Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Record Budget, Record Budget Deficit Proposed By Obama Administration

The President, Democrats and some pundits have been trying to set the public up for this for a few weeks. They talk about how important deficit reduction is in the long term, but claim that when the economy is bad and unemployment is high that is not the time to be pursuing that goal. Paul Krugman, for one, has been saying it for months. And Obama made that claim in his State of the Union address. The entire reason behind the prep was to prepare the public for massive spending and budget deficit proposal – neither of which we can afford. In anticipation of this, Democrats quietly raised the debt ceiling $1.9 trillion last week:

President Barack Obama will propose on Monday a $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal 2011 that projects the deficit will shoot up to a record $1.6 trillion this year, but would push the red ink down to about $700 billion, or 4% of the gross domestic product, by 2013, according to congressional aides.

The deficit for the current fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, would eclipse last year’s $1.4 trillion deficit, in part due to new spending on a proposed jobs package. The president also wants $25 billion for cash-strapped state governments, mainly to offset their funding of the Medicaid health program for the poor.

Now of course, as any good Democrat knows, this is all George Bush’s fault. They are being forced to spend this money because Bush wrecked the economy.

With that now out of the way, some interesting things are to be found in the two paragraphs cited. One, deficit year two is larger than deficit year one. Why? Because the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress spent the previously budgeted money (40 cents of every dollar borrowed) on pet projects and nonsense which were not simulative at all. Now they’re faced with the same crisis that faced them at this time last year and they’re again coming up with the same solution – throw money at it. However this time the new “stimulus” will be disguised as a “jobs bill”.

Then take notice of the claim by “congressional aides” that the deficit will be “down” to a mere $700 billion by 2013. That’s based on the assumption, per the Wall Street Journal, that some spending cuts “that have previously been proposed without success” will be passed and work as promised. Anyone – what’s the track record on those sorts of assumptions?

Of course what’s interesting is that $700 billion will be less than half the deficit proposed in this year’s budget thereby allowing Obama to claim he fulfilled the promise of “cutting the deficit in half” by the end of his first (and hopefully only) term. Hey, he never said how high he’d run it to make that promise come true, did he?

Note too that there’s a bailout of the states included in this budget. Is that a precedent we want to set? And what does the bailout address? Government run health care. It is, as usual, costing more than anticipated. Why should anyone believe government’s control of more of that market will cost less?

President Obama is also pushing for a bi-partisan debt committee to be empanelled by Congress to address the debt.

A bipartisan 18-member debt commission would forward any deficit-reduction proposals they come up with to Congress after this year’s midterm elections. Issues it would face would include how to cut the deficit further in the short term and how to rein in long-term growth of entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Commission members would have to come up with between $180 billion and $190 billion in cuts to meet the president’s target.

Congressional leaders have promised the president that they would submit the panel’s recommendations to an up-or-down vote in the lame-duck session of Congress, after the elections but before the newly elected House and Senate take office.

Although it is recognition of the critical problem to our national solvency the debt represents, it is also a political ploy to shift responsibility to Congress and require them to make all the unpopular cuts necessary to reduce that debt. Congress becomes the focus of the public’s ire if it cuts favored programs, not the President. It’s another attempt by Obama to shirk his leadership role and avoid blame for making tough choices. As usual, he’ll talk about it and he’ll pontificate, but he expects others to do the dirty work and suffer the political consequences of proposing and making spending cuts and ending programs. That’ll work out well, I’m sure.

Note too that even Congress isn’t at all enthusiastic about it – they would only do these cuts in lame-duck sessions after an election but before the new Congress is seated.

And I had to laugh at this:

White House officials say they are ready to make some tough choices to get the deficit under control. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House Web site this weekend that the president’s budget would propose to terminate or cut back more than 120 programs, saving about $20 billion in the fiscal year beginning in October.

Budget proposal: $3.8 trillion. Deficit: $1.6 trillion. “Tough choices”: $20 billion.

Programs which might – I want to stress that point, might – be terminated to achieve that huge $20 billion in savings?

The proposals include consolidating 38 education programs into 11, cutting the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America grant program, and eliminating the Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit, which allows low-wage workers to get tax-credit checks in advance but which is rife with abuse, White House officials say. The Brownfields Economic Development Initiative, which converts decayed former industrial sites to new uses, would be cut, and payments ended to states to restore abandoned mines, many of which have been long cleaned up.

Social Security? Medicare? Medicaid? You know, the big drains on the budget?

Nada. Can firmly kicked to the non-existent Congressional panel (and no, the health care reform debacle didn’t address Medicare or Medicaid reform in any meaningful way) to address. He can find the will to propose huge budgets and incredible levels of spending, but apparently he’s just not going to take the political risk of proposing real and substantial cuts to spending or ending wasteful and unnecessary programs.

So we are now well into the Obama era of trillion dollar deficits (all Bush’s fault, remember) with really no end in sight. Certainly the administration wants you to believe an end is in sight, but recall that all rests on their projections and assumptions. And we all have enough experience with government projections and assumptions to know what they’re really worth.

A bucket of warm spit, if that.

~McQ

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High wire Democrats

I’ve been wondering for a while about a contradiction at the heart of the Democrats on healthcare reform. If they really thought it was so important, necessary, and right, why didn’t they get it done earlier? In particular, why didn’t they get it done before Scott Brown’s election?

A correspondent at The Corner has been wondering the same thing, which got me thinking some more about it. There are really only two possibilities:

1. Some set of Democrats really didn’t want it to pass, but at the same time they didn’t want to be seen as stopping it from passing.

2. The Democrats are utterly incompetent politicians.

As the person at The Corner points out, if you’re a pro, you better not assume your party has an election for an open seat in the bag. For all you know your candidate could drop dead a week before the election.

Plus, the Democrats started the entire process with two senators with one foot in the grave each: Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd. It simply doesn’t make sense to dawdle under those conditions.

Of course, Obama didn’t want to. He was setting his deadlines, because he clearly understood this. It’s beyond my capacity to believe that Democratic leaders didn’t also understand the reasons for the urgency, and transmit them downstream to all the Democrats in Congress.

Yet, here we are, with healthcare reform on life support, and the Democrats are in worse position to pass it than they’ve been since Obama took office.

So what happened? Option 2 above is just for completeness. The Democrats can’t possibly be that unprofessional as politicians.
I don’t think Reid and Pelosi are the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they got to their positions for a reason.

The only possibility, really, is option 1. Some set of astute Democrats figured out along about April or May of last year that healthcare reform as envisioned by Obama, Reid, and Pelosi was an electoral disaster for them personally, and perhaps for their party in general. I’d like to think that at least some of them had qualms about the effectiveness of the monstrosity that evolved too, even if they favored healthcare reform in general, but that was probably a side issue. Whether it’s establishment Democrats or establishment Republicans, a threat to their power is about all that would really force them to go against their party’s official position.

However, preserving power and position is not just about staying in office. At the federal level, you also have to keep your position within the party heirarchy, and not damage your prospects for moving up over time.

This was especially tricky in the Senate. A House member might bargain with Pelosi to vote against a healthcare bill, because she had votes to spare. Senators had no such option. It became apparent last summer that the likelihood of getting some Republicans to provide cushion and the cover of faux “bipartisanship” was not good. So every Democratic senator was a potential blocking vote.

In these circumstances, an uncompromising public stance against healthcare would have marked a Democratic senator for being scalped by his own base, and even if he survived, he would have been likely relieved of power within the party. Yet, being seen as a supporter of this particular monstrosity carries big risk for electoral defeat, especially in certain red or purple states.

So I believe that Landrieu, Nelson, and others from those states walked the high wire doing a delicate balancing act for the last year. They threw just enough sand in the gears to slow things down, all in the name of “improving the bill” and such. Heck, they might have even believed their own bullsh!t. But they were no more interested in seeing the thing passed than we were. At various points, when pressed to the wall and being given all the ridiculous stuff they asked for, at least in some form, they finally voted for a bill, hoping that it couldn’t be reconciled with the House, or something, because they really didn’t want it to pass.

If this supposition is correct, it explains why healthcare is dead in the sense of a chicken with its head cut off. It’s still flopping around, but the outcome is pre-ordained. There are just too many Democrats who really don’t want it to pass, but can’t come right out and say so.

It also explains the bribes to Nelson and Landrieu. They didn’t really want the bribes. They probably asked for them to give them a face-saving way to continue to oppose the bill and draw out the process. They knew that it would be politically unpopular for the Democrats to put such obvious bribes in the bill, so they hoped it wouldn’t happen. Then Reid, realizing the situation was getting desperate, gave them the bribes anyway, estimating that the risk of the bribes was less than the risk of not getting the bill passed.

I don’t know how close this armchair analysis is to being correct, but I can’t think of any other reason for the comedy that has played out over the last year. The Democrats can’t be that incompetent as politicians.

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GOP Should Embrace “Party Of ‘No’”

In the ’60s and ’70s when leftist anti-war protesters began calling the police “pigs”, police forces turned the tables and defined the epithet as “Pride, Integrity, Guts” thereby taking ownership of it. The GOP should take ownership of the “Party of ‘No'”.

Why? Because sometimes – in fact, many times – saying “no” to the opposition is not only responsible, it is an absolute necessity. In many cases, given what the ideological opposition attempts to pass into law, it is the job of the minority to say “no”. Bi-partisanship for bi-partisanship’s sake is nonsense. There’s a reason we have competing parties and have a system that grants the minority a form of power. It is so we don’t fall under the oppressive rule of the majority. And that requires the minority at times to say “no”.

“No”, of course, doesn’t mean the minority must oppose everything. But it does mean that it should oppose those issues and policies which are incompatible with its ideology. In the case of the GOP, those issues and policies consist of those which expand government control, spending, taxation and intrusion.

There’s a building narrative, however, which is designed to cast any opposition in a negative light. The President mentioned it in his State of the Union address and reiterated in his speech to the Republican caucus. The essence of the message is “opposition is bad, bi-partisan cooperation is good – so be good and cooperate with us”.

Of course, bi-partisanship only became “good” and something to be sought when the Democratic Senate lost its 60th vote. Until then it wasn’t necessary and the GOP was irrelevant. Republicans couldn’t have stopped anything from passing Congress if they tried. But now, because they can, they’re suddenly cast as the “Party of ‘No'”.

Thomas Friedman gets into the act with a whine about how the world is talking about us now. Apparently, in Davos during the World Economic Forum, he’s hearing people say things he’s never heard previously. They’re using the words “political instability” to describe our situation. Apparently they just don’t understand why a supposedly popular president swept in by a solid majority can’t seem to get what he wants passed into law.

Of course “political instability” is just another way to say “ungovernable”, the new cool term used to describe those who don’t agree with the political majority’s goals. The elites apparently cannot fathom opposition to government expansion, huge spending increases and intrusion to a level never before seen in this country. I can only attribute that to a lack of understanding of America’s foundational beliefs and how resistance to government intrusion and expansion is a veritable part of our DNA.

But because the left’s agenda is now in even more jeopardy with the election of Scott Brown to the Senate, a counterattack against those in opposition is called for. Friedman picks up the President’s meme and runs with it:

It was hard to read President Obama’s eloquent State of the Union address and not feel torn between his vision for the coming years and the awareness that the forces of inertia and special interests blocking him — not to mention the whole Republican Party — make the chances of his implementing that vision highly unlikely. That is the definition of “stuck.” And right now we are stuck.

The sad and frustrating thing is, we are so close to being unstuck. If there were just six or eight Republican senators — a few more Judd Greggs and Lindsey Grahams — ready to meet Obama somewhere in the middle on deficit reduction, energy, health care and banking reform, I believe that in the wake of the Massachusetts wake-up call the president would indeed meet them in that middle ground to forge not just incremental compromises, but substantial ones on these key issues. But so far, the Republicans are having a good year politically by just being the Party of No.

He’s right – the GOP is having a good year being the “Party of ‘No'”, mainly because that’s what the public demands of them. But there’s been no risk to being the “Party of ‘No'” to this point. They could yell “no” to the top of their lungs but had no power to stop anything. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero.

And now the left intends to shame them into passing their agenda. Friedman doesn’t mention certain GOP Senators by name without reason. The entire purpose behind this “Party of ‘No'” silliness is to guilt trip a few Republicans into reaching across the aisle on key issues. The idea is to shame them into being bi-partisan when being bi-partisan is actually not in their best interest. Democrats were as much the “Party of No” as the GOP when they held those unassailable majorities for this past year – the party of “no Republicans allowed”.

Hopefully one of the things the GOP talked about at their retreat was why their opposition – saying “no” – is critical to the functioning of this Republic. Majority rule is tyranny, because it runs roughshod over the minority.  The founders of this country designed a system of government that protects minority rights.  So it is critical that one side – the minority side – assume the mantle of the “Party of ‘No'”, embrace it and work it. That’s how the system should work. And the Republicans should remember that the only time such words and phrases as “political instability” and “ungovernable” seem to find their way into the talking points and the press is when the GOP is saying “no”, and not the Democrats.

It is high time for Congressional Republicans to grow a thick skin and a spine, quit worrying about what Democrats and the media will say about them and embrace the “No”. Sack up, guys.  Be proud to be that party. It’s your job, one which is critical to the survival of this nation as the land of the free.  And remember, it is a role the Democrats will happily assume, with no apologies, when their time comes – you can count on it.

~McQ

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

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

Subject(s):

State of the Union – Reactions and ramifications.

KSM Trial – Suddenly GITMO is looking pretty good.

Bernanke reconfirmed – What does that mean?

Global Warming – Glaciers not melting and the Amazon unaffected. Where’s the science?

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Deficit Of Trust In Government

During his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke of the nation suffering from a “deficit of trust” in government.

He’s right.  There is a large and growing deficit of trust in government.  That’s why health care is in trouble.

Obama’s also a big part of that reason.  He’s made some claims that a majority of Americans simply don’t think are true. For instance:

The president in the speech declared that his administration has cut taxes for 95% of Americans. He even chided Republicans for not applauding on that point. However, just 21% of voters nationwide believe that taxes have been cut for 95% of Americans. Most (53%) say it has not happened, and 26% are not sure. Other polling shows that nearly half the nation’s voters expect their own taxes to go up during the Obama years.

Despite what most politicians think, people are not idiots. They’ve watched what Washington has done in terms of spending and spending and spending, and they know someone has to pay for that. They also know the “rich” can’t possibly do that alone and that corporations really don’t pay taxes, they instead collect them. And finally, they understand when they’re being spun. While there may not be an increase in their income taxes this year, they’re seeing all sorts of proposals about new or increased taxes they’ll be paying outside of income taxes. They understand those impose a tax on them that is just as costly as an income tax in terms of their priorities vs. government’s. So the 95% rhetoric was most likely rejected by a good portion of the population as he said it, and another portion has come to realize it was just spin. Result – a deficit of trust in government. And for a good reason.

Then there’s this:

The president also asserted that “after two years of recession, the economy is growing again.” Just 35% of voters believe that statement is true, while 50% say it is false.

Governments and agencies can declare “the economy is growing again” until they turn blue, but until Joe Sixpack sees his lot improve economically, that’s just so much spin as far as he’s concerned. That’s what this number most likely reflects. While the numbers may look good at NEBR, the only number the voters care about are the one’s which directly effect his or her life – and at the moment, most of them are waving the BS flag. For them the recession isn’t over and the economy isn’t growing again until they’re materially benefiting from it. Hearing all this happy talk from government while experiencing 10% unemployment and very tough times equals a “deficit of trust”.

Obama claimed that steps taken by his team are responsible for putting two million people to work “who would otherwise be unemployed.” Just 27% of voters say that statement is true. Fifty-one percent (51%) say it’s false.

I don’t think it takes a political junkie to figure out who make up the 27% that believe this claim. This number is not only highly suspect, there have been a number of stories written about false job reports, stimulus funds to nonexistent congressional districts and zip codes that don’t exist. And we were told that “Sheriff Joe Biden” would be the one monitoring all this and ensuring the funds were spent properly to create jobs. If you can’t get the Congressional districts or zip codes right and don’t know where those funds went, why would anyone believe the job numbers that were supposedly “created or saved?” Again – a deficit in trust.

Personally I like the deficit in trust when it comes to government. That is both healthy and necessary as far as I’m concerned. The truth of anything a politician says, claims or promises should be taken with very skeptical grain of salt. While it is true that there was an era when the public was more accepting of government and considered it to be an ally and a “friend”, government has managed, over the years, to kill that perception (thank goodness). Now people are more readily seeing government for what it is – an intrusive, costly, ever expanding behemoth, bent on gathering more and more power and devouring our national wealth and liberty.

The fact that the public is waking up to this, as the numbers indicate, is a good sign, despite the fact that the statists claim that general skepticism and resistance (a hearkening back to our roots in freedom) makes us “ungovernable.” And perhaps it does. After all, “give me liberty or give me death” certainly smacks of someone who certainly was considered ungovernable by the rulers of his time.  Perhaps the “ungovernable’s” time, of necessity, has come again.

~McQ

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GITMO Eyed For KSM Trial

The Guantanamo Bay circus continues and comes full circle:

The trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed won’t be held in lower Manhattan and could take place in a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, sources said last night.

Administration officials said that no final decision had been made but that officials of the Department of Justice and the White House were working feverishly to find a venue that would be less expensive and less of a security risk than New York City.

The back-to-the-future Gitmo option was reported yesterday by Fox News and was not disputed by White House officials.

So much for that stale “fierce moral urgency” bit. I don’t think anyone believes that campaign slogan any more.

Funny how this administration, which claimed to have the moral high ground on the issue of Gitmo, now understands why it exists and why military tribunals were the preferred method of dealing with terrorists who’ve declared war on us.

Heck of a job, Eric.

~McQ

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The GOP’s Tactical Mistake

I’m of the opinion that politicians are usually not quite as smart as they think they are.

Yesterday the GOP helped prove my point.

They invited the President to their caucus retreat.  It’s a pro-forma invitation.  To their surprise, he accepted.  And then he took control of the event by suggesting the media be allowed in.  In a tactical mistake, the Republicans agreed.  Why?  Because, as usual, they were more concerned about what others would say about them (specifically and pundits and the media) than they were about how the situation would be seen by the public.

In the end, they end up looking foolish in front of both.

They were outflanked by the President. The desire to be seen in a certain light was overshadowed by the result they unwittingly enabled.

What am I talking about? What was the tactical mistake?

Quite simply the format of the meeting to which they agreed. They handed the President a perfect, uninterrupted platform from which to do exactly what he did – lecture them – with a minimum of risk to himself and maximum of exposure to his benefit.  Decorum demanded they sit and take it. No Joe Wilson “you lie” on this one. Sit and take.  And take they did – Obama was able to spin the myth of their intransigence and obstructionism as the crux of this year’s problems.

Rule One: You never give your political opponent a format that favors him and his message.  The President understood the advantage he was being handed and decided that while it was a bit of a political risk, it was one heavily weighted in his favor and well worth taking.  Anyone who watched it understands why.

The question and answer wasn’t much better – although Republicans did get him to admit their proposals did exist and were substantive. But other than that, the exchange was not at all what the GOP had hoped for.

Surely some among the GOP leadership must have foreseen that this format presented a gold-plated opportunity for Obama to do just what he did.

As for the President, he got the opportunity for a one-sided vent. Again, as usual, it was “just words”. But in this media driven political culture, “just words” are a means for scoring mostly meaningless political points, but points none the less.

It was a President in denial. And for those of us who’ve followed what’s happened this year (and what he has and hasn’t done) that was clear in his words. This was a man trying to justify himself and shift the blame for this year’s failure – as usual. Unfortunately, because he had the podium, that’s the only voice that was really heard that was able to remain on message. So he wins that rhetorical round. But it doesn’t mean what he said was true. It only means he got to say it without any real rebuttal.

My favorite line was “I’m not an ideologue”.

Of course he is. If he were the pragmatic politician he claims to be, he’d have pursued jobs and the economy as his first priority beginning last year. He didn’t. He instead pursued (and continues to pursue, in the face of majority public opposition) his party’s ideological agenda. Those are the actions of an ideologue, self-denial notwithstanding.

Hopefully the GOP will, should this ever happen again, change the format to that more like that which the UK has when the PM interacts with the opposition party in the House of Commons. No speeches or lectures, a true back and forth in which both sides have the opportunity to give as good as they get. I’ve admired and enjoyed that tradition of theirs for years. That removes the advantage of yesterday’s format and allows a truly “frank exchange” to take place.

~McQ

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Weird Story Of The Day

If this is true, this is a guy that we most likely should encourage to stay in NoKo:

Saturday’s report by the conservative Dong-A Ilbo daily could not be confirmed independently.

Dong-A Ilbo, quoting an unidentified source, said the American was a 28-year-old man.

He crossed the border near the city of Tumen in northeast China into North Korea’s Onsong County on Monday, the daily said.

“I came here because I did not want to serve as a cannon fodder in the capitalist military. I want to serve in the North Korean army,” the American was quoted as telling North Koreans, according to the daily.

However his identity including his name and occupation remained unknown, the paper said.

Don’t want to be cannon fodder? In an all volunteer force? Don’t join.

Want to join an military that redefines the term “cannon fodder”. Join the NoKo People’s Army.

My guess is this person escaped from the funny farm and found their way to the land of the Funny Farm.

~McQ

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