Free Markets, Free People

Washington Post

Trying to rewrite history … again

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himself from Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton through his opposition to the war in Iraq, the fact he had withdrawn all U.S. forces from the country was a problem solved and a political chip to be cashed in come November.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.

~McQ

New Pew Poll puts Romney in the lead. WaPo questions poll’s validity

Funny stuff.  All of us out here who have been questioning the accuracy of various presidential polls and being called “poll truthers” (lord help you if you question the establishment or authority) now see a poll that favors the GOP candidate being called into question by none other than the Washington Post.

The Pew Research Center for the Public and the Press released a poll that puts Mitt Romney in the lead for the first time in their polling (Rasmussen also released a poll with Romney in the lead).

The Pew poll keys off the first debate, Romney’s big win and says:

In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September. Among likely voters, Romney holds a slight 49% to 45% edge over Obama. He trailed by eight points among likely voters last month.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters (1,112 likely voters), finds that 67% of Romney’s backers support him strongly, up from 56% last month. For the first time in the campaign, Romney draws as much strong support as does Obama.

“Likely voters”, as we’ve mentioned in the past, is the key demographic.  Forget registered voters.  Among likely voters, Pew is recording a 12 point swing.  That’s pretty significant.  You can hit the Pew link to go through all the particulars.

So what’s WaPo’s disagreement with the poll? Well they don’t really “disagree” so much as imply there might be a problem with the poll’s makeup (you know, the same thing we “poll truthers” have been talking about for months):

That pesky party ID question: The Pew sample for this poll was 36 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 30 percent independent.  That’s a major shift from the organization’s September poll which was 29 percent Republican, 39 percent Democratic and 30 percent independent.  In the 2010 election, the electorate was 36 percent Republican, 36 percent Democratic and 27 percent independent, according to exit polling. In 2008, 39 percent of the electorate identified as Democrats while 32 percent said they were Republicans and 29 percent said they were independents.

So in this poll, Pew was R+5.  That’s different than the D+8 they ran in September.  There’s you 12 point shift.  Of course in 2010, they were completely wrong calling the D/R split even.  Republicans ran a historic blow out during that election taking 60 seats in the House.  In 2008, they were probably slightly undercounting self-identified Democrats.  But not this time as Pew points out in their survey.  Enthusiasm among GOP voters is up.  It isn’t up among Democrats.  And that, one supposes, is the Pew justification for plussing the GOP on this poll.

September polls are notoriously inaccurate.  Polling companies, at least those who want to continue to be taken seriously, refine their models as they approach an election.  This poll appears to be an example of that.  As should be obvious to anyone who pays attention, the excitement, support and enthusiasm Obama enjoyed in 2008 doesn’t exist in this election, at least not anywhere to the degree it did then.  That means the ratios have changed.  Whether or not R+5 is the correct weight polls should give the GOP vote remains to be seen, but it certainly makes a lot more sense than D+8, the number we “poll truthers” were questioning all along.

~McQ
Twitter: @McQandO
Facebook: QandO

Indicators: WaPo poll says majority thinks government too big

As Dale points out in the podcast, while the election polls have yet to reflect it, the atmospherics of this electiongovtintrusion don’t bode well for Obama.  For instance, you have huge crowds turning out for Romney/Ryan events and you have the Obama campaign trying out “we purposely limit crowd size” on the media to excuse the comparatively paltry turnouts they are experiencing.  And then there’s the Newsweek cover story by Niall Ferguson telling Obama it’s time he hit the road.  It is almost like Newsweek is attempting a return to legitimacy by distancing itself from Obama.

Another indicator, much like the Gallup issues poll in which Obama had a 36% approval rating on the economy, is a Washington Post poll concerning the size and intrusiveness of government.

Call it a mood poll if you wish.  But again, taken with all the other polls, it does indeed begin to outline the “atmospherics” surrounding the election.  In this poll, a good majority of those polled said that government was both too big and too intrusive … not to mention way to expensive.  CNS has the story:

The poll asked: "Would you say you favor a smaller federal government with fewer services, or larger federal government with many services?"

Among all those polled, 55 percent said they wanted a smaller federal government and 40 percent said they wanted a larger federal government.

Among just the registered voters in the poll, 58 percent said they wanted a smaller federal government and 37 percent said they wanted a larger federal government.

The poll also asked: "Do you personally agree or disagree with the following statement. Government controls too much of our daily lives."

Among all those polled, 60 percent said they agreed and 39 percent said they disagreed. Among just the registered voters in the survey, the results were almost identical, with 60 percent saying they agreed and 38 percent saying they disagreed.

CNS points out that the Washington Post analysis says:

“… [T]he results show a deep partisan divide in America. "Partisan polarization presents a potentially insurmountable barrier to governing for whomever wins the White House in November."

Funny how the percentage of those who are for a larger and more intrusive government are at about the same percentage as the Democrats in the poll (35%).  So if it is “partisan polarization”, it would seem that the Democrats are losing the battle.  It would seem that the big middle is headed to the right.

Now we all know it’s easy to say you want smaller government with fewer services when it costs you nothing but an answer on a poll.  And we also understand that most people are fine with real cuts, as long as they effect someone else’s benefits and not theirs.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the mood of the country is inclined toward smaller and less intrusive government.

And that doesn’t bode will for big government Democrats – like Obama.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Facebook: QandO

The Obama campaign’s strategy of distraction

If you’re wondering where all this nonsense about Bain Capital is coming from and why, Jen Rubin of the WaPo gives you the low down:

The Obama team knew months ago that the economy would not sufficiently improve before Election Day to justify his reelection. Its polling showed simply blaming President George W. Bush wouldn’t be sufficient. The president and his political hacks concluded that it was too late and too risky to adopt a whole new second-term agenda. (It would risk offending either the base or centrists and reveal his first-term agenda to have been entirely inadequate.) So what to do?

Extend the Republican primary by running ads hitting Romney and encouraging Democrats to vote against Romney in Michigan and elsewhere. Then, before Romney could fully get his bearings, unload a barrage of negative attacks, scare mongering and thinly disguised oppo attacks through the mainstream media, taking advantage of many political reporters’ relative ignorance about the private equity field and their inclination to accept whole-hog President Obama’s version of “facts.”

We here at Q&O have addressed the problem of media ignorance many times in the past.  I’ve seen in manifested in both the military reporting and, of course, economic reporting.  In fact, what that ignorance produces is a steno pool that pretty much reports what it is told vs. having the knowledge and experience to spot inaccuracies or disingenuousness put out in press releases or talking points.

When you add a bias, this becomes a very dangerous but potent means of accomplishing the twin goals of discrediting your opponent and distracting the public from the real issues (economy) and the President’s record (abysmal).

Obviously our latest attempt at distraction is Bain Capital.  With the 800 pound twin gorillas of 8.2% unemployment and multi-trillion dollars of debt, you can bet that this is really the only avenue open to the Obama campaign and, as soon as they’ve gotten all they can get from this distraction, they’ll have another lined up and ready to go (my guess is it will have something to do with the Mormon faith).

Rubin is of the opinion that the Obama campaign has “shot its wad”.  They don’t have the money the Romney campaign has, the Bain nonsense isn’t resonating with voters and the polls have not moved significantly since they’ve started it.  I say, not so fast.

When you have a compliant media ready, willing and able to be your stenographer, money really isn’t a problem.  Romney’s campaign may have more money by you can bet it won’t get as much free press engaged in taking down Obama.  In fact precisely the opposite will be true. 

It is a mistake to believe that the Obama campaign is pretty much done with its apparent failure to see Bain swing the voters to their side.   They know they have to stay away, as much as possible, from unemployment and the economy.  My guess is we’ll see the new line of attack begin to unfold within days, if not weeks.    Because here’s what they’re faced with (according to a Democratic strategist):

On the one hand, the last round of Bain attacks has clearly rattled the Romney campaign, and a smattering of survey evidence suggests that the sustained ad campaign in swing states has scored some points. On the other hand, the Pew survey found no shift since May in swing-state voter preference.

But it’s not too early to say that Obama’s vital signs look dicey. Over the past 33 months, his job approval has been lower than George W. Bush’s at a comparable time in his presidency for all but one week. Bush averaged above 50 percent in the quarter before his successful reelection campaign, while Obama has been stuck in the 46-48 percent range for months. And the famous “wrong track” measure now stands at 63 percent, versus 55 percent in the days preceding the vote in 2004. If these two numbers don’t improve for Obama, his presidency will be in jeopardy. And they probably won’t — unless the economy perks up noticeably.

The economy won’t perk up noticeably by November.  And that means they’re not done with the distraction campaign … it’s all they have.  That means it is only going to get nastier and nastier.

Mark my words.

The smell of desperation in the air is clear and significant.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 13 May 12

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale talk about the Mitt Romney “bullying” story, media bias, and how the level of journalism under which the country suffers is a disservice to the voting public.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Obama caught in another falsehood

Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”  And of course, politicians know that.  So some of them use that truism to push a lie that will help them hoping that when, if ever, the truth is told, it will be moot.  It is all about establishing a narrative and making it last long enough to benefit them.

The internet has made that ploy a lot more difficult.  But that doesn’t mean the they don’t continue to try.  Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post awards Obama’s latest falsehood their highest, or lowest depending on how you look at it, rating – four Pinocchio’s.  Kessler describes that rating with a single word: “Whoppers”.

The lies have to do with decrepit bridges and, of course, Republicans.  The great healer, the man who promised to change the way politics was practiced in Washington, falsely attacked his opposition – again:

“I sent them a jobs bill that would have put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work repairing our roads, our bridges, schools, transit systems, along with saving the jobs of cops and teachers and firefighters, creating a new tax cut for businesses.  They said no. I went to the Speaker’s hometown, stood under a bridge that was crumbling.  Everybody acknowledges it needs to be rebuilt. Maybe he doesn’t drive anymore.  Maybe he doesn’t notice how messed up it was. They still said no. There are bridges between Kentucky and Ohio where some of the key Republican leadership come from, where folks are having to do detours an extra hour, hour-and-a-half drive every day on their commute because these bridges don’t work.  They still said no.”

–President Obama, remarks to the Building and Construction Trades Department conference, April 30, 2012

You have to love the little veiled bits of populism he pitches in there – “maybe he doesn’t drive anymore”, as if Obama does.

The point, however, is every bit of that is baloney per Kessler:

Back in September, when President Obama first unveiled his jobs bill, we gave him Three Pinocchios for remarks he made regarding the aging Brent Spence Bridge on the Ohio River. The bridge connects Kentucky and Ohio, the home states of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and it was irresistible symbolism for the White House.

The crumbling infrastructure of the nation’s bridges is certainly an important issue, but symbolism can only go so far. The administration could never explain what, if anything, the jobs bill would do to improve the Brent Spence Bridge, especially since construction was not slated to start until 2015 — and Obama’s jobs bill would spend most of its money in its first year.

Moreover, there is a long history of bipartisan support for this project, but Obama framed it as if the Republicans were blocking its reconstruction with their opposition to his legislation.

When we heard the president’s words Monday, we feared he was slipping back into his old habits. Once again he framed it as GOP opposition to fixing the Brent Spence Bridge. But then he upped the ante by mentioning other bridges “between Kentucky and Ohio” that “don’t work.”  So what’s he talking about?

Of course the three Pinocchios awarded then didn’t slow him down a bit, did it.  I’ve always been careful when I use the word “lie” or “liar”, because of the propensity today for people to call mistakes and the like lies.  A lie is a knowing falsehood.  So, after having this “mistake" pointed out previously (and don’t ever think the White House didn’t see that previous rating), Obama doubles down and throws it out there again.  That, my friends, makes it a lie.

When the administration was confronted with the facts of the case, the usual prevarication began:

An administration official said the president was referring to the Sherman Milton Bridge, which actually connects Indiana and Kentucky, near Louisville. Back in September, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) had to shut down the bridge because a 2 ½ inch crack had been discovered.

The bridge carries Interstate 64, so the bridge’s closure forced drivers to make major changes in their driving routes. Shortly after the shutdown, a Transportation Department blog declared that this bridge was “another example of why this [the president’s jobs bill] is so crucial.”

But here’s the rub: While Obama claimed “these bridges don’t work,” the Sherman Milton Bridge has already been repaired, ahead of schedule, and motorists are driving over it again.

But again, the claim is found to be baseless.

It turned out that, rather than being an example of an aging bridge, the crack that had been discovered actually had been there ever since the bridge was constructed in 1962, because of the type of steel used at the time. Other repairs were ordered, and the bridge reopened nearly three months ago — without needing any of Obama’s jobs-bill funds.

Another nearby bridge, the Kennedy Bridge, will soon undergo redecking, but officials said the work will not lead to a shutdown. Again, the work is being done without Obama’s jobs-bill money.

The facts don’t at all support the President’s statement.  So what was the purpose of the lie?  To cast political opponents in an unfavorable light – the usual purpose of deliberate political lies.  And these were deliberate political lies.

Of course you’d think, confronted with the facts, the administration might back down a bit?  But instead they apparently thought that doubling down was the best way to go:

“The President was making a point about the need to rebuild our infrastructure and the job creation opportunities that come with that, and was pointing to Ohio River area projects to illustrate the point that these kinds of projects are right in the Congressional Republican leadership’s backyards,” the administration official said.

Yup.  And they were being handled by a bi-partisan state level coalition without a dollar of Obama’s “jobs-bill funds”.

Kinda stings, doesn’t it Mr. Obama?

Four Pinocchios.

Well done, Mr. President.  A record that may be tied but never bested.

“Forward”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Samuelson: Obama’s Keystone Pipeline decision an “act of national insanity”

Robert Samuelson, writing in the Washington Post, correctly dissects the Obama decision to reject the Keystone Pipeline into its two proper constituent parts: politics and the net practical effect:

President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is an act of national insanity. It isn’t often that a president makes a decision that has no redeeming virtues and — beyond the symbolism — won’t even advance the goals of the groups that demanded it. All it tells us is that Obama is so obsessed with his reelection that, through some sort of political calculus, he believes that placating his environmental supporters will improve his chances.

Aside from the political and public relations victory, environmentalists won’t get much. Stopping the pipeline won’t halt the development of tar sands, to which the Canadian government is committed; therefore, there will be little effect on global-warming emissions. Indeed, Obama’s decision might add to them. If Canada builds a pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific for export to Asia, moving all that oil across the ocean by tanker will create extra emissions. There will also be the risk of added spills.

The unions are in his pocket, or so this decision would seem to say.  Not in his pocket and not particularly happy with him at the moment are the members of the radical environmentalist movement.  He apparently thinks they’re important to his re-election.  This was a political move designed to shore up that constituency with the implied promise of permanent rejection of the project after he’s re-elected.  That’s the message to them (whether it is true or not, they’ll still vote for him now because they know a Republican will okay it).  He most likely figures the unions will suck it up and support him and, my guess now, he’ll find a bone he can throw their way sometime between now and November.

That leaves the practical effect of his rejection to the overall environmentalist goal of “reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.  The effect?  It will likely mean even more emissions than running the pipeline through the US.  As Samuelson points out the tar sands will be developed and exploited, the product will be transported through a pipeline and most likely that pipeline will now run to the west coast of Canada instead of our Gulf refineries.  But unlike the trip by pipeline to the coast, there will then be an added step of transporting it by sea to China.

Great win there enviro-types.

But there’s even more damage done by this decision. 

Now consider how Obama’s decision hurts the United States. For starters, it insults and antagonizes a strong ally; getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder. Next, it threatens a large source of relatively secure oil that, combined with new discoveries in the United States, could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil.

It’s not “relatively secure”, it is very secure.  Canada is and has been our largest supplier of “foreign” oil for years.   And they’re both a friend and a neighbor.  How more secure – other than having the tar sands within our borders – can a supply get?   What we have an opportunity to do here is displace the commensurate amount of foreign oil from unfriendly and insecure sources by the amount the tar sands would yield.

Sound like good policy?  Sound like a smart move?  Of course it does.  So why the rejection of such a seemingly common sense decision.  See reason one above: politics.  This is all about election year politics.   The president who claims to have the best interest of all Americans at heart has just demonstrated that that claim is nonsense.  He’s catered to a particular election year constituency in deference to what is obviously best for the nation.

Finally:

…Obama’s decision forgoes all the project’s jobs. There’s some dispute over the magnitude. Project sponsor TransCanada claims 20,000, split between construction (13,000) and manufacturing (7,000) of everything from pumps to control equipment. Apparently, this refers to “job years,” meaning one job for one year. If so, the actual number of jobs would be about half that spread over two years. Whatever the figure, it’s in the thousands and thus important in a country hungering for work. And Keystone XL is precisely the sort of infrastructure project that Obama claims to favor.

What has supposedly been the focus of Obama for some time – that’s right, jobs and infrastructure.  His rhetoric has been all about how we need to create jobs and improve our infrastructure.  Here you have a infrastructure project – an actual shovel ready one – that will provide jobs and he rejects it and, as usual, tries to shift the blame to Republicans for something he decided.   The implication, of course, is he might have made a different decision if they’d have let him vote “present” until after the election.  Because, you see, they’ve now forced him to tack this stupid decision on his less than impressive record as president – and now he’ll have to run on it.   As usual, the blame-shifter in chief had decided it is someone else’s fault.

And in case you were wondering about the timeline on this project, it goes pretty much like this:

The State Department had spent three years evaluating Keystone and appeared ready to approve the project by year-end 2011. Then the administration, citing opposition to the pipeline’s route in Nebraska, reversed course and postponed a decision to 2013 — after the election.

By the way, the supposed primary excuses for the rejection was the opposition to the pipeline mounted by Nebraska.  In fact, as POLITICO reports, the White House used the Republican governor there, Dave Heineman, as cover for its decision.  Heineman takes exception to that:

"I want to say I’m very disappointed," Heineman told POLITICO. "I think the president made a mistake."

"Really what he was saying in denying the permit was ‘no’ to American jobs and ‘yes’ to a greater dependence on Middle Eastern oil," he said. "We want to put America back to work."

Why is Heineman disappointed?  Because there was a way in the works to let the project go ahead while negotiations were finalized that would have satisfied Heineman and the states initial objections:

He said that his Legislature and his administration were working to get the final approvals in place and that the State Department should have approved conditionally while Nebraska worked out the final route. The company seeking to build the pipeline, TransCanada, was perfectly willing to begin construction at either end and finish in Nebraska, according to Heineman.

But the unilateral president, in a fit of political pique and in full political mode, decided to dump the project … at least for now.  Those ready shovels could be breaking ground today.  Instead, we have to hope, if and when the decision is reversed, that it hasn’t been overcome by events and Canadians aren’t loading tar sand oil on Chinese ships.

Naturally the administration thinks Heineman’s idea is just, well, inappropriate:

“It’s the responsibility of the State Department to grant this permit, which really looks at the crossing of the international boundary. … It’s important for us to look at the full pipeline and not move forward on such a major infrastructure project that will be a part of the country and the landscape for many years in pieces like that. I hadn’t heard about the governor proposing this, but we don’t really think that’s an approach that really deals with the national interest question in an appropriate way," Assistant Secretary of State Kerri Ann Jones said on a conference call.

Right.  Of course.  Naturally. 

What BS.

Say’s the governor:

"If you’re a decisive president and you want to put America back to work, you can find a way to get to yes," Heineman said about the administration’s response. "That’s what most governors do. So I’m just not buying that."

Yeah, neither am I.  Neither are 70% of the voters.

Politics … pure and simple. 

Jobs president?  Don’t make me laugh.

National security first?  Nope, politics first.

Concerned with all Americans?   Seriously?

An “act of national insanity”? Spot on.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Social Security–Krugman accuses WaPo of spreading disinformation while he spreads disinformation

A pair of very interesting articles.

First come the Washington Post’s article on Sunday which discusses the problems with the Social Security program in very honest and stark terms. 

For most of its 75-year history, the program had paid its own way through a dedicated stream of payroll taxes, even generating huge surpluses for the past two decades. But in 2010, under the strain of a recession that caused tax revenue to plummet, the cost of benefits outstripped tax collections for the first time since the early 1980s.

Now, Social Security is sucking money out of the Treasury. This year, it will add a projected $46 billion to the nation’s budget problems, according to projections by system trustees. Replacing cash lost to a one-year payroll tax holiday will require an additional $105 billion. If the payroll tax break is expanded next year, as President Obama has proposed, Social Security will need an extra $267 billion to pay promised benefits.

Then comes Paul Krugman’s attempt to dismiss it.  For his part, Krugman talks about a myth and presents it as fact:

You see, the WaPo makes a big deal of the fact that Social Security is currently taking in less in payroll taxes than it’s paying out in benefits. Yet this means nothing, except as a favorite point used to create confusion by those who want to kill the program.

I’ve written about this repeatedly in the past, but here it is again: Social Security is a program that is part of the federal budget, but is by law supported by a dedicated source of revenue. This means that there are two ways to look at the program’s finances: in legal terms, or as part of the broader budget picture.

In legal terms, the program is funded not just by today’s payroll taxes, but by accumulated past surpluses — the trust fund. If there’s a year when payroll receipts fall short of benefits, but there are still trillions of dollars in the trust fund, what happens is, precisely, nothing — the program has the funds it needs to operate, without need for any Congressional action.

Alternatively, you can think about Social Security as just part of the federal budget. But in that case, it’s just part of the federal budget; it doesn’t have either surpluses or deficits, no more than the defense budget.

It is the latter that is correct.  There is no “dedicated source of revenue” per se.  Hasn’t been for years.   What exists instead is a pile of Treasury bonds … IOUs the government wrote itself.   Congress, years ago, spent the money supposedly to be set aside for Social Security.

Krugman then tries to wave away the fact that even if the “dedicated source of revenue” doesn’t exist, heck, it’s a legal and untouchable (entitlement – must be paid, at least under the law as it exists now) part of the budget and the government will fund it.

That means that regardless of revenue, the government must pay.  

So tell me again how, given the unfunded future obligations of Social Security, it matters if the money comes from the mythical “lockbox” that has never existed or the general fund?  In either case, unless taxes are drastically increased, the money will have to be borrowed.  In either case, Social Security is in the negative – paying out more than it is taking in.  Nothing changes that.

Krugman’s last sentence is absolute hogwash.  Of course it would have a “deficit” if it was a part of the federal budget.  It has a set requirement to pay a certain amount out in benefits.  It is a mandatory entitlement by law.

The defense budget is discretionary.  There his postulation is correct.  That budget is whatever Congress says it is each year. 

For Social Security, the deficits would come from unmet and underfunded obligations – note the word: obligations- and it would require the federal government to either raise more revenue or borrow to meet those obligations.   That is not true of the defense budget.  Playing word games and false analogies to try and wave the truth away doesn’t change that.

But it does cement forever the fact that Paul Krugman has become much less of an economist and much more of a hack than I thought possible.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Richard Cohen: Obama has lost the Hamptons

Interesting “read between the lines” column by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post today. In it he relates his sojourn in New York’s Hamptons on Long Island. As he describes it, “[t]he Hamptons is where the Democratic energy, money and intellectual firepower of Manhattan goes for R&R. It’s just not another beach.” Or said another way, it is an enclave of the East Coast liberal elite.

So given that fact, and frankly it is pretty indisputable, you’d believe there’d still be a lot of support for Barack Obama – given the alternative. Yes?

No.

Cohen:

Over the Labor Day weekend, I went to a number of events in the Hamptons. At all of them, Obama was discussed. At none of them — that’s none — was he defended. That was remarkable. After all, sitting around various lunch and dinner tables were mostly Democrats. Not only that, some of them had been vociferous Obama supporters, giving time and money to his election effort. They were all disillusioned.

It’s taken them 3 years to become disillusioned, but per Cohen, they finally are. And what are they disillusioned about? The very same thing we’ve harped on for 3 years. The fact that Obama isn’t a leader and certainly not the guy this country needs in charge in this time of crisis.  The difference is we knew that before he ever took office:

I expected more than a few people to defend the president. No one did. Everyone — and I do mean everyone — expressed disappointment in him as a leader. In that area, they thought he was a bust.

And this wasn’t something that was anticipated given his thin resume and his lack of ever being in an actual leadership position previous to the White House?

You know, at times I wonder about the supposed elite in this country. As is obvious in the case of Barack Obama and the wool he pulled over the eyes of the rich and powerful on the left, critical thinking is apparently not a requisite skill  for making money. That’s further demonstrated by the fact that they then handed over gobs of it to a political novice with no leadership experience and precious little experience in much of anything of worth when it comes to governing.

But here we are. And now they’re “disillusioned”.

Imagine that.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

How do you bring a run-away government under control?

Rick Perry (Governor of Texas) and Nikki Haley (Governor of South Carolina) have a piece in the Washington Post in which they offer a solution to that problem we’re now experiencing:

We oppose an increase in the federal debt limit unless three common-sense conditions are met: substantial cuts in spending; enforceable spending caps to put the country on a path to a balanced budget; and congressional passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment should include a requirement for a congressional supermajority to approve any increases in taxes.

We can quibble about the particulars but in general I’m in agreement.  That said, I have little hope that a balanced budget amendment will ever pass or that a congressional supermajority will become a requirement for tax increases.  But the basic premise – cuts in spending, enforceable spending caps and difficulty in passing new taxes would indeed help begin to bring the national government under some semblance of control.

Here’s the crux of the problem with the Federal government:

Washington’s ability to continuously vote itself more fiscal breathing room may help Congress — at least in the short term — avoid making the kinds of tough decisions made by states, businesses and families. But ignoring economic realities will lead to even more painful choices down the road and increases the potential for a financial collapse that could permanently cost America its role as the world’s leading economic power.

Unfortunately, the system in Washington makes it easier for elected officials to bury their heads in the sand, avoid responsibility and make the easiest choice of all: borrow more, plunge our nation deeper into debt and allow this generation to punt the tough decisions to our children and grandchildren.

Such moves may be good politics, since they mean officials don’t have to say no to anyone, but as a matter of policy they are indefensible.

That “reality” and the trump of politics over statesmanship are the reason we’re in this deep hole and most of us don’t expect to see anything serious about correcting it come out of Washington.  After all, those that have to alter the reality inside the beltway are the same ones who have put us in this position in the first place (and I mean as a group going back decades).  The proverbial fox guarding the hen house situation.  That’s why it is difficult not to be cynical and skeptical about “solutions” – even this political show we see going on over the debt ceiling.

Perry and Haley are touting a pledge they’ve signed called the “Cap, Cut and Balance” pledge:

The only way to get the federal government to end this indefensible practice is to draw a line and finally hold Washington accountable. The pledge we’ve signed represents an important step in this process.

It calls for the kinds of budget cuts Washington needs now and for a hard cap on all future spending. And it finally moves us to a mandatory balanced budget that will end the era of national debt, raging deficits and failed “stimulus” programs that have negatively affected so many aspects of American life.

Americans must continue to stand up for the principles that served as the foundation for our nation’s unparalleled successes. The principles of a limited federal government and responsible fiscal leadership have sustained us during tough times, and they can lead us out of this period of sluggish economic growth.

Yeah, pledges are nice and sure it makes us feel better and focuses us on the problem.  However, we’ve heard political pledges from politicians for years which have essentially promised to fix the problem in Washington.   And here we are.

That’s not to say that Perry and Haley aren’t right.  They are.   It’s to say we’ve heard all this before, we’ve seen pledges come and go, and we’ve seen solutions offered that were perfectly reasonable that have never seen the light of legislative day.

We seem to have a class of politicians who seem to find it difficult to deal in the reality the rest of the country deals with every day – spending within our means, meeting budgets, and being responsible.  I’d like to say I knew how to fix that, but after half a century of watching these nincompoops at work and how they’re seemingly rewarded for doing exactly what we’re now lamenting, I’m not sure the system can be fixed.

My cynical take on the day.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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