Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

David Brooks: Mixing apples and oranges

David Brooks has a column today in which he talks about how people in the US see themselves in relationship with how other people in the world view themselves.  As  you might expect, Americans have a tendency to be a bit taken with themselves.  For instance:

We’re an overconfident species. Ninety-four percent of college professors believe they have above-average teaching skills. A survey of high school students found that 70 percent of them have above-average leadership skills and only 2 percent are below average.

Note where the two examples originate.

Moving on:

Americans are similarly endowed with self-esteem. When pollsters ask people around the world to rate themselves on a variety of traits, they find that people in Serbia, Chile, Israel and the United States generally supply the most positive views of themselves. People in South Korea, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan and Morocco are on the humble side of the rankings.

Not the key word (“self-esteem”).

Yet even from this high base, there is some evidence to suggest that Americans have taken self-approval up a notch over the past few decades. Start with the anecdotal evidence. It would have been unthinkable for a baseball player to celebrate himself in the batter’s box after a home-run swing. Now it’s not unusual. A few decades ago, pop singers didn’t compose anthems to their own prowess; now those songs dominate the charts.

American students no longer perform particularly well in global math tests. But Americans are among the world leaders when it comes to thinking that we are really good at math.

We’ve talked about this before.  The “my precious” syndrome – where every little munchkin under the sun is told everything he or she does is special and wonderful and that they are just a unique special person who just can’t do anything wrong.  This has spawned sports games with no score, baseball leagues where everyone gets a trophy, and everyone is as talented, smart, able and unique as anyone else.

Except that’s not true at all.  And most of us know that.  Much of it is fostered upon children in the schools where we see them go overboard to ensure that every student feels his or her work is extraordinary even when most of it is, at best, adequate.   We’ve come to believe that it is more important to shelter most kids from the reality of their mediocrity than to challenge them to overcome it.

And that has a tendency to shape behavior and attitudes like those reflected above.  

The institution of education isn’t the only entity to contribute to this syndrome, obviously many parents are on board too.  And they buy into the premise that it is okay to hide reality from kids because, well, they’re kids and it hurts them to realize they aren’t super-stars.

The two results of that are overindulged children who do have talent feeling the need and having the permission (given how they’ve been encouraged in their short lives) to act out as the baseball player does in the batter’s box.  

The other result is when the less talented kid’s brittle self-esteem meets reality and shatters like a window pane hit by a rock.  They’re not emotionally prepared for that reality because it’s been hidden from them and when it finally is sprung upon them, the results can be devastating.   The “my precious” syndrome fosters emotional immaturity that unfortunately retards the development of kids who’ve been raised as such. 

However, even the talented who act out as the baseball player does will eventually meet with a dose of reality.  The next time he steps into the batter’s box he can count on being hit somewhere other than in the bat.  If he is smart he will learn quickly not to do something like that.  He may be “my precious” among his intimate circle but outside of it he’s a show off deserving of a lesson.  And he usually gets it.


In short, there’s abundant evidence to suggest that we have shifted a bit from a culture that emphasized self-effacement — I’m no better than anybody else, but nobody is better than me — to a culture that emphasizes self-expansion.

Writers like Twenge point out that young people are bathed in messages telling them how special they are. Often these messages are untethered to evidence of actual merit. Over the past few decades, for example, the number of hours college students spend studying has steadily declined. Meanwhile, the average G.P.A. has steadily risen.

Exactly right.  However, that doesn’t mean or lead to this:

Most pervasively, I wonder if there is a link between a possible magnification of self and a declining saliency of the virtues associated with citizenship.

Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise. Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert fiscal catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a national project.

Perhaps the enlargement of the self has also attenuated the links between the generations. Every generation has an incentive to push costs of current spending onto future generations. But no generation has done it as freely as this one. Maybe people in the past had a visceral sense of themselves as a small piece of a larger chain across the centuries. As a result, it felt viscerally wrong to privilege the current generation over the future ones, in a way it no longer does.

It’s possible, in other words, that some of the current political problems are influenced by fundamental shifts in culture, involving things as fundamental as how we appraise ourselves. Addressing them would require a more comprehensive shift in values.

Did you understand all of that and how he’s trying to tie the “my precious” syndrome with the fiscal mess we’re in today?  Do you agree that there is an unwillingness to support the sacrifices necessary to avert fiscal catastrophe tied to the self-esteem mess?  Is this “enlargement of self” the reason we’ve gotten into the position we’re in and are likely to stay there?  Have we undergone a fundamental shift in values?

Well, if we have, much of it comes from those 94% of college professors who think they have above average teaching skills – and all the answers.

OK, I’m being a bit sarcastic.  Obviously I don’t buy into the belief  that says we must praise every mediocre thing little Johnny does as “special” and “wonderful.”  I also don’t believe that problem has fundamentally changed American culture or how American’s view citizenship.   Michael Barone wrote a book called “Hard America, Soft America” in which he details pretty successfully how we manage to reorient victims of the “my precious” syndrome.   The few that slip through the cracks, unfortunately, are usually talented in some way or the other.   And because they’re talented, they’re indulged to a far greater degree than others (take our current president for example).  At some point we all meet with “hard America”, i.e. reality – no matter how special someone has been told they are or how talented they think they are, there are limits to how far that will take you. 

The bratty baseball player learns not to celebrate in the batters box when he gets tired of getting cracked ribs after every time he does.  Hard America.  The stud athlete who was an indulged college star finds he’s just an average player, for the most part, when he steps onto the NFL field for the first time.  Hard America.  The kid who was told he was tough finds out what it is to become a member of the team in basic training and AIT, or washes out to his eternal shame.  Hard America.  The child who was told how smart he is and how everything he does is wonderful fails his college entrance tests because his effort falls short of the unforgiving and unmovable mark.  Hard America.

We have a culture that handles that part fine.  And has for years.   Our literature is full of stories of the pampered and indulged child who finally meets up with the real world and learns how it works and what he has to do to be a part of it.  I don’t think that has changed significantly.  But I don’t see that as a reason for what is going on today politically.

While there may be a cultural reason for what is happening, I think it is more along the line of our culture not knowing how to handle politics or politicians who have indulged themselves (in your name and, supposedly “for you”) with your money.  And there’s a reason for that.  Until the ‘70s or so, we didn’t have to worry about it.  For the most part, our political culture matched our national culture. 

But then something happened.  Not to the overall American culture, regardless of what Brooks tries to paint in the beginning of his article, but with the political culture.  A dramatic shift in both focus, priority and power took place.   The focus changed from a government focused mostly on protecting us and our rights to one that believed it was the purpose of government to engineer our lives and grant us “rights” and indulge them.  We went from equal opportunity for all to social justice.   And to do that the government needed power and money.  Because that change of focus was very gradual and sounded benign, we mostly ignored it and went on with our lives. 

The fiscal crisis changed all that.  All of a sudden people who hadn’t given government a second thought for most of their lives were forced to take a look at what these successive generations of politicians had done over the intervening decades.

And, for the most part we realized that’s not the government we want.  But we haven’t really figured out how to change that.  So this isn’t so much a denial of the need to sacrifice by the citizenry as it is anger about being in the position we’re in because we made the mistake of trusting those in power to do the right thing and they didn’t.    It is also discovering, for a good portion of the population, just what a mess we’re in.

It’s also frustration.

What we haven’t figured out yet in Hard America is how to teach the the lesson that needs to be learned by our politicians and government(s).  Yeah, we can fire politicians and replace them, but that doesn’t seem to solve the problem.  Crack the ribs of the bratty ball player and he either learns the lesson or he suffers it again.  At some point though, he’ll modify his behavior.

Whose ribs do we crack to modify the behavior of our political system? How do we cause enough pain to force behavioral change?  It is that answer our citizenry seems to be searching for.  Witness the three past wave elections. 

Brooks, I think, interprets that search for a solution to modifying governmental behavior as a refusal to make sacrifices.  It is instead an electorate that has just been awakened to a huge problem and is casting around for a compromise solution.  That’s why you get mixed messages in polls.  They say overwhelmingly that spending must be cut, programs must be eliminated, etc.  But then you hear, but they don’t want to give up this or that.

That’s simply the process of deciding what government should actually be, something most of the citizenry hasn’t worried about for decades.   Suddenly, their worried.

So no, Mr. Brooks, this isn’t a result of the inflated view of ourselves some of us have, or the result of the “my precious” syndrome, it’s an awakening.  And it is an awakening that has just begun, is disorganized and is still finding its legs.  Hopefully it is one which will snatch us back from the abyss to which our so-called leaders have led us.  Hopefully we’ll figure out a way to crack the ribs of the system enough to modify its behavior and put it back on the right track. 

Because I think we’ve all realized that if we don’t, it won’t matter how much or how little we think of ourselves once we fall off that cliff our politicians have put us on, that just won’t matter very much.



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Obama no leader and would prefer "easier" job as president of China

John Hinderaker at Powerline hits on something I’ve been saying for quite some time about the man in the White House:

Last night Col. Ralph Peters was on Bill O’Reilly’s show, talking about Libya. Peters thinks we should act on behalf of the rebels there, but he expressed skepticism that President Obama will ever do anything. "Obama loves the idea of being President," Peters said, "but he can’t make a decision."

I think there is a lot of truth to that, even in domestic policy, where Obama has passively deferred to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi on all legislative matters. One can debate whether action is appropriate in Libya or not, but Peters is certainly right when it comes to foreign policy–it is a safe bet that Obama will do nothing, because doing something would require a decision.

Now it just so happens that I think we ought to stay out of Libya, so this is a stopped clock moment for me.  I essentially agree with Obama’s non-decision.

However, to the larger point.  I agree with Peters completely when he says “Obama loves the idea of President, but he can’t make a decision”.  I might have said it a little differently.  Obama loves the idea of being President and the trappings and perks.  What he doesn’t like is the job.

I think that should be abundantly clear to anyone who has closely observed the man and taken a look at his background.  I always remember the words of the managing editor of the Harvard Law Review who said that Obama loved the title of Editor of the Law Review, but he didn’t want to do the work.  The managing editor said he rarely saw him except when it was to glad hand or take credit (and praise) for what was being done.  Additionally, Obama never wrote a thing for the review during his tenure, something almost unheard of.

In all cases, his problem is a leadership problem – a familiar topic for regular readers here.  He’s simply not a leader.  He has no idea how to be a leader.  But that doesn’t keep him from wanting leadership roles that offer him prestige, perks and pleasure derived from simply from being in the position. 

The reason Obama can’t make a decision is he can’t reason like a leader must.  He has no experience.  And he doesn’t understand the decision making process as practiced by a leader.  He’s never really had to make leadership decisions. So he simply tries to avoid making them.  One way he does it is to ignore the problem.  Another way he does this is to appoint commissions and panels concerning problems the country faces in order to defer the problem (and decision).  He also like to defer to the “international community” on foreign policy or the Democratic leadership in the legislature on domestic things.  Again, the avoidance of decision making.

And, in the end, he lets them make the decisions for him and then he jumps on the bandwagon with a speech full of rhetoric about how they (whichever party he is deferring to on whatever issue) have listened to him and decided on a course much like he recommended.  Or something like that.

Even the Democrats are noticing how poor a leader he is.  They’ve been hollering for weeks, some of them very vocally, that he needs to step up and show some leadership in the budget process.  To this point he’s done much of nothing.   Today he gave a press conference on energy because gas prices have increased.  Essentially his line of argument, concerning domestic oil, is we’re doing fine and we shouldn’t worry.

And where has he decided to try to take a little leadership? 

School bullying.

Umhmmm.  That boiling, roiling top tier controversy that threatens to tear the world apart.  On the turmoil in the Middle East, yeah, uh, not so much.  France is doing just fine and besides, Hillary will be by to see you soon.

Instead of a leader, we’re stuck with this:

Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, “No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.”

Amazing. "Easier". See Peters’ words above.

I say we cut him loose in 2012 and let him take the “hope and change” show to China to make his case.  They’ll be bankrupt inside of 2 years.


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What do you do when your government flat out lies to you?

It’s a rhetorical question for the most part, since it seems to be a daily occurrence anymore.  Obviously it is hard to trust any government that does that on a regular basis and with a straight face.  But that’s what we’re faced with.  The latest example comes from Ken Salazar, head of the Department of the Interior, and as usual, he’s dissembling about oil production.

Kyle Isakower at API’s “Energy Tomorrow” blog, brings us up to date on some of Salazar’s numbers:

Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told Congress that oil production in the Gulf of Mexico "remained at an all-time high, and we expect that it will continue as we bring new production online."  He claimed: "In 2009 there were 116 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, in 2010 in February, 120, in February 2011, 126."

Key points: production “remained at an all-time high” last year.  And that such a state would continue to exist as “we” bring new production online.  Additionally, Salazar claims an increase of 10 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico from 2009 to last month.

Not true says Isakower citing Baker Hughes:

  • Four days before the Deepwater Horizon accident there were 55 rotary rigs actually drilling offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • On May 28, 2010, when the administration announced the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, there were 46 rotary rigs operating in the Gulf. 
  • Last week, 25 rotary rigs were operating in the Gulf of Mexico.

The point of course is oil production comes from working rigs.  While there may be more rigs (by 10) in the Gulf, there are less working rigs (by 30) than in 2009.

As Isakower quips:

Claiming an increase in idle rigs in the Gulf as a success story is like claiming the job market is great because a lot of people are unemployed and available to work.

As for the production figures and the claim by Salazar that production remained at “an all time high” is technically true, the next part of his claim is demonstrably false.  Isakower explains:

The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration reports that production in the Gulf of Mexico is in decline, forecasting a decline of 250,000 barrels a day from Gulf production, due partly to the moratorium and restricted permitting.  While the annual production figure for 2010 was greater than 2009, EIA’s month-by-month production figures show a peak in May of 2010, and a relatively steady decline since. And EIA Petroleum Engineer Gary Long told trade publication E&E News that the rig count in the Gulf was cut in half after the Deepwater Horizon accident and that it wouldn’t rebound to previous levels until the end of 2011 under the assumption that the permitting process is restored to historical rates. Further, since there is a lag time from the time an exploration permit is approved to the time of actual production, and since no only a handful of permits for new wells have been granted since April of 2010, it is likely that Gulf of Mexico production will continue to be hit hard in 2012 and beyond.

If anyone is monitoring the permitting process as it stands today, they know that the assumption about the process that Long uses isn’t valid (1 permit granted this year that I know of and that just before the hearings at which Salazar spoke).  What that then means, as Isakower notes, is production in the Gulf will remain “hard hit” and lower than 2009 until well beyond 2012.

So, here we have a critical need (the production of more oil) that could produce thousands of good paying jobs, would boost a regional economy not to mention provide money for the federal treasury (taxes and royalties) and we have a government official claiming we’re at record levels and will remain there and beyond because “we” have more rigs in the Gulf now than we did 2 years ago.

API is relatively gentle about it saying, [w]e appreciate that when it comes to selling the administration’s energy policy, Secretary Salazar is in a tough position”.

I don’t have to be that diplomatic.  Salazar isn’t “selling” anything, he’s spinning nonsense to Congress.  There is no cogent or responsible energy policy evident from this administration.  Instead, it has declared war on a vital industry that is absolutely critical to our nation’s economy and, using the Deepwater Horizon disaster as an excuse, placed barrier after barrier in front of the industry for almost a year to discourage new drilling operations.

Unfortunately the war has been successful.  Drilling rigs have all but abandoned the Gulf to be deployed elsewhere around the world.  That is a travesty and an inexcusable outcome of a thoughtless policy pressed for political reasons.  Again, the administration spins nonsense to make it sound like they are on board with more oil production while doing everything in their power to block it.

The sad truth is the results of that “policy” will eventually be paid by you, at the pump, as gas prices continue to rise.

Remember that in 2012.  It is another part of the record of the Obama administration.  And in 2012, Obama has to do something he’s never done before in his political life – actually run on his record. 



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My book, Slackernomics, should be available for Kindle tomorrow

I’m happy to announce that sometime tomorrow my book, Slackernomics, will be available on Kindle at the Amazon store for the low, low price of $3. For those who don’t know, Slackernomics is a book on basic economics for people who think economics is boring. Instead of a bunch of charts and math, I present economics in a more enjoyable way.  For instance, here is a portion of my discussion on the role of prices:

Another feature of the price system is that it forces producers to put resources to their most valued uses. This is important because, quite often, consumers demand different goods that use many of the same components.

Let’s take petroleum, for example. People don’t just need gasoline; they need plastics to make computer keyboards and ugly furniture for college students. Businesses need chemicals for industrial production and dyes. Textile companies need artificial fabrics that don’t fade or discolor. Perverts need Vaseline.

So, in bidding for each of those items, their producers are also bidding for the petroleum required to make them. When more people buy Vaseline, Johnson & Johnson has to bid away some of that petroleum from refineries or textile mills. In turn, this increased demand in petroleum causes the price of oil to rise for everyone who uses it.

In order to keep buying oil, everyone now has to pay the price that Johnson & Johnson is willing to pay. As this raises consumer prices for these items, consumers are likely to buy less of them. For example, a consumer, noticing the increase in the cost of Vaseline, decides to spend Saturday night alone.

So, the price that Johnson & Johnson is willing to pay for oil becomes an added cost for all of the other businesses that use oil. If they want to bid away some of that oil, they have to be willing to pay the higher price. But since higher prices tend to mean lower sales, other producers will only bid away as much oil as they think they can use, now that sales are dropping.

The end result is that Johnson & Johnson ends up with a relatively larger portion of oil. In other words, the resource of oil has flowed to the highest valued product, an important…uh…medical lubricant.

Eventually, because there is an increasing supply of Vaseline, demand is affected. At some point, consumers are unwilling to buy it, because there’s enough of it on the shelves. And, of course, with all this petroleum bidding going on, the price has been increasing. So, some consumers may notice that the price of Vaseline has now increased relative to, say KY Jelly, and they may decide to purchase that instead.

Of course, either way, Johnson & Johnson wins.

So, if you’d like to get a better understanding of how economics work, and maybe get a few good laughs on the way, you can get it tomorrow for about 1/6 the price of the physical book.

I’ll provide the direct link to Amazon to purchase it when it becomes available tomorrow.

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Pondering the “new civility”

As everyone knows, the “new civility” has been getting quite a workout since the Wisconsin thing has blown up.  Anyone who has kept up with it and read blogs covering it (like Althouse), know this hasn’t been an episode of peace, love and decorum.  It has been one of threats, violence and attempts at intimidation – not to mention a fairly unseemly tantrum. 

So, I have to wonder what happened to all the civility talk after the Giffords shooting?  Especially on the left.  It’s been rather quiet over there since Wisconsin has erupted.  And make no mistake about it, the threats, violence and attempts at intimidation, not to mention the frequent invocations of Goodwin’s law, aren’t figments of the imagination – they’re documented fairly thoroughly for anyone who wants to find them (unlike the MSM).

As the sort of cherry on top of the “new civility” sundae, here’s this email that was sent to every GOP senator (save the one who voted against the bill) by someone who is, and I dare you to tell me otherwise when you read it, deranged and apparently plans to visit violence on each and every one of them:

From: XXXX
Sent: Wed 3/9/2011 9:18 PM
To: Sen.Kapanke; Sen.Darling; Sen.Cowles; Sen.Ellis; Sen.Fitzgerald; Sen.Galloway; Sen.Grothman; Sen.Harsdorf; Sen.Hopper; Sen.Kedzie; Sen.Lasee; Sen.Lazich; Sen.Leibham; Sen.Moulton; Sen.Olsen

Subject: Atten: Death threat!!!! Bomb!!!!

Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes
will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain
to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it
will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit
that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for
more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.
WE want to make this perfectly clear. Because of your actions today and in
the past couple of weeks I and the group of people that are working with me
have decided that we’ve had enough. We feel that you and the people that
support the dictator have to die. We have tried many other ways of dealing
with your corruption but you have taken things too far and we will not stand
for it any longer. So, this is how it’s going to happen: I as well as many
others know where you and your family live, it’s a matter of public records.
We have all planned to assult you by arriving at your house and putting a
nice little bullet in your head. However, we decided that we wouldn’t leave
it there. We also have decided that this may not be enough to send the
message to you since you are so "high" on Koch and have decided that you are
now going to single handedly make this a dictatorship instead of a
demorcratic process. So we have also built several bombs that we have placed
in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent.
This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won’t
tell you all of them because that’s just no fun. Since we know that you are
not smart enough to figure out why this is happening to you we have decided
to make it perfectly clear to you. If you and your goonies feel that it’s
necessary to strip the rights of 300,000 people and ruin their lives, making
them unable to feed, clothe, and provide the necessities to their families
and themselves then We Will "get rid of" (in which I mean kill) you. Please
understand that this does not include the heroic Rep. Senator that risked
everything to go aganist what you and your goonies wanted him to do. We feel
that it’s worth our lives to do this, because we would be saving the lives
of 300,000 people. Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and
say goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. YOU WILL DIE!!!!

I can only guess, by the sentence structure, single dense paragraph and spelling, that the person is product of public schooling, which explains why they’re so upset about those 300,000 people.  Some of those are Mr. or Ms. X’s teachers.

Apparently the person also signed the email indicating they may have had the opportunity to have each of those teachers for more than one year.

Regardless, this is not something I remember showing up at offices of politicians when the Tea Party was supposedly so “violent” and “uncivil”.  Maybe I missed it and someone will enlighten me.

And, of course, the new way of venting (“civilly” of course) and shouting out threats, Twitter, hasn’t been silent either.

I’m also wondering if the SPLC will designate the government unions of Wisconsin official leftist “hate groups”?  My guess is the SPLC will somehow find a way to claim they’re part of a militia movement or something.  Everyone knows militias are the ultimate evil – and right-wing fascists.  More likely, the SPLC will ignore it.

There is one consolation though – we won’t have to listen to any condescending, patronizing and smarmy lectures about “civility” anymore from the left. 

Will we?



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The wind energy scam

Why call it a scam?  Because, as you’ll see, it isn’t creating jobs, it isn’t contributing the amount of energy it was claimed it would, and, essentially it can’t survive without massive subsidies.



If you’re looking for innovation, what is most likely to produce it – a big payday if you come up with a solution, or government subsidy which encourages the status quo?



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The situation in Wisconsin

I’ve been busily reading everything I can about the Wisconsin situation as it stands right now.  It has been an interesting exercise.  Of course, one look at Memeorandum and you can instantly tell which ideological side a particular blog falls on.  Also interesting are the titles of some of the stories/posts.  Talk about sensationalist. 

Of course, that’s not to say that we’re not hearing the same thing from some of the participants on the protests and demonstrations.  Things like this:

“In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller. “Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people.”

And where were the Democrats?  In Illinois.  BTW, it was actually a few weeks and 30 minutes as the Democrats were invited, nearly daily, to come back from their self-imposed exile and participate.  A fact that James Joyner notes in his reply to the above quote:

Oh, nonsense. They were overwhelmingly elected in November and prevented from acting only by bad faith on the part of the Democratic minority. And the Democrats have the ability to either try to force Republicans out via the recall process or rally back to a majority in 2012 and undo this legislation.

That’s the process, isn’t it?  Just as it appears that the majority of the country thought that the passage of the health care bill in Congress was a travesty and made the point on November 2nd of last year, now Wisconsin voters – who put the GOP into the majority – have a process they can use to reverse what has happened.  But pretending that it was “disrespectful” to do what they did or a conspiracy to “take government away from the people” is, as Joyner notes, “nonsense”.

Apparently the move by the Republicans in the Senate was precipitated by two things as Christian Schneider at “The Corner” points out:

A letter Democrat Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller sent the governor today, indicating Miller’s unwillingness to further negotiate any details of the bill, was what prompted the GOP’s decision to take the bill to the floor.

“It was like, ‘I’m in the minority, and I’m going to dictate to you what your options are,’” said one GOP source about Miller’s letter. It was just three days ago that Miller had sent Fitzgerald a letter urging more negotiations, despite the fact that Governor Walker had been negotiating with at least two Democrat senators for nearly a week. “With his recent letter, it became clear that all he wanted to do was stall,” said the GOP source.

Another action that provoked the GOP senators to act was Democrat Senator Lena Taylor’s very public decision to have a spring election absentee ballot sent to her in Illinois. The spring election is scheduled for April 5th, which indicated Taylor’s desire to stay out of the state for another month. “That sure didn’t help,” said one GOP source.

Gov. Scott Walker has an Op/Ed in the WSJ that’s an interesting read.  One of the points he raises is about what unions are claiming and how unions are actually acting:

The unions say they are ready to accept concessions, yet their actions speak louder than words. Over the past three weeks, local unions across the state have pursued contracts without new pension or health-insurance contributions. Their rhetoric does not match their record on this issue.

Of course it could be said that they are simply establishing their negotiating position.  But my guess, given the outcry these past weeks, is that they feel they have the backing not to have to negotiate the cuts they previously said they were willing to make. 

Since the bill has been passed the uproar will most likely continue for a couple of days or so, peak and subside.  Outside forces have been attempting to finance and enable recall drives.  Under WI law, a politician has to have been in office for a year before he or she can be recalled.  Interestingly that applies to only 16 Senators, 8 GOP and 8 Democrats.  Even more interesting is every one of them has a recall petition being initiated against them.

As I understand it, Walker won’t be eligible for recall until next year.  Will the public still be motivated at that time to sign on or will it go the way of Indiana?

When Gov. Mitch Daniels repealed collective bargaining in Indiana six years ago, it helped government become more efficient and responsive. The average pay for Indiana state employees has actually increased, and high-performing employees are rewarded with pay increases or bonuses when they do something exceptional.

In fact, an oft neglected part of the story, which John Fund revealed recently, is why Walker and the GOP are taking the action they’re taking:

The governor’s move is in reaction to a 2009 law implemented by the then-Democratic legislature that expanded public unions’ collective-bargaining rights and lifted existing limits on teacher raises.

A state already headed for the financial shoals saw a Democratic legislature expand the “rights” of the unions that had help put them in office and lift the limits on pay for other government union members.  I have it on good authority that the GOP Senators, when faced with this legislation, didn’t flee to Illinois.

Recalls aren’t easy things to do, and, we’ll see how they work out in Wisconsin.  My guess is, after everyone has a chance to cool down a bit, the recall drives – for both sides – will meet with less and less success. 

And, of course, depending on which side is most successful is making the case for their side, voters will either return Democrats to the majority in 2012 and see the bill repealed or the voters will decide what was done wasn’t such a bad thing (we’ll see how the budget deficit looks next year) and leave well enough alone.

We’ll monitor and report.



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Rhetoric vs. Reality: trying out the Obama record

It is something – the difference between rhetoric and reality -  I don’t think Obama, for all the claims of his intelligence, understands.  Just because you claim something is true doesn’t make it so (I know, something most of us learned around age 6).

In a speech in Boston – at a fund raiser:

Obama says that America should not be about the “haves and the have-nots.”

Didn’t know that it is, but this is a comfortable and popular theme among the limo liberal crowd, so it isn’t surprising the old horse was trotted out one more time.  But let me set the scene for you:

President Obama addressed a group of 152 Democratic donors at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The walls were lined with enormous original oil portraits from the 16th century and guests are seated around about 24 round tables.

Lots of “have nots” in that room weren’t there? 

But that isn’t the major point here – just wanted you to understand the context of the next part.  To add to the surreal atmosphere he said this:

In welcoming Nancy Pelosi, Obama called her “someone who’s going to go down as one of the greatest Speakers in our history: Nancy Pelosi.”

“When the rubble had cleared, when the dust had settled. This country was going through as touch a time economically, as tough a time financially, as any period since the 1930s,” Obama said..

His administration “had to make a series of quick decisions, and often times unpopular decisions,” Obama said.

In those times, Obama said, there would have been a temptation to “resort to the expedient.”

“That’s why when I say, Nancy is going to go down as one of our finest speakers… I mean what I say,” Obama continued.

“Not only were we able to yank this economy out of the recession,” Obama said.

“Not only were we able to get this economy going again, that in the last 15 months we’ve seen the economy add jobs…but under Nancy’s leadership we were able to achieve historic health care legislation that over the last 15, 20 years will end up benefiting millions of families across the country… we were able to get “don’t ask, don’t’ tell” repealed,” he continued, adding that Congress expand our investments in clean energy, made the largest investments in infrastructure and the largest investments in education in years.

“We didn’t just rescue the economy we put it on the strongest footing for the future,” Obama said.

“And along the way we saved the auto industry and a few other things,” he quipped, to some laughter from the crowd.

Obama went over a kept promise to end combat in Iraq, and reduce the country’s military commitment in Afghanistan.

Where to start?!

Suffice it to say, anyone who could tout Nancy Pelosi as the “greatest Speakers in our history” either has the ideological blinders on so tight they’re cutting off blood flow to the brain or has a rather tenuous grasp on reality.  Nancy Pelosi, if anything positive could be said about her, was a compliant means to an end.  Someone from the short bus should have been able to push through just about anything they wanted in Nancy Pelosi’s House, given the huge majority Democrats had. 

And she was complicit in the biggest expansion of government, not to mention the largest expansion of the public debt, of any Speaker I know.

Great?  For America, she was a disaster.  And so is the person fawningly praising her.

As for his other claims, well that’s just what they are … claims.  He’d like you to believe them because doing so helps his case, but what you see here is a sort of test run of how he plans on spinning his record – something he’s never had to run on before.

Each and every point is either highly debatable or can be refuted outright.   I got a kick out of one of the commenters under this story addressing his Iraq claim about ending combat:

If you think Obama stopped combat here, you are stunningly gullible.

Our guys are out on patrol every day and night amid the IEDs and VBIEDs. Our specops forces are operating outside the wire every day and night. The mortars and rockets are hitting our FOBs on a very regular basis. Purple Hearts are still being issued, including two on my FOB in January when a 107mm rocket landed across the street in one of my buddy’s men’s huts.

You live in Fantasyland, but thanks for the laugh.

The last line pretty much sums up the 152 Democrats in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts last night and much of the left right now – sitting there listening to a litany of “accomplishments” that are straight out of Fantasyland. 

Doubling the debt, multi-year trillion dollar deficits, expanded government, expanded spending, 9% unemployment and a jobs record that won’t even maintain the status quo.  Clueless about foreign policy, no energy policy, Gitmo still open, still in Iraq and little to show but another huge entitlement we can’t afford.

That’s the record he’s compiled.  And Nancy helped.

That is the record you need to remember.



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