09 December 2011

The cookie theory of egalitarianism

Conservatives would like you to know how to get flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, butter, vanilla and chocolate chips. They want you to be free to use an oven. They want to get out of your way and let you do those things - or not - as you see fit.

Liberals want you to hand over all the ingredients, sit there and wait. Then they want to give you cookies. One apiece!

Hold on, not you. You're fat. No cookies for you. Have you been making your own cookies? Hand them over.

You people have terrible teeth. What, do you eat only cookies? Brush your teeth! Everybody give me a nickel and I'll get toothpaste for you. Eat a cookie until I get back.

No, not you, fatty. You come to the store with me. And you give me a quarter for toothpaste. We all have to do our fair share.

Hey, what happened to all the cookies?

30 October 2011

If Cain represents rebellion against "experts," Obama represented rebellion against reality

In a recent column, Michael Barone assesses support for Herman Cain as a symptom of a trend towards distrust of "experts." He even - perhaps rightly - suggests that Romney's resume is thin compared to previous nominees.

I am getting a little tired of this meme in political commentary. It seems to me that this is less a distrust of expertise, than it is seeking after the right sort of expertise. Cain has been a CEO of a large corporation, and served in appointed office on the Federal Reserve. Recent trend? Republicans previously nominated a man known for his business record who had only previously served in appointed office - in 1928. (I note this advisedly, since that nominee was Herbert Hoover.)

Voters may be right or wrong to weigh foreign affairs more lightly than economic concerns right now, but it seems to me that this is the explanation for Cain's popularity. He has plenty of expertise, but in the real world - a place to which the current president has few apparent ties.

It is not unreasonable to view the flailing, failing disaster of the Obama Administration and conclude that the area of expertise we should seek for the presidency is not to be found at Harvard Law. Herman Cain may or may not be the right man for the presidency, but if he is not, it isn't because he lacks proper experience or knowledge. He has plenty of both for voters concerned about the government's increasing strangulation of the economy.

If there was ever a year when voters chose a naive, inexperienced man with no clear expertise in anything, it was 2008. The presidency is now the job Obama has held longer than any other in his life. He has education, but almost no real-world experience in or out of government. He did go to all the right schools, I guess.

Cain's popularity - and, for that matter, Romney's steadiness in the polls - suggests not that voters are abandoning experts, but that they seek candidates with expertise outside of government. You know, in the real world.

16 October 2011

The OWSers don't make me angry; they make me sad

I hate to even give this "movement" more attention, since the MSM are headlining them despite small numbers and a message which is, to put it charitably, inchoate.

I wish it were not too late to coin the phrase "rebel without a clue," because it is absolutely perfect for this crowd.

I saw this picture from the Detroit off-shoot of OWS over at NRO this morning:

Make the banks pay for education? Seriously? Are these people former contestants from the Tonight Show's "Jaywalking" segments?

It brought to mind one of my soldiers back in my Army days. He and his wife had to attend financial counseling because they had been bouncing checks. They were really confused about how that could be happening, because, they said, "we still have lots of checks left."

When my daughter was small, on one occasion we told her we could not buy something because we didn't have enough money. "Go to the bank and get some," was the obvious solution - to my three-year-old.

Some commentators have gone out of their way to express sympathy for the sad stories posted over at the 99% blog, suggesting that they put a real human face on "the Great Recession." I've read through a bunch of them, too, and I have not found, for the most part, that there is a whole lot to connect those stories specifically to the current economy. Most are divided between three categories: truly sad stories, which could happen in any time; problems brought on by stupid decisions; and "we are the lucky ones" statements by people who are personally fine, but "ashamed" of their country.

We are the ninety-nine percent? Try 100%. All people have sadness in their lives - that is a constant of the human condition. We should all be more sympathetic and and helpful to each other; we should all "be kind," as Philo of Alexandria said, "for everyone is fighting a great battle."

But my sympathy evaporates when you angrily demand that "the banks" make you whole because somebody in your family got sick, or when you insist that your $120,000 in school loans be forgiven because you just learned that your lifelong dream of being a social worker makes your decision to borrow it look pretty stupid in retrospect. Those are not moral or political demands, they are mere selfishness; a symptom of our increasingly narcissistic culture.

Ultimately, the OWSers are really no different that Willie Sutton. They protest the banks because that's where the money is. At least Willie was honest about it.

I understand rage at the unfairness of life. We all go through that, to some extent, when we are growing up.  One mark of maturity is that you grow out of that. The more you see of the world around you, the more you understand that "it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

Someday, maybe, they'll understand that.

11 October 2011

The new frontrunner, Herman Cain (mostly) holds his own

I'm not sure who won the debate, but I am pretty sure it wasn't the heckler at the end.

If Rick Perry had performed like this in his first debate, he might have held onto front-runner status. Not that he did anything particularly impressive, he just didn't fall apart. Given that this was his fourth debate, and the other candidates aren't even bothering to attack him any more, I don't think it as enough to revive his standing. And even if it does, I still don't think he'll be able to handle attacks.

Herman Cain certainly appeared to be a frontrunner, as his 9-9-9 plan (not from outer space) was singled out for criticism by nearly everybody, and Ron Paul chose to be Cain's Secret Santa during the candidate smackdown segment. On the one hand, Cain was in no way intimidated by the attacks, and, unlike Perry in earlier debates, also did not seem surprised at the criticism. I thought his "three reasons" response to Santorum, while strong in presentation, was a bit weak on the substance. His response to Paul, in which he denied making some statements Paul had referenced, and agreed with a need to audit the Fed, was fine, but he may have hurt himself later with his praise for Greenspan. We'll see if this dents his Tea Party support.

Romney's strategy throughout the night was to try to elevate himself and avoid attacks on people who are actual threats. His question, directed at Michele Bachmann, was fairly gentle, and allowed her to give a decent response. He replied to an early Huntsman criticism by characterizing it as the opinion of "some people." I think he is hoping not to draw too much fire, and keep a strong enough position to narrow the field after the early primaries.

This has simply got to be the last debate where Huntsman gets a seat at the table. I shouldn't have to explain that.

Santorum has turned in some good performances in these debates, but I don't think tonight was his best. I don't think he scored any points on Cain, although that seemed to be his goal.

The biggest question I've got is: "How many stellar debate performances will it take before people forget the 1990s and take Newt seriously as a presidential candidate?"

Now I know whose kids are occupying Wall Street

I saw this comment on Facebook, and it really threw me for a loop. No name, because I don't know the guy, but here is his comment:

I don't care about the spending issue. I care about equality. Shut everyone up and institute a 15% flat tax across the board, no matter who you are, how much you make, with no loopholes. Oh but wait, then the rich would start to complain they are paying a disproportionate share because they make more, therefore are paying more. How would that be unfair?

When I read a comment like the one above, made by a middle-aged, employed person, I wonder just how many voters out there are this incapable of processing the most basic facts of their own lives, and the world they live in.

I hesitate to use this word, because "uninformed" is much more polite, but if you are still this uninformed by middle age, you are not ignorant; you are stupid.

This guy really doesn't understand that a 15% flat rate would be a tax cut for millionaires? He is not aware that 47% of Americans pay no Federal income tax at all? He thinks it is the upper end of the income curve that would gnash its teeth over his flat tax? He thinks the politicians talking about "fair shares" are talking about a flat tax?

Wow. Just wow.

Now I know whose kids are occupying Wall Street.

22 September 2011

#GOPDebate: Bottom line - Perry is Done

Well, I laid out my live thoughts on Twitter, and there is not much I would change.

Michele Bachmann was entirely ignored. She went back to her most successful tack by attacking Obama in her few opportunities, but was forced by the questions to return to the Gardasil issue. While the issue is legitimate, her previous statements have been  - to put it charitably - stupid.

Gary Johnson, in limited chances, put out some very strong opinions, and for those who said they wanted something new in these debates, he brought it. He'll submit a balanced budget year one, and he'll veto any deficit spending. The handyman can!

But to me the big story is that Rick Perry has been incredibly weak in every debate appearance. I think he's done. I'd be shocked if he wins a single primary. Yet somehow, his weakness makes the entire field, which I once defended, seem even weaker than it did before Perry's entry.

And that worries me.

Palin time?

11 September 2011

Some scattered thoughts on 9/11

At the time we all said, "this will change everything." Ten years later, it doesn't seem like it did.

It doesn't seem like a new wave of patriotism was suddenly hammered into us by the magnitude of the attack.  A young man I worked with at the time actually said, when asked if he was thinking about enlisting, "it isn't my fight." And that was in the days just after the attacks; the days of our great national unity. Much has been written rightly praising the brave and patriotic young people who have enlisted in our all-volunteer military since 2001, but the facts are these: with a population 31% larger than it was in 1985, we have 35% fewer people serving on active duty in our military.

Go ahead and praise the actual individuals who take up arms for their country, but be careful when you rhapsodize about a "9/11 generation." Young people today are far less likely to enlist in the military than they were even 25 years ago, and the population as a whole is largely indifferent to the idea of defense spending cuts. There are a lot of reasons for those things. The size of the military is determined by Congress, not by the number willing to serve. As for spending, it may be that many Americans have simply concluded that the War on Terror is over, and we won. Nevertheless, you simply cannot say that Americans as a whole, or her younger generation, have any greater commitment to national security – whatever their reasons – than they did before 9/11.

It doesn't seem like the old political battle-lines about foreign policy have shifted, either. It seems, at times, that 9/11 has just become another event for both sides to use as a cudgel against the other – even today.

The "blame America first" crowd hasn't shifted their accusing finger away from their own country so much as narrowed their focus to point only at certain Americans; to include their innocent fellow citizens among the victims of all that is wrong with America. Even the crackpots who immediately said "we brought it on ourselves," or "we deserved it" have never had to apologize, or ever even leave the mainstream. Many of their arguments, instead, were incorporated into the foreign policy of one of their acolytes, who was swept into the White House by "the 9/11 generation."

It doesn't seem like our people rededicated themselves to the nation's founding ideals, or to the ethic President Kennedy evoked when he exhorted us to ask not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country. In 2008, it seemed the prevailing sentiment was "can't this country do more for me?" And we elected the man who said "yes, we can;" who said, rather than rededicate the nation to its founding principles of liberty, he would "fundamentally transform it." He won.

It doesn't seem like our national resolve, so strongly felt ten years ago, to rebuild a taller, shinier building in Lower Manhattan prevailed in any meaningful way against our bureaucratic and regulatory overlords. Ten years on, and still no building stands at "Ground Zero."

Meanwhile, over in the Middle East, it seems that despite the "Freedom Agenda" of the last administration, anti-Israel, anti-American, Islamicism appears to be ascendant even in nations once in the vanguard of peacemaking. Here at home, we are asked to celebrate this as the "Arab Spring."

We sure showed them, didn't we?

08 September 2011

Obama's #Jobspeech, annotated...

Obama's tripe is so old and recycled, it's hard to come up with fresh smart-aleck comments, but here goes (this is a living document - I may come back later and add more comments):

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and fellow Americans:

Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that has made things worse.

It was so terribly urgent, I felt it was absolutely necessary to golf on Martha's Vineyard for a couple of weeks, then take a week or two writing this recycled speech.

This past week, reporters have been asking “What will this speech mean for the President? What will it mean for Congress? How will it affect their polls, and the next election?”

But the millions of Americans who are watching right now: they don’t care about politics.

Buck up, Mr. President. At least all those reporters still care about you.

They have real life concerns. Many have spent months looking for work. Others are doing their best just to scrape by – giving up nights out with the family to save on gas or make the mortgage; postponing retirement to send a kid to college.

How common is that really? I mean people having kids when they are 47 or older, then postponing retirement to put them through college? Because if you are 65 when your kid graduates high school, it seems like you decided to put off retirement a long time ago. But hey, Obama's in touch with the problems of the common man.

Have you seen the price of arugula lately?

These men and women grew up with faith in an America where hard work and responsibility paid off. They believed in a country where everyone gets a fair shake and does their fair share – where if you stepped up, did your job, and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and good benefits; maybe a raise once in awhile.

And a gold watch at retirement?

Aren't these guys the ones who always accuse Republicans of idealizing the 1950s?

If you did the right thing, you could make it in America. 

But for decades now, Americans have watched that compact erode. They have seen the deck too often stacked against them. And they know that Washington hasn’t always put their interests first. 

The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities. The question tonight is whether we’ll meet ours. The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy; whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.

I think if you asked the Founding Fathers where "security" and "fairness" ranked, you might get a different impression about what defined this nation from its beginning.

Those of us here tonight can’t solve all of our nation’s woes.

Bestill my heart! There are limits to his power? Is he just tuckered out from stopping the rise of the ocean?

Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people’s lives. 

I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act.

Because "Son of Stimulus" didn't play well withe focus group, and we thought "Puppies, Candy Bars and Babies" was a little over-the-top.

There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans – including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything.

The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working. It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.

 Don't delay! Operators are standing by!

Everyone here knows that small businesses are where most new jobs begin. And you know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, smaller companies haven’t. So for everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for “job creators,” this plan is for you.

Pass this jobs bill, and starting tomorrow, small businesses will get a tax cut if they hire new workers or raise workers’ wages. Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year. If you have 50 employees making an average salary, that’s an $80,000 tax cut. And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.

Wait - including corporate jets? Why, yes, now that you mention it...

It’s not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal. Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that’s in this plan.

And just because it didn't work before, is no reason to stop doing the same thing over and over.

You should pass it right away.

Thousands - Democrats and Republicans just like you - already have!

Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country.

I did not know that. And I drive a lot.

Our highways are clogged with traffic.

So let's get rid of all the friggin' HOV lanes. You do know they increase congestion, right? Oh wait, we were talking about creating jobs, not getting to work on time...

Our skies are the most congested in the world.

This is inexcusable. Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads?

Hold on! China's rise isn't our demise!

At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America?

There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work.

Seems like just last fall somebody was telling us that there's no such thing as shovel-ready projects. But now there are just legions of workers, leaning on their shovels, waiting for a shovelful of money from Washington so they can get started.

There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country. And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school – and we can give it to them, if we act now.

The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows; installing science labs and high-speed internet in classrooms all across this country.

Wow, those places sure ran down quickly after they were repaired in the last stimulus bill.

It will rehabilitate homes and businesses in communities hit hardest by foreclosures. It will jumpstart thousands of transportation projects across the country. And to make sure the money is properly spent and for good purposes, we’re building on reforms we’ve already put in place. No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere. We’re cutting the red tape that prevents some of these projects from getting started as quickly as possible. And we’ll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed and how much good it would do for the economy.

This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat. The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America’s largest business organization and America’s largest labor organization. It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Also supported in the past by Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike: the Iraq War, Guantanamo Bay detentions, and raiding the Social Security Trust Fund. All good ideas?

You should pass it right away.

If you dial the number on your screen right now, you'll also receive a set of steak knives!

Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work.

It's the week after Labor Day. Thousands of teachers already went back to work.

These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this jobs bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.

Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America’s veterans. We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, and risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home. 

Did he just propose defense cuts? I mean, Ron Paul just wants to take away their air conditioning - Obama wants to lay them off?

Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and dignity of a summer job next year. And their parents, low-income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty. 

Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job. We have to do more to help the long-term unemployed in their search for work. This jobs plan builds on a program in Georgia that several Republican leaders have highlighted, where people who collect unemployment insurance participate in temporary work as a way to build their skills while they look for a permanent job. The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year. If the millions of unemployed Americans stopped getting this insurance, and stopped using that money for basic necessities, it would be a devastating blow to this economy. Democrats and Republicans in this Chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past. At this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again – right away. 

Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a fifteen hundred dollar tax cut next year. Fifteen hundred dollars that would have been taken out of your paycheck will go right into your pocket. This expands on the tax cut that Democrats and Republicans already passed for this year. If we allow that tax cut to expire – if we refuse to act – middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. We cannot let that happen. I know some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away. 

This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, teachers, veterans, first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief for small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle-class. And here’s the other thing I want the American people to know: the American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. And here’s how:

The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next ten years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I’m asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act.

Here's how it will be paid for: it's very simple. You will figure that part out.

And a week from Monday, I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan – a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.

I think he almost literally just said he would gladly pay us Tuesday for a hamburger today.

This approach is basically the one I’ve been advocating for months. In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I’ve already signed into law, it’s a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts; by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid; and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share. What’s more, the spending cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on our economy, or prevent us from helping small business and middle-class families get back on their feet right away. 

Now, I realize there are some in my party who don’t think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid, and I understand their concerns. But here’s the truth. Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during their working years. They earn it. But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program. And if we don’t gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won’t be there when future retirees need it.

Wait - didn't Obamacare already "bend the cost curve?"

We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it. 

Boy, that sounds a lot like "we have to burn the village in order to save it."

I’m also well aware that there are many Republicans who don’t believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it. But here is what every American knows. While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary – an outrage he has asked us to fix.

If that's true, Warren Buffett is a tax cheat. I'm just sayin'...

We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their fair share. And I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that, if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.

Yes, I'm sure they would be willing to do just that if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order. But that's kind of the catch, isn't it? That's the part we disagree about, isn't it? I mean, we all understand that somebody, somewhere, still has money in his pocket. We just don't all think the economy would perk up if they would just stick it in an envelope and send it to Washington.

I’ll also offer ideas to reform a corporate tax code that stands as a monument to special interest influence in Washington. By eliminating pages of loopholes and deductions, we can lower one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Our tax code shouldn’t give an advantage to companies that can afford the best-connected lobbyists. It should give an advantage to companies that invest and create jobs here in America.

Let me break this down for you: we must create a new series of loopholes and special favors to replace the old ones. I don't believe there is anything wrong with special favors and I also believe tax incentives work. Just need to turn the dials, pull the levers, etc, until things are "fair." And we will keep on changing the tax code and loopholes and subsidies as often as I think we need to. In the past, both Republicans and Democrats have voted to make changes in the tax code, so this should not be controversial.

So we can reduce this deficit, pay down our debt, and pay for this jobs plan in the process.

And have our cake, eat it, too, and put a pet unicorn in every yard and a fairy in every rose garden. Now how much would you pay? Pass it now!

But in order to do this, we have to decide what our priorities are. We have to ask ourselves, “What’s the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?”

Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both. 

This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math. 

Here is some more simple math: taking every dollar from every "millionaire and billionaire" in America won't pay for the hole you've already dug. But at least digging holes of debt is a shovel-ready project. I'll give you that.

These are real choices that we have to make. And I’m pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It’s not even close. And it’s time for us to do what’s right for our future. 

The American Jobs Act answers the urgent need to create jobs right away. But we can’t stop there. As I’ve argued since I ran for this office, we have to look beyond the immediate crisis

Hold on just one minute. If we look beyond the current crisis, won't we risk letting it go to waste?

and start building an economy that lasts into the future – an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build, out-educate, and out-innovate every other country on Earth. 

Who's the "we" that needs to "outbuild and out innovate?" And who's the "them" that will stay here if "we" do that? Aren't those companies that can start up anywhere the ones doing the building and innovating? Shouldn't we be trying to figure out why it isn't attractive to do that here? Like maybe the grandstanding, class warfare and ever-changing list of favors in the tax code? Things like "The American Jobs Act?"

This task, of making America more competitive for the long haul, is a job for all of us. For government and for private companies. For states and for local communities – and for every American citizen. All of us will have to up our game. All of us will have to change the way we do business. 

My administration can and will take some steps to improve our competitiveness on our own. For example, if you’re a small business owner who has a contract with the federal government, we’re going to make sure you get paid a lot faster than you do now. We’re also planning to cut away the red tape that prevents too many rapidly-growing start-up companies from raising capital and going public. And to help responsible homeowners, we’re going to work with Federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4% — a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family’s pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices. 

For what it's worth, first-time buyers are not at all burdened by the drop in housing prices. But hey, you can't make an omelet without cracking a few eggs. I mean, who do you trust to pick winners and losers anyway?

Other steps will require Congressional action. Today you passed reform that will speed up the outdated patent process, so that entrepreneurs can turn a new idea into a new business as quickly as possible. That’s the kind of action we need. Now it’s time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea – while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition. If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers.

Except for those damn South Korean teachers. They can drive Hyundais.

I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with three proud words: “Made in America.” 

Isn't that stamped on all of our T-Bills? There are plenty of those in China. Oh, I see what you did there. This plan just might work...

And on all of our efforts to strengthen competitiveness, we need to look for ways to work side-by-side with America’s businesses. That’s why I’ve brought together a Jobs Council of leaders from different industries who are developing a wide range of new ideas to help companies grow and create jobs. 

Already, we’ve mobilized business leaders to train 10,000 American engineers a year, by providing company internships and training. Other businesses are covering tuition for workers who learn new skills at community colleges. And we’re going to make sure the next generation of manufacturing takes root not in China or Europe, but right here, in the United States of America. If we provide the right incentives and support – and if we make sure our trading partners play by the rules – we can be the ones to build everything from fuel-efficient cars to advanced biofuels to semiconductors that are sold all over the world. That’s how America can be number one again. That’s how America will be number one again. 

Now, I realize that some of you have a different theory on how to grow the economy. Some of you sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations. 

Well, I agree that we can’t afford wasteful spending, and I will continue to work with Congress to get rid of it. And I agree that there are some rules and regulations that put an unnecessary burden on businesses at a time when they can least afford it. That’s why I ordered a review of all government regulations. So far, we’ve identified over 500 reforms, which will save billions of dollars over the next few years. We should have no more regulation than the health, safety, and security of the American people require. Every rule should meet that common sense test. 

But what we can’t do – what I won’t do – is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe that’s a race we can win. 

In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own – that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America. 

Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world. 

But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future – a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

Ask yourselves – where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways and our bridges; our dams and our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?

I might be mistaken, but I think he just proposed another World War so a new generation can go to college on the GI Bill.

How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this Chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?

"What kind of country would this be if this Chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? " *Sigh* I just had to repeat that line. Indeed, what kind of country would it be? Freer? More prosperous? Solvent?

No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. Members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.

Except for our fiscal responsibilities.

Every proposal I’ve laid out tonight is the kind that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Every proposal I’ve laid out tonight will be paid for. And every proposal is designed to meet the urgent needs of our people and our communities.
Declarations of war have been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. That doesn't mean every declaration of war should be passed immediately, without debate.

I know there’s been a lot of skepticism about whether the politics of the moment will allow us to pass this jobs plan – or any jobs plan. Already, we’re seeing the same old press releases and tweets flying back and forth. Already, the media has proclaimed that it’s impossible to bridge our differences. And maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box.

But know this: the next election is fourteen months away. And the people who sent us here – the people who hired us to work for them – they don’t have the luxury of waiting fourteen months. 

Stop the presses! I think he just offered to resign!

Some of them are living week to week; paycheck to paycheck; even day to day. They need help, and they need it now. 
I don’t pretend that this plan will solve all our problems. It shouldn’t be, nor will it be, the last plan of action we propose. What’s guided us from the start of this crisis hasn’t been the search for a silver bullet. It’s been a commitment to stay at it – to be persistent – to keep trying every new idea that works, and listen to every good proposal, no matter which party comes up with it.

Yes, listen to every proposal. The dismiss it with something glib, like "I won."

Regardless of the arguments we’ve had in the past, regardless of the arguments we’ll have in the future, this plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it. And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country. I also ask every American who agrees to lift your voice and tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option. Remind us that if we act as one nation, and one people, we have it within our power to meet this challenge. 

President Kennedy once said, “Our problems are man-made – therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.” 

These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let’s meet the moment. Let’s get to work, and show the world once again why the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Obama to Send Congress “The American Jobs Act” (NOT "stimulus")

ABC News reports that Obama will send Congress “The American Jobs Act.” Let me be perfectly clear: it is definitely not a "stimulus bill."

From the article:

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said on “Good Morning America” the specifics “will create jobs. They’ll get teachers back to work. First responders back to work. Construction workers, it will get money into small businesses. And the  American people will see a tax cut with a payroll extension.”

Let's break that down a bit: It's the week after Labor Day. I am pretty sure teachers have all gotten back to work already. First responders back to work? What does that mean? 9/11 put first responders to work. I don't like the sound of that.

But I get it - "Hey, public sector unions, I got your back."

The more curious part of Daley's remarks was this:

”It will help the long-term unemployed and help small businesses hire veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at a time where there is a growing unemployment rate among veterans.”

Are they saying that the recently announced drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan is going to make unemployment worse? That's pretty interesting, but consistent with Liberal thought. After all, they still think WWII was the best "jobs program" ever...

07 September 2011

Some scattered thoughts on the #ReaganDebate

Well, we all expected tonight to be the Rick Perry show, and it was. Brian Williams did a quick search on the Huffington Post and Paul Krugman to find a few ways to question the Texas record. Mitt and Huntsman had a few pre-scripted zingers.

What surprised me is how unprepared Perry seemed in response. There are good answers to all the dumb statements about the Texas record, but he came across as if he'd never heard the criticisms. Maybe dealing with Texas wildfires over the last couple of days reduced his prep time, but nobody was asking him about events of the last week; they were asking about his record over the last ten years.

Mitt needed to let go of his defense of RomneyCare, but at this point he is just too invested in that line of argument. Turning his back on RomneyCare would open up the old "flip-flopper" line of attack. And that, my friends, is why Mitt Romney will never be President.

Perry, similarly, needs to stop defending the Gardasil thing. When he says "I hate cancer," he might as well say "I love puppies." It would be equally relevant. His Gardasil executive order was indefensible in every way. For Parry, unlike Romney, it is still not too late to just say "I was wrong," and let it go.

Newt had some good, fiery answers. I will never vote for him for president.

Huntsman's only good moment was when he blasted those idiotic candidate pledges. Other than that...um, blue sky, weak core, China. He has some solid hair, though. I'll give him that.

Ron Paul is our lovable crazy uncle, and, as always, he made some good points, but he also trashed Reagan at the Reagan Library. He can't win (and he shouldn't.) I wish he would go away.

Perry's best answers were when he defended, and repeated his charge that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme. Still, I expect Perry's poll numbers to drop a bit after this. What I don't know is whose numbers will improve.

Rick Perry is Fed Up. My book review...

Rick Perry's Fed Up! has plenty to like and a bit to dislike for almost everybody, but because campaign books are tough to read, I read this one, so you don't have to.

The first thing that must be said is that this book, written long before Perry admitted he intended to run for President, was clearly written as a campaign book. It isn't a call to arms - it's a call to vote. Obviously, Perry's attacks go most heavily after Obama, but he also has some digs at his predecessor in the governor's office, George W. Bush, and spares his party no criticisms. A sampling:

"Both Democrats and Republicans share the blame, from Lyndon B. Johnson...to my friend President George W. Bush..."

"Indeed, this big-government binge began under the administration of George W. Bush..."

"The branding of Compassionate Conservatism meant that the GOP was sending the wrong signal that conservatism alone wasn't sufficient or, worse yet, was somehow flawed and had to be rebranded. For the first time, we were acting like liberals who call themselves progressives, running away to some degree from who we were, and what we stood for. The result is an ongoing and near-complete capitulation to the federal welfare state."

He also offers some pre-emptive defenses of some expected attacks on himself and his record, explaining how states rights arguments were mis-used in the civil rights era. It came across to me as a passage inspired by Rand Paul's remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act during his 2010 campaign.

Perry also pre-empts liberal attacks on him for accepting Federal dollars even as he decries the Washington leviathan. Here, his arguments resonate, and we can expect them to be repeated. There are no Federal dollars, he argues, it all comes form the states. It is a difficult balancing act to decide when to accede to extortionate demands of Congress in order to get back the very dollars the state paid in to Washington, and when to decide to let the state's own dollars go.

Much has been made of Mitt Romney's subtle attacks on Perry in recent weeks, but Perry was jabbing at Romney months ago in this book, recounting the poor results (longer waiting times, out of control costs and rationing boards) of RomneyCare, even as he praises the experiment as an examples of states as "laboratories of democracy." "Is it any wonder," Perry asks, "that this is the state from which [Obama appointee and rationing enthusiast] Dr. [Donald] Berwick hails?"

Tea Partiers will find little to disagree with in Perry's prescriptions - he quotes all the right people and makes no effort to defend the GOP's mistakes. Mainstream Republicans, though, will find comfort in his assessment that the GOP can be fixed, and is still the best alternative between the parties.

Perry's main argument for his own candidacy boils down to one question that he says is one of the most important we can contemplate, namely, "Who gets to decide how we live?"

Perry says it's you.

22 August 2011

Nation-building is tricky stuff...

Many who have seen the Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Stage of Libyan Government have pointed with concern to the following passage:

Libya is an independent Democratic State wherein the people are the source of authorities. The city of Tripoli shall be the capital of the State. Islam is the Religion of the State and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia). Arabic is its official language while preserving the linguistic and cultural rights of all components of the Libyan society. The State shall guarantee for non-Moslems the freedom of practising religious rights and shall guarantee respect for their systems of personal status.

I would only note that the Constitution of Iraq, adopted in close cooperation with the United States, begins as follows:

Article 1:The Republic of Iraq is a single federal, independent and fully sovereign state in which the system of government is republican, representative, parliamentary, and democratic, and this Constitution is a guarantor of the unity of Iraq. 
Article 2: First: Islam is the official religion of the State and is a foundation source of legislation:
A. No law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam
B. No law may be enacted that contradicts the principles of democracy.
C. No law may be enacted that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this Constitution.
Second: This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights to freedom of religious belief and practice of all individuals such as Christians, Yazidis, and Mandean Sabeans.

Nation-building is tricky stuff, isn't it?

17 August 2011

Yes, Perry's Gardasil order matters. And it isn't good.

Rick Perry and the HPV debacle

Over at Hot Air, somebody calling himself Jazz Shaw takes on Rick Perry's Gardasil controversy. The link is above, if you want to read it, but I'll save you a little time and summarize: "if you think Perry made a mistake, you are a benighted rube who does not understand that Gardasil will miraculously cure cancer and your ignorance will condemn all young girls to a horrible, cancer-ridden death."

Where to begin?

What Jazz fails to grasp is that Gardasil's efficacy is irrelevant. Government mandates are a use of force against individuals, and that force is only properly exercised with extreme discretion.

"Wiping out smallpox," which the writer uses as an analogy is a great deal different. Communicable diseases like smallpox pose public health threats that are not behaviorally determined. There is a clear public benefit to mandating such vaccines. But cancer is not a communicable disease. Nor is Gardasil a "cancer vaccine." But even if it were, that would not be a reason to mandate it. The only argument in favor of mandating Gardasil - even accepting all the claims made on its behalf by Shaw - is that it is for your own good.

On this one, I side with John Stuart Mill, who said that the "only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant."

Beyond that, Perry's action was unilateral, circumventing the democratic process. A State Legislature of his own party passed legislation to reverse his action - and no, Perry did not accept this. He let it pass into law without his signature only after his staff had argued the legislature did not have the power to over-rule the Governor's executive orders. Got that? His staff argued (with his approval, one must assume,) that the Governor has the legitimate, unchecked authority to command his fellow citizens to - what? Anything? In this case it was to get a vaccine, but what is the logical end to this line of reasoning?

Again, any argument that begins with "Gardasil works," is entirely missing the point. Perry was wrong. I really don't think he understands that himself, even now, but at least he has sense enough to know that it is politically indefensible.

15 August 2011

Technology as analogy for politics

Analogies never fit exactly, but they still can be useful from time to time.

The history and current trends of Information Technology offer us an analogy for the political direction our nation will be choosing in the next election.

When desktop computer first began entering the workplace in large numbers, they were set up as "dumb terminals," allowing workers to log in to a personal account, but saving all files on a central mainframe. This model evolved into the one which is still familiar to most of us, the client-server model, where our files and work reside on our own desktop or laptop computers, but certain management and maintenance tasks are performed remotely from the server. This model has allowed for the evolution of laptop computers and more mobile businesses.

In more recent years, the rise of the smartphone has placed more and more data and applications not only on a mobile computer, but literally in the pockets of mobile workers. With the introduction of the iPad last year, the tablet market has exploded, with this new generation of mobile devices actually being considered as a replacement for notebook computers.

Along with this technology has come a "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) trend in the workplace. Workers, whose work and personal lives and hours frequently overlap, are less inclined to tolerate multiple devices, and would rather consolidate on a device of their own choosing. For their employers, this means giving up a lot of the centralized control which has characterized IT for the last twenty years. In exchange, they get workers whose autonomy and satisfaction leads to greater productivity.

So what's the analogy? On the one hand, we have a bright new technology that enables personal freedom and empowerment. On the other, we have a dusty old mainframe that promises to take care of everything, as long we stay seated at our desks and chained to the past.

You figure it out.

12 August 2011

Republican cage fight! A reasonably accurate transcript.

I am late in posting my comments. Other blogging duties took precedence, so I watched the repeat broadcast of the debate late at night. And really, both events are just preseason, right?

Rather than comment, I thought I'd just share a few highlights. I am pretty sure I transcribed them accurately, but I welcome your corrections:

Newt: The key to recovery is Six Sigma. I am just like Reagan. And McCain. Damn you, Chris Wallace!
Pawlenty: I know I hurt my campaign by wussing out against Romney in the last debate, so just let me say, the chick next to me is lame! Yeah!
Bachmann: Pawlenty is liberal.
Pawlenty: Wanna fight? C'mon!
Cain: I may or may not give you a dumb answer, but let me make clear, Chris, that was a dumb question.
Huntsman: That was a hard question, so let me just say: Buzzword. Platitude. Specific numbers. Cliché. And I will do this decisively.
Pawlenty: If you can find Obama's plan, I will cut your lawn. But if you're Romney, only one acre. Because he's a damn rich guy, get it? Wanna fight?! C'mon!
Romney: Ass.
Cain: America's got to learn to take a joke. (That one was actually real. And funny. And true.)
Bachmann: Yes, I voted for a tax increase, but it was clearly Pawlenty's fault.
Pawlenty: Wanna fight?! C'mon!
Bachmann: Pussy.
Pawlenty: Put 'em up! I can take you!
Santorum: Somebody please pay attention to me!
Bret Baier: Raise your hand if you want to end your campaign today.
All: Are you f'ing kidding me?
Newt: You can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!
Pawlenty: Second swing at Obamneycare? Bring it! Okay...I could kick Mitt's ass! C'mon! But seriously, he's not quite as bad as Obama.
Romney: Tim is right. I'm not as bad as Obama. Let's just leave it at that, and stop talking about Obamneycare...uh...Obamacare.
Chris Wallace: What about the Constitutionality of Obamacare?
Romney: SputterBabbleJabber...states rights...localism is not exactly like socialism. So there. Instead of answering questions about my record, can I fight with Pawlenty again? He's a pussy.
Paul: I don't want to fight about this. The Constitution gives Romneys the right to do the wrong thing. I mean it's not really any worse than selling your body to fund your cocaine addiction. Freedom, etc.
Romney: As commander-in-chief, I would follow the instructions of my subordinates in Afghanistan.
Huntsman: Something about Paul Warfield and hacking. The relationship between the US and China is utterly failed in every way. It's a shame we have had utter incompetents in charge of this for the last two years. I am the only guy who can fix the damage wrought by Obama's US Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman.
Santorum: Please let me fight somebody. How about Ron Paul?
Chris Wallace: You once said something that sounds dumb when I quote it out of context. Please respond.
Cain: I'd like to double down, please.
Santorum: Ron Paul is just like Barack Obama!
Paul: Mind your manners, whippersnapper! Chop some wood and sit in the corner!
Huntsman: Another hard question. Not picking a fight. We should talk about this. Nobody's wrong. Everybody's entitled to an opinion.
Paul: Hard question. Bizarre hypothetical. Get off my lawn!
Santorum: Yeah, that's bizarre, but it isn't hypothetical. Lemme at that guy! I can take him!
Santorum: The Supreme Court recently said that a man that committed rape could not be subjected to the death penalty, but the child conceived could. (This one's real)
Bachmann: Tea Party.
Cain: Yes.
Newt: Something about Whigs and central banks. Fundamentally. Clearly. Therefore.
Santorum: Newt's okay and he's bigger than me. But I can still take Ron Paul.
Santorum: Showmanship, not leadership to say we shouldn't raise debt limit, because we borrow 42%, but Medicare, Social Security and defense are 60%, so you can't balance by cuts! Limiting debt is dangerous, cutting spending is naïve and I'm against all tax increases! Realism! Experience!
Huntsman: I'm the only one on this stage that stood up against the thing nobody on this stage was for!
Closing Statements

Santorum: Winner. Experience. Underdog.
Cain: I'm the message.
Paul: Get off my lawn!
Romney: I'm not weird. Obama is.
Bachmann: C'mon. F%$* Obama.
Pawlenty: I need a drink.
Huntsman: Please remember my name.
Newt: Future trends. Complexity. Warshington. Me.

10 August 2011

Last Night’s Wisconsin Fights Were On Obama Turf - By Jim Geraghty - The Campaign Spot - National Review Online

Last Night’s Wisconsin Fights Were On Obama Turf - By Jim Geraghty - The Campaign Spot - National Review Online

As usual, Geraghty's analysis is right on, as he responds to Markos Moulitsas' take on last night's elections in Wisconsin.

I'd only add (expanding on my earlier post,) that Democrats have poured everything they had into rolling back Republican gains and legislation in Wisconsin this year. First, with fugitive senators trying to block the vote; second with an all-out effort to politicize a State Supreme Court race and get a majority to overturn the law from there; and third with these recall races.

In addition, it is probably worth noting that Hopper, running in a district carried by Obama in 2008, not only lost by only a 51-49 margin (1250 votes,) he did so in the midst of a personal scandal that could easily have accounted for most, if not all, of his losing margin.

Democrats who see anything good in Wisconsin's recall results are just whistling past the (metaphorical) graveyard. Hope that imagery isn't too violent.

Dems: Tea Party used to have "no policies," now they are responsible for downgrade?

Now that the Democrat line is that the Tea Party is responsible for the downgrade, I was thinking back a year and half (or so) when the talking point was that the Tea Party has no policy of its own. Below are the policies I suggested at the time - I don't see "downgrade" among them. It's funny how this faceless group of rabble-rousing terrorists and racists with no ideas can so easily railroad Democrats. Maybe its not the Tea Party we should be worried about, but the "Devil made me do it" Democrats who are incapable of self-examination. Anyway - back to those prinicples I laid out last year. I can't see anything I'd change now:

In addition to the ongoing attempts to portray Tea Partiers as racist domestic terrorists, the newest line being passed around the liberal commentariat is that the people at these demonstrations aren't offering any solutions of their own.

It is a pretty bizarre notion that any political demonstration consists of people with detailed policy proposals emblazoned on their signs. Nobody stood watching anti-draft demonstrations of the 1960s, scratching their chins and saying, "I just don't understand what these people want. Where is their policy proposal? They just keep shouting 'Hell no, we won't go!' Go where?"

Still, just to help clear things up for those dimwitted enough to actually not understand the purpose of these ongoing demonstrations, allow me to lay out what I believe are a few beliefs of the majority of Tea Party demonstrators. Despite their simplicity, these are serious "policy proposals" nonetheless:

  1. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. The Tea Party crowd does not care that Bush's budgets spent too much. Bush is not in office any more. They don't believe two wrongs make a right. They don't believe a ticket for going 80 on the freeway is the same as a ticket for driving 120 in a school zone. Most importantly, they can do math, and they live in the real world. They can see that annual deficits measured in trillions are completely unsustainable, and they are utterly baffled as to why those in charge of the White House and Congress can't understand this simple truth, and instead keep committing all of us to more and more spending. We don't have the money. We're not going to get the money. SO STOP SPENDING IT. NOW.
  2. STOP TRYING TO RUN ALL OF OUR AFFAIRS. Every day, it seems, we hear about a new invasion of the government into another business or sector of the economy. GM is now Government Motors; via TARP, the Feds have taken control of a large chunk of banking; they now want to overhaul financial regulations to give even more government control to that sector; they've taken full control of student loans; they are taking over the medical industry - the list is seemingly endless. Who do these people in government think they are? Send them to do a simple, well-defined job, and not only do they fail at that - driving our nation into an out of control financial tailspin - now they want to get their hands into everybody else's business. DO YOUR JOB. WE CAN DO OUR JOBS JUST FINE WITHOUT YOUR HELP.
  3. TRY TO REMEMBER WHO'S THE BOSS. If Obama and the Democrats had to live in the real world, they might understand that in most places of work, the guy who writes their checks is the boss. On the other hand, they don't seem to get who's writing their checks right now. Governments have no money. People have money. Businesses pay no taxes. People pay taxes. We are the people. Our taxes are the checks that pay for your salaries, your light bills and all your crazy schemes. So when did you get this crazy idea that you get to over-rule us on how that money gets spent? We understand it's not a direct democracy; it's a representative republic. That's why our signs don't contain detailed policy proposals. They just spell out general principles. The details are your job. You see, you are servants, not rulers, and your bosses want you to spend less money, and get out of our business. Make it happen. DO YOUR JOB.

So there you have it. Policy proposals. And to think, they were right there in front of you all the time.

09 August 2011

This is what a Republic looks like.

Since Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan hit the floor of the legislature at the beginning of this year, the Left has pulled out all the stops to fight it, and to roll back Republican gains of the last election: importing and paying demonstrators, issuing crooked judicial rulings, office-holders fleeing the state, pouring millions of union dollars into a race for a State Supreme Court seat, and now, recall elections for six Republican State Senators. Democrats would need to win three of those races in order to flip control of the Senate. They have abused, bent and broken the rules; poured out-of-state funds into their efforts and shouted themselves hoarse.

As it stands at this writing, the Democrats appear to have failed. Oh, and two Democrat State Senators face recall elections next week.

But the really interesting news is that Wisconsin is already seeing astounding turnarounds in local government budget and private sector job creation under Republican policies. In a land suffering under the burden of a President who "made everything worse," a few Republicans have started to make a few things better.

Say, that sounds like the start of a national campaign...is it 2012 yet?

Rules of the game in government contracting

FoxNews just aired a report about Anham, a defense contractor that is alleged to have overcharged the military for war zone supplies; for example, a $2 piece of PVC pipe for $140 (or so.) In response, the company says the charges are false, and that they have in fact saved the government $153 million.

Given that they work for a government that can claim to save millions of jobs even as long-term unemployment soars to record levels, and claim to cut spending by $2 trillion, even as it schedules increases of $7 trillion...well, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

They know the rules.

Tipping point for Obama?

I keep reading that this week may have been the tipping point where the MSM finally lost faith in The One. I think that's wishful thinking, but still, it's refreshing to hear some otherwise reliable liberal voices beginning to mumble some of the things some of us were shouting from the rooftops three years ago.

I do think the one-line summary of Obama's Presidency, written now in wet concrete, is beginning to set:


That won't sway the MSM, no matter how many doubts they may voice this week, but once that summary is set in concrete, Independents will never come back to him, and even Democrats will feel free to stay home in 2012 (sorry, they won't vote for Perry.) And if those same Democrats begin to tell pollsters they disapprove of Obama's performance, the bottom will fall out of his polls.

04 August 2011

Obama admits: 2008 was just a Hope-a-Dope

At his birthday party, President Obama said:

"When I said ‘change we can believe in’ I didn‘t say ’change we can believe in tomorrow.’ Not change we can believe in next week. We knew this was going to take time because we’ve got this big, messy, tough democracy...”

So there it is. It was all a hope-a-dope. Then again, in 2008 he told his faithful, fainting followers:

"Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment - this was the time - when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals."

It seems to me that if "this is the moment" you're not selling a long-term deal. You're pretty much saying, as you did on election night 2008, "change has come" and:

"For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow." 

Wait...did he just say tomorrow?

Does "The Hill" have no fact-checkers?

Dow plunges after debt deal, raising anxiety over economy - The Hill's On The Money:
"After morning trading on Thursday, the Dow had lost more than 1,000 points since July 25, the first day of trading after talks between President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on a big debt deal broke off.

By comparison, the Dow lost 819 points on Oct. 6, 2008, when the House failed to approve the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)."

First, the House of Representatives did not reject TARP on October 6th. President Bush signed it into law on October 3d. The House rejected the bill on September 29th, and while stocks dropped more than 700 points that day, they recovered 500 the very next day. Most of the drop on the 29th, in fact, preceded the final vote, which many had assumed would result in passage of the bill. Its rejection was a surprise.

Second, beginning on October 1st, when the Senate passed a new version of TARP, stocks began a steady fall. During the week following enactment of TARP (October 3-10) the Dow fell by over 2000 points. As noted by The Hill, this included a one-day drop of 819 points on October 6th.

I recognize that rises and falls in the market can always be interpreted more than one way, but let's at least get the facts straight before we get to the interpretation: the market dropped temporarily, recovering most of its losses the next day when the House rejected TARP. It reacted far more adversely after TARP was passed, and signed into law.

So when we look at the market's reaction today, it seems to fit a pattern: when politicians claim to have solved a problem, Wall Street doesn't doesn't buy it.

UPDATE: The Hill has now (2:32 PM) revised the story to note the September 29th date, and the 777 point drop. However, they have not included any mention of the recovery on the 30th, nor of the much larger crash which followed passage of TARP. Instead, they imply that the only market drop was due to Republican rejection of the TARP bill, which they compare to this week's debt deal, also attributed to Republicans alone, despite strong bipartisan support. The original story might have been dismissed as carelessness. The revised version cannot be explained as anything other than deliberate dishonesty in pursuit of a partisan message.

02 August 2011

Time for Nirvana's music catalog to enter the public domain?

The article below was passed along to me by a friend who seemed to think this was good news - and I guess it is, to a certain extent, but it also raises a lot of questions in my mind.

Drug Prices To Plunge As Patents Expire
The next 14 months will bring generic versions of seven of the world's 20 best-selling drugs, including the top two: cholesterol fighter Lipitor and blood thinner Plavix.

It's worth noting, I think, that pharmaceutical companies spend many millions of dollars on both years of research and on navigation of the FDA's approval maze for each drug they bring to market. Some of those drugs offer truly miraculous cures for debilitating illnesses. In exchange, US intellectual property laws grant them a maximum of twenty years of protection, some of which will tick by before the drug even gets to market.

For example, the patent protecting Lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering drug, ran out in June, 2011. That drug was approved by the FDA in 1997 - just 14 years ago. By contrast, Nirvana's last album was released in 1993 - so how long until it hits the public domain, so that we can freely download it?

Some argue that drug pricing is just too high, and drug companies make plenty of money. That argument is tough to sustain, though. James Cameron's Titanic, released the same year as Lipitor, quite famously earned more than $1 billion, yet Cameron still retains all rights, and will pass those rights, and continued profits, to his heirs.

You can argue that copyright has been extended too far, or drug patents not far enough, but I don't think you can argue that the current system is rational.

01 August 2011

A deal is struck, and US debt is downgraded anyway. Because the issue was never the "ceiling."

Egan-Jones today downgraded US debt from AAA to AA+. You can read the report, but here is the money quote:

We are taking a negative action not based on the delay in raising the debt ceiling but rather our concern about the high level of debt to GDP in excess of 100% compared to Canada's 35%.

It was never about the debt ceiling - it was about the debt. Nothing has changed with the deal.

30 July 2011

Washington insiders hoping for bad news

John Carney at CNBC reports that a "Washington insider" has been hoping for panic and bad news in the markets, so that the parties in Congress might be spooked into making a deal. Just like back in 2008:

He's still holding out hope for a panic sell-off at the end of the day.
"It's the only thing that's going to bring everyone together on this," he said.
Holding out hope for bad news - that's all you need to know about Washington insiders and people who push for deals and compromises. They think they know better than you, than me, than all of Wall Street. They've been screaming "panic!" for weeks now, yet nobody is running through the streets.

But they also have faulty memories of 2008. When the House of Representatives rejected the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" on September 29th, the market did indeed stumble, losing 775 points that day. But here is the rest of the story:

Leading up to the first vote, we were told repeatedly that this bill not only had to pass, but had to pass that very day or it would trigger a worldwide financial meltdown and Great Depression 2. Yet, despite the bill's failure, the sun rose on September 30th, there was no worldwide crash, and the Dow recovered almost all of the previous day's loss. (Hourly tracking of the market would in fact show that most of the losses occurred prior to the vote, whose outcome was not certain.)

It wasn't until the series of votes from October 1-3, reviving and passing the bill, that the market would truly crash, losing over 2300 points in a week. That's right - the big crash did not occur when the bill was rejected, it occurred when the bill passed.

In retrospect, nothing good came from that bailout. The Washington experts were wrong. Big surprise.

29 July 2011

Please pay attention: Democrats have never wanted a solution by August 2d

The chief argument advanced in favor of passing the Boehner Plan in the House of Representatives is that Republicans should "take what they can get," and "put the ball in the Democrats'" court.

There are only two flaws in this reasoning - its premise and its conclusion.

Democrats have agreed to nothing and conceded nothing. "Taking what you can get" is fine, but first you have to get it. Republicans are conceding ground with no agreement and no offer from the other side. Quite the opposite, in fact, as Harry Reid has openly promised that the Boehner plan will not pass the Senate.

The very idea that the Senate would bear any sort of blame by refusing to pass the Boehner plan ignores the fact that this already happened a week ago, followed by no Democrat counter-proposal, yet here is the conservative commentariat still talking about "intransigent Republicans." I get that the mainstream media has the "Republicans shut down government" stories all queued up, but why is this now a right wing talking point?

Should the Boehner bill pass, it will be the second solution passed by the House despite the Senate's open avowal to kill it. If there is one argument in support of passing the Boehner plan with absolutely no credibility whatsoever, it is that this will put the ball in the Democrats' court.

It should be abundantly clear to anybody with eyes that Democrats have no interest whatsoever in passing any plan, and they never did. Their obvious goal is a government shutdown for which Republicans will be blamed. This, of course, is exactly the strategy that has been openly discussed all year as Obama's only hope for re-election, and yet Republicans act as if they don't know what's going on here.

So, there they go, ready to kick the football, and Lucy isn't even pretending to hold it.

Look, I understand that shutting down the government and blaming Republicans is the Democrat end game, and I also understand that there may be no way to change that media narrative. But why in the name of all this is holy are so many conservative commentators jumping on board the blame-wagon?

18 July 2011

Moody's calls for US to refinance debt on zero-down, subprime, no-documentation loans!

I laughed so hard I cried when I read this article...

Budget: Moody's Suggests US Eliminates Debt Ceiling - CNBC:

"Ratings agency Moody's on Monday suggested the United States should eliminate its statutory limit on government debt to reduce uncertainty among bond holders."

Because, frankly, there'd be a lot less uncertainty about the government's solvency if it could borrow limitless amounts of money.

Go try to explain that to your mortgage broker next time you buy a house.

"Listen, you'll have a lot less uncertainty about whether I'll make my payments if you stop trying to put a limit on how big a loan you'll approve. I mean, come on, man! Don't tie my hands!"

Oh, I know - I'm oversimplifying. Moody's explains further:
"In the United States, Moody's said the debt limit had not effectively curbed the rise in government debt because lawmakers regularly raise it and because that limit is not related to the level of expenditures approved by Congress."
There, you see? It make much more sense now. The debt limit doesn't really restrain debt because it always just gets raised anyway. Therefore, instead of refusing to keep raising it, we should just not have a limit at all.

I think I tried that argument with my parents when discussing curfew back in high school.

15 July 2011

Lefty nonsense: "Obscene Wealth" vs. truly obscene Federal profligacy

I ran across this link via an acquaintance who found it to be a compelling indictment of the excesses of capitalism:

11 Things the Richest U.S. Households Can Buy That You Can’t | United for a Fair Economy

Excerpt (with highlights and emphasis from the original):

  • The richest 400 households can pay off every student loan for every single student in the entire United States. No more paying for an education, so that you can get a good job so that you can... well, pay off your education.
  • The richest 400 can pay off all credit card debt for every single person in the entire United States. Imagine that! No more credit card debt looming over your shoulders!

Etc. You get the point. Well, you might want to keep in mind that there actually are a few things that the "obscenely rich" can't buy with all of their money:

  • If you took every penny away from the richest 400 Americans, it would not balance the Federal Budget even for this year alone.
  • Since this is about wealth, not income, they would be left with nothing to contribute next year.
  • All of their wealth would not cover Social Security and Medicare for even one year.
  • You could confiscate all of their wealth and barely cover half of what Obama is currently demanding to have added to the Federal Debt Ceiling.
So there's a little food for thought. The "obscene wealth" of the wealthiest pales in comparison to the obscene profligacy of the Federal government under President Obama.