Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Liberal Democrats Try To Crank CRA Up Again

There are many, myself included, who believe the ’70s era Community Reinvestment Act was one of the key reasons for the financial meltdown we experienced since it required lending institutions to lend to unqualified borrowers.

Byron York reports that some Democrats in Congress refuse to acknowledge that and are now pushing to expand both the scope and power of the CRA:

This morning House Financial Services Committee chairman Rep. Barney Frank held a hearing on H.R. 1479, the “Community Reinvestment Modernization Act of 2009.” The bill’s purpose is “to close the wealth gap in the United States” by increasing “home ownership and small business ownership for low- and moderate-income borrowers and persons of color.” It would extend CRA’s strict lending requirements to non-bank institutions like credit unions, insurance companies, and mortgage lenders. It would also make CRA more explicitly race-based by requiring CRA standards to be applied to minorities, regardless of income, going beyond earlier requirements that applied solely to low- and moderate-income areas.

Barney Frank has never acknowledged the role of government in the collapse of the housing market. He’s refused to acknowledge the role of the CRA or Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae. And, apparently determined to act on his ignorance is now in the middle of trying to revive the program that was at least partly responsible for our financial woes. This makes absolutely no sense.

Republicans on the committee strongly oppose the plan. “Instead of looking to expand the number of institutions that must abide by Community Investment Act regulations,” California Rep. Ed Royce said in prepared opening remarks at today’s hearing, “I think we should reassess the role this and other government mandates played in the financial collapse and consider scaling it back.”

In private conversation, other Republicans were more emphatic. “There is clearly arguable evidence that the CRA is at the root of this financial meltdown,” says one GOP committee member. “So what do they do? They try to expand CRA.”

Republicans also made sure that the CRA’s connection to ACORN was made clear:

Republican critics point out that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has used the CRA to pressure banks to pour money into ACORN and its affiliates, allowing ACORN to facilitate loans to clearly unqualified borrowers. Now, with ACORN under fire after a series of undercover videos showing ACORN workers in Baltimore, Washington DC, New York, and California openly encouraging prostitution, tax evasion, and other crimes, Republicans on the committee are citing the CRA-ACORN connection as yet another reason the Act should not be expanded.

ACORN is presently preparing to investigate itself. A clean bill of health is expected within a few weeks. In the meantime, the bill has 51 cosponsors among the most liberal members of Congress. As York points out, if Democrats in the House want to pass this they can. One wonders if the liberal caucus would be willing to trade the “public option” for passage of this expansion of the CRA and a promise treat ACORN kindly when the time comes. Of course, it would have to be approved by the Senate as well, and that’s a much more dicey prospect.

The point, of course, is this is sheer madness on the part of the Democrats in the House. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It appears that’s precisely what the liberal members of Congress are bound and determined to do.

~McQ

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Did Obama Trade Missile Defense For Iranian Sanctions?

Regardless of the reason, he’s left both Poland and the Czech Republic very unhappy with the announcement today that the US is “scrapping” the promised missile defense shield in Eastern Europe:

The former Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, said: “This is not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence. It puts us in a position wherein we are not firmly anchored in terms of partnership, security and alliance, and that’s a certain threat.”

The Polish deputy foreign minister, Andrzej Kremer, saidthat Warsaw had heard from different sources there were “serious chances” the anti-missile system would not be deployed.

Russia, of course, is sure to be quite happy with the plan, although it hasn’t yet reacted to the news.

Mr Obama, who is due to meet the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev next week in New York, says he wants better ties with Russia so that the two former Cold War foes can co-operate on Afghanistan and reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.

He may also have been reassured by Moscow’s growing willingness to discuss further sanctions against Iran.

Not exactly a sign that the US is a solid and dependable ally to the former eastern satellites of Russia. It has been interesting to watch the foreign policy of this administration develop. Thus far, it has certainly made all sorts of overtures to those we haven’t exactly had great relationships with – but for the most part, as in this case, those overtures have come at the expense of existing relationships with supposed “allies”.

For the 600th time – Russia is not our friend and never will be.   Cooperation in various areas is fine but it shouldn’t be bought at the expense of our allies’ security or pursued from a position of weakness. While the missile defense shield may have only been a token defense, to those it was promised, it meant a solid commitment from the US to their defense. Withdrawing it without notice makes the US much less of a reliable ally in their eyes and may see them trying to seek some sort of accommodation with Russia now. If the intent of US foreign policy to this point was to keep them out of Russia’s orbit, this sort of move is sure to force them more into it.

~McQ

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Cap-And-Trade = $1,726 Per Family Per Year

That number doesn’t come from some opposition think tank or the CBO. According to CBS, that number is one calculated by the administration as the cost of Waxman-Markey:

The Obama administration has privately concluded that a cap and trade law would cost American taxpayers up to $200 billion a year, the equivalent of hiking personal income taxes by about 15 percent.

A previously unreleased analysis prepared by the U.S. Department of Treasury says the total in new taxes would be between $100 billion to $200 billion a year. At the upper end of the administration’s estimate, the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year.

Interestingly, the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, put the cost at $1,500 a few months ago and were slammed for using scare tactics to try to defeat the bill. Other estimates range as high as $3,100. Democrats have used $800 a year as their estimate based on a study by MIT’s John Reilly.

The FOIA’d document written by Judson Jaffe, who joined the Treasury Department’s Office of Environment and Energy in January 2009, says: “Given the administration’s proposal to auction all emission allowances, a cap-and-trade program could generate federal receipts on the order of $100 to $200 billion annually.” (Obviously, any final cap-and-trade system may be different from what Obama had proposed, and could yield higher or lower taxes.)

Because personal income tax revenues bring in around $1.37 trillion a year, a $200 billion additional tax would be the equivalent of a 15 percent increase a year. A $100 billion additional tax would represent a 7 or 8 percent increase a year.

Of course, whatever the cost, it will hit those who can least afford it the hardest. What will that mean? Well, if history is any indication, it means a certain percentage of the population will be subsidized by another percentage of the population. Whether in the form of tax credits (unlikely, since the segment of the population likely to need help probably doesn’t pay taxes anyway) or direct subsidization, it will end up as a giant, bureaucratic redistribution scheme riddled with fraud, waste and abuse. For some families the cost will be close to zero. For others it will be well above $1,726 per family when they pay for those subsidies in other taxes.

And Jimmy Carter doesn’t yet understand why people are angry? Buy a clue, Mr. Carter.

~McQ

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Surprise: Jimmy Carter Plays The Race Card (Update)

Racialist Jimmy Carter plays the race card:

“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man,” Carter said. “I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that share the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans.”

Carter continued, “And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.”

Notice the key words – “I think..”. Not really. If he did his first inclination wouldn’t be to consider the opposition to the government takeover of health care as “animosity toward President Barack Obama”. If he really thought about it, he’d have to factor in the trillions of dollars that have been poured into banks, financial institutions and car companies – something a majority of the nation was strongly against. If he actually did think about it he’d have to consider the 9 trillion dollars in budget deficits conservatively promised and a trillion dollar “stimulus” bill that isn’t working. And cap-and-trade that will increase the cost of energy for everyone, not to mention a pork laden 700 billion spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president.

If Carter actually did think about things instead of taking the easy way out and playing the race card, he’d have to confront the real reasons for much of the anger and animosity and recognize they have nothing to do with the race or color of the president, but instead with the direction of the country. If Carter’s thesis is true then he will be able to easily explain why the independents, the primary group which elected Barack Obama, have been deserting the Democrats in droves.

Did they suddenly develop racist “inclinations”? Or is it possible they feel that hope-and-change was really just bait-and-switch?

UPDATE: How well is the race card playing? About as well as you might expect:

Twelve percent (12%) of voters nationwide believe that most opponents of President Obama’s health care reform plan are racist. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of voters disagree, and 21% are not sure.

When every set back or bit of opposition is blamed on race, pretty soon it becomes another in a long line of excuses for failure instead of a real reason to be concerned.

~McQ

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About That Claim That Doctors Support Obamacare

The Democrats have made the claim that the AMA, doctors and nurses all support the Obama plan for health care reform. But if a new IBD/TIPP poll is to believed, it is possible a large number of doctors would leave their practice if the present version of health care reform was passed:

Two of every three practicing physicians oppose the medical overhaul plan under consideration in Washington, and hundreds of thousands would think about shutting down their practices or retiring early if it were adopted, a new IBD/TIPP Poll has found.

And, like most Americans, a majority of doctors polled found the administration claims to be unbelievable:

72% of the doctors polled disagree with the administration’s claim that the government can cover 47 million more people with better-quality care at lower cost.

Additionally:

Two-thirds, or 65%, of doctors say they oppose the proposed government expansion plan. This contradicts the administration’s claims that doctors are part of an “unprecedented coalition” supporting a medical overhaul.

Another fact that should be taken into consideration when the administration claims that the AMA supports their plan, presently the AMA only represents 18% of American physicians.

Four of nine doctors, or 45%, said they “would consider leaving their practice or taking an early retirement” if Congress passes the plan the Democratic majority and White House have in mind.

In 2006, there were 800,000 doctors practicing in the US. A 45% reduction would leave 440,000 doctors to treat the present insured population plus the 40 million more the administration plans to add.

I’ll leave it to you to do the math, but if you can figure out how fewer physicians and more patients equals less cost, better care and no changes in the health care you enjoy today, I’d be interested to hear it.

If the answer is “rationing care”, I believe we’ve been saying that for quite some time, haven’t we?

~McQ

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Punish Joe Wilson Or The KKK Shall Ride Again!

You would think the Democrats would learn, but that seems to be something to which they’re immune. I’ve come to believe that overreaching is in their DNA.

As you know, they’ve tried everything they know to do to capitalize on the fact that Joe Wilson yelled “you lie” at Barack Obama during his speech before Congress last week. It was inappropriate. Everyone agrees. Wilson said so in his apology to President Obama. President Obama graciously accepted his apology.

End of story?

Of course not. The 5th graders who inhabit our Congress (and that’s true of both sides, but in this case it is decidedly about the Democrats) have decided that isn’t enough. So they’re now embroiled in a fight to pass a “resolution of disapproval” in the House because Wilson is of the opinion the apology he issued immediately after the event to the president was sufficient and he’s not about to repeat it on the floor of the House.

Not good enough, the Dems say. And to add fuel to the fire, we get this dopey statement from Georgia’s own Hank Johnson, who I once thought was a fairly sane replacement for Cynthia McKinney:

Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst last week is drawing new recriminations from his colleagues, with a member of the Congressional Black Caucus suggesting that a failure to rebuke Wilson is tantamount to supporting the most blatant form of organized racism in American history.

In an obvious reference to the KKK, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Tuesday that people will put on “white hoods and ride through the countryside” if emerging racist attitudes, which he says were subtly supported by Wilson, are not rebuked. He said Wilson must be disciplined as an example.

Ride through the countryside with white hoods? Good lord. The race card is again played – and badly.

Maybe it’s the water in the district, but he’s sounds as batty as McKinney right now. “White hoods” indeed.

~McQ

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Two Reasons Americans Don’t Want Obamacare

While the rest of the nation ponders whether Kanye West is a “jackass” and President Obama was correct in calling him that, I’ve been thinking about why the Democrats and Obama are having such a tough time selling their health care proposals.

Obviously part of the push back by the people has been because of the recession. Common sense says you don’t exacerbate a bad financial situation by adding debt. Nothing anyone has claimed about the “health care savings” reform would bring has resonated with the public. That’s because people don’t believe or trust the rosy estimates that Democrats have used. And of course it hasn’t helped that the CBO has shot down just about every one of their claims as well.

In fact it looks a lot like 1993 all over again according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released today:

Sixteen percent of the respondents to the most recent poll say their health care would improve if the proposed changes are enacted, and 32 percent say their health care will be worse if that happens.

By comparison, the same poll in late September of 1993 found 19 percent saying their health care would improve and 31 percent saying it would get worse.

Even deploying Obama to use his vaunted oratorical skills to turn the tide hasn’t worked according to another poll:

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken after the president’s dramatic address to a joint session of Congress last week shows Americans almost evenly divided over passing a health care bill and inclined to think it would make some of the system’s vexing problems worse, not better.

Six in 10 say Obama’s proposal, if enacted, would not achieve his goals of expanding coverage to nearly all Americans without raising taxes on the middle class or lowering the quality of health care. For the first time, a majority disapprove of the way he’s handling health care policy.

So what’s the problem? Why does public opinion seem so dead set against what Democrats feel is beneficial legislation for all?

Well, what Obama and the Democrats are running up against is the same problem Bill Clinton et. al experienced. People, for the most part, are quite satisfied with the insurance they have and don’t want to chance government messing that up. And they understand that the chance of government messing it up, given how government does most things, is very high.

Although polls have consistently shown that just over half of Americans think the health-care system is in need of reform, a substantial majority say they are satisfied with their own insurance and care. Any hope of change will require their support, according to experts and advocates across the ideological spectrum.

“They are critical,” said Drew E. Altman, president and chief executive of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization. “This debate will turn on people like this trying to answer the question ‘Will this benefit my family?’ “

Most are concluding it won’t benefit their family and, in fact, may end up being detrimental to them.

Democrats seem to be missing the point that while health care reform is popular, their version of health care reform isn’t. I guess health care reform somewhat resembles porn – the people will know it when they see it. But they’re not seeing it in the proposals the Democrats are offering right now – and that is why there’s this massive push back.

The majority of those opposed do not believe the claims that nothing will change pertaining to their health care. It simply doesn’t makes sense to them that the scope and goals of the change being discussed won’t effect their coverage.

Then there are the seniors:

One of President Obama’s biggest challenges this fall will be persuading seniors to accept his healthcare proposals. Many elderly voters are deeply worried about “Obama-care” because they fear that his plans will reduce their coverage and increase their costs. Seniors, in fact, are more opposed to Obama’s healthcare ideas than any other age group.

Of course the irony, as pointed out any number of times, is that most seniors are on a government program. Rarely pointed out is the fact that they have no choice in the matter. Consequently those who love to point this out and crow about how seniors “like” their government insurance never follow that up with the fact that seniors are forced into a system which may or may not have been their first choice.

But that aside, seniors don’t like change. And, they’re smart people who understand that they are the demographic that spends the most on health care. Given that understanding, when the goal of “cutting costs” is put forward as a primary goal of the reform being discussed, they know where those cuts are most likely to be made.

But they have developed a deep skepticism toward Obama’s agenda of expanding the reach and power of Washington. They basically agree with the conservative attack that he is a liberal zealot who wants to inject the government into every nook and cranny of American life—including everyday decisions about the choice of doctors and medical plans, pollsters say. Some seniors specifically fear that the healthcare overhaul will take money away from their cherished Medicare program, and they don’t want to take that risk.

Only 35 percent of people 65 and older approve of Obama’s handling of healthcare, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll in August …

Their defense of a government medical insurance program for themselves and their skepticism of further government intrusion into our lives isn’t quite as contradictory (or ironic) once you understand the whys and wherefores of the mandatory nature of Medicare. Seniors aren’t interested in more government or the chance that the only insurance available to them will be cut to meet a savings goal.

Those are how the planets are lining up in the health care reform universe. Obama and the Dems aren’t succeeding in convincing the skeptics with their arguments. In fact, as it drags on, more skeptics are being born than believers.

The answer, devoid of politics, seems clear. Stop the process right now, reset the debate and actually have one. Find out what “reform” means to the public and act on that consensus. It may end up merely insuring those without insurance. It may be that and tort reform plus opening up the intra-state private insurance markets and eliminating mandates. Or more. Or less. But what should be clear to both the Democrats and Obama at this point is it is not what they’re offering.

The danger to them (electorally) and to us (reduction of liberty) is they’ll disregard that in the name of politics and ram through something we’ll all regret but find difficult get rid of once passed.

That’s what I fear and it appears that’s what some on the left are prepared to do. They have waited too long and have too much invested politically to back off now.

~McQ

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Senate Votes To Defund ACORN

You may remember that in my last post about ACORN (about the Census Bureau ending its relations ship with ACORN) I ended it calling for a complete defunding of ACORN. I’m pleased to announce that the Senate has heard me.

OK, I know better, but I’ve always wanted to say something like that – there, I’ve got it out of my system. If they won’t listen to a town full of tea partiers, I doubt they’re listening to me.

My guess is the third pimp sting in NYC did ACORN in. It becomes much harder to claim the people telling the faux pimp and prostitute how to scam the loan industry and the IRS weren’t trained to do so when they’re the third group to do it.

So this is good news:

The Senate voted Monday to block the Housing and Urban Development Department from giving grants to ACORN, a community organization under fire in several voter-registration fraud cases.

The 83-7 vote would deny housing and community grant funding to ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

The action came as the group is suffering from bad publicity after a duo of conservative activists posing as a prostitute and her pimp released hidden-camera videos in which ACORN employees in Baltimore gave advice on house-buying and how to account on tax forms for the woman’s income. Two other videos, aired frequently on media outlets such as the Fox News Channel, depict similar situations in ACORN offices in Brooklyn and Washington, D.C.

The Senate’s move would mean that ACORN would not be able to win HUD grants for programs such as counseling low-income people on how to get mortgages and for fair housing education and outreach.

The 7 voting against were 6 Democrats and 1 Socialist:

* Dick Durbin (D-IL)
* Roland Burris (D-IL)
* Robert Casey (D-PA)
* Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
* Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
* Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
* Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Apparently what ACORN has engaged in is all right with them.

I’m surprised, given the present atmosphere in DC that a real, honest to goodness bi-partisan vote could be made – but I guess the third video is a charm.

ACORN has sucked down 53 million tax payer dollars since 1994. My guess is they’ll dissolve ACORN, wait a few months and then reinvent themselves as some new group named after a nut. And as an aside, I have to wonder if the IRS will now review the tax forms submitted with ACORN as the preparer – with the advice they were handing out in Baltimore, DC and NYC there may be enough in back taxes and penalties to pay for all the uninsured and save ourselves from Obamacare. The silver lining in all of this.

Oh who am I kidding – I’m dancing in the street over this bit of misfortune and, hopefully, the demise of one of the most corrupt taxpayer supported organizations out there.

So long ACORN.

~McQ

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Whistling Past The Graveyard

Ezra Klein does what a lot on the left are doing since the Tea Party in DC – trying to pretend it doesn’t mean much. He does it by deciding the crowd was 30,000 to 50,000 (note to Klein, that’s acceptable only if you declare you’ve never looked at a single crowd picture from Saturday). At that size, it is fairly equal to the largest of the anti-war demonstrations. With that as his premise Klein trots this out:

Remember when the Iraq War protests stopped the Iraq War?

Yeah. Me neither. Nor, for that matter, does Fox News, or Rush Limbaugh, which leaves me a bit confused by their joyous reaction to the Tea Party that took place in Washington on Sunday. Estimates peg it somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 people, which makes it an admirable bit of organizing, but not a contender for the protest hall of fame. What it seems, rather, is the progression of a broader societal trend: The advent of online organizing is making it easier to connect large numbers of like-minded people and ask them to attend a rally. It’s done that for politicians like Barack Obama, protesters of all sorts and stripes, and even flash mobs.

If this was a flash mob, it was the granddaddy of flash mobs. Obviously it wasn’t. In fact it appears that the correct crowd size is “several hundred thousands”. Speaking of estimates, I’m seeing more and more nonpartisan estimates at 400,000 to 500,000.

That’s one heck of a lot of people with no real leadership gathering to protest the size and scope of government. And that’s what elected officials should find disquieting about this gathering. Klein tries to imply this was a product of “online organizing”. But it doesn’t really seem to be the case. Certainly the date was thrown out there and there’s little doubt that emails flew among certain groups, but there was nothing, organizationally, which would even approach organizational attempts like ANSWER or others on the anti-war side used to get protesters together.

It was more like “if you’re in the area and you have a problem with what’s being done in DC, stop by”. And about a half million did (not to mention the thousands upon thousands that went to local event like those held in Ft. Worth, TX and Quincy, IL).

This should give politicians pause. If that many people can be convinced to leave their couches and head toward the nation’s capital, how many who couldn’t make the trip but agreed are out there?

But the politicos and many pundits seem bound and determined to ignore what happened. What happened Saturday happened specifically because the half million who did show up are tired of being ignored. If you listen to David Axlerod, though, they’re going to continue to be ignored. In fact, worse than being ignored, they’re being dismissed:

White House senior adviser David Axelrod told Schieffer about the taxpayer protests this weekend: “I don’t think it’s indicative of the nation’s mood. In fact, I don’t believe some of the angriest, … most strident voices we saw during the summer were representative of the thousands of town-hall meetings that went on around the country — that came off peacefully, that were constructive, people voicing their points of view. …

“But this is … one of the great things about our country, is that people can express themselves, even if they’re not representative of the majority. … I don’t think we ought to be distracted by that. My message to them is: They’re wrong.

The message to Axelrod and Klein and all others who plan to continue to ignore this movement as insignificant, unrepresentative and “wrong” is pretty clear. Their arrogance borders on that of Louis XVI of France. And if they continue pushing the agenda of bigger and more expensive government, their end will be similar – a complete loss of power.

They still don’t get it – this isn’t just about health care.

~McQ

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