Friday, August 19, 2011

There's Never Been A Plan

Economist Sachs Hits Obama
"We're almost three years into this administration, and there's never been a plan.
There is definitely a plan, and it is to destroy the US Economy. And Obama is following the plan. The plan just does not care how many are out of work. Because he wants the US to be more like Europe, with everyone on the dole, and rioting when the government has to cut back.
And that's what everybody feels. And the president didn't lead. He waited. The quintessential image, sadly, of an administration that I supported and hoped for much better, is the president waiting by the phone to hear what Congress calls to tell him.
When the Dems controlled both houses he did not care about jobs. He just wanted to saddle us with another entitlement program: Obamacare. And they did that. He does not care about jobs, except his own. He will pretend to care about jobs to make sure he is reelected.
It doesn't work in this country that way. It's not a matter that it's August. It's a matter that it's August 2011. So we've been drifting for a very long time. And we've been drifting down. And we had a short-term plan that failed. A short-term stimulus that was supposed to get the economy back on track, but it failed. And now we have nothing behind it. And we have no agreements, and we have no leadership. And, frankly, I do think it's pretty odd the president's on vacation right now. Normally I wouldn't care about such things, but the world markets are in deep crisis. It's no joke. This isn't just an up-and-down little blip. This is a very serious situation."
And it will not be fixed until January 2013 when the new Republican takes office.


Where’s the Syria plan?

Eugene Robinson wondered
Where’s the Syria plan? .... What we need is something the president has refused to provide: an Obama Doctrine governing the use of force to defend civilians against their own despotic governments, or at least spelling out how the United States views its role in the unfolding Arab Spring.
The confusion comes from assuming the Arab Spring is a desire for democracy. Democracy is a form of Government, and Islam is not just a religion, it is also a form of government, called Sharia Law.

What they want is restoration of the Caliphate they lost when the Ottoman Empire lost in WWI and the land was Partitioned in a bunch of individual countries. In some the leaders installed retained control, but had to get stronger to do so, and in some they were overtaken by someone stronger. But only a few of those demonstrating really wanted Democracy. What they wanted is what is going to happen in the September elections in Egypt, the one time election of an Islamic government, and that will be the last time they get to vote. And soon those Islamic governments will either persuade weaker Islamic governments to allow themselves to be taken over, or they will be attacked in an effort to reform the Caliphate.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

An 'inconsequential' Washington?

Jeff Greenfield opined
Whatever Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s political fate, he has already carved a niche in history with his first appearance as a presidential contender. He offered up the single most galvanizing sentence in any announcement speech. “I’ll promise you this,” Perry said. “I’ll work every day to try to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.”
He did not say inconsequential, he said as inconsequential as I can. But to a progressive, that wants to make it as consequential as possible, I guess any retreat must be frightening.
For ardent conservatives, it is the latest — and sharpest — battle cry for limited government. A lineal descendant of Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Inaugural assertion that “in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” First cousin to George W. Bush’s charge that Al Gore “trusts the government; I trust the people.” It offers a twist on the famous hope of Grover Norquist — self-described head of the “leave us alone” caucus — that the federal government should be “down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.’
Grover might have gone a bit far, but I agree with Reagan and Bush.
For former President Bill Clinton, Perry’s promise prompted a scornful rejoinder: “He’s saying ‘Oh, I’m going to Washington to make sure that the federal government stays as far away from you as possible — while I ride on Air Force One and that Marine One helicopter and go to Camp David and travel around the world and have a good time.’ I mean, this is crazy.”
Is that what the Presidency meant to Clinton? Besides providing him with interns to pleasure him.
There is, however, something far more fundamental. It is a formulation of a brand of current conservative thinking that breaks radically with two centuries of American history: There is no mission — other than defense against foreign foes — that is the proper task of Washington.
The Constitution lists a few other jobs, reserving the rest to the states and the people, but Defense is certainly a big one.
Whatever America’s view about the size and scope of government — how much it should tax, what it should regulate, who or what it should subsidize — it has never embraced the idea that it should be “inconsequential” in the lives of its citizens.
Certainly not since the Progressive Era began, which is the problem, but is was not always that way.
Before there was a federal government, the Confederation Congress passed in 1787 the Northwest Ordinance — from which came the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Apart from forbidding slavery in those states, the act also provided that revenue generated from the sale of a portion of each township in the state would go to fund public education. It was, in other words, the first instance of federal aid for education.
Did the revenue come to Washington to then be doled out, or did it remain in the state, or even the township, earmarked for that purpose?
.... Beyond money matters: It took federal force to bring civil and voting rights to the black citizens of the South some half-century ago. That force clearly disrupted life in the South as it had been lived for generations. It was about as “consequential” a use of federal power as can be imagined. Is that the kind of power a President Perry would scorn? I doubt it — at least, I hope not.
It is not a problem. The slaves have already been freed, by a Republican, and the oppression of black citizens o the South by Democratic Governors has been dealt with.
Perry has been nothing but blunt about his disdain for Washington; about his view of Social Security and Medicare — probably the two federal programs that have the biggest impact on the lives of most Americans — as “Ponzi schemes.” As a political matter, Perry himself has some tough questions to answer — and he may be willing to stake out an argument based on the “unsustainability” of these programs.
Does Greenfield think they are sustainable as now formulated?
For me, the larger issue is how deep the disdain for all things Washington has grown. To argue that the federal government has grown too large and too distant is one thing Robert F. Kennedy, for example, made this argument often during his last years.
I do not know what Kennedy thought but it has grown too large and too distant. Any decision that can be made in the state rather than in Washington should be made in the state, and any decision that can be made in a town should be made there rather than in the state capital.
To argue that there is nothing of moment that Washington should be doing marks a version of that argument that is nothing short of astonishing.
Not nothing. Little.


Dem suggests fracking causes STDs reported
A state lawmaker is explaining his remark that suggests the impact of Pennsylvania's booming natural gas industry includes the spread of sexually transmitted disease
This is the sort of problem you get when legislators don't understand their talking points. He knew he was supposed to badmouth Fracking, a technique used break rocks apart underground in gas production, and he confuses it with a slang word for sex.
"amongst the womenfolk."
I wonder how the women in his district liked hearing themselves referred to that way.
Democratic Rep. Michael Sturla of Lancaster County was expected to discuss the remark at a previously scheduled hearing Wednesday on gas drilling. His remark was made in comments e-mailed to a reporter in which he accused a Corbett administration official of downplaying the seriousness of community impacts created by drilling.
Does the man understand what community impact refers to. Gas drilling results in more jobs for drilling crews, who spend more money in the community, resulting in more jobs for the locals, but if the local "womenfolk" can't keep their pants up and their skirts down they might get STDs
The state Republican Party on Tuesday evening called the remark offensive and incredibly stupid, and called on Sturla to apologize. However, Sturla was apparently citing testimony by Troy Community Hospital from May that says among its experiences with the influx of drilling crews is an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.
And if the jobs had not been created that brought the drilling crews in with their STDs, people would have remained out of work, with nothing to do, and they would not have spread their own STDs?



CowboyByte reported
During a town hall meeting at Wyffels Hybrids in Atkinson, Illinois, a farmer expressed concern to President Obama about forthcoming regulations.
A reasonable concern. He would rather be farming than filling out forms.
The man stated that people would rather be farming than “filling out forms and permits to do what we like to do.” President Obama told the farmer “don’t always believe what you hear” and blamed Washington for ginning up speculation.
But they have seen the regulation his Czars have already promulgated.
Obama added that, “Nobody is more interested in seeing our agricultural sector successful than I am, partly because I come from a farm state.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hillary for VP: Obama's Best Hope for Re-election?

RealClearPolitics blogged
If by early next year President Obama's re-election chances are looking as dicey as they do now, there is likely to be a growing clamor inside Democratic circles to drop Joe Biden from the ticket and replace him with Hillary Clinton.
Why would she settle for second banana? Why not run against him in a primary
.... Clinton would add some much-needed pizazz to a tough campaign that Biden does not. More importantly, she would shore up a shaky Democratic base, a huge part of which consists of disappointed women who still believe the secretary of state should have been president and would have done a better job than Obama.
Would they be fooled by a second banana slot? I really don't want Hillary any more than Obama, but I would like to see them duke it out again in a Democratic primary


What Obama Can Learn From Truman - Nothing

The New Republic wished
With an economy seemingly on the precipice of a renewed recession, an angry conservative movement that regards him with disdain, and a disillusioned liberal base disappointed in his first term, Barack Obama’s bid for reelection next year will, by all indications, be a tough, maybe even uphill fight. But daunting as the campaign may seem, the president can at least take some solace in a precedent from 64 years ago: Harry Truman’s campaign for reelection in 1948—successful, despite a poor economic climate, and a polarized electorate—offers a promising path for Obama’s reelection. The question is whether he’s prepared to take it.
He is not, and they would not work if he did.
In terms of the difficulties they faced, these two Democratic presidencies have plenty of parallels. Most prominently, both were hampered by crippling midterm elections, fueled largely by anger about the poor state of the economy, which produced sweeping and across-the-board loss of seats for their party in Congress. In 2010, Democrats lost 63 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate, losing the House after four years in the majority and losing most of their comfortable cushion in the Senate. In 1946, Democrats lost 55 seats in the House—where Republicans grabbed a comfortable majority for the first time in sixteen years—and 13 seats in the Senate, giving Republicans there a 51-45 edge, their first majority in fourteen years.
But the Democrats did not cause the economic hardship then like they did this time.
.... In what will no doubt sound familiar to watchers of the current Congress, the sweeping GOP victories in 1946 convinced many Republicans that they had achieved a lasting ideological victory—that the American public had finished with the liberalism under FDR and Truman, and embraced their brand of conservatism. They were wrong. Voters had reacted to short-term economic conditions, and to a post-war mood for change, but not for a new right-wing ideology.
This is not a short-term economic problem that more of Obama will fix. It is an economic problem caused by Obama, and more of Obama will make it worse.
But it was Truman’s triumph to realize that the hyper-partisan Congress was as much a political boon as it was a political liability. Truman seized upon the conservative over-reaching and openly fought against what he dubbed the “Do-Nothing Eightieth Congress.”
Obama may claim the Republican House is doing nothing, but he would be lieing. They are just not doing anything he likes. They passed a budget, which 800 days of a Democratic control of both houses could not do, and when Republicans get the Senate in 2013 they will pass one too. And the Republican President will sign it.
.... The sitting 112th Congress, like Truman’s 80th, is dominated by a Republican House that believes that its sweeping victory reflected a huge public mandate to dismantle government as we know it.
No it is returning to a Free Market system like the country has know for most of its 200+ year life, and abandoning the Socialistic / Crony Capitalistic system Obama wants.
The overreaching in this case does not involve passing laws that get enacted over a presidential veto, but in precipitating artificial crises—over appropriations that are set to expire in a new fiscal year,
If they were that inconsequential then why not go along with them.
over a debt limit that has always been raised without preconditions
Which is the problem. We should have dug our heals in long ago. Before both Bush and Obama did so much spending we could not afford.
to create hostages
No weapons were used, the only force was the democratic force of a vote, No one or nothing was held hostage.
and force extreme actions.
Like the President not getting everything he wanted.
Far more than the 80th, the 112th is a true “Do-Nothing” Congress,
Not DO Nothing, Do nothing bad. Like the Hippocratic oath, Do No Harm.
producing little progress,
from the viewpoint of a "progressive"
and showing little interest, on key national policy areas from education to energy.
False, we want to reduce Federal control of both, and return it to the states.
But, unlike Truman, Obama has constantly sought common ground with Congress.
Like a mother who gives a child a choice, eat your broccoli or your cauliflower, and the child does not like either. How about a choice like eat one vegetable you don't like and you can have desert (despite what Michelle says).
.... Harry Truman’s 1948 campaign showed how much voters yearn for a strong and demanding leader
And And Obama's campaign will show he is no Harry Truman, but the country will get the strong leader they want in 2013 - a Repiblican.


Almost treasonous

Ed Morrissey blogged
Rick Perry had the commentariat hyperventilating yesterday, and not without reason, after an appearance in Iowa. Perry told a Cedar Rapids crowd that any attempt by the Federal Reserve to implement an extraordinary stimulus — ie, a QE3 or “printing money” — before the election would be “almost treasonous.” Perry warned that Texas would treat Fed chair Ben Bernanke “pretty ugly” if he visited the Lone Star State after such a move:
According to a video appearing on the left-leading website Think Progress, a reporter asked Perry what he would do about the Federal Reserve. Standing next to a “Perry President” sign, the governor replied, “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history, is almost treacherous, or treasonous, in my opinion,” he added.
This wasn’t a good moment for Perry, but it will be a useful one.
Which in a political campaign may make it a good one.
He’s campaigning nationally now, not just in Texas, and that takes a different tone. The “pretty ugly” part of the comment is being hyped as a threat of violence, but that’s stretching the argument to the breaking point. “Pretty ugly” can mean a lot of things; it’s entirely ambiguous except that it expresses negativity.
Which is exactly the point.
Invoking treason is another matter. People toss that word around irresponsibly, but it has specific legal definitions, none of which has to do with changes in Fed monetary policy whether or not it helps an incumbent American President.
In this I disagree with Ed. If we look at the the Federal Reserves own document (PDF)
The Federal Reserve sets the nation’s monetary policy to promote the objectives of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.
and the dictionary definition of treasonous
deserting your allegiance or duty to leader or cause or principle
the Federal Reserve allegiance is not to the President currently in office, and his reelection chances, but to promote ... stable prices, and devaluing the currency increases inflation and increases prices. The Keynesian idea of using QE1 and QE2 to increase employment were certainly a disaster so far in the Obama presidency, because the increases in regulations and central control imposed by Obama had such a negative pressure on job growth as to completely overwhelm any possible Keynesian effect to increase employment. And long-term interest rates certainly are not being moderated.
A QE3 would be bad for the US, but politicians and bureaucrats implement bad policy without committing treason all the time (a lot more frequently these days, unfortunately).
True, but this time it is being done to excess. Water is necessary for life, but too much water and you can drown.
Those competing for the opportunity to lead the nation should demonstrate that leadership by eschewing cheap demagoguery in favor of better arguments. For instance, in this case it might be better to warn the Fed that any attempt to interfere with the political process through monetary policy will mean even closer political scrutiny of the Fed after the election, which is not just a legitimate point but also perhaps not a bad idea.
And it is one that I hope Perry will use if challenged on his statement.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Nanny State Madness? reported
When California’s elected officials come back from their month-long recess they face a mountain of proposed legislation (almost 900 bills are lined up and waiting), including a new law (SB432) that would require hotels to eliminate flat sheets. Not having fitted sheets on hotel beds would now be a crime in California. This is not a joke.
Has the legislature really found a solution to the many problems California has, that they are now down to dealing with non-fitted sheets.
California, the state trying to deal with a massive $26 BILLION dollar debt, is considering a law that some hospitality industry experts claim would add an estimated $15 to $30 million dollars in costs to an already hurting hotel industry. The low-end estimate of fifteen million is the projected cost to purchase new fitted sheets for the 550,000 hotel beds in the state. Of course the hospitality industry is claiming that these added costs will hurt their business and put jobs at risk.
But the fitted sheet industry probably likes it.
The fitted-sheet bill is the brainchild of State Senator Kevin De Leon (a Democrat from Los Angeles), whose mother suffered back pains while working as a hotel maid. Kevin has been quoted as saying this was “an issue close to my heart.”
And how does this help his mother's back pains? The Senator is a pain, but a little lower down.


Warren Buffett pleads "Please raise my taxes" reported
But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains.
In a time of high unemployment we don't want potential employers to have the resources or encouragement to hire people, and thuse make more money.
And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.
Do all 8,274 agree with you.
My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.
You don't need to wait for Congress to raise taxes. You can just make a donation to the treasury. Oh, it is not your taxes you want raised as much as other rich people.


10 ways to fix the budget

Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post opined
It’s true: Deficit reduction isn’t an economic panacea. It won’t instantly boost the economy or the stock market. It won’t automatically end financial turmoil. But none of this means that we should ignore deficits. Allowing the government’s debt to spiral upward tempts a full-blown future financial crisis.
And Europe is showing us what that means.
The recent deal on the debt ceiling created a 12-member congressional supercommittee charged with finding $1.5 trillion of savings over a decade. This compares with some projections of cumulative deficits of $10 trillion or more through 2021. Let’s engage in a fantasy. Suppose the committee doesn’t deadlock and decides to find a bigger solution. What to do? Here’s a 10-step program to fix America’s budget problem.

1. Decide to balance the budget over a decade.
Too little, and too long. We need to not only balance, we need to start paying off the huge increases in debt we saw under both Bush and Obama, and make sure we can't get into another spending binge in the future (balanced budget amendment)
“Deficit reduction” isn’t good enough. The case for balance (albeit at “full employment”) is simple: discipline. If people want public services, they should be willing to pay for them.
True. THEY should pay for them. Not make someone else pay for them.
2. Favor spending cuts over tax increases. Tax increases over the next 15 to 20 years could easily reach 25 to 50 percent to cover the costs of (a) the doubling of the 65-and-over population from 2000 to 2030, (b) spiraling health costs, and (c) the continuation of other programs at recent levels of national income. These staggering tax increases are too burdensome. They might hobble the economy and would be unfair to younger workers.

3. Cut Social Security, Medicare and other retiree programs. They represent half of non-interest federal spending. Exempting them would require gutting other programs or enacting huge tax increases. We live longer; eligibility ages should be higher.
Much higher. But do it gradually. Don't just slowly take it up to 70 and stop. Each year when the retirement age is less than life expectancy increase it a few months. This will encourage younger workers to maintain their own retirement savings that can increase with compounding interest, and investments that can appreciate over the long term, and not depend on an undependable government to do it for you.
Wealthier retirees can afford steeper Medicare fees and lower Social Security checks. The Census Bureau classifies about 30 percent of the 65-plus population as “high income” (incomes at least four times the poverty line). In 2008, the median net worth of married elderly couples was $385,000.
Net worth does not mean anything if the government is inflating the currency with quantitative easing
4. Don’t spare current retirees or baby boomers. People don’t lose the capacity — or moral obligation — to change just by turning 65. They should bear some of the burden.
Do they have the ability to go our and earn money to supplement their social security? Why should they bear the burden of the government taking money from them in a ponzi scheme.
5. Evaluate defense needs independently — and pay for them. National security is the government’s first job. When America’s military is put in harm’s way, it should not become a victim of a rich nation’s cheapness.
6. Eliminate outdated, ineffective and wasteful programs. Across-the-board domestic spending cuts perpetuate bad programs and penalize the good. This ensures lousy government. Subsidies for farmers, public broadcasting and Amtrak, among others, should end.
As should many government agencies not related to items mentioned in the Constitution.
7. Lower income tax rates by reducing tax breaks — and make the system more progressive. The idea: Spur economic growth. There should be three rates — 10 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent.
and everyone should pay, not just the richer half of the population.
Capital gains (profits on sales of stocks and other assets) should be taxed at ordinary income rates, not at today’s top rate of 15 percent.
Why? To discourage investment that creates jobs?
This low rate is the biggest tax break for the rich; two-thirds of capital gains go to the wealthiest 1 percent.
Who create jobs and already pay a much larger share of taxes than the lower rates.
The overhaul should be revenue neutral; all money from ending tax breaks should go to lower rates.

8. Enact an energy or gasoline tax. Even with spending cuts, higher taxes will be needed to balance the budget. A 25-cent-a-gallon fuel tax would raise $291 billion over a decade, says the Congressional Budget Office. The actual tax might have to be $1 or more. But it would have an added benefit: curbing oil imports by spurring drivers to buy more fuel-efficient cars.
I might go along with that if we also open up oil and gas drilling in this country.
9. Control health costs. This is crucial, because health spending already represents 25 percent of federal outlays. Unfortunately, there’s no consensus on how to do this. The committee should create a group of experts to prepare two plans: one favoring liberals’ approach of tougher regulations; the other reflecting conservatives’ preference for vouchers and tax credits. The report should be ready by late 2012 for the next president and Congress to debate and decide.

10. Make changes gradually. It’s important to limit adverse effects on the economy and to win public acceptance. Increasing Social Security’s eligibility age to, say, 70 could occur over 25 years.
faster, and don't stop at 70.
A $1-a-gallon gas tax could be introduced over six years. Axed programs could be phased out over three years.

Deficits reflect a gap between the benefits Americans expect and the taxes they’re willing to pay. There’s no way to close it painlessly. But we can distribute the pain in ways that seem “fair” and serve a common good. Once done, this could bolster confidence. Households and businesses would know what to expect. Now, it’s unclear whose spending will be cut and whose taxes raised. The longer we wait, the more disruptive changes will be. Despite this, we’ve repeatedly delayed. We now have another opportunity to break that pattern; sadly, the odds are that we won’t.
Then we are doomed as Europe is.