Wall Street Journal
Even the Washington Post has a problem swallowing the latest Obama attempt at rewriting history (with the usual motive of passing off the blame to someone or something else). As usual, Obama is trying to have it both ways while waving away his culpability in the problems and deaths now taking place in Iraq:
President Obama surprised a few people during a news conference Thursday by claiming that the 2011 decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq, a politically popular move on the eve of an election year, was made entirely by his Iraqi counterpart. The implication ran counter to a number of claims that Obama has made in the past, most notably during a tight campaign season two years ago, when he suggested that it was his decision to leave Iraq and end an unpopular war.
His remarks, coming as an Islamist insurgency seizes territory across northern Iraq and threatens the central government, recalled key moments in his reelection race when he called his opponent hopelessly out of step with Middle East realities for wanting to keep U.S. forces in the still-fragile country America had invaded nearly a decade earlier.
In the 2012 campaign’s stretch, Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney met inside the performing arts center of Lynn University for the last of three presidential debates. The race remained close, and in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA-run annex in Benghazi, Libya, the Romney team saw foreign policy as an area of potential vulnerability for the incumbent. The debate focused on the issue.
For much of that election year, Obama had included a line of celebration in his standard stump speech, one that among an electorate exhausted by more than a decade of war always drew a rousing applause: “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq,” Obama proclaimed in Bowling Green, Ohio, in September 2012, and did nearly every day after until the election. “We did.”
For Obama, who four years earlier had distinguished himself from Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton through his opposition to the war in Iraq, the fact he had withdrawn all U.S. forces from the country was a problem solved and a political chip to be cashed in come November.
It was also a way to once again draw contrasts with Romney, who criticized Obama for failing to secure a so-called status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. The agreement would have granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution to all U.S. troops in country after 2011. Reaching such a deal — a political risk for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — would have allowed a contingent of several thousand U.S. troops to remain, largely to help with training and specific counter-terrorism operations.
“With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should be a status of forces agreement,” Romney told Obama as the two convened on the Lynn University campus in Boca Raton, Fla., that October evening. “That’s not true,” Obama interjected. “Oh, you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?” Romney asked as an argument ensued. “No,” Obama said. “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”
On Thursday, Obama addressed reporters in the White House Briefing Room about Iraq’s latest crisis. “Do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq? Any regrets about that decision in 2011?” a reporter asked. “Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me,” Obama said. “That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.”
While the last statement is technically true, it’s because the Obama administration had engineered it to be that way. They knew full well how all of our other Status of Forces Agreements were done and deliberately included conditions and a step that was unnecessary that all but guaranteed rejection by the Iraqi government.
Here’s a little history of the time (written in October of 2011):
Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not. Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference. Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations. Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
The administration didn’t even open talks on renewing the Status of Forces Agreement until this summer, a few months before U.S. troops would have to start shuttering their remaining bases to pull out by Dec. 31. The previous agreement, in 2008, took a year to negotiate.
The recent negotiations were jinxed from the start by the insistence of State Department and Pentagon lawyers that any immunity provisions be ratified by the Iraqi parliament—something that the U.S. hadn’t insisted on in 2008 and that would be almost impossible to get today. In many other countries, including throughout the Arab world, U.S. personnel operate under a Memorandum of Understanding that doesn’t require parliamentary ratification. Why not in Iraq? Mr. Obama could have chosen to override the lawyers’ excessive demands, but he didn’t.
He also undercut his own negotiating team by regularly bragging—in political speeches delivered while talks were ongoing—of his plans to “end” the “war in Iraq.” Even more damaging was his August decision to commit only 3,000 to 5,000 troops to a possible mission in Iraq post-2011. This was far below the number judged necessary by our military commanders. They had asked for nearly 20,000 personnel to carry out counterterrorist operations, support American diplomats, and provide training and support to the Iraqi security forces. That figure was whittled down by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to 10,000, which they judged to be the absolute minimum needed.
The Iraqis knew about these estimates: U.S. military commanders had communicated them directly to Iraqi leaders. Prime Minister Maliki was said (by those who had talked to him) to privately support such a troop commitment, and almost all Iraqi political leaders—representing every major faction except for the rabidly anti-American Sadrists—assented on Aug. 2 to opening negotiations on that basis.
When the White House then said it would consent to no more than 5,000 troops—a number that may not even have been able to adequately defend itself, much less carry out other missions—the Iraqis understandably figured that the U.S. wasn’t serious about a continued commitment. Iraqi political leaders may have been willing to risk a domestic backlash to support a substantial commitment of 10,000 or more troops. They were not willing to stick their necks out for such a puny force. Hence the breakdown of talks.
So the talks on SOFA broke down giving Obama a reason to “end the war” and to blame the breakdown on Iraq and Iraq’s government. Perfect.
And now we see the result. He has someone to blame the problem on even as the history of how and why what happened happened seems to be lost in the mist. This was a deliberately staged and engineered outcome. By making an unacceptable offer and requiring other than the leadership of Iraq to endorse the deal, they knew it would fail. And that means the usual … another of our allies thrown under the bus. Yes, Maliki isn’t any bargain. And yes, he’s done as poor a job with Iraq as Obama has done in America. But there are two people that should be under the bus, and we all know who the second one is.
Don’t let him rewrite this bit of history to his advantage.
I think Marc Thiessen pens a fairly succinct one in today’s Washington Post:
We’re conducting foreign policy by faux pas. This entire episode has been driven not by deliberate strategy but by slips of the tongue. Obama’s declaration of a “red line” on chemical weapons was a slip of the tongue. So was Secretary of State John Kerry’s offer to have Syria give up its chemical weapons. There is no plan, no coherence to anything this administration is doing on Syria.
More embarrassing still, Obama is actually claiming that the diplomatic “breakthrough” is the result of his administration’s show of strength.
Was it a show of strength when Obama went to the world’s nations and asked them to join him in enforcing “their” red line — finding only one country (France) ready to do so? Or when the British parliament rejected military action for the first time since the 1700s? Or when a U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times that any U.S. strike would be “just muscular enough not to get mocked”? Or when Kerry declared that any strike would be “unbelievably small” and would not really constitute “war”? Or when Obama used his prime-time, nationally televised address to call on Congress to do . . . nothing?
That’s not a show of strength. That’s an embarrassment.
Foreign policy by faux pas. You have to cringe at that one. But it is certainly the truth.
The idea that this sequence of events led Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to cower and agree to hand over his chemical weapons is laughable. Russia and Syria are playing us. And the administration, which was about to lose a vote in Congress, latched on to this diplomatic “solution” to save face.
It’s supposed to be the president of the United States who gives a dictator a face-saving way out, not the other way around. The sad fact is Obama needed this way out more than Assad.
To claim otherwise is simply laughable. And, added into all of this, it gave Assad room to do whatever it is he thinks he needs to do (not to mention legitimacy as Syria’s leader) and a chance to add his own condition to the mix – that the US stop supplying the rebels with arms. Watch for that to come into play at some point in the “negotiations”.
As the Wall Street Journal says when describing the debacle:
Through mixed messages, miscalculations and an 11th-hour break, the U.S. stumbled into an international crisis and then stumbled out of it. A president who made a goal of reducing the U.S.’s role as global cop lurched from the brink of launching strikes to seeking congressional approval to embracing a deal with his biggest international adversary on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And here we are. The clown car remains full and, unfortunately, will be leading the circus for the next 3 plus years. Hold on to your hats (and wallets).
P.S. and no we won’t be saying anything about the shootings, er “workplace violence”, at the Navy Yard in DC until a whole lot more information comes in.
You have to read this article by Bill Nojay in the Wall Street Journal. Nojay was hired as the COO of the Detroit Department of Transportation, on contract, for 8 months. His litany of woes is, as Insty notes, almost straight out of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.
It is all but an article of faith on the left and certain pseud-intellectuals that Rand was a crackpot. Yet here we are watching what she wrote become reality:
Micromanagement by the council was endemic; I once sat for five hours waiting to discuss a minor transportation matter while City Council members debated whether to authorize the demolition of individual vacant and vandalized houses, one by one. There are over 40,000 vacant houses in Detroit.
Union and civil-service rules made it virtually impossible to fire anyone. A six-step disciplinary process provided job protection to anyone with a pulse, regardless of poor performance or bad behavior. Even the time-honored management technique of moving someone up or sideways where he would do less harm didn’t work in Detroit: Job descriptions and qualification requirements were so strict it was impossible for management to rearrange the organization chart. I was a manager with virtually no authority over personnel.
When the federal government got involved, it only made things worse. A federal lawsuit charging that the DDOT did not fully comply with the law in accommodating disabled riders had dragged on for years because of idealistic but painfully naïve Justice Department attorneys seeking regulatory perfection. I felt like a guy in the boiler room of the Titanic, desperately bailing to keep the ship afloat for a few more hours while the DOJ attorneys complained from their first-class cabin that their champagne wasn’t properly chilled.
Detroit’s other municipal departments had similar challenges. I would often compare notes with managers trying to run the city’s street lights, recreation programs, police departments and smaller offices. All of us faced similar gridlock.
The “government is the answer” crowd have a lot to answer for when considering Detroit. In that city, government was as much of the problem, in fact, likely the biggest problem the city faced. It couldn’t get out of its own way. And as the city deteriorated and taxes skyrocketed in an attempt to offset the deterioration, the producers finally fled. They shrugged. They said, “no more.” This country is headed in the same direction.
It just may take a little bit more time to reach the depths of Detroit and suffer the same result – but there’s little if any question it’s on the same road as Detroit. It has passed through the stop sign, busted through the road closed sign and is headed toward the cliff. The only control anyone may have now is how fast the whole contraption reaches the edge.
Wall Street Journal headline:
U.S. Economy Unexpectedly Contracts in Fourth Quarter
With this administration’s fiscal policies?
Wonder where the hell they’ve been hiding?
Pete DuPont does a little analysis of what should be major issues in the upcoming election. They don’t bode well for the current administration if, in fact, Republicans can get the media to actually pay attention and address them:
• Taxes. Big tax hikes coming in January will serve as dampers on economic growth.ObamaCare imposes a new 3.8% tax on investment income. On top of that, if the Bush tax [rates] aren’t extended, the top income tax rates will rise to 23.8% from 15% on capital gains and to 43.4% from 15% on dividends.
But beyond the economic impact, the Obama administration’s focus on class warfare fuels the nation’s dissatisfaction and plays on an unwise resentment towards successful businesspeople. Mr. Obama continues to push for higher taxes and does so in a way that is an attack on those who are successful–demanding that higher-income taxpayers pay their "fair share," when they already pay more than that.
The economic impact shouldn’t be waved off. When and if both capital gains and dividend incomes are taxed at a higher rate, they will effect both investment and retirement incomes. Don’t forget those” rich folks” whose retirement income is structured to depend on dividends from blue chip stocks they’ve methodically bought in small quantities over their working years. It obviously doesn’t matter that their incomes really don’t reach the “rich” threshold that the Democrats want you to envy, their retirement incomes will take an almost 200% tax increase hit regardless if the current rates aren’t extended. Apparently to collect less than a trillion dollars over 10 years taxing the “rich” (so they’ll pay their “fair share”) vs. spending $46 trillion Democrats are happy to sacrifice those folks.
As for investments, there’ll be a recalculation given the increase on capital gains and it will dampen investments, thus business expansion and finally job growth.
• Energy. The American people hear Mr. Obama talk about a broad energy strategy, but they see an administration that has attacked the coal industry with onerous regulations, done little or nothing to assist the natural gas boom, done what it can to slow down oil production, and wasted money on other initiatives that please green supporters but don’t lower the cost of energy.
This administration’s energy policy is a joke, but unfortunately it’s a very expensive joke. Its priorities are completely backward, but purposefully so. To call what they are doing a “policy” is simply absurd. This is agenda fulfillment with the people’s money on pie-in-the-sky projects that have yet to yield (nor do they even promise to yield) the energy required to make them viable. Meanwhile they’ve done everything humanly possible to retard the fossil fuel industry’s growth at a critical time for our economy. On the issue of energy, this administration gets an F-.
• Health care. Although ObamaCare remains unpopular, the Supreme Court ruling upholding it means that a 17% transfer of our economy from the marketplace to the control of the federal government is coming unless Congress and a President Romney can stop it. At a time when our nation needs lower taxes and more flexibility in health-care decisions, ObamaCare has increased taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars and allowed government to regulate most of our health care decisions.
The secretary of health and human services can now set rules that constrain doctors and hospitals and mandate prices. Mr. Obama once promised us all that if you were happy with your current health plan, you’d be able to keep it. The more we learn about ObamaCare, the unlikelier that looks–and the more the government will intrude in the relationship between doctor and patient.
Despite the disapproval of a majority of Americans, Democrats and this President rammed the legislation through anyway. That should tell most Americans what they really think of their opinion. It is a classic “we know what’s best for you” elitist move.
The second paragraph gives a hint though to the powers this legislation has given an unaccountable government bureaucrat. The Secretary of HHS now has tremendous power to make unilateral decisions that will effect everyone’s health care. Of course, that’s been discussed by some on the right, but for the most part the level of intrusion these powers will confer won’t really begin to be felt until, conveniently, after the election.
• Spending. Federal expenditures under Mr. Obama is both unparalleled and unsustainable. As National Review’s Jonah Goldberg notes, from the end of World War II until the end of the George W. Bush administration, federal spending never exceeded 23.5% of GDP, and the Bush years’ average was around 20%. The Obama spending rates have stayed above 23.5% in every year of his presidency. In the past four years, America has added $5 trillion in federal debt, and around $4 trillion of that was from Obama policies, according to The Wall Street Journal. Federal debt held by the public was 40.5% of gross domestic product in 2008. It’s now 74.2% and rising.
Despite the attempts by Democrats using fudged numbers and trying to spin it so Bush gets the blame, the spending by this administration is, as DuPont points out, “both unparalleled and unsustainable”. And, don’t forget, the President hasn’t signed a budget in over 1,000 days because the Democratic Senate has refused to pass one, despite the Constitutional requirement it do so.
Those are the things we ought to be talking about. Not whether or not Romney pissed off the Palestinians (who doesn’t piss off the Palestinians when they take a principled stand on Israel? How is this even news?).
These are where Obama’s skeleton’s are to be found. He’d prefer to keep this closet door firmly closed. The media, for the most part, seems content to help in that endeavor.
This election isn’t about anything but his administration’s abysmal record. Spending time talking anything else is simply a distraction. Unfortunately, given its unprecedented level of economic intrusion, we’re going to live or die economically with the policies that government applies. Talking about whether a candidate may or may not have insulted the London Olympics isn’t going to change that fact one iota. But it sure does distract from examining the previous administration’s record, doesn’t it?
From the Wall Street Journal:
Egypt’s highest court ruled on Thursday to allow a former regime loyalist to run in presidential elections starting Saturday and to dissolve both houses of Egypt’s parliament, in verdicts that could add another pressure point to Egypt’s already fraught transition from military rule to democracy.
Actually it’s a little worse than that:
According to Ahram Online, a news website owned by the Egyptian government, a constitutional court judge announced that the ruling effectively dissolves both houses of Egypt’s parliament.
Taken together, the verdicts return the military—and the civilian cabinet it appointed—to full authority over the country, unhindered by an elected parliament.
One assumes there may be some resistance to this.
On Wednesday afternoon, Egypt’s ministry of justice endowed the military and intelligence services with expanded powers to arrest and detain people for participating in protests and disseminating media the military finds offensive—a decision that human rights groups said smacked of a return to the draconian justice of the former regime.
You think? Probably cut down a lot on the molesting of women in Tahrir square too … well maybe.
It has been fairly well established that unless something that happens on his watch reflects well on him, President Obama is in the habit of trying to pass off all bad things to someone or something else.
In the case of our economic woes, the latest pass off target is Europe. But the Wall Street Journal does a pretty darn good job of taking that argument apart. First with history:
In 1997 Asia’s economy imploded. Currencies collapsed, countries had their ratings downgraded to junk, millions of people lost their jobs, governments were replaced, regimes fell. In October a jittery Dow, fearing the effects of "Asian contagion," lost 7.2% of its value in a single day. Trading had to be halted twice.
And yet the American economy was unscathed. In 1997 GDP grew by 4.5%. In 1998 it grew again by 4.5%, this time despite the Russian ruble crisis. In 1999, annual growth reached 4.9%, a pace it hasn’t exceeded since. Unemployment fell to 4.2%. The government ran a surplus.
Obama claims that Europe is our “largest trading partner”. Well, they’re not:
Europe is not our largest trading partner. Canada is. Followed by China. Followed by Mexico. Followed by Japan. "Europe" only counts as America’s largest trading partner in an aggregate sense. An honest apples-to-apples comparison would find that U.S. trade with North America or East Asia dwarfs trade across the Atlantic.
And, tossing his blatantly false claim aside, is trade where our problem really lies?
Now take the question of how much trade matters to America. In 2009, foreign trade accounted for 24.3% of the U.S. economy. By contrast, the foreign-trade-to-GDP ratio was 51.9% for China, 71.1% for Canada and 89.2% for Germany. When it comes to foreign trade, the U.S. is the world’s least dependent major economy.
That’s right, it isn’t Europe and it isn’t trade that’s the problem. It is economic policy. Domestic economic policy and a rudderless ship of state, the captain more interested in fund raising and re-election than doing the hard work of trying to turn the situation around.
Which brings us to another excuse – Congressional Republicans:
Again, a little history is in order. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 passed the Senate 58-33 in an evenly split chamber. Bill Clinton managed to do business with a GOP that controlled both houses of Congress for six of his eight years in office. Ronald Reagan passed all of his economic agenda through a House that was under constant Democratic control.
Somehow it is only Barack Obama—whose party, in an inconvenient truth for his campaign, still runs the Senate—who seems incapable of working with any Congress not under full partisan control. (And even then he had trouble.) Americans expect their presidents to be able to assemble coalitions of the politically willing in order to achieve pragmatic and relatively popular results. The Obama administration method, by contrast, has been to shove what it can down the public throat, then act surprised when the public gags, or throws up.
Leadership, of course, makes a difference – Clinton, Reagan and Bush were able to exert the sort of leadership necessary to work with Congress to get what they wanted. Obama seems to think “working with” means he dictates and Congress passes what he dictates. And when that doesn’t happen, well, it’s off to another fund raiser.
Peggy Noonan talked about politicians “laying down lines” before an event so they can spin what happens in a positive way even if what happens isn’t at all positive. That’s what you see here – the President of the United States laying down a line of BS about Europe and trade so, if and when Europe collapses he can point his finger across the Atlantic and blame that continent for the problems here.
For the record, it isn’t the first or last time:
As president, Mr. Obama has attempted to make scapegoats of bankers, bondholders, private-equity firms, insurance companies, energy companies, ATMs, the Chamber of Commerce, the Catholic Church, opponents of illegal immigration, European politicians, Supreme Court justices and even Japanese tsunamis.
But he got bin Laden, didn’t he?
However, the 14.3% unemployed are not particularly impressed.
With these debt ceiling negotiations underway, it is useful to remind ourselves, especially with an election year looming, how we got in this spot that has Moody’s threatening to downgrade our bonds based on the possibility of default on the debt.
On spending, it is important to recall how extraordinary the blowout of the last three years has been. We’ve seen nothing like it since World War II. Nothing close. The nearby chart tracks federal outlays as a share of GDP since 1960. The early peaks coincide with the rise of the Great Society, the recession of 1974-75, and then a high of 23.5% with the recession of 1982 and the Reagan defense buildup.
From there, spending declines, most rapidly during the 1990s as defense outlays fell to 3% of GDP in 2000 from its Reagan peak of 6.2% in 1986. The early George W. Bush years saw spending bounce up to a plateau of roughly 20% of GDP, but no more than 20.7% as recently as 2008.
Then came the Obama blowout, in league with Nancy Pelosi’s Congress. With the recession as a rationale, Democrats consciously blew up the national balance sheet, lifting federal outlays to 25% in 2009, the highest level since 1945. (Even in 1946, with millions still in the military, spending was only 24.8% of GDP. In 1947 it fell to 14.8%.) Though the recession ended in June 2009, spending in 2010 stayed high at nearly 24%, and this year it is heading back toward 25%.
This is the main reason that federal debt held by the public as a share of GDP has climbed from 40.3% in 2008, to 53.5% in 2009, 62.2% in 2010 and an estimated 72% this year, and is expected to keep rising in the future. These are heights not seen since the Korean War, and many analysts think U.S. debt will soon hit 90% or 100% of GDP.
Here’s the WSJ chart talked about above:
In terms of percentage of the GDP, only WWII compares to the outlays we’ve seen in the past 3 years. And not only did the Democratic Congress and Obama “consciously blow up” the debt, they never offered a budget as required by law. This was just money thrown to the wind with the hope it would land somewhere where it might help. To call what they did a “plan” is to give real plans a bad name.
Now, suddenly, Obama is “serious” about this stuff, making demands that a fix be found, etc. Where the heck was he when this money was going out faster than little Timmy Geithner could print it? So let’s be clear, as Obama likes to say:
Congress is responsible for the way so much of this spending was wasted, resulting in little job creation and the slowest economic recovery since the 1930s. But in the U.S. political system, Presidents are supposed to be the fiscal adults. When they abdicate, the teenagers invite over their special interest friends and blow the inheritance.
The President is now claiming to have found fiscal virtue, but notice how hard he has fought House Republicans as they’ve sought to abate the spending boom. First he used the threat of a government shutdown to whittle the fiscal 2011 spending cuts down to very little. Then he invited Paul Ryan to sit in the front row for a speech while he called his House budget un-American.
How does one take this President seriously given this litany?
Easy answer – you don’t. I mean, look at this:
Now Mr. Obama is using the debt-ceiling debate as a battering ram not to control spending but to command a tax increase. We’re told the White House list of immediate budget savings, the ones that matter most because they are enforceable by the current Congress, are negligible. His offer for immediate domestic nondefense discretionary cuts: $2 billion.
As for Mr. Obama’s proposed entitlement cuts, they are all nibbling around the edges of programs that are growing far faster than inflation. He’s offering few reforms that would make a difference in the long run. Oh, and ObamaCare is untouchable, despite its $1 trillion in new spending over the next several years, growing even faster after that.
And this goes to the point of my previous post. When you look at how we got here and who is responsible (yeah, he didn’t inherit this – this is all his) it is hard to find any grounds for confidence that the same people have any idea or desire to change their ways. And yet they’re going to try to convince the American people that Obama should keep his job and Nancy Pelosi should be returned to the House speakership (with a sweeping victory putting a Democratic majority back in the House).
It’s enough to make a grown man cry.
It is a restriction of your freedom to choose. It is government assuming the role of deciding what is best for you instead of allowing market and consumers the freedom of making that decision and choice.
The greens and the Obama Administration assert that the new light bulbs are good for the lumpen bourgeoisie because they will cut electricity use and save the average household $50 a year. Mr. Obama’s Energy Department told Congress recently that to repeal the ban would "detrimentally affect the nation’s economy, energy security, and environmental imperatives." Yes, and cause the seas to rise to swamp Miami and New York too.
If you catch the sarcasm in the WSJ column cited, I believe it is well deserved. You see, if the average household found it worth $50 a year to make such a change, they’d do so based on their priorities, not government’s. That’s freedom. Instead we have the government forcing that decision on households whether they like it or not. And the reasoning? Well it has become almost cliché to cite Orwell when talking about many things modern government does, but in this case, and after the reading the following, tell me if you don’t agree it is entirely appropriate:
In classic doublespeak, the Department of Energy explains that outlawing incandescent bulbs will "empower consumers with lighting choices." Unless your choice is to buy the light bulb the government doesn’t like.
Indeed. There is no “choice” involved here at all, except to refuse to buy CFLs and sit in the dark.
When government can reach down to the level of deciding what you can and can’t buy for lighting your house, then you have seen your freedom diminished. And it can be for all sorts of good intentions – but it doesn’t change the simple fact that your freedom to choose is less today than yesterday. In fact, we need to update an old saying. The road to serfdom is paved with freedom killing laws based on good but collectivist intentions. Yeah, it’s not really very snappy but you get the idea.
Our freedom is slowly bleeding away, suffering a death by a thousand cuts. And we’re as much to blame as the government.
The question an (allegedly) free society should ask is if CFL bulbs are so clearly superior, why does the government have to force people to buy them?
Because it can. And we let it.
Insist Congress repeal the ban. Meanwhile – stock up on incandescent bulbs. I am.
President Obama has an op/ed in the Wall Street Journal (a carefully chosen venue to project a “pro-business” lean, I’m sure) in which he touts an Executive Order he is signing which orders a review of all federal regulation ostensibly to bring them inline with today’s realities and help root out those which stifle job creation.
On the surface, nothing at all objectionable in the premise. Obama claims the purpose of the effort is to ensure that what regulation is kept represents “common sense rules of the road that strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy.”
Fine and dandy. I’d love to see that applied to the letter. I just have no real confidence that this is anything other than show (a visible move toward the center) or that bureaucracies will pay it any attention. Of course that’s something we’ll have to see and monitor.
But … again, backing government out of much of the present regulatory regime (“unduly interfering” in Obama’s words) would indeed be a help.
More on the stated premise:
But creating a 21st-century regulatory system is about more than which rules to add and which rules to subtract. As the executive order I am signing makes clear, we are seeking more affordable, less intrusive means to achieve the same ends—giving careful consideration to benefits and costs. This means writing rules with more input from experts, businesses and ordinary citizens. It means using disclosure as a tool to inform consumers of their choices, rather than restricting those choices. And it means making sure the government does more of its work online, just like companies are doing.
Again, wonderful words (“more affordable, less intrusive” and more choice instead of “restricting those choices”) in an op/ed, but I have to say despite Obama’s claim this has been the aim of his administration the last two years, I’d dispute that. Look at the route the EPA is taking right now in terms of trying to impose a regulatory regime on greenhouse gases. Or how the Interior Department has unilaterally blocked oil and gas exploration.
Certainly simplifying the regulatory regime, removing conflicting and overlapping rules, eliminating redundant reporting requirements and moving much of what can be done on-line to that venue would help. But while that may make things more understandable and less onerous to do, it doesn’t really mean that intrusive regulation is going to go away or even be lessened.
We’re back to how you define such regulation and what level of intrusiveness you believe is too much. There’s no doubt that the Obama administration believes in a level of intrusion far greater than do most on the right. An example of the difference can be found in the article itself:
One important example of this overall approach is the fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks. When I took office, the country faced years of litigation and confusion because of conflicting rules set by Congress, federal regulators and states.
The EPA and the Department of Transportation worked with auto makers, labor unions, states like California, and environmental advocates this past spring to turn a tangle of rules into one aggressive new standard. It was a victory for car companies that wanted regulatory certainty; for consumers who will pay less at the pump; for our security, as we save 1.8 billion barrels of oil; and for the environment as we reduce pollution.
Of course on the other side of that are those saying “since when is it a function of government to decide what gas mileage a car must get?” The entire premise that it is a function of government is built on belief in a “justified” level of intrusion far beyond that which any Constitutional scholar would or could objectively support (that’s assuming he is a scholar and an honest one). In fact the example perfectly states the obvious difference between big government advocates and small government advocates. BGA’s think it is government’s job to dictate such things – that it is a function of government to do so. SGAs believe it is the market’s job to dictate such things and that government shouldn’t be involved in these sorts of things.
So in essence, while the Obama op/ed has all the proper buzz words to attempt to sell it as a pro-business, small government move, it is in fact simply a restatement of an old premise that essentially says “government belongs in the areas it is now, we just need to clean it up a little”.
This really isn’t about backing off, it’s about cleaning up. It isn’t about letting the market work, it’s about hopefully making government work better. And while Obama claims to want to inform us about our choices rather than restricting them, I’ll still be unable to buy a car that doesn’t meet government standards on gas mileage even if I want one.
Now that may not seem like something most of us would want – few if any of us want bad gas mileage and the cost it brings – but it does illustrate the point that government regulation really isn’t about providing choice at all, it is and always will be about limiting them. And all the smooth talking in the world doesn’t change that. It’s the nature of the beast.
So when you hear wonderful things like this…
Our economy is not a zero-sum game. Regulations do have costs; often, as a country, we have to make tough decisions about whether those costs are necessary. But what is clear is that we can strike the right balance. We can make our economy stronger and more competitive, while meeting our fundamental responsibilities to one another.
…just remember the reality of regulation and understand that all the great sounding words you hear coming from the administration about regulatory overhaul are most likely based on a completely different premise than the right has. And as all of us have learned from the 2 years in which this administration has been in power, never, ever, ever just go by what they say they’re going to do. Always judge them on what they actually do, because rarely do they ever do what they say in speeches or op/eds like this.