candidates win

That’s the title an unbiased news organization would have used to describe the number of Tea Party backed candidates who won.  However, in their endeavor to “lean forward”, MSNBC has given up all claim to objectivity and their title to the story shows it.  “Just 32% of Tea Party candidates win”.

Really – “just” 32%?  So how does that compare to the Netroots effort?

And 32% means what in raw numbers?  Well it means 50% of their Senate candidates won (with one still undecided).  But for a brand new organization, 5 US Senators isn’t bad at all.  It is certainly enough to counter the Snowe/Collins contingent.

While 82 of their Congressional candidates lost, 40 won.  That’s a caucus in anyone’s world, to include the left.  The Blue Dog Caucus was 54. It is more than enough to keep the Tea Party agenda in the fore (assuming they aren’t co-opted as were the Blue Dogs who are now down to about 20 or so left).

So for a leaderless, grassroots organization which just recently emerged, I’d say 32% is pretty phenomenal.

But then, I’m not leaning forward properly I guess.


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