Free Markets, Free People

leadership

One picture tells the US’s problem

It is sort of surprising that it is even necessary to put this up, but as most of us know, people pay more attention to visual evidence than written. And written is sometimes open to misinterpretation. I challenge anyone to misinterpret this:

 

usa-income-statement

If the US were a business, this would be it’s “Income Statement”.   And this isn’t a one time “it’ll get better next year” sort of statement either.  Neither income nor spending are projected by the administration to be much different in its 10 year budget projections.

Note where 58% of the spending comes from.  Do your own calculations -the most simple, of course is taking $2.2 trillion from $3.5 trillion and understanding that you have a shortfall of S1.3 trillion.

The chart comes from a very interesting report from a financial analyst at KPCB, Mary Meeker.  She takes a look at the US’s finances as if the country was a business.  Business Insider (HT: Pundit Review) lays out some of the gory details and what is discussed in the report as recommendations:

• Spending as a percent of GDP rose 3 percent each year from 1790 and 1930. Worse: It rose 24% in 2010.

• Debt levels will be three times current levels by 2030. Entitlements and interest alone will exceed total revenue by 2025.
• Only 1 in 50 Americans needed Medicaid when it was first created in 1965, 1 in 6 Americans receives Medicaid now.
• Extended unemployment benefits could set back America Inc. $34 billion in the next two years alone.
• The only good investments: technology, education and infrastructure.
• The crucial reforms: entitlement and tax policies
• There is no quick-fix to America’s deficit problem. While raising taxes could help, the only real solution is cutting costs.
• Why we should cut Medicare benefits by 53%
• Why we should increase the retirement age to 73 or cut Social Security benefits by 12%.

Emphasis mine.  Essentially the ground truth about the country’s financial situation is the only way to get it in order is to commit to massive cuts in spending. Superfluous to that argument is any argument claiming certain programs or government departments or any other aspect of government should be exempt. That said, it is clear to anyone with eyes that the major problem lies in too much spending for entitlements. For instance how is it a program that was designed to fund medical care for the poor in this country and when started had 1 in 50 Americans enrolled now enrolls 1 in every 6 Americans?  My guess is you’ll find the same to be true of most so-called “anti-poverty” programs today. 

And the billions upon billions we throw at education through the Dept. of Education which hasn’t raised the yearly results of our students one iota since its inception.  Or the Department of Energy – created in Jimmy Carter’s day to do what?  Lessen our dependence on foreign oil.  That’s worked well hasn’t it?

We’re talking drastic action here, folks.   And we’re talking getting a grip and facing reality – not this “hey, make cuts but don’t touch our entitlements” nonsense that  some polls reflect.  Nor can these cuts fall victim to whining by special interests.  And it would be wonderful, in an obvious era of austerity, if the White House could manage a little leadership as well:

Last July, Obama announced that he wanted federal workers to cut down on business travel and commuting by car in order to reduce emissions produced by the federal government:

The White House was announcing Tuesday that the government will aim to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from indirect sources like employee driving by 13 percent in 2020, compared with 2008 levels.

That’s for everyone else.  The Obama’s of course, are exempt from such things and as an example, fly in their personal trainer every week for a workout.  Imagine the reduction in emissions if they were to actually practice what they preach and hire a local personal trainer.

Pulling it all together, this is the problem we face in getting the country’s house in order.  Those that are talking about (and actually trying) cutting spending are now cast as bad guys.  Special interests are spooling up their sob stories.  The bureaucracy is beginning to fortify the walls around its huge and expensive kingdom.  And much of the public wants cuts without pain.  Meanwhile, other than lip service, the so-called leadership of this country doesn’t seem to understand what leadership is, what it entails and why it is important to set a good example –  that is if they’re actually serious about doing what they claim we must do.

If this were a company, as Mary Meeker lays out in her study, investors would be cashing out as quickly as they could and others would be avoiding anything to do with this wreck.  The bottom line of Meeker’s report is the road down which we’ve kicked the can for decades has come to a dead-end.  We’re there.  We can’t kick it one single foot further.

The time has finally come and the question is, are we up to the task at hand?  Do we have the political will and leadership necessary to get done what must be done?  Unfortunately,  I don’t think so – financially speaking and addressing the quality of leadership available, the election of the empty suit in the White House couldn’t have come at a worse time. 

There are at least two ways this crisis will be solved.  Deliberately through tough and painful measures enacted by a leadership that directly confronts the problem and makes tough choices, or spontaneously when we reach a tipping point and everything collapses in a heap and we’re left surveying the ruins and wondering what happened.

Any guess as to which scenario I think is most likely?

~McQ

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The anticipated move to the center by Obama

Apparently that’s what everyone expects to hear in the SOTU address.  And most see it as a reflection of political reality.  Independents deserted the Democrats fairly quickly after the Obama administration took office, apparently not liking what they saw developing at all.  So here comes the inevitable shift – at least the perception of one – to the center in order to win them  back.

The left?  Where are they going to go?  Who else would they vote for?  They’re not going anywhere despite all their grumbling and mumbling about Obama’s attempt to move right (and yes, a move by Obama to the center means a distinct move to the right).  Here’s the reality:

A labor official, who asked not to be identified in order to speak more candidly about the president’s political situation, noted that “the midterm elections freed” Obama to work independently and without regard to his party’s left.

“The left understands that the choice in 2012 will be Obama or somebody far worse,” the official said. “They will have no choice, no matter what Obama says in the State of the Union address. No matter how much we complain, he knows that at the end of the day, we will be supporting him in 2012 — and that affects what he can do now. The choice for us will be an administration that disappointed us or a Republican administration that will be out to destroy us.”

Colorful language, but you get the drift.  The far left is stuck with him and Obama knows it.  It is the center where elections are won, and right now they don’t belong to him. 

So how does he win them back?

Well the Democrats hope that it will be through leadership.  Rep Anthony Weiner lays it out:

“He’s the president of the United States, and he’s got to go in there and lean into the idea that he still has an agenda he wants to accomplish,” Weiner said. “He has to make sure he’s leading the debate and Paul Ryan is responding, not the other way around.

“He has to make it clear that he’s not going to be held hostage over issues like the debt-limit increase,” Weiner said.

But, as usual and instead, the President plans to vote “present”:

But the president’s decision not to lay out his own vision for reducing the national debt has infuriated balanced-budget advocates, who fear that a bipartisan consensus for action fostered last month by Obama’s commission could wither without presidential leadership.

"There is no way you get momentum without the president. If you don’t lead now, when is it going to come?" said Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "He has to go first and he has to be specific. He has to pivot to something hard."

And pander, of course:

The direction of Obama’s speech became apparent over the weekend, when the White House informed Democratic lawmakers and advocates for the elderly that he would not endorse the commission’s recommendation to raise the retirement age and make other cuts to Social Security – the single largest federal program.

The sound you hear, my friends, is that of the can being swiftly kicked down the road again – something candidate Obama said wasn’t going to happen on his watch.

The administration claims that it’s goals will be more specifically addressed in the budget request the White House submits in mid February.  Per Robert Gibbs, the SOTU is just not the proper venue for specifics.   Well, except when you want to take a shot at the Supreme Court, who, by the way, will only have partial attendance this year, with a group of conservative justices clearly deciding to show their disapproval of the partisan sniping they were victim too in last year’s SOTU.

Yup, all in all politics rules the day with the political advice being as predictable as sunrise.  Obama, being the ultimate political animal, will indeed heed it, but the left shouldn’t look for any leadership to suddenly emerge where none has been evident in the past and the center should be wary of the now well-known smoke and mirrors show the administration puts on regularly – saying one thing and doing something else altogether.

Life in the Obama White House I’m afraid.

~McQ

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Political opportunism never lets a crisis go to waste

I continue to be incredulous of the blatant political opportunism this shooting of Rep. Giffords has unleashed on the left. OK, not really. But in a way, it is the Paul Wellstone memorial all over again on a national level.

First, all of this angst over political rhetoric is so overwrought and overblown as to be laughable.  There has never been a time in the history of this land that the language hasn’t been rough or partisan.  Never.  Pretending this is the worst it has ever been is simply historically inaccurate.  It may be more obvious now because of mass communications and the democratization of opinion, but it isn’t at all any different than it ever has been.  Folks, do a little digging in the history books.  Hell, use Google. I’m not going to do you homework for you, but trust me on this – this era isn’t any better or worse than the vast majority of the rest of them.

Secondly, the entire premise of those calling for the toning down of the rhetoric originally was that it was the cause on the attack on Giffords.  Now it is becoming more and more apparent that isn’t the case.  But it provides such an opportunity for the left to demonize the right that the talking heads and political advisors continue to make that point even while they walk it back a little with a disclaimer about this guy being a nut.   It now goes something like “we must ratchet the vitriol and rhetoric down, even if this guy wasn’t a right wing nut influenced by it”.

Really? 

Why?

Right now the only reason they can come up with is “it could happen”.  When they first started harping on this nonsense, soon after the shooting, you got the impression that the left was 99.9% sure this guy was a right-wing militia member or something.  As it turns out he was the .01% loon instead.  But that hasn’t slowed down the messaging has it?

And, as I mentioned in another post, political strategists see this as a golden opportunity for the president to speak out on something that didn’t occur.  Oh, forget the last part of that – we’ll pretend it did to give Obama’s forthcoming words some sort of foundation of relevance.  One of those political strategists who are enamored with the opportunity is the odious Paul Begala:

Paul Begala, one of Clinton’s top political advisers during the 1990s, thinks Obama has a genuine opportunity to re-define the nation’s political debate – a promise he first made in his breakout 2004 speech to the Democratic convention —and reclaim moral high ground lost during the last two years of intense partisan combat.

“One of the things I learned from Oklahoma City is not to rush to judgment…We don’t know this Arizona animal’s motive,” said Begala.

But almost irrespective of that, it wouldn’t hurt for all of us to tone things down a bit – myself included. If the President uses this tragedy to challenge us all to move to higher ground, it would be a welcome message. And if the right tries to demonize him for doing that, they will look small and petty and extreme.” [emphasis mine]

Begala learned “not to rush to judgment” in the OK City tragedy?  Did he really?  So why is he doing it now by attempting to tie political rhetoric (“tone things down a bit”) to the shooting in Tucson (the reason for any speech Obama might make)? 

Well in reality I guess he doesn’t.  Note the “but almost irrespective of that” phrase.  He’s saying, hey it really doesn’t matter if the dream scenario didn’t play out (right winger shoots left wing pol), this is still a great opportunity for the President to pull a Bill Clinton and demonize the right (although he doesn’t say that specifically, that’s precisely what Clinton did – Limbaugh and the militias were the bad guys then) and connect with the people (which he sorely needs to do).  And, of course, if the right fights back, well “they will look small and petty”?

What if the right fights back by throwing the facts of the case (loon, not right winger, shot Giffords not because of rhetoric, but because he’s a loon) in the President’s face and standing firmly on 1st Amendment grounds to resist the call to curb political speech, Mr. Begala?  Who’ll look rather diminished then, sir?

Begala’s not the only operative salivating on the chance to capitalize on this tragedy:

Veteran Democratic consultant Dan Gerstein said the crisis “really plays to Obama’s strengths as consensus-builder” and gives him the opportunity to build a deeper emotional connection with the people he governs.

“He’ll be active, but also very careful not to appear like he’s blaming or politicizing,” Gerstein predicted.

Since when has Obama yet demonstrated he is a “consensus-builder?”  On what?  And when in his last two years hasn’t he “blamed” or “politicized” just about everything?  If I hear anything more about his “predecessor” or about what he “inherited” I’ll puke.   If Gerstein is Obama’s consultant, it isn’t at all difficult to understand why Obama is in trouble.  Gerstein obviously has Obama mixed up with someone else.

Gerstein goes on:

“The biggest question about him is strength – can he be a strong leader? This tragedy will give him an opportunity to answer that question and build a closer emotional connection with the middle of the electorate that sees this as a reflection of something disturbing about our politics.”

I can answer that question – making a speech about a shooting and calling for toned down rhetoric and less partisanship (while having use heated rhetoric, blaming and blatant partisanship) does not make someone a leader, Mr. Gerstein.  It doesn’t make him a strong leader or a weak leader or even a mediocre leader.  Leadership is about action, decisions and consequences.   It isn’t a passive word as folks like Gerstein seem to think.

Will it help him “connect” with the middle of the electorate?  Have his speeches in the past done so?  Sure, when he was a total unknown, his words were pretty, inspiring and hopeful.  But now the “middle of the electorate” know him much better and he has an actual record of 2 years.  Pretty and high-minded speeches aren’t going to impress anyone anymore.

The rest of the POLITICO article discusses the similarities and differences between Tucson and Oklahoma City as well as the differences between Clinton and Obama.  But here is the nut of the premise that the left is trying to lay on the right at the moment:

And Clinton has made clear he believes that the trend he identified in the 1990s – the connection between radical speech and violent deeds – still exists.

Even though Timothy McVeigh explicitly cited Waco as his reason for bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City, this premise continues to exist as if it has been proven.  Yet, again, when the violence is cited and radical speech blamed, we find little to convince us that there’s any connection.  The nutcase that shot Giffords dreamed up his own reasons for going after her it seems, independent of anyone else’s rhetoric.

How inconvenient for those who would love to shut us up.

Clinton said in an oped during the time of the OK City bombing:

“Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy,”

I don’t think any reasoning person on the right disagrees with that statement.  What they will disagree with is what constitutes “advocacy” for violence.

Well, here’s a clue – it’s not crosshairs on a political map.  If one can reasonably deduce what that means in context with a political campaign, you understand without a second thought that it is a metaphorical device.  So are may other terms.  But the left is attacking that in the normal contextless and disingenuous way they do their business:

A key ally, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), for example, explicitly called out Palin for injecting gun imagery into politics, arguing that her use of crosshairs over districts – including Giffords’ — in an email pitch to SarahPAC supporters incited violence.

“We live in a world of violent images … the phrase ‘don’t retreat, reload’ — putting crosshairs on congressional districts as targets … they invite the unstable,” Durbin told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Our political speech should not be held hostage by the “unstable”.  And this latest nut is a perfect example of the point.  It appears he was not swayed by anything to do with political speech by anyone but Giffords.  He was obsessed with her and for all we know, he got his orders to shoot her from the chicken pot pie he ate the night before.

Durbin’s nonsense notwithstanding, we cannot and must not make ourselves hostages to what could happen if some nut decides to take something literally.   There is a difference between a random nutball deciding for whatever reason to do something and a movement that advocates violence as a solution to political problem.  We must not bow to the pressure to accommodate the former by denying our free speech and we must not accept the latter as a solution to anything.  But what we can’t do is lump the former with the latter and just curb our speech “in case” it might set one of the nuts off.  That’s precisely what Durbin and his ilk are suggesting.

Yeah, I know, what, 4 posts in and around the subject?  Can you tell it hacks me off?  I’m disgusted by the cold-blooded opportunism, I’m aghast at the concerted attempt to limit speech and I’m just pissed that anyone would calculate any sort of political win out of an obvious tragedy.

But then, I’m talking about the left here and nothing they do surprises me anymore.

~McQ

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Obama delegates presidency

Thundering cow patties, what is going on in the White House? 

Yesterday, President Obama turned a press conference over to former President Bill Clinton.  He essentially, no he actually waived away his job’s duties in favor of attending a … Christmas party.

It’s not like he had to have the news conference when he did.  He’s the President, he can call one anytime he likes.  Instead he demonstrated what many have come to believe about him – he likes the perks of the job but isn’t too crazy about the  job itself.  It reminded me of the stories about his time as the editor of the Harvard Law Review.  He never contributed a single article and, according managing editor, loved the prestige of the title, but wanted nothing to do with the day to day responsibilities it held.

The bizarre picture of Obama leaving the press room while Clinton takes the stage is more powerful than a 1,000 words on the subject by 50 different pundits.  What was he thinking?  What were his advisors thinking?  It’s easy to say he’s been ill served by his advisors, but when Obama self-identifies as the “smartest person in the room”, you have to lay quite a bit of the blame squarely where it belongs – on him.  Politically, what he did was absolutely stupid.  I’m not sure what word better serves.

This again goes back to a constant and repetitive theme here (and now starting to grow elsewhere) – a true lack of leadership.  I’ve known real leaders in my time, I’ve been a leader in more than one instance, and Barack Obama is no leader.  He doesn’t seem to have yet even begun to grasp even the fundamentals of the concept of leadership.  When there is a battle, leaders step forward (especially when it is a battle they’ve fomented), they lead from the front and they use every weapon at their disposal.  Obama has “set a framework” (what, get into the nuts and bolts of actually helping draft the legislation?  That’s work!), given a testy presser where he talked about hostages, bomb throwers and the "purists” on the “professional left” and then, with this latest news conference, delegated his presidency to Bill Clinton while he parties.

Tom Maguire says that one of the weirdest things about Obama walking out of his own press conference was:

…watching Obama implicitly declare that while Clinton and the press talked about stimulus and the recovery and unemployment relief, he had more important things to do, namely, get to a party with Michelle.  Geez, why not announce he is getting back to the Oval Office to play Farmville?

Really.  Or why not just be honest and say, “hey, this part of being president is not what I like to do”.

Maybe, just maybe, some adults in the Democratic party are finally admitting to themselves and each other that they made a hell of a mistake with this guy.  And maybe they’ll begin what will be a painful but necessary process to find someone to run against this man in 2012.  That, in my estimation (and barring an unforeseen event which might see the citizenry rally behind the presidency and the country), may be the only chance Democrats might have – and even then it might be a remote chance – of keeping the White House.

This White House gets curiouser and curiouser as the days go by.  But it is becoming clearer, even to the “deep in denial” left, that this man just isn’t up to the job of being President of the United States.

~McQ

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Just funny–Bush approval rating now higher than Obama’s

I know it’s only a poll and I also understand in the big scheme of things it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but for the humor factor alone, it’s worth a post.

George W. Bush’s job approval rating as president has spiked to 47 percent, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.

That’s 1 point higher than President Barack Obama’s job approval rating in a poll taken the same week.

Of course, what’s obviously funny is that after the relentless attacks on Bush before and after the election by Obama he now leads the man by a point in job approval rating, at least temporarily.  A little schadenfreude at least, no?

Of course the claim is that Bush’s problems have faded in memory and Obama’s are painfully evident and aggravated by the current situation surrounding him.  Yeah, so.  At one point it was Bush in that situation, but I don’t recall him trying to constantly shift blame on others.  He didn’t talk about the horrible security situation he’d “inherited” from Clinton after 9/11.  In fact, he rarely if ever mentioned Clinton, and if he did it was usually respectfully.  Of course he was never accorded the same respect by Obama and the left.

So I can’t help but find this funny in a juvenile ‘thumb your nose at them’ kind of way as well.   He and the left deserve it.

The lesson, however, is more profound.  And while it may again change in Obama’s favor it is indeed one of those “teachable moments” he seems so fond of.  Humility is a virtue, as is grace.  They serve you well whenever you employ them.  And they keep you from having to suffer those situations where you words come back to bite you on the rear end.   Because by deploying them regularly, you never find yourself in those sorts of situations.

Unfortunately I doubt our current president will bother to consider any of that or learn anything from this quick snapshot of his standing.  It’s just not in him to do so.  But he could learn a lot about being a leader if he did – something for which he could use some lessons.

Bush’s rebound gives some credence to what he has long said — that history will eventually judge his presidency.

Indeed.  But it also never hurts when your successor is a bumbling fool either.

~McQ

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Why experience and leadership count

Read the following two paragraphs and tell me which conservative publications editorial board had this to say about President Obama and the current political situation in which he finds himself.

Shellacked at home, shellacked abroad. President Obama’s Asia trip is extending a losing streak with the latest setback – a refusal by other major financial powers to follow his lead to revive the global economy.

The president’s nostrums, which began with a call for stimulus-style pump priming by other nations, had evolved into a plan to ease wild swings in currency values and overboard trade imbalances. But he got next to nothing in showdown meetings with other leaders of the G-20 nations, or major economic powers. U.S. leadership, once taken for granted, has all but vanished, and no one’s in charge.

If you guessed Wall Street Journal, Washington Examiner or Washington Times, give yourself zero points for this particular exercise. It was a trick question – the answer is the San Francisco Chronicle.

That’s right. Nancy Pelosi’s hometown newspaper, the paper of record for one of the most liberal cities in one of the most liberal states in the union seems to be acknowledging in fairly forthright terms the diminishment of the US political leadership both here and abroad.

They are also acknowledging something else that the left has been loathe to admit during these past two years. That diminished political stature is the result not just of circumstances but because of a real lack of leadership. When the Chronicle uses the words “no one’s in charge”, they’re not alluding to the financial situation being the problem, they’re making the point that the president is not exercising the basic leadership necessary or expected to do what must be done to maintain what was once “ taken for granted.”

There’s no danger of reading too much into the Chronicle’s two lead paragraphs. It is a very clear in its message. The President of the United States is not living up to expectations. And even his greatest supporters are beginning to see the results of that problem.

The administration likes to tout the fact that they have restored the good name of the US among the nations of the world after its purported decline during the Bush years. That’s a hollow claim if this is the result. “Good names” do not bring foreign policy success – only hard -nosed leadership focused on doing what is best for the country accomplishes that. And this president has exhibited far too little if any of that thus far.

If nothing else what this presidency should again establish as a guiding principle for voters in the next election is “there is no substitute for experience”. Experience is where leadership is developed and honed. Experience produces a record by which those who choose our political leaders can go for proof that a person is up to the job they’re pursuing.

The San Francisco Chronicle, among others, is learning that reality has certain rules that you simply can’t waive away. With Obama, voters did what speculators did during the dot-com bubble. They pretended that the law of economics no longer applied to that particular segment of the economy and it was alright to waive away conventional economic wisdom about P/E ratios and plunk down billions on companies who’d never made a dollar or sold a product.

Economic reality soon burst that fantasy with devastating effect and devastating losses.

Because of the same sort of thinking, we now suffer with a “leader” who has never led anything, never learned what it means to lead and is, frankly, out of his depth both domestically and on the foreign stage. The disastrous Asian trip simply reaffirms the point.

If we manage to survive the next two years under this administration there’s perhaps another very important lesson voters should take the polls when they next choose a president: the White House should never again be treated as an OJT position.

~McQ

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Stop the war on business

That’s the central theme of a Ken Langone op/ed in the Wall Street Journal. Langone is a co-founder of Home Depot who gives Obama a lecture he’s long deserved. He does a good job of summarizing the absurd rhetoric used by Obama and his administration and the attitude they project that has done nothing to help and everything to hurt the recovery:

Your insistence that your policies are necessary and beneficial to business is utterly at odds with what you and your administration are saying elsewhere. You pick a fight with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, accusing it of using foreign money to influence congressional elections, something the chamber adamantly denies. Your U.S. attorney in New York, Preet Bahrara, compares investment firms to Mexican drug cartels and says he wants the power to wiretap Wall Street when he sees fit. And you drew guffaws of approving laughter with your car-wreck metaphor, recently telling a crowd that those who differ with your approach are "standing up on the road, sipping a Slurpee" while you are "shoving" and "sweating" to fix the broken-down jalopy of state.

That short-sighted wavering—between condescending encouragement one day and hostile disparagement the next—creates uncertainty that, as any investor could tell you, causes economic paralysis. That’s because no one can tell what to expect next.

Again we confront the difference between a politician in a permanent campaign and a leader.  And we see the result.

Obama seems mystified by the role of the president.  He seems not to understand that leaders don’t use the old, divisive and politically charged rhetoric of the campaign trail, but instead have the job of doing (and saying) what is necessary to move things in a positive direction.  That has not been something Obama has done at all when it comes to business.

There’s another point Langone made that is worth featuring:

A little more than 30 years ago, Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank, Pat Farrah and I got together and founded The Home Depot. Our dream was to create (memo to DNC activists: that’s build, not take or coerce) a new kind of home-improvement center catering to do-it-yourselfers. The concept was to have a wide assortment, a high level of service, and the lowest pricing possible.

We opened the front door in 1979, also a time of severe economic slowdown. Yet today, Home Depot is staffed by more than 325,000 dedicated, well-trained, and highly motivated people offering outstanding service and knowledge to millions of consumers.

If we tried to start Home Depot today, under the kind of onerous regulatory controls that you have advocated, it’s a stone cold certainty that our business would never get off the ground, much less thrive. Rules against providing stock options would have prevented us from incentivizing worthy employees in the start-up phase—never mind the incredibly high cost of regulatory compliance overall and mandatory health insurance. Still worse are the ever-rapacious trial lawyers.

Regulations, taxes, compliance and mandates cost businesses billions each year.  That’s billions that aren’t spent on employees, customers, expansion or growth.  And it is especially stupid to increase all of those in a recession – yet that’s precisely what is going on now.  And it keeps the market unsettled and at least defers or may in fact kill any possible action by businesses which may benefit the overall economy.

Obama’s actions and rhetoric are a case study of someone who doesn’t understand his job, doesn’t understand the power of the words he utters (because he doesn’t understand his job) and has been very irresponsible with his rhetoric at a time when the damage that rhetoric can do are compounded by the situation (recession).

OJT is not something a president should be doing – especially in a recession.  And for the supposed “smartest guy in the room”, he sure seems like a slow learner when it comes to his job and the requirements of leadership.

~McQ

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Hard to lose a narrative that never existed

Andrew Sullivan today in a post entitled “Obama’s Lost Narrative”:

Nyhan goes after the Democrats for baseless attacks against the US Chamber of Commerce. It is very depressing to see them descend to this kind of stuff. What they need are not tactics and resentment, which is what we’re seeing. What we need is a narrative of recovery and reform from Obama. He has the record, and he has made a couple of great speeches. But this distracts.

He’s “made a couple of great speeches”.  That’s no longer a positive.  In fact, most have come to conclude that’s about all he can do.  However, on whole, Sullivan is right.  He should be more like Reagan than Nixon and he’s letting his inner Nixon show as he pushes this baseless and hypocritical attack on the Chamber of Commerce.

At a time he should be acting like a leader, he’s been reduced to a petty politician.  Or maybe that’s what he always was.

My view, and I’ll say it again. Campaign on ending the long-term debt. Campaign on being the man who can bring America together to solve its long-term fiscal crisis. Call the GOP out on its fiscal record and its current refusal to specify what they’ll cut. Remind people of the debt commission. Remind people we need to cut spending and raise taxes. Be the adult in the room. With a megaphone.

To be the “adult in the room”, you have to have been the adult in the room.  You can’t suddenly decide now is the time to act like one.  Again, an aspect of leadership lost on the current White House occupant.

~McQ

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Even the true-believers are losing faith

Mark Halperin has an interesting article in the current TIME.  He wonders how Obama got where he is and how he can change that.  It is interesting for some of language used.  It demonstrates a changing view, even among his supporters, that perhaps – just perhaps – this guy isn’t really up to the job … yet.   That last word that sentence is important. 

Many of us feel he has never been up to the job. We’ve pretty much been proven to be right.  Many have decided after the election that he’s not up to the job.  But there is one other category that will sort of, kind of admit he may not seem up to the job, however that’s just a temporary condition.  Once he finds his feet again, he’ll do fine.  And it that latter category that seems to best fit Halperin. 

But his opening two paragraphs are both brutal and true, whether Halperin really believes them totally or not:

Barack Obama is being politically crushed in a vise. From above, by elite opinion about his competence. From below, by mass anger and anxiety over unemployment. And it is too late for him to do anything about this predicament until after November’s elections.

With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.

When you have “pundits” like Halperin (you know, the guy who feels compelled as he’s saying this to throw out the "Fox News pundits" bit out there as if they’re really the only pundits mouthing off) compelled to finally be somewhat honest about the man, then he’s in trouble.

A little further on Halperin engages in a little bit of defense for Obama:

Most of Obama’s private (and sometimes public) rebuttals to the voices slamming him on all sides are justified or spot on. He did inherit a lot of problems from the Bush Administration. He did act quickly in the initial weeks of his Administration to stave off a worldwide depression. His efforts at job creation have been obstructed by Republicans (even the proposals based on policies supported by the GOP in the past). His opponents haven’t put forth specifics of their own, nor offered genuine compromise, while the media have allowed the right’s activists and gabbers to run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.

Of course all of this depends on how you view what he’s supposedly “done”.  Unfortunately for him, the majority don’t agree that he’s earned the accolades Halperin and Obama think are due him.  And the continued nonsense about “Republican obstruction” when everyone knew he had uncontested Democratic majorities that didn’t require a single GOP vote for quite some time simply isn’t washing with the masses. 

Notice too Halperin’s attempt to spin the opposition.  They’re “allowed” to “run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.”

Really?  What rock has he been hiding under – there have been multitudes of alternative solutions offered.  It is just that Halperin and the left don’t want to admit to their legitimacy.  And just who are these organizations which have “allowed” these people to go “wild?”  The same organizations that routinely allowed that same sort of behavior during the last administration.  I guess you just don’t recognize it until it your ox being gored.

But you get a creeping sense as you read the article that Halperin, and most likely other true-  believers, really, deep down inside, understand their man doesn’t have what it takes to do the job in such a way that it will be defensible in 2012. It will be very tough to help someone who seems so bound and determined to do the wrong things politically. For instance, look at how he’s reacted to various political problems:

But Obama has exacerbated his political problems not just by failing to enact policies that would have actually turned the economy around, but also by authorizing a series of tactical moves intended to demonize Republicans and distract from the problems at hand. He has wasted time lambasting his foes when he should have been putting forth his agenda in a clear, optimistic fashion, defending the benefits of his key decisions during the past two years (health care and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, for example) and explaining what he would do with a re-elected Democratic majority to spur growth.

Shorter version: he’s on the defensive and has retreated to campaign mode, the only real success he’s ever had in his life – getting elected to some office.  He’s in his comfort zone.  How are they going to entice him back out of that to “govern”?  How does one get someone who is uncomfortable in the job and the role his election has garnered him to do what he’s supposed to do and not worry about what the critics say?  Apparently they don’t.  He’s abdicated his leadership position before and there’s no indication he’s really all that keen on the role.  Halperin and his side are beginning to see and understand what many of us have understood before he took office.

How lost is Obama, the guy once touted as having one of the most finely tuned political antennas in the world?

Throughout the year, we have been treated to Obama-led attacks on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Joe Barton (for his odd apology to BP), John Boehner (for seeking the speakership — or was it something about an ant?) and Fox News (for everything). Suitable Democratic targets in some cases, perhaps, but not worth the time of a busy Commander in Chief. In the past few days, we have witnessed the spectacle of the President himself and his top advisers wading into allegations that Republicans are attempting to buy the election using foreign money laundered through the Chamber of Commerce, combining with Karl Rove and his wealthy backers to fund a flood of negative television commercials. Not only is this issue convoluted and far-fetched, but it also distracts from the issues voters care about, frustrating political insiders and alienating struggling citizens (not that many are following such an offbeat story line). Feinting and gibing can’t obscure those job numbers.

Pretty darn lost.  And I, frankly, don’t think much will change in the next few years.  The man is not a leader and he’s not going to learn it in time to help himself.  In fact, because he’s engaged in this battle with the Chamber of Commerce, I’d say he’s in even worse shape than previously imagined and seems to have some pretty bad advisers if they are enabling or encouraging the sort of behavior described above.

~McQ

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How did Democrats end up in this situation? Lack of leadership at the top

Gloria Borger, although she apparently doesn’t know it, has described why Obama and the Democrats are looking at the distinct possibility of an electoral avalanche that will sweep them out of the majority in the House in November.  As Borger notes, when Obama took office, it seemed it was a Democratic majority built to last for years.  Now “years” is down to “two”.

She points to one reason that is typical of any politician who wins an election – they read more into their win than is actually there:

Obama was elected as the corrective to the Bush years. Yet when you’re the winner, the temptation is always there to see yourself as something more than just an alternative — something larger, like a paradigm-changer or a transformational political figure. And Obama wanted nothing less than a change from conservatism to his own brand of 21st century activism.

"When you win an election," says political scientist Bill Galston, "you are always inclined to believe you won for the reasons you wanted to win."

In other words, you believe you won for the big stuff, not just because the voters didn’t like the other guy.

Watching Obama’s fading approval numbers and the ever increasing resistance to his agenda, it becomes clear that it was mostly about ‘the other guy’.

But there’s a larger point to be made as to why Obama and the Democrats are in the electoral shape they enjoy today:

Think back to the beginning. There’s an economic crisis, which the public believes Obama inherited. Then there’s his bucket-list of things he wants to get done. He has a choice: Handle the crisis or do the campaign to-do list.

And what does Obama decide? To do both. That is, the economy plus the rest of it — including health care.

"The irony is he didn’t even run on health care," says one Democratic pollster. "In truth, it wasn’t a large part of the general election campaign."

Interesting point.  “He didn’t even run on health care”.  Well he mentioned it, but it wasn’t his signature campaign issue.  But it sure was Nancy Pelosi and the liberal caucus’s number one priority – a wet dream they’d had all their lives.  And so while the economy was melting down and should have been the single dominant issued for the White House (and Congress), Obama allowed himself to be seduced into using all his political capital for something that wasn’t that important to the American people.

Borger attempts to make excuses for Obama that simply don’t ring true and certainly don’t pass the smell test:

Obama became convinced that solving the health care mess was key to solving the nation’s economic problems, especially bringing the deficit under control. In fact, when he first spoke of the importance of health care reform, it was all about "bending the cost curve," a slogan lost on most of the public.

BS.  Any sane person, with even a cursory understanding of economics, knew that the program outlined in the monstrosity that has since become known as ObamaCare had as much of a chance of “bending the cost curve” down as Togo becoming the first nation in the world to land a man on Mars.  Obama’s agenda was hijacked by Pelosi, et al, and he refused to stand up to them and say, “no – it’s the economy stupid”.

Democrats instead quickly passed an ineffective trillion dollar pork laden stimulus bill guaranteed to keep unemployment under 8% (or so they claimed) and then essentially turned away from the nation’s most pressing problem – other than to occasionally give it lip service – to their pet project, health care “reform”.

Borger claims it was Obama’s “ambitious agenda” that did him in and that the agenda “fed into the GOP narrative”.  Unfortunately, at the point this was done, the GOP had no narrative.   They were in a state of disarray and both powerless and voiceless. 

No, the “voice” came out of townhalls.  The “voice” showed up at “Tea Parties”.  The “voice” expressed anger and frustration.

And what the “voice” was saying and continues to say is Obama and the Democrats made the wrong choice when they chose health care reform over working on the economy.

Nothing’s really changed either.  Most of it – the position Democrats are now in – isn’t a result of any GOP narrative.  It isn’t even necessarily because of the bad economy.  It is a result of a poor leader caving into a special interest caucus within his party and putting that caucus’s priorities in front of the people’s priority.

Pretending it was anything else is simply nonsense.  Democrats are facing an electoral avalanche in November because Obama let Pelosi and Reid usurp the leadership role that was his.  And now they get to pay the butcher’s bill.

~McQ

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