Views on the News
January 2, 2010
Views on the News*
One of the biggest criticisms of Obama during the election was that he prioritizes political power above the impact on the country, and his performance seems to confirm this approach. What we are seeing in Washington is the Democrats telling us on health care, and the rest of the issues, are that they know what is best, and they are not the slightest bit interested in what the people think. This is a complete abdication of democracy, or rule by the people, displaced by a new elitism, or rule by elites, which is a form of undemocratic authoritarianism. We can't use phrases like "health care debate" to discuss what has happened, because there has not been any such debate. Ditto that for global warming policy, where the EPA, following the lead of President Obama, insists on plowing ahead regardless of what the public thinks, or what any dissenting scientific authorities have to say. Debate requires a willingness to listen to what others have to say, and to respond with rational arguments. But Democrats have refused even to hold hearings on their final health care proposals, which were not even released to their Congressional colleagues until the last second, and then rushed to a vote, without even full scoring of their implications. This spectacle is an abuse of office. From the polls, to phone calls and letters to the Hill, to public protests, all signs indicate overwhelming and exploding public opposition to the Democrats' government takeover of health care. There is a sense of déjà vu in the Obama administration’s response to the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day. A familiar pattern has emerged how this administration deals with unexpected problems. The first reaction to any incident is that it is business as usual and not important enough for the administration to address. Next White House aides deny that anything is wrong on their part, so there is no action required. While staying out of the spotlight, the President conveys his efforts to address the situation and his feelings about it through administration officials. Then after a few days, the White House concedes that there is an issue, and perhaps Obama even steps out to address it. Considering Obama’s tendency to seek out any and all opportunities for a teleprompter driven address, his reluctance to address issues as they unfold is perceived as a sign of weakness. Obama’s aides say that a measured approach is Obama’s style. Frequently Obama begins by trying to deflect any blame to the previous administration and portray the situation as an unfortunate inherited problem that only he can address adequately. The most recent is the terrorist incident in Detroit - albeit an unsuccessful one - makes the stakes much higher, and the White House’s usual approach more questionable. Obama has demonstrated that his first reaction to any issue is to try to spin it politically to his advantage and the national impact is only a secondary consideration… not the leadership style this country needs!
(“Dealing with unexpected problems the Obama way” by Carol E. Lee dated December 29, 2009 published by Politico at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/31021.html
“Washington Knows Best” by Peter Ferrara dated December 30, 2009 published by The American Spectator at http://spectator.org/archives/2009/12/30/washington-knows-best )
Obama's policies are exceedingly unpopular: the public disapproves of the president's bailouts, stimulus, health care reform, and cap and trade policies, not to mention his decision to close the terrorist prison at Guantánamo Bay. Such disapproval, however, has led to a paradox, because Democrats know they likely will suffer an electoral rebuke in 2010, they have moved even more quickly to enact their unwelcome agenda. In their view, 2009 could be the high-water mark of the “New” New Deal; better seize the moment. Democrats in Congress, therefore, have passed major pieces of complex legislation, with significant effects on the American economy, against public opinion and on party-line votes. The democrats might as well be lemmings, marching off a cliff. The backlash against Obama's partisan liberal agenda has led to some surprising numbers. The December NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found the TEA Party movement has a higher approval rating than either the Democrats or the GOP. A recent Fox News poll found a majority of respondents preferred "doing nothing" to signing the Democratic health care bills into law. In another December survey, Public Policy Polling found that voters prefer Obama to George W. Bush by only a six-point margin. Liberals have dismissed these polls, and claim Obama's sagging popularity has nothing to do with his liberalism. They say unemployment is the sole factor, and it is a factor, but not the only one. The rightward shift limited to issues related to the size of government. Public support for labor unions, for instance, is also at an all-time low. Support for gun control is declining, and so is support for abortion rights. The share of the public that believes there is "solid evidence" of climate change has fallen from 70% to 57%. In an earlier survey, released in May, Pew found that only 49% of Americans are willing to "pay higher prices in order to protect the environment." No wonder those who support putting a price on carbon are downplaying the environmental angle and emphasizing "energy independence" instead. The story of 2009 was that a young, attractive, post-partisan Presidential candidate decided to govern as a partisan liberal. The results have been declining public support, bad legislation, demoralized lefties, and a resurgent conservative movement. The gap between the American people and those who govern them from Washington, D.C., is widening. It turns out John Edwards had a point that there really are two Americas: there's the America of the "expert" schemers, planners, and centralizers inside the Beltway who think they know what's good for the people, whether the people like it or not, and there's the America of just about everyone else.
(“The Two Americas” by Matthew Continetti dated January 4, 2010 published by The Weekly Standard at http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/017/392wacus.asp )
America is at a critical point in its history at the confluence of the most leftist President in history, star-struck voters, and supported by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. I do not think it will be easy to delay Obamism. It is not just that both houses of Congress are under liberal leadership with ample majorities, with a White House and captive media egging them on. The problem is that now the entire engine of the federal government is harnessed in the most unapologetic way to pushing through a far left agenda. There is no shame, no hesitancy in using the full powers of the state. Buyer’s remorse has revealed a clear majority of Americans are opposed to almost everything Obama has to offer; Congressional representatives know they are acting against the will of the people, but know too that they are offered all sorts of borrowed money for their districts to compensate for their unpopular actions. Meanwhile our charismatic commander-in-chief believes that he can charm even the angriest of critics, and that anything he promises (Iran’s deadlines, closing of Guantanamo, new transparency, no more lobbyists, etc) is meaningless and can be contextualized by another “let me be perfectly clear” speech. I would not count Obama out, but what drives his agenda?
· Equality of Result: Obama advocates a doctrine where the state can guarantee equal results through the power of material redistribution. In its most benign form, we know this as progressivism or communitarianism, a big government, high tax philosophy that co-exists within democracy. Its more pernicious strains are socialist, in which the state ensures, through bureaucratic fiat and a labyrinth of laws that curb free expression, that redistribution is institutionalized. And the virulent form is a murderous communism, in which any means necessary are justified to ensure the desire ends and the rule of anointed apparat, doing it all “for the people.”
· Multiculturalism: A number of contemporary –isms and –ologies (multiculturalism, moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, post-modernism) also help to explain Obamism, especially in cultural terms. Our universities subscribe to race/class/gender theory of exploitation, in which much of the unhappiness of today’s women, of today’s nonwhite, and of today’s poor originates with the privileges of the white Christian Western male that are predicated on oppression. So Obama combines the age-old belief that the state is there to level the playing field (rather than protect the rights of the individual and secure the safety of the people from foreign threats), with the postmodern notion that government must re-compensate those by fiat on the basis on their race or class or gender.
· The Chicago Way: A third and final ingredient to Obamism is the Chicago Way. Rahm Emanuel threatens recalcitrant congressmen with reminders of the long Obama memory. The Axelrod/Jarrett clique ensures that the government channels stimuli to blue-states, that key Congress people are bought off with tens of millions of government largess, that every campaign promise is simply cynical fluff that no sane person would take seriously.
In short, we have a traditional statist bent on redistribution (Obama’s words), updated with the postmodern belief that race/class/gender oppressions require government affirmative reactions (which also abroad explains why we reach out to enemies and shun allies), all energized by an ends-justify-the-means Chicago bare-knuckles apparat. The most blatant cynicism in recent American political history - a man who ran as a bipartisan who is the most partisan we’ve seen, a healer whose even flippant comments are designed to offend, a statist who assumes that the sheared sheep cannot stampede somewhere else, a reformer who trusts his honey-laced rhetoric can disguise Daley style-corruption. It has taken messianic narcissistic Barack Obama to expose the full extent of the mess that a once noble tradition of 19th-century liberalism had devolved into, and a compliant Congress to help ram it down the throats of the American people, and when he is done the American people suffer but will eventually rebel against its toxic policies.
(“Where Did These Guys Come From?” by Victor Davis Hanson dated December 23, 2009 published by Pajamas Media at http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson/where-did-these-guys-come-from/ )
It is clear that the “stimulus” spending bill was a failure at its stated goal of jumpstarting the economy and creating private sector jobs, and the only thing that it stimulated was government spending. Last January, a report by White House economists predicted the $787 billion stimulus would create (not just save) 3.3 million net jobs. Since then, 3.4 million net jobs have been lost, pushing unemployment over 10%. Now the White House concedes that by next summer the stimulus will be "contributing little to further growth," and even by the White House's own standards, the stimulus failed. Stimulus advocates assert that government spending injects new dollars into the economy, thereby increasing demand and spurring economic growth. Every dollar Congress "injects" into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed from the economy. No new income, and therefore no new demand, is created, since it is merely redistributed from one group of people to another. The government stimulus spending merely displaced private spending dollar-for-dollar. In reality, individuals and businesses drive economic and productivity growth through work, investment, innovation and entrepreneurship. If we are serious about stimulating the economy, we must unwind some recent errors:
· Government ownership of industrial assets is almost a guarantee that the painful decisions required for international competitiveness will not be made. When it comes to the auto industry, for instance, we need to take the loss and move on. Similarly, the federal government should relinquish direct control of banks and insurance companies. Avoiding a government takeover of health insurance would also help us avoid more unforced errors.
· The financial crisis has demonstrated obvious systemic problems of poor regulation and under-regulation of some aspects of the financial sector that must be addressed. As we work to adapt our regulatory structure to fit the 21st century, we should therefore adopt a modernized version of a New Deal-era innovation: focus on creating walls that contain busts, rather than on applying brakes that hold back the entire system. Our reforms should establish "tiers" of financial activities of increasing risk, volatility, and complexity that are open to any investor, and somewhere within this framework, almost any non-coercive transaction should be legally permitted. The tiers should then be compartmentalized, however, so that a bust in a higher-risk tier doesn't propagate to lower-risk tiers. While the government should provide guarantees such as deposit insurance in the low-risk tiers, it should unsparingly permit failure in the higher-risk tiers.
· We should seek to deregulate public schools. We now need a new vision for schools that looks a lot more like Silicon Valley than Detroit: decentralized, entrepreneurial, and flexible. We should pursue the creation of a real marketplace among ever more deregulated publicly financed schools - a market in which funding follows students, and far broader discretion is permitted to those who actually teach and manage in our schools.
· We should re-conceptualize immigration as recruiting. Assimilating immigrants is a demonstrated core capability of America's political economy, and it is one we should take advantage of. A robust-yet-reasonable amount of immigration is healthy for America. We should think of immigration as an opportunity to improve our stock of human capital. Always pick talent over skill, since it would be great for America as a whole to have 500,000 smart, motivated people move here each year with the intention of becoming citizens.
All these ideas require less government spending, taxes and budget deficits - not more! The fragile economic recovery we are seeing has occurred despite, not because of, the government “stimulus” spending.
(“Failing at bailing” by Brian C. Riedl dated December 28, 2009 published by The Washington Times at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/28/failing-at-bailing/
“Keeping America’s Edge” by Jim Manzi dated December 28, 2009 published by National Affairs at http://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/keeping-americas-edge )
At this point in the health care discussion, the goal is simply to pass something / anything to give the Obama administration a political victory, despite any damage it may do to American health care. Politically, looking impotent is a formula for disaster at election time. Far better to pass even bad legislation that will not actually go into effect until after the 2012 presidential election, so that the public will not know whether it makes medical care better or worse until it is too late for the voters to hold the administration accountable. The utter cynicism of this has been apparent from the outset, in the rush to pass a health care bill in a hurry, in order to meet wholly arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines:
· First it was supposed to be passed before the August 2009 Congressional recess.
· Then it was supposed to be passed before Labor Day.
· When that didn't happen, it was supposed to be rushed to passage before Christmas.
· Why - especially since the legislation would not take effect until years from now?
· The only rational explanation for such haste to pass a bill that will be slow to go into effect is to prevent the public from knowing what is in this massive legislation that even members of Congress are unlikely to have read.
· That is also the only reason that makes sense for postponing the time when ObamaCare goes into action after the next presidential election.
This legislation is not about the public's health; it is about Obama's ego and his chance to impose his will and leave a legacy. This is not the only massive legislation to be rushed to passage in Congress and then left to go into effect slowly. The same political formula was used earlier, to pass the "stimulus" bill to spend hundreds of billions of dollars that the government doesn't have, and that may well amount to more than a trillion dollars when the interest on the debt it creates is added, for this and the next generation to pay off. Legislation is not the only sign of this administration's contempt for the intelligence of the public and for the safeguards of democratic government. A more fundamental debate is taking place over whether the Democrats’ healthcare overhaul is even constitutional:
· The Supreme Court has rejected the notion that the commerce clause allows Congress to regulate non-economic activities such as health care insurance.
· There is nothing in the Constitution that allows the federal government to mandate each American to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.
· The Supreme Court is still wrestling with abortion but the requirement to subsidize other people’s abortions violates the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.
· Equal protection is also suspect when some states are exempted from ObamaCare’s provisions.
· Finally the current Health Care Reform bills include un-Constitutional racial set asides in federal financial assistance to medical schools and programs that serve “under-represented” groups based on race, sex, religion and sexual orientation.
The States are threatening to “nullify” the dictatorial mandates of the health legislation as not applicable in their states. In a sense, this administration is only the end result of a long social process that includes raising successive generations with dumbed-down education in schools and colleges that have become indoctrination centers for the visions of the left.
(“Unhealthy Arrogance” by Thomas Sowell dated December 29, 2009 published by Real Clear Politics at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/12/29/unhealthy_arrogance_99710.html
“ObamaCare’s Fundamental Flaw” by Gary Bauer dated January 1, 2009 published by Human Events at http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=35040
“Health Care and Our Unalienable Rights” by Scott Lazarowitz dated January 2, 2009 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/01/health_care_and_our_inalienabl.html )
The Congressional Budget Office reported that Democrats are double-counting savings in their so-called "reform" bill, and has used Ponzi-like accounting to game the CBO. Gamesmanship begins with taxes and fees being collected immediately, but benefits would not begin until 2014. Senate Leader Harry Reid’s claims of deficit reduction are based almost entirely on the money “saved” in Medicare reductions. Those Medicare cuts have yet to be made, and Congress has routinely refused to do - not just once, but for decades. The deficit reductions are imaginary, but the huge costs imposed by the bill, taxation of healthcare “Cadillac” plans and many other taxes, are entirely real. The sleight-of-hand, covering about $300 billion over 10 years, means that the Senate bill, even with its massive up-front tax hikes and delayed “benefits”, will add about $170 billion to the deficit (and that's accepting the Democrats' unrealistic assumptions) rather than the initial claim that it will cut $130 billion. In all likelihood, the numbers will be much worse as consumers and employers change their behavior to avoid costs or get their own free lunch. CBO Director Doug Elmendorf is tired of the Democrats’ gaming CBO scores for political purposes. Senator Judd Gregg called the Democrats' claims of savings "Madoff Accounting." Democrats allowed themselves to be led down a path by Harry Reid to pass a bad bill and, to quote Dick Armey, “they forgot that when you make a deal with the devil, you’re the junior partner.”
(“Dems’ Chicago Accounting on Health Care” by Ross Kaminsky dated December 28, 2009 published by Human Events at http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=35001 )
President Obama's mounting misadventures in foreign and security policy are the result of nearly a year getting it wrong out of inexperience, naiveté, the distraction of an aggressive domestic agenda and an inflated sense that he can charm our adversaries into submission. What if we are witnessing the deliberate, measured implementation of a deeply entrenched ideology? Americans have never elected a "Blame America First" President, and they did not think they were doing so last November. The key elements of Obama's foreign and defense policy are the belief that we must "engage" our adversaries and cultivate our allies. Now, there is nothing unusual about the idea of engaging adversaries, and every American President has done so. The most fruitful and effective engagements have been those in which diplomacy was conducted from a position of strength and clear purpose. Nor is it unusual to cultivate allies; indeed, it would be unusual not to. But Obama's approach to engaging adversaries has none of the signs of operating from strength. On the contrary, he appears as an anxious supplicant. In the case of Iran, the Administration has been practically begging the Iranians to talk while appeasing them with near indifference to the theft of an election, brutality against the regime's opponents and continuing support for terrorism. Obama's approach to Moscow smacks of appeasement, an eagerness to accommodate unreasonable Russian positions made worse by an exaggerated focus on refurbishing the antique arms control arrangements of the Cold War while embracing a utopian vision of a world without nuclear weapons. While we are busy engaging Moscow in arms control negotiations, Georgia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and others are increasingly apprehensive that an American President is oblivious to the danger a resurgent Russia poses to their freedom and independence. As for working with allies, Obama seems to think that his popularity with Europeans is not just the beginning, but the end of the story. He has managed in his first year to humiliate Gordon Brown, annoy Nicolas Sarkozy, offend Silvio Berlusconi, and leave Angela Merkel lukewarm, at best. Obama's idea, trumpeted during the campaign, that he would abandon his predecessor's "unilateralism," retrieve America's standing, and go on to elicit the allied cooperation that eluded George W. Bush, was naive. As Obama is in the process of discovering, allied support sometimes requires either abandoning or diluting American security interests and there will be times when the price of that support is prohibitive. The President's conceit, that he can charm adversaries and mobilize allies, has so far proven empty. His belief that an open hand will be seen as an expression of good will to be reciprocated is simply wrong. Unless it is part of a larger foreign and defense policy strategy, Obama’s outstretched hand runs the risk of conveying weakness to both adversaries and allies alike.
(“The Open Hand, Slapped” by Richard Perle dated January 1, 2010 published by http://www.aei.org/article/101469 )
Continued adherence to a politically correct response to global terrorism will cost American lives unless we wake up and preemptively plan to prevent these attacks before they are occur. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spent Monday retracting her Sunday claim that “the system worked” in the aftermath of Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab’s near takedown of a jet ferrying nearly 300 people from Amsterdam to Detroit. A lot of people are saying that Abdulmutallab shouldn’t have been allowed to fly at all since he was on a “watch list”; his father had, reportedly, spoken to the US authorities in Nigeria about him; he bought his ticket with cash and took no luggage (both bad signs). The Fort Hood attack, the D.C. Five and now the attempted attack on the plane in Detroit all underscore the clear philosophical difference between the administration and the last. Secretary Napolitano and the rest of the Obama administration view their role as law enforcement, preferring the role of first responders dealing with the aftermath of an attack. Senator Jim DeMint opined that the Christmas attack proved President Obama’s talk-to-your-enemies approach might actually be encouraging terrorists. A White House spokesman says the administration wants to avoid making the national security and terrorism a partisan issue. But there are other important things that the Christmas Day incident reminds us about. The first is that successful suicide bombings are still happening all the time in many different countries across the globe. The second is that there are still sufficient numbers of Islamist jihadis who persist in trying to attack non-believers in ever more creative ways. The third is that real “grievance” is not a measuring-stick for likelihood of attack, since the only common thread has been belief in an ideology is perceived to reward terrorism. Fourth even if his actions were “out of character”, he was president of the University College London Islamic Society that hosted a sequence of meetings that were a clear and propagandistic attempt to cultivate Muslim anger against the West. Fifth, Abdulmuttalab’s movements remind us of the interdependence of our world, and reveal he had no interest whether most of the passengers were American, Dutch or British. And sixth, though the Christmas Day bomb could have originated in a number of places, it is significant that it seems to have been made in Yemen, a failed state that provided space and time for the training and experimentation needed for a plot of this kind. In the downtime between attacks liberals convince themselves that the “it’s all an exaggerated fuss” brigade have won the argument. It is amazing that when an attack does takes place, we over-react even though the objective truth hasn’t changed much at all.
(“Even failed terrorists spell serious trouble” by David Aaronovitch dated December 29, 2009 published by The Times Online at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article6969881.ece
“GOP seizes on terror issue” by Glenn Thrush and Martin Kady II dated December 29, 2009 published by Politico at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/31016.html )
Conservatives need to insist that the Republicans (GOP) press its opposition to big-government health care right through the 2010 elections. Months of public outcry at town hall meetings since the summer, a one-million-man taxpayer march on Washington, D.C., thousands of local protests and rallies in every city and town across America, massive petitions, and thousands of calls and faxes have barely made an impression on the sixty senators who control the destiny of our country. The sneaking suspicion is that Republicans will make their peace with the Democrats once the health care bills are reconciled in conference committee and receives final passage. The argument will go that with government-run health care a done deal, Republicans have a duty to be constructive, to dedicate themselves to making the legislation better through amendments and whatever other tweaks and nudges will "improve" the measure. Inside every Republican moderate beats the heart not of a warrior, but a bureaucrat who wishes to refine and manage programs. In 2010, Americans need Republicans to be warriors for freedom, moderates be damned, or at least pushed aside. The Democrats want a fundamental change of the government's relationship with the people - the socialization and Europeanization of America, with a concomitant loss of liberties and a restructuring of the nation's economy profound enough to strip its dynamism. 2009 has taught Republicans that liberalism is a spent force, philosophically speaking. The left, here and abroad, lost the titanic struggle for people's hearts and minds in the 20th century. What remains for liberals and their socialist brethren in Copenhagen and elsewhere to achieve their ends is the dissemination of lies, hectoring, and bullying. The Democrats do not have public support so they resort to a legislative coup d'état to achieve landmark legislation. They will further and more boldly "reinterpret" the Constitution to permit a greater encroachment on and constriction of liberty. Conservatives and TEA Party Americans know better. Health care is one battlefront, albeit a great one, in that struggle. It falls to conservatives and all Americans who love liberty to rededicate the United States on the principles of the founding. It's not good enough anymore to slow or contain the growth of the national government. It's not enough to blunt intrusions into our lives and enterprises by insatiable liberals. This new celebration of conservative values may well be focused and directed by the Republican Party, reprising the electoral destruction of the Democrats in the 1994 midterms. Democrats are retooling and reprising their “Party of No” attack on Republicans in Congress after they unanimously rejected financial reform and health care bills in votes this month. Republicans should vocally embrace this description as a party platform as the only representatives listening to their constituents, since voting No on bad legislation is always better than voting Yes on further erosion of our personal freedom and liberty. It is imperative that the state be reclaimed, bad legislation repealed and rolled back, and government returned to its proper, limited role and Conservatives must lead the way to rejuvenate the suspect Republican Party.
(“Insist that GOP Make Repeal of Government-Run Health Care a 2010 Issue” by J. Robert Smith dated December 27, 2009 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/12/insist_gop_makes_repeal_of_gov.html
“Dems revive ‘Party of No’ attack” by Josh Gerstein dated December 27, 2009 published by Politico at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/30983.html
“Reading the Tea Party Leaves” by Michael Munger dated December 31, 2009 published by Reason Magazine at http://reason.com/archives/2009/12/31/reading-the-tea-party-leaves )
* There is so much published each week that unless you search for it, you will miss important breaking news. I try to package the best of this information into my “Views on the News” each Saturday morning. Individual issue updates this week include:
· Elections at http://returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/elections.php
· Homeland Security at http://returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/homelandsecurity.php