Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-19

BMW has announced the K1600GT sport touring motorcycle. 1600cc 6-cylinder engine. 160HP. 130 ft-lb torque. WANT! #

RT @NickSchweitzer @dmataconis: You misunderestimate her ability. | Perhaps. It may turn out to be perfectly cromulent for her. #

In the future, we may look back on today as the day that Sarah Palin managed to refudiate her chance to become president. She's Quayle II. #

The Republican party cannot be counted on to cut spending II: The GOP's counterinsurgency by spenders. http://bit.ly/a0B5Ms #

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Breitbart hits NAACP with promised video of racism. http://bit.ly/auZ3rK #

The Republican party cannot be trusted to cut spending. http://bit.ly/cXEBXZ #

The Washington Post assesses the US intel community. After post-9/11 billions spent, it sucks. Or just blows. http://bit.ly/dkpFNh #

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo confidence index dropped to 14. Unexpectedly. http://bit.ly/aUh6vT #RecoverySummer #

HTC says the phone named by Steve Jobs as having antenna problems received 35-times less complaints than the iPhone 4. http://bit.ly/dg3jF5 #

Sarah Palin apparently isn't all that interested in the property rights of Muslims, either. http://bit.ly/bEkZz5 #

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Documenting the elite/fly-over country disconnect

I don’t think it would surprise anyone to find that the "Washington elite" are completely disconnected with the rabble found in fly-over country.

Politico has some examples based on a poll they just completed (Power and the People series). For instance:

Only 27 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 61 percent who think the nation is on the wrong track. Likewise, when asked whether the national economy is heading down the right or wrong track, just 24 percent chose the right track, compared with 65 percent for the wrong track.

Yet among the 227 Washington elites polled, more think the country is on the right track, 49 percent, than the wrong track, 45 percent. On the economy, 44 percent of elites think the country is on the right track, compared with 46 percent who believe it is not.

Imagine, if you will, standing the ruins of the economy, looking around and deciding, “yeah, you know, I think we’re on the right track!”

You’re right, it’s unimaginable.  Yet there are the numbers of us v. the elite. 

If you’re wondering what constitutes a "Washington elite", here’s how Politico defined them:

To qualify as a Washington elite for the poll, respondents must live within the D.C. metro area, earn more than $75,000 per year, have at least a college degree and be involved in the political process or work on key political issues or policy decisions.

If that doesn’t quite make the point, how about taxes?

Taxes are another issue where Washington does not appear to have its finger on the pulse of the country. Fifty-three percent of the general public ranked taxes as a “very important” issue, while 37 percent of elites said the same.

Because, you know, taxes are the life-blood of government, and these are the people who run government.  So what do you suppose they think is more important – your tax burden or the availability of the funds they need to do what they think government should be doing?

This, however, should come as no surprise:

Among the elites, Obama has a 66 percent favorability rating, while 34 percent view him unfavorably. Outside of Washington, only 48 percent of respondents view the president favorably, compared with 47 percent who view him unfavorably.

In prospective 2012 matchups, Obama never falls below 60 percent support among the D.C. elites. Yet among the general population, the president doesn’t win more than 48 percent support in any of the pairings.

On the question of the 2012 presidential election, the general public gave a generic Republican candidate a 5-percentage-point edge over Obama, 42 percent to 37 percent, while among Washington elites, the president would cruise to reelection by a 2-to-1 ratio — 56 percent to 28 percent.

Washington is Obama’s town right now, the “elites” mostly work for him and they also know which side of bread is buttered for them.  So naturally they believe they’ve done good work, are underfunded and have a real dynamite dude in the driver’s seat.

Or at least that’s what they say in answer to a poll.  But in reality, I’d have to guess there’s some real “willing suspension of disbelief” going on in DC.

~McQ

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Stimulus fail

Apparently Joe Biden is the one chosen to carry the story that the reason the $862 billion “stimulus” plan failed is because of the stingy GOP.

Ed Morrissey pulls that apart like a kid pulling the wings off a fly.  First Biden:

“There’s a lot of people at the time argued it was too small,” he said. “A lot of people in our administration…even some Republican economists and some Nobel laureates like Paul Krugman, who continues to argue it was too small.”

“But, you know,” Biden told Tapper, “there was a reality. In order to get what we got passed, we had to find Republican votes. And we found three. And we finally got it passed,” Biden said.

But if it wasn’t for the legislative reality, Biden explained, “I think it would have been bigger. I think it would have been bigger. In fact, what we offered was slightly bigger than that. But the truth of the matter is that the recovery package, everybody’s talking about it [like] it’s over. The truth is now, we’re spending more now this summer than we — I’m calling this…the summer of recovery,” the Vice President said.

"Legislative reality" at the time consisted of prohibitive majorities on the Democrats side in Congress. They ddin’t need a single GOP vote – not one. And, in fact, as Morrissey points out, the original package was to be $775 billion and the final package was $862 billion pig we got stuck with. In fact it was bigger than what had been asked for by Biden and company. You have to love the revisionist history, don’t you?

Of course Biden is pretty sure the victory in Iraq is possibly one of the "greatest accomplishments" of this administration so it’s no like he’s new at rewriting history. Morrisey also provides us with a couple of Obama quotes that sort of kick the Biden contention in the gut:

February 5th, 2009:

While efforts have been under way in the Senate to whittle the plan back to $800 billion or less, Mr. Hoyer said he believed it should be higher, at like $880 billion. Earlier on Air Force One, Mr. Obama was asked by pool reporters traveling with him about the size of the proposal …

Asked if the figure should be $800 billion and not more, Mr. Obama said: “Well, I gave you a range. I think we’re in range.”

And February 9th, 2009:

“It is the right size, it is the right scope. Broadly speaking it has the right priorities to create jobs that will jump-start our economy and transform it for the 21st century,” Obama said of the more than $800 billion bill at a rally in Elkhart, Indiana.

If the stimulus was too small (it wasn’t), it had zip to do with the GOP.  And Joe and company isn’t fooling anyone but those who want to believe fantasy over reality.  As usual, the Democrats blame-game runs into reality and facts and comes out second-best.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 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 EST (Tonight)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

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

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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