The vaunted stimulus which President Obama claims is doing exactly what it was supposed to do is seen by a majority of others as a complete bust.
About 40% of U.S. workers believe the recession will continue for another full year, and their pessimism is justified. As paychecks shrink and disappear, consumers are more hesitant to spend and won’t lead the economy out of the doldrums quickly enough.
It may have made him unpopular in parts of the Obama administration, but Vice President Joe Biden was right when he said a week ago that the administration misread how bad the economy was and how effective the stimulus would be. It was supposed to be about jobs but it wasn’t. The Recovery Act was a single piece of legislation but it included thousands of funding schemes for tens of thousands of projects, and those programs are stuck in the bureaucracy as the government releases the funds with typical inefficiency.
As I and many others pointed out when it was being passed, the stimulus package was nothing more than a collection of porky earmarks on an unprecedented level. It was a lefty wet-dream come true – full access to the treasury and the power to do whatever they wanted. Democrats finally had the power to reward themselves and their constituencies and they took full advantage of it.
This wasn’t a “misreading” of the economy as Joe Biden likes to claim, but a misappropriation of funds to fulfill political dreams and promises that had been denied them for years.
Zuckerman wants to wave off the problems with execution to the “typical inefficiency” of government (but I bet he’s all for the government expanding its role in health care), but this recovery act isn’t just about government inefficiency or bureaucracy. It’s about where the Recovery Act’s money is aimed – and it isn’t aimed at creating jobs.
That’s why, despite the dire claim that if the Recovery Act wasn’t passed, unemployment would rise above 8%, unemployment continued to rise, unabated, to 9.5%. And it will climb higher. It was never targeted at creating (or even saving) jobs. Nor was it targeted toward stimulating the economy (by getting money out in the economy and circulating).
It was a 787 billion dollar payoff/payback pork bill – something both Obama and the Democrats denied but which was obvious to anyone who took the time to look into the provisions of the bill itself.
And now we’re supposed to believe that the economy was worse than they thought and they simply “misread” it.
For those of you paying attention, this is all a prelude to claiming a second “stimulus” is necessary, after having misappropriated almost a trillion of your dollars previously to pay off their political debt.
The answer, of course, is “no”.
They’ve already proven they can’t be trusted to address the problem at hand without succumbing to the lure of political payoffs. And, in fact, they gave those political payoffs higher priority than the economic distress we are suffering. They should not be given the opportunity to misappropriate anymore of your money to repeat the process.
Because they will.
Unlike the left, I’m having difficulty getting too excited about a CIA program that never got out of the planning stage. The NYT carries the story today. Essentially the gist is that the CIA, under the supervision of Darth Cheney, planned (for 8 years apparently) to deploy assassination teams to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives where ever they were to be found.
Certainly, had they actually done that and say “captured or killed” someone in a place other than Iraq or Afghanistan, I think there would certainly be legal questions (and problems) involved (assuming we did so without the knowledge and permission of the country in which the person targeted was to be found). But as is obvious in the NYT story, these plans were never executed and for all we know, it may be because of those concerns about its legality that it remained only a plan.
On the other hand, I can also understand the concern of those who say all such plans, by law, must be disclosed to the body charged with oversight, whether executed or not. That’s how rogue operations are prevented, and this non-disclosure, by definition, would make it such an operation. Oversight and disclosure are key to a free and open society, so I’m sympathetic to the complaint that this operation was hidden and that’s wrong.
But other than that, I’m not at all sure any investigation in this program is going to come off as anything other than a witch-hunt and find little sympathy for the investigators with the public at large. This, in the big scheme of things, is going to be considered slap-on-the-wrist stuff for most of the public. Al Qaeda is not a sympathetic organization and considering plans to take out their leadership isn’t going to be seen by the majority of Americans as a “bad” thing, especially when the plans in question were never executed.
What happened is UAVs provided a viable alternative. Putting these sorts of teams together presented all sorts of unanticipated problems which, in combination with the UAV option, quickly shelved the idea. Why the program continued for 8 years and why Congress wasn’t informed are legitimate questions that deserve answers.
Special prosecutors and a legal witch-hunt, however, will not shed any more light on the subject and will find a largely unsympathetic public quickly on the side of those who sought, however clumsily, to protect us and against those who push the prosecution.
Just thought you should know:
While unemployment rose steadily for white New Yorkers from the first quarter of 2008 through the first three months of this year, the number of unemployed blacks in the city rose four times as fast, according to a report to be released on Monday by the city comptroller’s office. By the end of March, there were about 80,000 more unemployed blacks than whites, according to the report, even though there are roughly 1.5 million more whites than blacks here.
Across the nation, the surge in unemployment has cut across all demographic lines, and the gap between blacks and whites has risen, but at a much slower rate than in New York.
Economists said they were not certain why so many more blacks were losing their jobs in New York, especially when a large share of the layoffs in the city have been in fields where they are not well represented, like finance and professional services. But in those sectors, the economists suggested that blacks may have had less seniority when layoffs occurred. And black workers hold an outsize share of the jobs in retailing and other service industries that have been shrinking as consumers curtail their spending.
Hmm, so maybe it’s just NYC that’s racist?
“Low-wage workers and workers who lack skills are really getting hit hard,” he said. “These are the workers who are sort of fungible. They lose their jobs very quickly, particularly in retail, the people who move boxes and do unskilled work. There are large numbers of African-Americans in that sector.”
Manufacturing, which has shed more jobs than any other sector of the city’s economy, had become a mainstay for black workers, Mr. Jones said. Government jobs had also become a prime source of solid, stable work for many blacks in the city, he added. But lately there have been cutbacks there, too, as falling tax revenue has forced the paring back of budgets.
So it’s those who hire unskilled workers who are racist? This theme is confusing.
Still, Mr. Parrott’s analysis painted a stark picture of how uneven the effects have been for whites, blacks and members of other minorities. His figures show that whites gained about 130,000 jobs in the year that ended April 30 over the previous 12 months, but blacks, Hispanics and Asians all lost jobs during that period. Employment fell by about 17,000 jobs for blacks, 26,000 jobs for Hispanics and 18,000 for Asians and other ethnic groups, the data show.
“That’s a black-and-white employment picture,” Mr. Parrott said. “It’s like night and day over the 12 months. “There’s a real racial shift taking place in the city’s labor market in the past year.”
Okay, I’ve got it now. It’s white New Yorkers who are racist. Or maybe its the high-skilled labor market that’s racist? Again, I’m not sure.
But the article seems to imply pretty strongly that racism is at the bottom of this problem. Otherwise, why not mention how many of the unemployed are men, or of prime-age, or well-educated? Heck, why not mention that of the
108,000 [139,100 newly] unemployed workers in NYC [over the 12 month period between April 2008 and 2009], 61,000 [92,000] (or a little more than 56% [66%]) are white (which really makes you wonder where the 130,000 jobs figure came from)?* Obviously, the story is intended to tell us that somebody is being racist, and that’s why the “black-white gap in joblessness” is being discussed at all.
Welcome to post-racial Obamaland. If you don’t know whose fault it is, then it’s probably yours, racist.
UPDATE: Those numbers (in the sentence marked above with the *) were really bothering me. I went back and looked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for New York City’s unemployment and discovered that the NYT article is way off. The number of jobs lost between April 2008 and April 2009 was 139,100, of which (according to the article) 17,000 were lost by blacks, 26,000 were lost by Hispanics, and 18,000 were lost by Asians and other races. Somehow or another, Mr. Parrott, who the article cites for the numbers, came up with 130,000 jobs gained by whites in this period. Of course, that makes absolutely no sense because, if it were true, then there would have been an increase in employment during that period, and the unemployment rate would have fallen, not skyrocketed. Instead, 139,100 people became unemployed, only 47,000 of whom were non-white. Ergo, instead of whites gaining 130,000 jobs, they lost 92,000.
There are other problems with the article as well, some of which you can discover by reading the NYT (in fact, the stories are written by the same person). For example, the story above cites low-wage, manufacturing and government workers as hardest hit, but last month the picture was just the opposite (emphasis added):
In the private work force, the weakness in May was concentrated in the fields of communications media, advertising and other information services, as well as in finance and education, according to James Brown, an analyst with the state’s Labor Department.
Those losses offset employment gains in tourism-related businesses and construction, Mr. Brown said. He said that aggressive price-cutting by hotels had kept tourists visiting and saved jobs. Construction benefited from the flow of federal stimulus funds, he added.
The latest numbers, Mr. Brown said, illustrate that New York’s economy is still contracting, despite recent fluctuations in the city’s unemployment rate, which was 8 percent in April.
“Although the unemployment rate actually dipped slightly in three of the last five months, the trend is still strongly upward,” he said. “Despite some positive notes, the city’s job market is still weak and the weakest areas — financial activities and professional and business services — will not resume growth until after the national economy improves.”
I’m sure there’s other stuff that’s wrong as well, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are a racist.
At least that’s what Robert Samuelson sees for us. I can’t really dispute his numbers either:
For the past half-century, federal spending has averaged about 20 percent of GDP, federal taxes about 18 percent of GDP and the budget deficit 2 percent of GDP. The CBO’s projection for 2020 — which assumes the economy has returned to “full employment” — puts spending at 26 percent of GDP, taxes at a bit less than 19 percent of GDP and a deficit above 7 percent of GDP. Future spending and deficit figures continue to grow.
What this means is that balancing the budget in 2020 would require a tax increase of almost 50 percent from the last half-century’s average. Remember, that average was 18 percent of GDP. To get from there to 26 percent of GDP (spending in 2020) would require an additional 8 percentage points. In today’s dollars, that would be about $1.1 trillion, a 44 percent annual tax increase. Even these figures may be optimistic, because CBO’s projections for defense and “nondefense discretionary” spending may be unrealistically low. This last category covers much of what government does: environmental regulation, aid to education, highway construction, law enforcement, homeland security.
Now, this should come as no surprise, really, to anyone with a passing knowledge of accounting. When you increase spending without increasing revenue, you end up with a deficit. And what we’ve seen the government doing for decades is exactly that. Now it’s in the midst of piling up massive deficits and planning huge increases in government.
And it’s not all the politicians fault. After all the average American keeps returning the same fiscally irresponsible people to the same place where they can continue doing what they’ve been doing for decades – spending us into bankruptcy.
Because, as Samuelson notes, Americans like the benefits even if they don’t like the taxes. So the formula has been a little different for each party but the result has been precisely the same:
Republicans want to cut taxes without cutting spending. Democrats want to increase spending without increasing taxes, except on the rich. The differences between the parties are shades of gray. Hardly anyone asks the hard questions of who doesn’t need benefits, which programs are expendable and what taxes might cover remaining deficits.
In fact, much harder questions are routinely ignored, such as “why is government getting into _________ at all?” To me that is the key question that is never asked. Name your program and tell me when anyone asks why government is involving themselves in such things?
It all comes back to the fundamental question which, over the centuries, has seen the answer change radically – “What is the basic function of legitimate government?”
Few are going to be able to argue successfully that the answer in 1781 was the same as it is today, are they? And you don’t really have to be an economist to understand what this direction we seem to be intent upon taking means for our future. It should also be clear by now that those who’ve have gotten us into this mess have little incentive to change their ways and certainly no stomach for the sort of work it would entail:
There is little appetite for any of this, and so we face the consequences of much bigger government. Certainly higher taxes for future Americans. Probably a less robust economy. The CBO notes that elevated deficits would penalize saving, investment and income, while unprecedented tax burdens could “slow the growth of the economy, making the [government’s] spending burden harder to bear.” To such warnings, Americans’ collective response is: Go away.
You can go back to sleep now.
Surprisingly, one member of the Washington Post – Jackson Diehl – has noticed the double standard the OAS has applied when it comes to Honduras vs. Venezuela.
Venezuelan Antonio Ledezma is no gadfly or dissident; as the mayor of Caracas, he received almost as many votes in last November’s election (700,000) as Manuel Zelaya (915,000) did when he won the presidency of Honduras in 2005. Yet while the Organization of American States has been united in demanding Zelaya’s return to his post, and in suspending Honduras for violating the Inter-American Democratic Charter, it has studiously ignored the case of Ledezma — who, since his election, has been illegally driven from his office by a mob, stripped of most of his powers and budget, and subjected to criminal investigation by the regime of Hugo Chávez.
The reaction of the OAS? “None of our business”.
While championing Zelaya — whose attempt to illegally rewrite the constitution united Honduras’s Congress and Supreme Court against him — Insulza refused to interest himself in the case of Ledezma and other elected Venezuelan mayors and state governors who have been subjected to power-stripping and criminal prosecution by Chávez. The OAS “cannot be involved in issues of internal order of member states,” said a statement Insulza issued after a June meeting in Washington with Ledezma — a declaration he quickly contradicted once the pro-Chávez Zelaya was deposed.
The “Insulza” Diehl is referring too is OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza who has been absolutely uninterested in what has happened to the democratically elected mayor of Caracus or, for that matter, state governors and other mayors who’ve essentially enjoyed the same fate as Ledezma in Venezuela.
The reason? Simple – Insulza is counting on, in fact banking on, the support of Hugo Chavez for a second term as OAS GS. Insulza, who Diehl characterizes as a “Chilean socialist” knows he’s dead in the water without it. So he’s not at all inclined to rock the boat when it comes to Chavez’s illegal and unconstitutional moves in Venezuela.
Ledezma has courageously been pushing Insulza to acknowledge the problems in Venezuela:
Ledezma’s hunger strike eventually shamed Insulza into making a phone call in which he promised to meet with the Venezuelan mayors and governors in Washington, and to investigate their charges that Chávez had violated the democracy charter. But Insulza later repeated that “it is very difficult to determine how a country should organize itself internally.”
This is the face of the “new” OAS, which recently admitted the totalitarian dictatorship of Cuba into fold. It is now an organization which is driven by a socialist agenda that uses the veneer of ‘democracy’ as a way of legitimizing advancing its agenda throughout Latin America and as a weapon to thwart real democracy should it attempt to stop that agenda from successfully subverting a country.
But it obviously has no desire to really support democracy or investigate illegal and unconstitutional moves by despots in good ideological standing with the OAS leadership. That is reserved for those countries which haven’t yet converted to the socialist “Bolivar revolution” championed by Hugo Chavez – the defacto leader of the OAS. And, as Diehl points out, the OAS has been quite happy with the new administrations policies:
Such willful disregard of political repression was the prevailing policy among OAS members before the Honduran coup — including the Obama administration. Though Chávez launched his latest and most virulent campaign against elected opposition leaders and independent media shortly after Obama’s inauguration, the administration for months refused to publicly respond; instead, it agreed on a new exchange on ambassadors with Venezuela and repeatedly announced its hope to “work with” the caudillo.
My goodness, it sounds like Iran, doesn’t it?
Diehl holds out hope that the administration is figuring it out citing a recent Hillary Clinton interview with Globavision as proof. One interview, however, doesn’t prove that the administration has figured out it is being played like a fiddle or that it will take another look at how it has reacted to Honduras or the agenda of the OAS.
Diehl cites testimony before Congress the day after the interview and wonders what it means:
In testimony to Congress the next day, the State Department’s incoming assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Arturo Valenzuela, said that following the Honduras crisis, “it should be clear that the collective response of the hemisphere in support of democracy should not be limited to taking action simply when elected leaders are removed from office by force.” Does that mean the United States now will also push Insulza and the OAS to judge what is happening in Venezuela — and in Nicaragua, Ecuador and other states where freedom of the press and free elections have been under sustained attack? The administration’s high-profile effort to defend a hostile Honduran president has provided an opportunity to take the offensive against the hemisphere’s most dangerous anti-democratic actors.
Given what I’ve seen so far from this administration and its foreign policy, I’d have to guess the answer is a flat “no”.
Keith Hennesey does a fair job of fisking President Obama’s Washington Post editorial in which Obama tries to put a happy face on what his administration has done thus far to combat the recession. Hennesy included a chart by Don Marron that graphically takes Obama to task on one of his favorite claims, namely:
Nearly six months ago, my administration took office amid the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Now Obama’s claim is certainly close to being true, but by 1/10th of a percent, it isn’t quite there. And, it could be argued, the past 6 months of this administration’s policies has moved it closer to being what he claims than it was when he took office.
But when he talks about the gloom and doom of the “most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression”, remember this chart. He and the Democrats are and have been using that claim as a means of justifying all sorts of deficit spending. It is also the means to justify health care reform (claim: health care spending is going to “bankrupt us”) and cap-and-trade (claim: the route to fiscal health is “green jobs” and “green industry”).
The point here is to understand how overplayed the “most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression” really is. Yeah, it’s a nasty one, but in comparison to the Great Depression it simply doesn’t compare. In fact, it isn’t even close.
UPDATE: Here’s a perfect example of an exaggerated and, naturally, unfalsifiable claim by a politician.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the health care bill that will presented on the House floor.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
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 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
Call in number: (718) 664-9614
Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.
Subject(s): Honduras/China, pending legislation on the environment (cap-and-trade) and health care and some of the “nuggets” to be found in there, the question of another stimulus and Obama’s claim this one is working just fine – and anything else we feel like talking about.
UPDATE [Dale]: Health care, too.
Why don’t they just shut up!
The science is settled! We have consensus.
Well, except for those 32,000 American scientists who have signed a petition saying they don’t agree that anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming is threatening society as we know it.
And now we have another one – another skeptical scientist who attempts to enlighten the cult of AGW as to how the science actually works. I’ll let him lay it out:
So why the fuss lately about man-made global warming? The melting Arctic? Do you know we’ve only been monitoring the extent of Arctic ice via satellites since 1979? And while Arctic ice coverage has declined, it’s actually been rising since 2006. And have you heard Antarctic sea ice has increased by nearly 14% since 1979?
The global warming crowd is quick to blame the release of carbon dioxide thru the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gasoline, natural gas, and coal, for warming our climate and setting us on a path for doom.
Since before the industrial revolution the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising, up to around 385 parts per million by volume today. That amounts to a miniscule 0.0385% of the atmosphere. Increased CO2 levels are beneficial to plants since they require carbon dioxide to grow. In this experiment, plants exposed to CO2 levels of 1,090 parts per million by volume by far exhibited the most growth.
So, does carbon dioxide drive the climate? The answer is no!
Natural cycles play a much bigger role with the sun at the top of the list. A look at total solar irradiance since 1600 shows a distinct correlation to temperature readings. Readings are higher now than anytime in the past 400 years!
Then there’s El Nino Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, the Arctic Oscillation, the Pacific-North American Teleconnection, Milankovitch forcing, ocean variations, and so on and so forth.
Is there any way to model all these variables? Again, the answer is no! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, has tried and failed!
Back in 2001 the IPCC released a suite of computer model solutions depicting the future state of the atmosphere. These reports by the IPCC are used repeatedly to drive policy around the world. But, if you look at what’s happened since then, global temperatures are actually on a downward trend, whether you look at actual thermometer readings across the world or satellite-derived temperatures. This when the IPCC models were predicting continued warming.
Can you believe it? Another one who insists models at least be able to model what is happening by using all the variables? And that the models be able to actually predict what is happening instead of modeling something that isn’t?
What’s up with demands like that?! We’ve heard from the oracle, he’s told us the earth has a fever and that’s that.
Gore said it, enough “scientists” believed it and that ends it!
Now let’s get that cap-and-trade bill through the Senate and save the planet.
I‘m so glad that the Democrats have settled on how to pay for their latest government boondoggle even if it is the same old formula:
House Democrats will ask the wealthiest Americans to help pay for overhauling the health care system with a $550 billion income tax increase, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said Friday.
The proposal calls for a surtax on individuals earning at least $280,000 in adjusted gross income and couples earning more than $350,000, said the chairman, Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York.
It would generate about $550 billion over 10 years to pay about half the cost of the legislation, Mr. Rangel said. As the proposal envisions it, the rest of the cost would be covered by lower spending on Medicare, the government health plan for the elderly, and other health care savings.
Tax the rich and squeeze the health care industry with lower Medicare payments. Sounds like a very “healthy” and stable way of paying for “health care reform” doesn’t it? A perfectly sure way to accomplish the stated Obama priorities of “expanding health insurance coverage to virtually all Americans and curtailing the steep rise in the cost of medical care while improving patient outcomes.”
Expand coverage, cut payments and improve outcomes.
Yup – “I believe!”