Views on the News

January 19, 2013

Views on the News*  

The Republican Party is not the same as the conservative movement, and a GOP defeat doesn't mean conservatism, or the GOP, is in crisis.  Yet ever since Election Day, a chorus has proclaimed that that's exactly what Mitt Romney's loss to President Obama means.  Scornful foes and anguished friends warn that Republicans are going the way of the Whigs.  When Republicans lose a national election, Americans are told that it's curtains for the Right.  Then came the TEA Party, an extraordinary wave of civic engagement, and a conservative tide that replaced Democrat control of the House of Representatives with the largest Republican majority in 60 years.  Was the reaction to the 2010 midterm elections a flood of commentary admonishing the Democratic Party that the progressive movement was finished?  Were liberals advised that henceforth their only hope of relevance was to embrace the policies and moral values of cultural conservatives?  The exit polls show that majorities of Americans believe that Washington should do less and that taxes should not be raised to cut the deficit.  American conservatism didn't arise from a yearning to conform to public opinion.  Its raison d'être was to defend constitutional liberty and economic opportunity (free men and free markets) and to make the case that human dignity and prosperity flourish not when government is all-powerful, but when it is limited.  Sometimes that conservative message has been politically popular and sometimes it has meant standing athwart history, yelling "Stop!"  Meanwhile, fights on the Right are nothing new.  From Romneycare to waterboarding, from racial preferences to drug legalization, from libertarians to the religious Right, the conservative movement has always bubbled with debate and disagreement, while the Left, for all its talk about "diversity," rarely seems to show any.  Liberalism has done a lot of damage and is poised, in Obama's second term, to do even more, so the future of conservatism is going to be a busy one that requires facing that future with optimism, patience, and cogent argument.

(“What is the Future of Conservatism?” by Jeff Jacoby dated January 11, 2013 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/jeffjacoby/2013/01/11/what-is-the-future-of-conservatism-n1486743 )

With the debt limit due to kick in by the middle of February, there is not much time for Republicans to do what they should have done years ago.  The danger of reaching the borrowing limit is not default on the existing debt.  At present, average monthly revenues cover around 70% of outlays.  In dollar terms, the monthly shortfall is around $100B.  All that is needed is to spend less.  The problem is that the debt ceiling is decoupled from budgets and appropriations.  This can and should be fixed.  From now on, annual increases in borrowing authority should be part of the annual budget and appropriations process.  It is irresponsible to authorize spending without specifying some way to pay for it.  Failure to raise the debt limit by trillions of dollars at a time is often portrayed as a threat to the U.S. and world economies.  But this is not the only way to go.  Small monthly or quarterly debt limit increases can be used as a scalpel instead of an ax. Just to keep things from getting out of hand too fast, Republicans should offer an initial monthly increase in the debt limit to cover approximately 80% to 90% of the revenue shortfall one month at a time for the rest of FY 2013.  That leaves something like $10B to $20B of forced cuts in monthly spending.  The unspent budget items should be sequestered, pending passage of an actual budget for FY 2014 with suitable permanent spending cuts.  At that point, a one-year increase in the debt ceiling would be passed, right after adoption next year of a budget for FY 2015, etc.  Democrats aren't going to embrace this proposal, but the American people might well accept it as a sensible way to deal with the ceiling without shutting down the whole government.  If Democrats insist on an all-or-nothing approach to the debt limit, they should get the blame, and I doubt the Democrats could stand the pain for even one quarter.   

(“Republican Debt Limit Tactics” by Mike Razar dated January 12, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/01/republican_debt_limit_tactics.html )

If Republicans do happen to force a shutdown in Washington, it's very possible they'll be embracing a political loser while doing the rest of us an immense favor.  With three Washington-manufactured fiscal apocalypses: sequestration, the debt ceiling and a new "budget" on the docket, the idea of shutting down government to extract concessions from the iron trap sometimes known as the Obama administration has gained traction among Republicans.  Certainly, it would energize the conservative base, and it might be effective in pressuring Democrats into genuine spending reforms.  Despite what you may have heard, it's worked before.  We didn't default on our debt after the notorious 1995 shutdown battle between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, and the result was balanced budgets and some of the greatest fiscal responsibility we have seen in modern times from Congress, because fiscal conservatives stood together and said, 'We need to be responsible.'  Barack Obama isn't Bill Clinton.  The level of ideological stamina in the White House, not to mention the willingness to fracture the nation to protect spending, is rather imposing.  Obama has no incentive to compromise after winning an election convincingly, and with the help of some of his friends in the media, he's been able to portray the GOP as obstructionists for failing to rubber-stamp his agenda.  John Boehner isn't Newt Gingrich, either. The Gingrich Congress was imbued with a sense of purpose and offered Americans a cogent argument.  Failing to raise the debt ceiling would probably trigger panic in the markets.  A more politically opportune time would be to deal with this when the government's general operating budget expires.  Seeing as Senate Democrats have been unable to produce a budget for years, and not a single politician has voted for an Obama budget, Republicans have a case to make about responsible governing.  Even if the GOP risks losing the short-term politics, no matter how fortuitous a shutdown might be for Democrats, it isn't a situation any side could live with for an extended period of time.  Obama would almost surely have to concede more on taxes and entitlement reform.  Without a shutdown, or the threat of one, Republicans have no other leverage to obtain anything useful from the White House.

(“Can Republicans Win a Government Shutdown?” by David Harsanyi dated January 10, 2013 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/davidharsanyi/2013/01/10/can-republicans-win-a-government-shutdown-n1485948 )

Associated Press stories on the economy and the fiscal cliff tell us that we’re in for four more years of having the so-called mainstream media tell us that the economy is strong and growing despite the opposite that we see right in front of us.  Meanwhile, their headlines and the stories they choose to ignore demonstrate a dogged determination to keep those who don’t follow the news closely from seeing what they don’t want them to see.  The AP brought out a deep shovel just ahead of the BLS report, claiming that it “was expected to show underlying strength.” When BLS’s number exactly matched consensus predictions, the spin was that it was in line with “the solid but unspectacular monthly pace of the past two years.”  The two-year average of 153,000 is just barely above the 150,000 jobs which need to be added every month just to keep up with population growth.  While the press write and talk about resilience, the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) jobs numbers from BLS, in combination with still far too high unemployment, tell us a far different story.  The current unemployment rate is 7.8%, while the fully loaded rate is still 14.4%.  The only reason employers appeared to be unaffected by the recent goings-on in Washington is that they’ve long since adjusted to our government’s deficit- and bogus stimulus-driven malaise.  During the Republican Bush term, the press continually pounded readers, listeners, and viewers with tales of the long-suffering unemployed and the homeless.  The sustained pain has been far greater during a far longer period during Obama’s four years, even though we are now 3-1/2 years removed from the recession’s official end.  Yet we rarely see or hear a word about chronic unemployment or rising homelessness.  We also don’t hear anything about declining personal income, pretty much ensuring that the economy will underperform as far as the eye can see.  Obama doesn’t think he’s done making the rich pay their “fair share,” so brace yourself for more spin from the media sycophants.

(“The New, Media-Numbed Normal” by Tom Blumer dated January 11, 2013 published by PJ Media at http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-new-media-numbed-normal/ )


According to the last jobs report for 2012, the United States labor market continues to recover at a steady but modest pace despite a global slowdown, Hurricane Sandy and anxieties about future fiscal policy.  Private payrolls increased by two million in 2012, and the unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage point to 7.8%.  Over the last 34 months, the economy has added 5.8 million jobs.  However that leaves a four million shortfall in employment relative to its 2007 peak, and the jobs gap, the number of jobs necessary to return to this peak and cover the growth in the labor force since then, is stuck around 11 million.  The labor market is still far from full recovery, with a tremendous waste of human talent and a personal toll on unemployed workers and their families.  This year is likely to be more of the same, as the deal on the fiscal cliff, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, will take about 0.4% to 0.6% off the economy's growth rate.  Additional cuts in government spending later this year, above those already emanating from the cap on discretionary spending, would further restrain job creation.  Another feature of the current recovery is the long duration of unemployment for many workers. At the end of last year, 4.8 million Americans were unemployed for 27 weeks or more, and their share in the total number of unemployed workers fell to 39% after peaking at 45.5% in March 2011 and exceeding 40% for 31 consecutive months. The number of workers who are grappling with long-term job loss is probably far larger than the official number of long-term unemployed, as it does not include 1.1 million discouraged workers who want a job but are not currently looking for work, and many of the 1.7 million workers who have joined disability rolls because they cannot find a job.  The long-term unemployment problem is so much more severe in this recovery because the loss of jobs in the 2008-9 recession was more than twice as large as in previous recessions and the pace of gross domestic product growth during the recovery has been less than half the average of previous recoveries.  The longer workers are unemployed, the more skeptical employers become about their employability and work habits. Another recent study found that the likelihood that a job applicant receives a call-back for an interview significantly decreases with the duration of his or her unemployment.  Some long-term unemployed may also be searching less intensively or may be less willing to accept job offers during this recovery, because good jobs are so much harder to find and because unemployment benefits last longer and are more generous than in previous recoveries.  The high unemployment rate is the result of weak demand, not structural mismatches.  The longer workers are unemployed, the more their skills, contacts and links to the labor market atrophy, the less likely they are to find a job and the more likely they are to drop out of the labor force.  As a result, what is currently a temporary long-term unemployment problem runs the risk of morphing into a permanent and costly increase in the unemployment rate and a permanent and costly decline in the economy's potential output. 

(“Why the Unemployment Rate is So High” by Laura D’Andrea Tyson dated January 11, 2013 published by The New York Times at http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/why-the-unemployment-rate-is-so-high/ )


The murderers of tomorrow will not be found wearing orange vests at your local sporting goods store and they won’t have NRA memberships or trophies on their walls, and you won’t even find them in America, but instead look for them in Obamerica.  67% of firearm murders took place in the country’s 50 largest metro areas.  The 62 cities in those metro areas have a firearm murder rate of 9.7, more than twice the national average.  Among teenagers the firearm murder rate is 14.6 or almost three times the national average.  Those are the crowded, crime-ridden cities of Obamerica.  Those are the places with the most restrictive gun control laws and the highest crime rates, and many of them have been run by Democrats and their political machines for almost as long as they have been broken.  Obama won every major city in the election, except for Jacksonville and Salt Lake City, and the higher the death rate, the bigger his victory.  He won New Orleans by 80 to 17 where the murder rate is ten times higher than the national average.  He won Detroit, where the murder rate of 53 per 100,000 people is the second highest in the country and twice as high as any country in the world, including the Congo and South Africa.  He won it 73 to 26.  And then he celebrated his victory in Chicago where the murder rate is three times the statewide average.  These places aren’t America, they’re Obamerica.  In 2006, the 54% of the population living in those 50 metro areas was responsible for 67% of armed killings nationwide.  Those are disproportionate numbers especially when you consider that for the people living in most of those cities walking into a store and legally buying a gun is all but impossible.  Mayors of Obamerican cities blame guns because it’s easier than blaming people and now the President of Obamerica has turned to the same shameless tactic.  The NRA counters that people kill people, but that’s exactly why Obamerican leaders would rather talk about the guns.  Chicago, the capital of Obamerica, is a city run by gangs and politicians.  It has 68,000 gang members, four times the number of police officers.  Chicago politicians solicit the support of gang members in their campaigns, accepting laundered contributions from them, hiring their members and tipping them off about upcoming police raids, and their biggest favor to the gang bosses is doing nothing about the epidemic of gang violence.  The majority of murders in the cities with the worst homicide rates are gang-related.  This is what Obamerica looks like, a place where life is cheap and illegal guns are as available as illegal drugs.  It’s the war that we aren’t talking about, because it’s easier to talk about the inanimate objects being used to fight that war.  America does not have a gun violence problem, Obamerica does.  Obamerica has a gun violence problem for the same reason that it has a drug problem and a broken family problem.  Democrat leaders and machines, combined with social workers and justice crusaders have run Obamerica into the ground. Obamerican cities used to be the homes of industry and progress.  Now they’re places where young Black and Hispanic men kill each other in growing numbers.  This country does not need to have a conversation about how many bullets should go in a clip. It does need to have a conversation about how many parents should go in a family.  It needs to talk about the ghettos of Obamerica and have a serious conversation about broken families and generational dependency.  Obama has become a role model to millions of people in the black community. If anyone can address these problems, it’s him.  Instead of trying to solve the problems of Obamerica, instead of doing something about the high levels of unemployment, the broken families and the glamorization of drug dealing and violent crime, Obama wimped out and instead picked a fight with rural America.

(“Gun Violence is Not a Republican Problem, It’s a Democratic Problem” by Daniel Greenfield dated January 18, 2013 published by Front Page Magazine at http://frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/gun-violence-is-not-a-republican-problem-its-a-democratic-problem/ )


Health-insurance premiums have been rising and consumers will experience another series of price shocks later this year when some see their premiums skyrocket thanks to the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.  The reason: The Congressional Democrats who crafted the legislation ignored virtually every actuarial principle governing rational insurance pricing.  Premiums will soon reflect that disregard and premiums are already reflecting it.  Central to ObamaCare are requirements that health insurers (1) accept everyone who applies (guaranteed issue), (2) cannot charge more based on serious medical conditions (modified community rating), and (3) include numerous coverage mandates that force insurance to pay for many often uncovered medical conditions.  Eight states (New Jersey, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Washington, Kentucky, Vermont and Massachusetts) enacted guaranteed issue and community rating in the mid-1990s and wrecked their individual (i.e., non-group) health-insurance markets.  Many actuaries are now predicting an average increase of roughly 50% in premiums for some in the individual market for the same coverage.  While ObamaCare won't take full effect until 2014, health-insurance premiums in the individual market are already rising, and not just because of routine increases in medical costs.  Insurers are adjusting premiums now in anticipation of the guaranteed-issue and community-rating mandates starting next year.  There are newly imposed mandates, such as the coverage for children up to age 26, and what qualifies as coverage is much more comprehensive and expensive.  Consolidation in the hospital system has been accelerated by ObamaCare and its push for Accountable Care Organizations. This means insurers must negotiate in a less competitive hospital market.  Although President Obama repeatedly claimed that health-insurance premiums for a family would be $2,500 lower by the end of his first term, they are actually about $3,000 higher, a spread of about $5,500 per family.  Unlike the federal government, health insurers can't run perpetual deficits.  Something will have to give, which will likely open the door to making health insurance a public utility completely regulated by the government, or the left's real goal: a single-payer system.

(“ObamaCare’s Health-Insurance Sticker Shock” by Merrill Matthews and Mark E Litow dated January 13, 2013 published by The Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323936804578227890968100984.html )


* 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.  Updates have been made this week to the following issue sections:

·  Education at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/education.php

·  Family at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/family.php

·  Media at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/roleofmedia.php

·  Environment at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/environment.php

·  Taxes at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/taxes.php

·  Middle East at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/fp/middleeast.php


David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY