Free Markets, Free People

Paul Krugman

A cold day in Georgia in non-recovery summer

Well, not really, but that pretty much describes metaphorically how often Paul Krugman and I agree on things.  But today, Krugman, wondering what Ben Bernanke of the Fed is going to say today in his big speech believes it will probably be more of the same.  Albeit, we’re in a recovery, more slowly than we’d like and things will soon get better.  Krugman isn’t buying it (and neither am I.  If this is a recovery, I’d hate to see a recession). :

Unfortunately, that’s not true: this isn’t a recovery, in any sense that matters. And policy makers should be doing everything they can to change that fact.

Krugman also zeros in on the main problem that those policy makers should focus on:

The important question is whether growth is fast enough to bring down sky-high unemployment. We need about 2.5 percent growth just to keep unemployment from rising, and much faster growth to bring it significantly down. Yet growth is currently running somewhere between 1 and 2 percent, with a good chance that it will slow even further in the months ahead.

In fact, the GDP number for this past quarter is 1.6%. That’s revised sharply downward from the original 2.4% reported and touted by Democrats recently.  That, as Krugman points out, isn’t a good number when you are looking at unemployment.

Krugman then chastises those who are pumping sunshine up our skirts when the real economic news doesn’t warrant it – like the President and VP.  Bernanke and Geithner:

Why are people who know better sugar-coating economic reality? The answer, I’m sorry to say, is that it’s all about evading responsibility.

Ya think!  Gee wish I’d been saying that for, oh, I don’t know, 18 months.  For 12 of that it was Bush’s fault.  For the past 6, it’s been all sunshine, roses and “recovery summer”.  In effect, although not at all as blatantly, Krugman is validating John Boehner’s call to fire Obama’s economic team.  Because it is clear that the policy makers haven’t a clue of how to fix this mess.

At this point in his op-ed, Krugman reverts to his old self – a hack.  After talking about evading responsibility, he goes for the “obstructive Republicans” canard. 

And when he finally gets around to saying what he’d do, as you might suppose, it is spend more money that we don’t have.

Addressing the Fed he says:

The Fed has a number of options. It can buy more long-term and private debt; it can push down long-term interest rates by announcing its intention to keep short-term rates low; it can raise its medium-term target for inflation, making it less attractive for businesses to simply sit on their cash. Nobody can be sure how well these measures would work, but it’s better to try something that might not work than to make excuses while workers suffer.

In layman’s terms he’s saying let inflation loose and buy more debt (borrow).  He then covers his rear by saying “hey, it may not work, but it is better than doing nothing”. 

I’m not at all sure that’s the case.  In fact, my guess is if you let the inflation dragon out of the cage, you’ll never recapture it until it has ravaged the economy.  All that money that’s been pumped into the economy has to be wrung out at some point.  And there are no painless ways to do that of which I’m aware.

As for the administration his advice is as follows:

The administration has less freedom of action, since it can’t get legislation past the Republican blockade. But it still has options. It can revamp its deeply unsuccessful attempt to aid troubled homeowners. It can use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored lenders, to engineer mortgage refinancing that puts money in the hands of American families — yes, Republicans will howl, but they’re doing that anyway. It can finally get serious about confronting China over its currency manipulation: how many times do the Chinese have to promise to change their policies, then renege, before the administration decides that it’s time to act?

Sure, let’s hand even more money to the two financial black holes – Freddie and Fanny – that have already sucked down half a trillion dollars we don’t have trying to shore up their loses and return them to solvency. Republicans have every reason to howl about Freddie and Fannie.  If Krugman were anything but a hack, he’d have to admit that.

And if he thinks the Chinese – who are actually in a real recovery – are going to stomp on their economic progress to fix ours, he’s dreaming.  Both proposals are absurd on their face.  But then when it comes to actual solutions, I’ve come to expect that from him.

However, at least in the first part of his column, he and I were in pretty much perfect agreement.  I need to go take a bath now.

~McQ

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Krugman in Bizarro land

Paul Krugman has written some bizarre columns in his day but none more bizarre than his column on Social Security today.

It is stunning in its ignorance and simply appalling in its logic.  In it he tries so hard to prove his premise that Social Security proves government isn’t always the problem and is sometimes the solution that he’s left to use “facts” that have been refuted for, well, decades.

For instance:

Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax (“FICA” on your pay statement). But it’s also part of the broader federal budget. This dual accounting means that there are two ways Social Security could face financial problems. First, that dedicated funding could prove inadequate, forcing the program either to cut benefits or to turn to Congress for aid. Second, Social Security costs could prove unsupportable for the federal budget as a whole.

But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund.

There may “legally” be a “trust fund”, but there’s nothing in it but government IOUs.  The federal government has borrowed every dollar that was ever in the “surpluses”, put them in the general fund and spent them.  Now this isn’t even arguable.  This has been known for literally decades.

But Krugman insists that all the money that’s been taken from us for Social Security (FICA) is in a tidy heap in the “trust fund” which has run surpluses for decades. 

Lord, anyone with the IQ of a penguin knows that there isn’t a dime of real revenue sitting in that account – it is stuffed to the gills with treasury bonds.  To this point that hasn’t been a problem – because it has always taken in more than it paid out.  That’s no longer going to be the case – especially when the baby boomers retire.  So where will the money to pay their retirement come from? 

Debt.  Borrowing.

Oh, and this strawman:

Meanwhile, an aging population will eventually (over the course of the next 20 years) cause the cost of paying Social Security benefits to rise from its current 4.8 percent of G.D.P. to about 6 percent of G.D.P. To give you some perspective, that’s a significantly smaller increase than the rise in defense spending since 2001, which Washington certainly didn’t consider a crisis, or even a reason to rethink some of the Bush tax cuts.

Well yeah, we’ve been in two wars – or hadn’t he noticed?  Defense spending will go down.  Social Security spending won’t.  Add to that health care spending and other entitlements and you can imagine the chunk of GDP those will consume.

Instead, what you’re seeing here is the end of the life-cycle of a Ponzi scheme.  Bill Gross gives you an indication of what I’m talking about:

First of all, capitalistic innovation fostered productivity, and an increasing standard of living through technology and innovation. Debts could be paid back via profits and higher wages if only because of rising prosperity itself. Secondly, the 20th century, which fathered the debt supercycle, was a time of global population growth despite its interruption by tragic world wars and periodic pandemics. Prior debts could be spread over an ever-increasing number of people, lessening the burden and making it possible to assume even more debt in a seemingly endless cycle which brought consumption forward – anticipating that future generations could do the same.

But while technological innovation – much like Moore’s law – seems to have endless promise, population growth in numerous parts of the developed world is approaching a dead end. Not only will it become more difficult to transfer high existing debt burdens onto the smaller shoulders of future generations, but the overlevered, aging “global boomers” themselves will demand a disproportionate piece of stunted future goods and services – without, it seems, the ability to pay for it. Creditors, sensing the predicament, hold back as they recently have in Greece and other southern European peripherals, or in the U.S. itself, as lenders demand larger down payments on new home mortgages, and other debt extensions.

So there it is – when the population was expanding, the Ponzi scheme worked.  Now that it is stagnating and contracting, the bill has come due.  This isn’t rocket science, although to read Krugman you’d think he thinks it is.

It is absurd for any knowledgeable person to write that Social Security is just fine and dandy, but that’s precisely what Krugman does.  And the pretzel logic and pure and outright nonsense he strings together to justify that conclusion are astounding.  And it all has a point:

Conservatives hate Social Security for ideological reasons: its success undermines their claim that government is always the problem, never the solution.

Really – is that the reason Mr. Krugman? Or is it because the so-called trust fund doesn’t have two real dimes to rub against each other, the government spent it all and is broke, baby boomers are retiring and there aren’t enough workers left to support them and we’re in a deep recession?

Yeah, can’t be any of that – must be they hate it for ideological reasons.

Amazing.

~McQ

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Why those crisis opportunities for government really aren’t "opportunities" at all

If you’re unfamiliar with the broken window fallacy, here’s a great short video to explain it and why things like a trillion dollar “stimulus” and most of what Paul Krugman whines about concerning what the federal government should be doing right now are nonsense:

(via cubachi)

~McQ

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Krugman and Pelosi – two peas in an economic pod

Remember a few days ago I pointed out how Nancy Pelosi was out and about claiming that unemployment benefits was the greatest job creator in the world?

Well guess where she probably got it from – Paul Krugman?

Wait: there’s more. One main reason there aren’t enough jobs right now is weak consumer demand. Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.

I won’t bother you with the reasoning that says this is absolute nonsense – that was covered in the Pelosi post.  What’s surprising is how desperate Krugman is to have his way with increased deficit spending – to stoop to this level of argument.  Suffice it to say, this doesn’t increase “consumer demand” or support “consumer spending”.  Unemployment benefits are a fraction of what the household was making before so what it goes toward is the maintenance of necessities and not much else.

To see a Nobel prize winning economist reduced to this  – a political hack – is rather revealing.  It certainly, at least in my mind, makes everything he writes that is purportedly about his specialty suspect.  If this is his argument, then he hasn’t got an argument, and if you read the rest of his screed you’ll discover it is only an excuse to attack the GOP – falsely, of course.

Krugman has all but ruined his reputation as an economist with nonsense like this. Of course when a person becomes identified with the clueless, like Nancy Pelosi, and their arguments, the decent into full “hackery” is complete.

~McQ

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Krugman needs to get out more

I’ve seen Paul Krugman write some pretty dumb things over the intervening years.  Jon Henke used to take particular delight in pointing them out in the earlier days of QandO.  But I have to admit I’ve never seen anything quite as clueless as this statement by the man:

All of this goes far beyond politics as usual. Democrats had a lot of harsh things to say about former President George W. Bush — but you’ll search in vain for anything comparably menacing, anything that even hinted at an appeal to violence, from members of Congress, let alone senior party officials.

Hey Paul, they made a whole movie about assassinating Bush.  They even wrote about it in the New York Times.  We even had a Nobel peace laureate, Betty Williams, weigh in on the “love”:

“I have a very hard time with this word ‘non-violence’, because I don’t believe that I am non-violent,” said Ms Williams, 64.

“Right now, I would love to kill George Bush.” Her young audience at the Brisbane City Hall clapped and cheered.

Most excellent, right Paul? Nothing at all menacing about that and it certainly doesn’t at all appeal to violence (well unless you think the act of “killing” is somehow a non-violent act).

And, as Greg Polowitz suggests, google “kill George Bush” and be properly chastized.

Not that I actually expect Krugman to do so – it would take an effort and, of course, it would puncture his narrative like nothing before.  But just for grins, why not make a short pictoral trip down memory lane that clueless Krugman could have made had he at all cared about the accuracy of his claims.

For instance, here’s a favorite of mine:

Straight, to the point, and with an option I’m sure some would have hoped law enforcement might have availed themselves. Of course the crowds last weekend were just littered with signs like that, weren’t they?

No? Well how about this one?

A bit rambling and long.  You have to go all the way to the third line to find the “Kill Bush” sentiment.  At least he refrained from spelling out the “F bomb”.  I suppose that’s more Joe Biden’s territory anyway.  So again, were these the type of things to be seen in the crowd on Sunday?

No again?  This then?

A little more subtle than the others.  That “nuance” liberals love I guess.  So is this more like what has Krugman saw or heard about?

Or did it have more to do with urban legends that he and the left have chosen to believe (even while the vast majority of the supposed incidents seem to have no foundation in fact or require true super human feats of strength – such a chucking a rock through a window 30 stories above the street)?

Oh, I know why Krugman doesn’t remember any of this – you see, this was when dissent was the highest form of patriotism.

Apparently, that’s not the case anymore.

~McQ

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Krugman And I Agree, But Not For The Same Reasons

Paul Krugman has made a vital discovery, captured in the title of one of his recent blog posts. Speaking of President Obama, he says:

He Wasn’t The One We’ve Been Waiting For

You’re kidding, right Mr. Krugman? It took a year for this discovery? Heck, some of us have been saying this for 3 years. But enough “I told you so”. Why is Krugman so sure Obama’s not not man? Well not for the reasons you might think. If you’ve been reading Krugman, you know he’s of the opinion that the money Obama and Congress have thrown at the economy wasn’t enough and wasn’t well targeted.  So Krugman wants more spending.

Now, with health care, he is finally disappointed enough to toss Obama under the bus. Like much of the extreme left, he demands the will of the people, demonstrated most recently Tuesday night in Massachusetts, be ignored. He illustrates that by quoting Obama and then reacting:

I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on. We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people. We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because if we don’t, then our budgets are going to blow up and we know that small businesses are going to need help so that they can provide health insurance to their families. Those are the core, some of the core elements of, to this bill. Now I think there’s some things in there that people don’t like and legitimately don’t like.

Says Krugman:

In short, “Run away, run away”!

His advice, as it has been all year, is to double down, ignore the growing unrest, and “do it anyway”. Pass health care as it stands. Don’t give in to the will of the people because – and this is the hidden message among all of this – they’re too stupid to know what is good for them. Like Bill Clinton claims – they’ll love it after it’s passed. And, as every elitist knows, the job of elites is to rule, even if the masses don’t like it.

Krugman presents the perfect example of the transition we’ve seen of government from service to servitude. We’re here to do the will of government now, since it knows best, and not the other way around. Krugman and the extreme left embody the notion of government rule and want to expand it. What they’re discovering is that Obama is simply not the tool they thought he was for the accomplishment of that goal.  And they’re understandably disappointed.

But I have to say, I’m pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in.

This was a laugh out loud moment for me. Per Krugman he had doubts about Obama? Time to reread the gushing propaganda that flowed from the Krugman pen during the campaign season. If there were any doubts about Obama, he kept them under tight control and didn’t share.

Of course, what Krugman and the far left are finally discovering is the difference between a politician and a leader. Barack Obama is not a leader. He’s never been in a position to lead. He has no idea what it takes to lead. And he’s unlikely to figure it out while in the White House. Barack Obama presented himself as a blank slate and let people like Paul Krugman and the rest of those who chose too, write whatever they wanted on that slate. He duped them. He was whatever they wanted him to be, while really being nothing more than a very run of the mill politician who had the political sense to see an opportunity unfold, recognize he was in a unique position to seize it (unpopular president, attractive candidate, historical timing, great orator) and turn it into a win.

That’s been the high point of his presidency. It has been downhill since his inauguration. And a rage driven by his administration’s actions (not those of his predecessor as he loves claim) has built quickly in this country. Because of that anger and the politician’s expected reaction to it, Krugman, et al, see the opportunities they built into this presidency slipping away. Their advice, of course, is to move faster, do whatever is necessary, and, frankly, cheat if they have too – but get this done. But politicians, being what they are, are beginning to waffled and hedge and equivocate.

Of course Krugman doesn’t have to stand for election or answer for the results of his advice and my guess is he would find some way to blame others if it failed, just as he’s now trying to do by disowning Obama. But it is clear he and the extreme left are seeing their vested hopes going by the boards and they’re beginning, finally, to point fingers.

And he’s right – Obama is not the one “we’ve been waiting for”. Politicians rarely are. For those of us who didn’t choose to fit ourselves with blinders and took the time to objectively look at the man’s qualifications, we recognized him for what he is – an empty suit. Certainly a very attractive one, but empty nonetheless. The editor of the Harvard Law Review who never contributed anything to the Review. A failed community organizer. A state and US Senator who never initiated anything of substance and was content to follow the lead of others. Someone who, as we warned, had never “done anything or run anything.”

A reminder is necessary for the of Paul Krugmans of this world: This guy is your creation. You and all those who fell for the oratory and the promise and promoted it without checking out the substance of the man are to blame. So if you’re going to point fingers, find a mirror.

To quote Mr. Obama’s pastor of 20 years, “the chickens are coming home to roost”.

~McQ

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Krugman – Another “History Began January 20th, 2009″ Moment

Of course, it is a rather simple and transparent ploy to establish a basis for his broad brush defamation of the GOP (not that the GOP isn’t capable of doing that all by itself).  He begins by calling the failure of the US and Barack Obama to secure the Olympic bid “a teachable moment”.

Interesting.

Of course, for 8 years I don’t recall Krugman et. al, ever once finding similar teachable moments in the invective or demonstrations aimed at the Bush administration. Anyway, he wanders on with:

“Cheers erupted” at the headquarters of the conservative Weekly Standard, according to a blog post by a member of the magazine’s staff, with the headline “Obama loses! Obama loses!” Rush Limbaugh declared himself “gleeful.” “World Rejects Obama,” gloated the Drudge Report. And so on.

So what did we learn from this moment? For one thing, we learned that the modern conservative movement, which dominates the modern Republican Party, has the emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old.

When, exactly, did the “Weekly Standard”, Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report come to comprise “the modern Republican Party”?

Conflation is a favorite device of those who are really reaching to make a point and Krugman is reaching here. I’m not suggesting that the three cites he gives don’t indeed act with the “emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old” at times, I’m simply wondering how Krugman managed to make the leap from those three to “the modern Republican Party”?

Of course he did it to try to suggest they are representative of the GOP today and, in fact, this is the way the GOP has always been – unlike Democrats. And for those gullible enough to swallow his premise whole, he then throws his rewrite of history out there in an attempt to make his point that unlike Republicans, Democrats are and always have been the adults:

In 2005, when Democrats campaigned against Social Security privatization, their arguments were consistent with their underlying ideology: they argued that replacing guaranteed benefits with private accounts would expose retirees to too much risk.

In actuality, Democrats acted with “the emotional maturity of bratty 13-year-olds” by Krugman’s own standard:

* NW Progressive Institute, March 2005: “a boisterous crowd which frequently interrupted the discussion with shouts and hard nosed questions. … Democrats in the audience who were interrupting the panel…. the crowd erupted in anger… Democrats in the audience started shouting him down again.”

* Savannah Morning News, March 2005: “By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush’s proposal to overhaul Social Security.”

* USA Today, March 2005: “Shaken by raucous protests at open “town hall”-style meetings last month … Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers.”

Using Krugman’s logic above, the fact that MoveOn and USAction plus others shouted, heckled, disrupted and booed at these events (the “Weekly Standard”, Rush Limbaugh and Drudge Report equivalents on the left), his “bratty 13-year-old” characterization should easily extend to the Democratic party as well, correct?

Krugman then asks:

How did one of our great political parties become so ruthless, so willing to embrace scorched-earth tactics even if so doing undermines the ability of any future administration to govern?

Why not ask the Democrats of the last 8 years? Ask them how calling the president a “liar”, a “loser”, “incompetent” and many other things did anything but “undermine the ability of any future administration to govern”?

Another “history began January 20th, 2009″ moment for the left.

~McQ

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Unemployment Reaches 9.8%

While unemployment continue to climb at numbers higher than experts expected, and signaling the so-called “stimulus” isn’t working despite claims to the contrary, it seems the only program the president can come up with to boost employment is shilling for the Chicago Olympics.

Meanwhile here in the real world:

U.S. employers cut a deeper-than-expected 263,000 jobs in September, lifting the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent, according to a government report on Friday that fueled fears the weak labor market could undermine economic recovery.

Ya think? And, of course, as Dale has pointed out, if we calculated unemployment as we did in the past, the true number would be somewhere in the 16-17% area. Even the one area that was showing growth – government employment – is shedding jobs. 53,000 in this last reporting period.

This has even Paul Krugman upset:

[T]he administration’s own economic projection — a projection that takes into account the extra jobs the administration says its policies will create — is that the unemployment rate, which was below 5 percent just two years ago, will average 9.8 percent in 2010, 8.6 percent in 2011, and 7.7 percent in 2012.

This should not be considered an acceptable outlook. For one thing, it implies an enormous amount of suffering over the next few years. Moreover, unemployment that remains that high, that long, will cast long shadows over America’s future.

Krugman’s solution is as predictable as Iran stalling the P5+1 until it has a nuclear weapon – more spending. Specifically a 2nd stimulus. But weren’t we all assured that the first stimulus would stem the tide of unemployment and keep it under 8%? So Krugman’s plan has us repeat what hasn’t worked to this point. No talk of cutting corporate income taxes to spur hiring, in fact no talk of any other method which might actually spur the market instead of providing temporary spending for temporary jobs.

Or, more succinctly, they haven’t a clue and while Rome burns, Nero is in Copenhagen fiddling away.

~McQ

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Some Notes Before Obama’s Health Care Speech

The presidential speech before a joint session of Congress tonight is probably one of the more highly anticipated speeches in Obama’s young presidency. Some say it is a “make or break” speech, alluding to the fact that if it doesn’t hit the mark, it could doom health care legislation and his presidency.

We’ve heard from Robert Gibbs that Obama will draw some “lines in the sand”. We’ve been led to believe that Obama will get specific and essentially lay out the minimums he’ll accept for health care legislation. There’s debate as to whether the public option will be a demand or optional.

To this point, no one really knows. So I thought I’d throw a few thoughts out here for you to ponder.

One thing I hope to hear is the “purpose” of any reform. It began as a cry to insure the uninsured. It morphed into “health care reform”. And now, it is often called “health insurance reform”. If people seem confused about the purpose of the legislation, it’s because Democrats and the president have been unclear.

If it is about insuring the uninsured, that ought to be about a 50 page bill – the size of the Medicare bill when it was submitted to Congress years ago. Of course that’s not what this reform is about and the extent of what is being considered needs to be made crystal clear.

Another aspect of this is cost. Both the president and Congress have claimed that the reason this reform is necessary is the level of spending is rising such that it will bankrupt us in the future. They believe we must control costs.

Ezra Klein has a piece about the public option which makes a very important point cost control. There are only three ways to do that:

Cost control happens when we use less treatment, need less treatment, or pay less for treatment …

Anyone sharp enough to turn on a light switch should be able to understand what those three things promise. They should also understand that, used in combination, they mean more than “health insurance reform”. They mean a completely different way of treatment in which less costly treatments are encouraged, preventive medicine is encouraged and, regardless of the treatment given, less reimbursement for the care.

So when the president talks about cost controls tonight, that’s what he is talking about. The reality is, someone will have to be making those decisions about cost and treatment, and there’s no question the person doing so will not be you or your doctor. It should also be clear that the third leg of the cost control stool – less reimbursement for the care – does indeed require cuts in Medicare spending. Pretending otherwise is just an odious lie.

On a cultural level, Obama has to be convincing enough to sell the idea that government can handle this sort of change. That is a very tall order.

Paul Krugman, in a post about the public option said this about the politics of reform:

Let me add a sort of larger point: aside from the essentially circular political arguments — centrist Democrats insisting that the public option must be dropped to get the votes of centrist Democrats — the argument against the public option boils down to the fact that it’s bad because it is, horrors, a government program. And sooner or later Democrats have to take a stand against Reaganism — against the presumption that if the government does it, it’s bad.

The problem, of course, is there is nothing the Democrats have done to this point that makes any other case. Krugman needs only to think back to TARP, “stimulus”, GM takeover, financial institution bailout, even “cash for clunkers” have all been mostly ineffective or too intrusive or badly handled. While government certainly has some functions in which it can be effective, for the most part and for most of its history, when it goes outside those basic functions, it fails miserably.

This promises to be one of those failures and the public understands that. As many have pointed out, Medicare – a government health care insurance system run by government as a single-payer – has 58 trillion in future unfunded liabilities. If government can’t control costs in a program that is only part of the whole of the health care system, why should anyone believe it can competently run the whole thing?

Obviously, as polls show, they don’t. And a glib speech is not likely to convince them otherwise.

What Obama has to do tonight is reestablish what he’s been hemorrhaging for months – trust. The majority of people do not trust he or the Democrats on this particular issue. There are a number of reasons why that trust has slipped so badly. The primary reason, however, is neither he nor the Democrats have been able to substantiate the claims they’ve made about health care reform. In fact it has been a debacle for them. Few people who’ve looked into their claims have come away satisfied they can deliver.

So his major problem and his major task tonight is to rebuild that trust that has eroded so quickly. That’s a onerous task because usually, once trust is lost, it is very hard to regain. While what Mr. Obama presents tonight is important, nothing is more important than how he presents it.

If he can produce a clear vision with claims backed by reputable cites, studies and numbers, he might make a difference. But if he has simply repackaged the Democrat ideas to date and is counting on his rhetorical skills to make the case no one else has successfully made, he’s setting himself up for failure.

Additionally, the first time he uses one of the old and tired talking points he loves to throw out at town halls, such as keeping your doctor and your plan, those with whom he is trying to reestablish that critical link of trust will turn him off.

He also needs to avoid partisanship. If he goes after Republicans and claims they have brought nothing to the table, he’ll hurt his cause. Sarah Palin, of all people, laid out what Republicans have been saying for a while in a WSJ editorial today. Most people understand that it isn’t that Republicans haven’t put forward ideas, it is that Democrats have refused to consider them and basically shut them out of this process.

I’m looking forward to this speech for any number of reasons. But, given August, I’m not sure there are that many minds that are going to be swayed by his speech. Speaking of lines in the sand, I think among both the pubic and among legislators, they’re fairly well drawn.

Do I think something called “health care reform” will emerge at some point within the next few months? Yes, I do. Will it be what Obama talks about tonight and the Democrats want? Not necessarily. Not necessarily at all.

So let’s give a listen tonight and see how he does. I expect emotional appeals, moral appeals and financial appeals in the speech. But the question is will the speech have enough appeal to change the direction of the debate? Given the atmosphere in which he must make his appeal, my guess is “no”.

~McQ

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If Obama Is Losing Paul Krugman, Can The Rest Of The Left Be Far Behind?

Interesting article by Howard Kurtz which asks the question in the title. But before we go there, let’s allow Mary Anastasia O’Grady to set the stage for you:

If the Obama administration were a flotilla of ships, it might be sending out an SOS right about now. ObamaCare has hit the political equivalent of an iceberg. And last week the president’s international prestige was broadsided by the Scots, who set free the Lockerbie bomber without the least consideration of American concerns. Mr. Obama’s campaign promise of restoring common sense to budget management is sleeping with the fishes.

This administration needs a win. Or more accurately, it can’t bear another loss right now.

Of course what she’s talking about is the administration’s foreign policy and in particular Honduras. However that has become a bit of a side-show in comparison with the domestic politics now thundering from DC to the townhalls of America.

Kurtz is noticing a disturbing trend if your an Obama administration fan. The base is not happy. And they’re starting to sound off about it.

He cites Krugman, Clarence Page, David Corn and Frank Rich as part of the leftist chattering class losing confidence in the chosen one.

That can’t be good. But some of it is inevitable:

A president is going to be smacked around from the moment he takes office and the uplifting rhetoric of campaign rallies meets the gritty reality of governing.

But what Kurtz is talking about isn’t the “inevitable”. It’s more than that. It carries more than a hint of disillusionment. He quotes David Corn, for instance, claiming that some of Obama’s policies:

“… have caused concern, if not outright anger, among certain liberal commentators and bloggers. It’s been a more conventional White House than many people expected or desired. . . . He’s made compromises that have some people concerned about his adherence to principle.”

For Corn and the liberal left, he’s been much more “conventional” than expected and that bothers them. “Change” was read by them to mean much more radical change than they’ve seen. The question, of course, is were they mistaken on what they interpreted change to mean or, to extend O’Grady’s metaphor, is the reality of governing causing the liberal ship to founder? Either way the Corn contingent isn’t going to be happy.

Arrianna Huffington, among others I’m sure, spots the problem I talked about yesterday – lack of leadership:

Arianna Huffington has lamented Obama’s “lack of leadership,” asking: “How could someone with a renowned ability to inspire, communicate complex ideas, and connect with voters find himself in this position?”

For the reasons I covered yesterday, this isn’t likely to improve. And that again is because it is one thing to communicate complex ideas and another to implement them. The former takes nothing more than a competent rhetorician while the latter demands a leader.

And even Paul Krugman is getting that creepy feeling that a leadership deficit is becoming more and more evident:

“Mr. Obama was never going to get everything his supporters wanted. But there’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line.”

So why this sudden disenchantment? As Kurtz points out, Obama’s history was known to everyone – the Krugmans, Richs, Corns and Huffingtons of this world:

It’s easy to forget, in light of Obama’s global celebrity, that five years ago he was a state senator in Illinois. Given his short tenure as a national figure, Obama finds himself having to prove, at least to the opinion-mongers, what he’s really made of. “Is He Weak?” asked a recent Jim Hoagland column, on foreign policy, in The Post.

Is he weak? Well, again, given that 5 years ago he was hanging out in the Illinois State Senate and since that he’s spent 2 years as a junior Senator in DC what would a reasonable person expect? What has he done that would indicate he’d be something else?

Of course this was all brought up prior to the election and waved away by the same pundits who are now, suddenly, finding out that their knight in shining armor is actually Don Quixote.

Now suddenly Obama isn’t living up to their expectations.

The president’s liberal critics tend to cluster around particular issues. Some see health reform as making or breaking Obama’s first term. Others are disappointed at the pace of withdrawal from Iraq, the escalation in Afghanistan and the delay in closing Guantanamo Bay. Still others argue that Obama should be leading the charge to investigate terrorism-related abuses during the Bush administration.

Of course that’s why the DoJ decision to pursue charges against the CIA is seen as a political sop to this part of Obama’s base (something which will eventually blow up in the administration’s face). But the bottom line is Obama just isn’t meeting the expectations of those who worked so hard to put him in office.

The reason for that is evident for some and becoming more evident to others. Krugman has figured it out although he can’t quite bring himself to say it and even Arrianna Huffington is beginning to understand the real problem – there’s a leadership vacuum in Washington, and it isn’t likely to be filled anytime soon. And liberals better get used to being both disappointed and disenchanted.

~McQ

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