Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

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Subject(s):

Ideologue or Pragmatist – were we sold a bill of goods on Obama by the media?

Economy – So this is “Recovery Summer” huh – can’t wait for “Recession Winter”

Oil Spill – It was “BP this” and “BP that”, but now that BP has seemingly plugged it, it’s all about “we”.

 

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Zuckerman hammers Obama’s financial and economic policies again

Mort Zuckerman, a former Obama supporter, has again gone after the President’s economic policies as the primary source of the economic non-recovery. In a long opinion piece, Zuckerman spells out the exceptionalism of American business through our history and why it has been able to weather financial storms of the past and come out in much better shape than other countries.

The ‘storm’ metaphor is apt, since Zuckerman likens the Obama policies to “our economic Katrina”. Not the economic problem itself, but the administration and Democratic Congress’s answer to the problem. Here’s his summation:

The unique danger today is the possibility that we may face longer-term stagnation as a consequence of relying too heavily on borrowed money. When the housing and credit bubbles burst in 2007 and 2008, the unemployment rate soared to double digits and caused a cascade of shock throughout the credit markets and the banking system. Washington’s ability to initiate a resurgence is now limited by the long-term dangers of our deficits and our debts.

But one unfortunate pattern that has emerged in the last 18 months is to lay all the blame for our difficulties only on the business community and the financial world. This quite ignores the role of Congress in many areas, but most glaringly in forcing Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration to back loans to people who could not afford them. And not to mention the role of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which in 2004 sanctioned higher levels of leverage for financial firms, from 12 times equity to over 30 times equity.

This predilection to blame business is manifest in the unnecessary and provocative anti-business sentiment revealed by President Obama in a recent speech that was supposed to be seeking the support of the business community for a doubling of exports over the next five years. "In the absence of sound oversight," he said, "responsible businesses are forced to compete against unscrupulous and underhanded businesses, who are unencumbered by any restrictions on activities that might harm the environment, or take advantage of middle-class families, or threaten to bring down the entire financial system." This kind of gratuitous and overstated demonization of business is exactly the wrong approach. It ignores the disappointment of a stimulus program that was ill-designed to produce the jobs the president promised—that famous 8 percent unemployment ceiling.

But it’s not just the rhetoric that undermines the confidence the business community needs to find if it is to invest. Consider the new generation of regulatory rules, increased bureaucracy, and higher taxes created by the Obama administration. For example, the new financial regulation bill includes nearly 500 "rule-makings," studies, and reports, compared with just 14 in total for the controversial Sarbanes-Oxley bill, passed after the financial scandals of Enron and WorldCom. The disillusionment has spread to the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which represents small businesses that normally account for roughly 60 percent of job creation.

The chief economist of the NFIB, William Dunkelberg, put it clearly: Small business owners "do not trust the economic policies in place or proposed." He also said, "The U.S. economy faces hurricane force headwinds and the government is at the center of the storm, making an economic recovery very difficult."

Our economic Katrina, in short.

Note that even Zuckerman recognizes the government role in the economic turmoil that was generated in late 2008, but also notes that they simply have ignored the government role in favor of blaming business.  Half a trillion dollars have been quietly pumped into Freddie and Fannie and both have been delisted from the stock exchange so investors can no longer monitor them.

Instead the focus has been on blaming the private sector and clamping down on perceived problems with hundreds if not thousands of new regulations. The regulations, of course, will put a new, onerous and costly burden on the business community even while it is that community which is critical to recovery and employment.

In fact, it seems that the administration and Congressional Democrats talk out of one side of their mouths about how jobs are their number one focus (actually unemployment benefits seem to constitute the entirety of the focus) while out of the other side they talk about how “Wall Street and the banks” are the prime villains in our economic woes.

In that atmosphere, as unsettled as any category 5 hurricane can accomplish, business is battening down the hatches, moving everything inside and abandoning the marketplace until the instability subsides and a more pro-business administration is in place.

Instead of doing what it can to settle the market place and put policies in place that encourage and provide incentive to businesses to expand and hire, this Congress and administration continue to wage war on the private economic engine of the country.

And the results remain plain for anyone with a pair of eyes to see.  Stagnation, no growth, high unemployment and the real possibility of a double dip recession.  All to purse the “progressive” anti-business agenda and gain more control over the private economy.  Clearly they simply refuse to let this crisis go to waste, and have chosen to further cripple our ability to recover instead of aiding and abetting it.

~McQ

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Health insurance mandate – Obama administration now arguing it is a tax

Having made it up as they go, the Obama administration is now arguing that the mandate to buy insurance coverage under Obamacare is a perfectly legal tax.

That, of course, after the President denied it was a tax in order to sell it:

“For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” the president said last September, in a spirited exchange with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program “This Week.”

When Mr. Stephanopoulos said the penalty appeared to fit the dictionary definition of a tax, Mr. Obama replied, “I absolutely reject that notion.”

You can tell he was a constitutional expert when he taught, can’t you?

So much so that the Department of Justice, in a brief defending the law, claims it to be a "valid exercise of the Congressional power to impose taxes:

Congress can use its taxing power “even for purposes that would exceed its powers under other provisions” of the Constitution, the department said. For more than a century, it added, the Supreme Court has held that Congress can tax activities that it could not reach by using its power to regulate commerce.

Except Congress doesn’t argue that at all.  Instead it relies on the Commerce Clause as its justification for the mandate:

Congress anticipated a constitutional challenge to the individual mandate. Accordingly, the law includes 10 detailed findings meant to show that the mandate regulates commercial activity important to the nation’s economy. Nowhere does Congress cite its taxing power as a source of authority.

And then, per the White House, if any additional authority is needed – other than the power to define and then levy taxes (Congress) or the commerce clause, why just consult the General Welfare Clause.  They have more Constitutional ways to make you buy something you may not want than you can imagine:

“The Commerce Clause supplies sufficient authority for the shared-responsibility requirements in the new health reform law,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “To the extent that there is any question of additional authority — and we don’t believe there is — it would be available through the General Welfare Clause.”

One has to assume they just plan on overwhelming the Court with as many “viable alternatives” as it takes to get their way.

One Yale professor says the tax argument – the one Mr. Obama denied – is the strongest argument:

Jack M. Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School who supports the new law, said, “The tax argument is the strongest argument for upholding” the individual-coverage requirement.

Mr. Obama “has not been honest with the American people about the nature of this bill,” Mr. Balkin said last month at a meeting of the American Constitution Society, a progressive legal organization. “This bill is a tax. Because it’s a tax, it’s completely constitutional.”

Nice.

Smoke, mirrors, deceit and debt.  That’s what you get for trusting a snake-oil salesman with your health care.  Oh and this:

“This is the first time that Congress has ever ordered Americans to use their own money to purchase a particular good or service,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah.

If this survives the court challenge, it won’t be the last – trust me on that.

The irony, of course, is the Constitution was written to limit government and keep it off our back.  Instead it is now being used to expand government and intrude more and more deeply in our lives.

~McQ

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Obama: Ideologue selling what no one is buying

Two articles of interest this week which caught my eye.  On comes from the NY Times and is headlined, “Obama pushes agenda, despite political risks”.

One of the things I remember clearly from the campaign is how the lapdog media – and that would include the NY Times – kept telling us what a “pragmatist” Barack Obama was.  That we would most likely see the 2nd coming of Bill Clinton with this guy.

Meanwhile there were a small group of us out here pointing out that there was nothing in this guy’s scant background that pointed to pragmatism and a lot that pointed to an idealist, activist and ideologue.  We were scoffed at quite consistently.

I love “I told you so moments”.  While Sheryl Gay Stolberg can’t quite make herself use the “ideologue” word, pragmatism is a word unheard.  And she does say:

What Mr. Obama and his allies portray as progressive, activist government has been framed by his opponents as overreaching and profligate when it comes to the economy.

Remember, she’s supposedly portraying the Obama administration as they’ve portrayed themselves – as ideologues.

Her essential message is, while he and his cronies may have managed to pass some legislation they tout as historic or landmark, that’s not how it is perceived by the seething, voting masses.  But, ever tuned into the electorate (yeah, that’s sarcasm), he’s pushing ahead with those legislative agenda items his ideology favors despite the electorates rejection of them in poll after poll.  That includes stimulus, health care and now financial regulation.

That brings us to the financial regulation bill and an article by Kimberley Strassel.  You need to read it, but again, it is the way she phrases a certain part of it that I find interesting:

Which brings us to yesterday’s passage of Mr. Obama’s financial overhaul bill. The press is hailing it as another big Obama victory, one that allows the president to brag about fulfilling his agenda and allows Democrats a "reform" to wave going into midterms.

Certainly that can be read a couple of ways, no doubt.  But in the context of the next paragraph, not so much:

Maybe. Or maybe there’s every reason to believe the financial overhaul—like stimulus and health care—proves more political liability than political benefit.

Of course, stimulus and financial regulation were not “agenda items” of the campaign.  Health care certainly was, even if the final law was a progressive monstrosity of which the majority of Americans wanted no part.  Same with the “stimulus”.  But, the ideology Obama believes in dictated those moves regardless of the public’s wants and desires.

Financial regulation, however, was a target of opportunity.  It was the crisis opportunity Rahm Emanuel spoke about early in the administration which allowed them to push their ideological even a step further.  Another 2,500 page bill filled with who knows what aimed specifically at the private sector, while the role of the mismanaged Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have all but been ignored and they’ve been fed another half trillion dollars with little fan fare (they’ve also been delisted from the stock market making it even harder to monitor their activity).

The whole point here is only an ideologue would push an “agenda” so hard that it harmed him and his party politically to the point that they may be voted out of power and stay out for some time (assuming the GOP can field better candidates than it is right now or seems likely to field in 2012).  A pragmatist would favor an incremental bi-partisan approach that is politically healthy.  An ideologue, while mouthing platitudes about bi-partisanship, wouldn’t really care that much as long as he had the votes needed to pass his agenda item.

That’s the real Obama.  That was pretty clear to those of us who weren’t wearing blinders or rose colored glasses (or both) during the campaign.  It is clear we were right.  It is also clear that the media was complicit in selling us a bill of goods on this man that was never evident nor believable to those with a discerning eye.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, the media was going through Sarah Palin’s underwear drawer.

Yeah – they should indeed be ashamed (and the “journalists” wonder why they’re held in such low esteem and they have to hint at government subsidies as a good idea for their survival.  They earned that  low esteem and they can go under with it as well.).

~McQ

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Outsourcing "outrage"

A union, outraged over the fact that non-union workers were being used in the construction of a Washington office building decided to protest and picket. 

But, uh, it was just too hard or too much of a hassle to have real union people do it, so they hired some non-union unemployed at minimum wage instead:

"For a lot of our members, it’s really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

So instead, the union hires unemployed people at the minimum wage—$8.25 an hour—to walk picket lines.

Which I’m sure has the developer and non-union workers in the building just quaking in their boots.

The article goes on to say that a lot of protest groups and advocacy groups have hit a bonanza with the unemployed.  They can hire them for peanuts (min. wage) and swell their groups and pad their numbers in public.

For the unemployed?  Well, I’m sure any little bit does help, of course.  And it sure beats standing on street corners waving “we buy gold” signs – I guess.

But keep that in mind the next time numbers are quoted at a protest or rally for something.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-16

The University of Michigan Consumer Confidence Index dropped to its lowest reading since last August. http://yhoo.it/9MHpKL #RecoverySummer #

This is troubling: Army reports record number of suicides for June http://usat.me?39298286 #

.@CMDeB: Don't get me wrong, I still think its about the best thing EVER. in reply to CMDeB #

RT @CMDeB: A vagina is not a shield of protection. | My understanding is, however, that it regularly requires one. #

When the oil was leaking, Mr. Obama was always saying "BP this" and "BP that". Now that it's capped, he's saying "we". Uh huh. #

Now that the oil well seems capped, Mr. Obama is regaling reporters with how "we" stopped the oil. Umm, "we" didn't stop anything. BP did. #

Read the whole thing: The Jobs Americans Should Not Have to Do? One must wonder what kind of society we have become. http://bit.ly/a9ZaCP #

Consumer price index falls; could deflation be in future? http://usat.me?39296364 #RecoverySummer #

Mortgage rates remain at lowest level in decades http://usat.me?39287466 #

Army reports record number of suicides for June http://usat.me?39298286 #

Well, she's gonna be working this shit out in therapy for the test of her life. http://usat.me?39294670 #

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Ignorance of history is no excuse for racism

T

he NAACP and a certain Democrat have, this week, alleged the Tea Party (in whole) is racist.

In the case of the NAACP, it is a story much like private unions – an organization that was once very relevant trying to maintain its relevance and becoming more marginal and hysterical as a result.

In the case of Representative Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-TX), it’s the usual – pure, unadulterated and stultifying historical ignorance. In Jackson-Lee’s case, she addressed the NAACP saying:

And I thank you professor very much. I’m going to be engaging you with those very powerful numbers that you have offered on what the tea party recognizes, uh, or is recognized as. Might I add my own P.S.? All those who wore sheets a long time ago have now lifted them off and started wearing [applause], uh, clothing, uh, with a name, say, I am part of the tea party. Don’t you be fooled. [voices: "That’s right.", applause] Those who used to wear sheets are now being able to walk down the aisle and speak as a patriot because you will not speak loudly about the lack of integrity of this movement. Don’t let anybody tell you that those who spit on us as we were walking to vote on a health care bill for all of America or those who said Congresswoman Jackson-Lee’s braids were too tight in her hair had anything to do with justice and equality and empowerment of the American people. Don’t let them fool you on that [applause]….

A history channel documentary about the period puts it very succinctly:

 

As Meredith Jessup points out at Townhall:

Yes, the Klan removed their "sheets" and Sheila Jackson-Lee was SO outraged, she decided to run for public office… on their party’s ticket.

It’s time to stop allowing the revisionist history that has been so much a part of the Democrats attempt to disassociate themselves (with, unbelievably the NAACP’s help) from their sordid, racist past.  Just remember, Bull Conner, Orville Faubus, Lester Maddox and George Wallace weren’t Republicans – and the last member of the US Congress who wore the sheets Jackson-Lee denounces was the Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd.

The only racists I see out there are those who falsely accuse others of it out of malicious desire to silence their political opponents by again playing the race card where it doesn’t belong.  And that would include the NAACP and Ms. Jackson-Lee.

‘Nuff said.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-15

DISCLOSE bill has passed the Senate. Just a little less liberty in"the home of the free". #

.@dmataconis @jaseliberty @beckychr007: 2. Multiple-party government trends to be unstable. See Italy, and 60 governments since WWII. #

.@dmataconis @jaseliberty @beckychr007: 1. The Constitutional structure of the US government makes more than 2 parties…problematic. #

Gallup says economic pessimism is on the rise, as consumer confidence drops to its level 15 months ago. http://bit.ly/c4iwsq #RecoverySummer #

Gallup says economic pessimism is on the rise, as consumer confidence drops to its lowest level in 15 months. http://bit.ly/c4iwsq #

.@jaseliberty @beckychr007: Re "the two party legal monopoly"| I'm not sure what you mean by this. What laws require 2 parties? #

Mortgage applications sink to a 13-year low, while foreclosures rise. http://bit.ly/9hm991 #RecoverySummer #

The big honkin' Droid X Android phone, with its 4.5 inch screen, goes on sale today. To Verizon customers, anyway. http://bit.ly/bx93Xw #

BP Says Cap Is Repaired and Oil Cutoff Test Can Proceed. http://bit.ly/adjSrp #

Initial jobless claims dropped today, but seasonal factors may be giving us a misleading view. http://usat.me?39284834 #

Well, the dogs have ripped thecable hookup to the outside of the house apart. That's just the end to a perfect day. #

Yummy! http://twitpic.com/25cls3 #

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"Recovery Summer" is a big "no sale"

Gallup’s latest poll brings us back to reality:

Gallup Daily tracking finds Americans’ confidence in the economy significantly lower so far in July than in June. And confidence in June was, in turn, down from May. The Gallup Economic Confidence Index for July 1-13, at -35, is lower than any monthly average in more than a year.

Recovery summer isn’t off to a very blazing start.  If the administration and its spinmeisters think they’re selling the recovery, they need to “reset” their calculation:

The decline in confidence seen in recent months is owing primarily to mounting public skepticism with the economy’s direction. Thus far in July, 30% of Americans, on average, have said the economy is getting better and 65% have said it is getting worse, for a net -35 economic outlook score. This is down sharply from -13 in April.

Economic confidence is a critical key to any recovery.  Once consumers are sold on the economy’s recovery, positive growth is usually the result.  The opposite is also true.  That’s because consumers who have lost confidence in the economy are more likely to put off buying anything but necessities.  The obvious economic repercussions of that sort of thinking is to slow growth and thus delay (or kill) any recovery. 

The political problem here (I think the economic problems should be obvious to all) is that the confidence of the consumer in the economy is heading down while all the spin is telling us we’re recovering quite well, thank you very much.

In other words, the political sales job on the economy and recover – critical to Democrats going into the mid-term elections – isn’t taking.  Consumers hear the pitch, look around them and not seeing what is said to exist, are rejecting it for the reality they are seeing and living.

Bad mojo for Dems looking at an election in 4 months.  That’s has caused all sorts of inter-party whining, wailing and fighting.  Meanwhile companies do what companies do when they lack confidence in the economy (and the policies of the government) – nothing.

Economically, without a true miracle, things will not begin to turn around sufficiently in the economy to be of any help to Democrats in November.  It appears it isn’t a question of whether or not they’ll lose seats, it is a question of how many.   With the numbers we’re seeing in various polls about how the electorate views the Democratic Congress and Obama administration’s economic policies, it’s clear that most have decided that giving the GOP another chance is the least of their bad choices for this coming election. 

Whether that has much of any impact, given the demonstrated obstinate nature of this administration, in the new Congress (and assuming they take control of at least on house in Congress) remains to be seen.  But if the Republicans take the House, the great blame-shifter in the White House will have a new entity on which to blame any continued economic failure.

Or, shorter for the GOP, be careful of what you wish for.

~McQ

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