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Views on the News

Views on the News*

March 29, 2014

                            

For almost nine months, Obama has been unable to generate a positive message, or almost any message, for that matter.  Events continue to get between him and the public and he has the low approval ratings to prove it, which is an ironic turn of events for someone propelled to the Presidency as a gifted orator: America no longer seems to be listening.  Beginning with revelations of NSA spying last June, events have continually overtaken the administration.  With each new attempt to launch a message, events have eclipsed it: Syria, the federal government shutdown and debt limit debate, ObamaCare’s botched rollout and continuing problems, and now the Ukraine crisis.  Obama has not been overmatched by one, but by all of them.  His popularity has suffered as a result.  It is as though the scenery has upstaged the actor: the man, who once seemed never more than a speech away from righting any failure in his fortunes, no longer seems able to hold his audience.  If the usual political communication failure is to be off-message, the White House seems to be out of one.  Foreign policy is always capable of pulling surprises, but all the recent ones have harmed the President.  Finally, there is no prospect of fiscal crisis that could put him into confrontation with Congressional Republicans, not that this particularly helped Obama when it happened last fall.  The possibility of an unknown event favorably reshaping the political landscape for Obama always exists.  However, today’s real unknown for Obama is the predicament in which he now finds himself: being ignored.  Worst of all for the White House is the growing conclusion that it may not be events that are getting in the way.  For Obama, it may be that America is not hard of hearing, but simply tired of listening.

(“America is no longer listening to Obama” by J. T.  Young dated March 24, 2014 published by The Daily Caller at http://dailycaller.com/2014/03/24/america-is-no-longer-listening-to-obama/ )

Since the rise of identity politics and anti-poverty programs in the 60s, the plight of the black underclass has worsened, even as the self-selected race tribunes, professors, “activists,” lobbyists, government employees, celebrities, politicians have flourished.  Given that the moral capital financing the race industry comes from the misery and suffering of underclass blacks, race-grievance entrepreneurs must ward off solutions to those problems that challenge the narrative justifying their own power.  Since Klan-style racist violence and Jim Crow legal racism have disappeared, “racism” has to be redefined in ever more subtle manifestations like “institutional racism.”  The best example of this scam is the “disparate impact” standard for identifying racism, a favorite of the current Department of Justice.  By this metric, a mere statistical imbalance in minority participation in car loans or home mortgages is a sign of racism even if no intent can be proven or even identified.  The hysteria over “profiling” is another example of this racialist voodoo.  Even if a group is over-represented among perpetrators of a crime, identifying suspects from that group when such a crime occurs is automatically racist.  The biggest victims of the narrative, of course, are those minorities who bear the brunt of the misguided programs and illiberal ideologies that buttress the race industry.  The some 80 anti-poverty programs have created well-paying federal and state jobs for bureaucrats and enriched public employee unions, at the same time they reward dysfunctional behavior and punish the hardworking.  Rather than gaining the self-respect and sense of achievement that comes from earning one’s daily bread by one’s own efforts, the clients of the “poverty-industrial complex” are kept mired in dependence, the passive recipients of largess from above, traumatized victims who, like children, must be taken care of by somebody more capable.  Their inferiority is institutionalized by government social welfare agencies, and rationalized by the “white racism” narrative that excuses bad behavior and absolves those indulging it of all responsibility. Meanwhile the public employee unions deliver millions in campaign contributions to the politicians that work maintaining and expanding these programs, despite their 70-year record of worsening the problems they have spent trillions of tax-payer dollars attempting to solve.  Elite left-wing whites enthusiastically embraced the version of black identity, for they despised a middle class they had long characterized as rubes and squares inferior to the cultural mandarins safely ensconced in tony neighborhoods and prestigious professions into which black street-rebels rarely ventured.  The problem is that the virtues and habits needed for success: delayed gratification, self-control of appetite, self-discipline, and education in the skills and mores valued by the larger culture, were stigmatized as “acting white” and the acts of race betrayal.  For disaffected whites whose social and economic privilege were secure, a black man who dressed like middle-class Americans, spoke like them, and lived by the same codes and virtues became a figure to be mocked and despised, not encouraged and praised.  As a result, today comfortable whites enjoy pop-cultural caricatures of black people as glamorous gangsters and rebels who disdain the codes and protocols of respectable society, the very tools necessary for economic advancement.  Meanwhile, more blacks are murdered by other blacks in one year than were lynched by racist mobs between 1882 and 1968, more black babies in New York are aborted than are born, nationally black unemployment remains twice as high as white, 1 in 3 black men will go to prison in their lifetime, the black high school graduation rate is 12 points lower than white, black male college graduation rates are nearly 25 points lower than other students––by almost every measure of social and economic well-being from infant mortality to longevity, blacks lag behind whites despite nearly 70 years and trillions of dollars worth of programs that were supposed to improve these dismal statistics.  If politicians were truly concerned with these problems they need to address the root causes holding back millions of black people: a dysfunctional culture created by the unholy marriage of government social welfare entitlements and the self-interested identity politics of race hacks.

(“The Race-Hacks Defend Their Industry” by Bruce Thornton dated March 28, 2014 published by Front Page Magazine at http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/bruce-thornton/the-race-hacks-defend-their-industry/ )

 

Despite adding almost a trillion dollars to our national debt and failing to keep the unemployment rate at or below 8% as advertised, liberals consider President Obama's signature stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a success.  Beyond the obvious failings of the President's plan, now more than five years old, the approach is illustrative of how presidents sometimes try to stabilize an economy using fiscal policy, but there is a right way and a wrong way.  Sen. Ted Cruz recently remarked on two very different fiscal policy outcomes: "Reaganomics means you start a business in your garage; Obamanomics means you move into your parent's garage."

·    Obama's prescription for the last recession was to reinvigorate the economy by passing the ARRA and other policies over the next four years, including ObamaCare to regulate the health care market, Dodd-Frank to regulate banks, Cash for Clunkers and extending unemployment benefits that collectively increased economic uncertainty and reduced incentives to hire and work.  The passage of these historically large spending measures, plus lower tax revenues from a sluggish economy, led to record federal budget deficits that exceeded $1 trillion in fiscal years 2009 to 2012 and have thus far added almost $6 trillion to our national debt after fiscal year 2013.  Obama's big-government policy prescriptions have left the labor market feeling sick.

The results are vastly different from the limited-government prescriptions offered by President Reagan in the 1980s.

·    Reagan also entered his first term with a sluggish economy that had back-to-back recessions within a year of each other, with the unemployment rate reaching a high of 10.8%.  President Reagan diagnosed government as the problem and prescribed a plan of lowering tax rates and reducing regulations to free firms and workers from disincentives to invest and work.  This limited-government prescription led to a 92-month expansion, one of the longest on record, and helped increase the percentage of the working population from 57% to 63%.

A substantially different policy approach provided vastly different results.  To compare the employment growth between the two recoveries, consider the current recovery's 54-month period through December 2013 with the same recovery length after the 1981-82 recession.  After adjusting for differences in the population in each period using the percentage of the adult population who are employed, it is possible to compare the actual employment under Obama and the projections from the November 1982 to May 1987 recovery under Reagan (see chart).  During each of these 54-month expansions, actual monthly net job gains averaged 240,000, or about 13 million total, in the 1980s and only 79,000 in the current recovery.  There would be a total of 14.4 million more people employed over this period and 12.7 million more employed than when the recession started, reaching pre-recession employment by September 2010, something the actual recovery has failed to do.  This comparison does not provide an in-depth analysis, but it does provide an example of the splendid success of Reagan's limited-government prescription compared with the limp recovery with Obama's big-government prescription.

(“Reaganomics Vs. Obamanomics: Two Wholly Different Outcomes” by Vance Ginn dated March 25, 2014 published by Investor’s Business Daily at http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-perspective/032514-694569-reaganomics-vs-obamanomics-reagan-wins-in-a-landslide.htm )

 

Since the 2007-8 global financial crisis, the public debt of the United States government has soared to $17.4 trillion, roughly equivalent to America’s annual gross domestic product.  The Federal Reserve has pumped more than $1 trillion into the economy in an attempt to spur lending and weaken the dollar. Uncle Sam’s credit rating was downgraded, for the first time ever, in 2011.  Round after round of fighting over the debt ceiling led to a government shutdown last October.  All of these circumstances would predict, under normal economic theory, a decline in both the value and the importance of the dollar.  Strangely, this hasn’t occurred, but instead, quite the opposite.  Since the crisis, the dollar has more than held its own against other major currencies, like the euro, the Japanese yen, the British pound and the Swiss franc.  Most international trade and financial deals are still transacted in dollars. Central banks around the world hold nearly two-thirds of their foreign-currency reserves in dollar-denominated assets, mostly Treasury securities.  The dollar’s roles as a unit of account (for denominating transactions across countries) and medium of exchange (for settling payments on those transactions) are likely to wane.  Oil and other commodities have for a long time been priced and traded almost exclusively in dollars because it was by far the most widely traded currency.  The demand for American investments, especially Treasury securities, is not just a short-term, panic-driven phenomenon.  Since the crisis, the long-term demand for safe and liquid financial assets, mostly advanced-economy government bonds, has gone up, while the supply has shrunk.  There are three principal reasons why investors continue to turn mainly to the dollar for safety:

·    First, emerging market economies have a stronger incentive than ever to accumulate vast stores of foreign currency reserves. This protects their currencies from speculative attacks and insulates their economies from volatile capital flows.

·    Second, regulatory reforms agreed to by the major advanced and emerging-market economies have increased the demand for safe assets among financial institutions.

·    Third, the supply of safe assets has shrunk.

The centrality of the dollar in global finance is frustrating to many foreign governments, but there is little they can do about it.  The dollar, which decisively surpassed the British pound sterling as the world’s main reserve currency by the 1950s, will remain dominant for a long time to come, mostly for want of a better alternative.  This turns out to be a mixed blessing, both for the United States and for the rest of the world.  The dollar’s dominance lets America borrow cheaply from the rest of the world to help finance its consumer spending and budget deficits.  Foreign investors’ eagerness to buy Treasury securities has kept American interest rates low, which translates into cheaper mortgages and consumer loans.  But low rates also lessen the pressure on Washington for fiscal discipline.  The recent strength of the dollar against other currencies has held back American exports and job growth.  The value of the dollar was gradually declining against other major currencies in the decade before the crisis.  This trend is likely to resume once financial markets stabilize.  Economists see this depreciation as desirable and necessary to bring down America’s trade deficits.  What accounts for this almost childlike faith in the dollar?  The U.S. has a winning combination: not just a large economy but also deep financial markets, robust public institutions including a trusted central bank, and an effective legal framework.  Early on, the euro appeared to be a viable competitor to the dollar, but Europe’s financial markets are less deep and liquid than America’s.  There has been a great deal of hyperbole about China’s currency, the renminbi.  With its present political and legal frameworks, it is hard to see investors seeing China as a safe haven for their money.  For now, the world is stuck with the dollar-centric global financial system, because the alternative would be chaos.  The dollar’s continued prominence is ultimately less about American exceptionalism than about weaknesses in the rest of the world and deep problems in the structure of the global monetary system.

(“Why the Dollar Endures” by Eswar S. Prasad dated March 21, 2014 published by The New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/22/opinion/why-the-dollar-endures.html?_r=0 )

Democrats know ObamaCare is a political loser, so there strategy is: "Don't defend it. Say it was flawed from the beginning and we're going to fix it."  To say the law was flawed from the beginning is a damning admission, especially considering how inflexible the Democrats were when they crammed this albatross through Congress.  The inescapable fact is that Democrats have supported this law the whole way, to the detriment of millions of Americans and to the impending destruction of our health care system.  Another major problem is that the law is fundamentally flawed.  It is not fixable.  By design, it took over the entire health care system.  You can't improve it with incremental changes.  It has to be eradicated before it does irreversible damage.  Like all good Democrats, they will never acknowledge that the concept was ill-conceived, for "good intentions" will always be the Democrats' preferred currency, their last line of defense.  They still maintain that it was a good idea in principle because it envisioned that the government would protect people from the evil insurance companies.  The Democrat approach I so patronizing: people need the caretaking federal government to protect them from presumptively evil insurance companies or that Obama's most recent ObamaCare extension is only necessary because people don't know how to use the Internet.  The irony is that if Democrats stay in effective control of our government much longer, they'll make sure that people are completely dependent on government, meaning on them.  The worst lie of all stems from the fact that all these extensions are a mirage.  They are not to help people but to mask just how terrible this law really is and delay the full pain until after the November elections.  Obama's disapproval numbers are at an all-time high, 59%, and Democrats know he's going to drag down their candidates, so they have to mitigate the damage.  The Democrats are going to be in serious trouble in November, because ObamaCare is a fitting noose around their necks.

(“Obamacare Is a Fitting Noose Around Democrats’ Necks” by David Limbaugh dated March 28, 2014 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/davidlimbaugh/2014/03/28/obamacare-is-a-fitting-noose-around-democrats-necks-n1815609 )

 

Government agencies are forcing us to spend countless billions on illusory energy risks and anti-fossil fuel mandates, while ignoring real threats to our livelihoods, living standards and lives.  America runs on electricity: our lights, refrigerators, air conditioners and furnace controls, computers and internet, social media, radios and televisions, banks and ATMs, cell phone chargers and transmitters, electric cars and gasoline pumps, hospitals and schools, offices, factories, refineries, farms and water purification systems all run on electricity.  68% is generated by fossil fuels, 20% by nuclear and 7% by hydropower.  Electricity reaches its billions of destinations through a complex, interconnected system of power lines, substations and transformers called the power grid.  If our electricity were cut off for a prolonged period, the nation would collapse into survivalist chaos.  Using faulty computer models and secretive pseudo-science, federal agencies are imposing “social cost of carbon” analyses, carbon dioxide emission limits and “carbon capture and storage” standards.  They are implementing stringent pollution, drilling, mining and other regulations, and requiring costly power grid upgrades to accommodate expensive, unreliable, intermittent electricity from wind and solar installations.  They are compelling the early closure of efficient, low-cost coal-fired power plants, with many remaining years of productive life, thereby raising electricity prices for businesses and families, and forcing ratepayers to pay for mothballed plants and new ones to replace them.  They are spending 20 billion taxpayer dollars a year just on climate change initiatives, while forcing the electric power industry to spend billions of dollars every year to comply with a plethora of rules.  Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is ignoring real threats.  On April 16, 2013, saboteurs attacked a power substation near San Jose, California.  They cut fiber optic cables in a manner designed to maximize repair time and shot up 17 transformers, causing them to leak their oil coolant, overheat and fail.  It took them less than an hour, after which they disappeared into the night, leaving no fingerprints on more than 100 cartridges.  It took 27 days to get the substation back online.  Thankfully, grid operators were able to reroute power and avoid blackouts.  Utility experts said it could have been a “dress rehearsal” for much bigger operation.  One called it “preparation for an act of war,” in which a few terrorists with cheap bolt cutters and bullets unleash a real weapon of mass destruction as calamitous as what an electromagnetic pulse or hacker-initiated computer system meltdown could inflict.  Responsibility for protecting the grid is apparently not in the job description of any US government agency.  Thankfully, the industry is taking the challenge seriously and is examining ways to improve both site security and the equipment replacement process.  Responsible federal and state legislators, utility companies and citizen groups need to make protecting America’s electrical transmission system and civilization against terror attacks a high priority, and a central topic in the 2014 campaign debates and elections, if others want to make “dangerous manmade climate change” their central them, voters will decide which issues truly merit our uppermost attention.

(“US Electricity System in Regulatory and Terrorist Crosshairs” by Paul Driessen dated March 22, 2014 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/pauldriessen/2014/03/22/us-electricity-system-in-regulatory-and-terrorist-crosshairs-n1812722 )

 

The stated goal of the War on Poverty was, “…not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it,” and measured against the original objective, the War on Poverty has not just been a failure, it has been a catastrophe.   It was supposed to help America’s poor become self-sufficient, but it has made them dependent and dysfunctional.  The “Anchored Supplemental Poverty Measure Before Taxes and Transfers*” (ASPMBTAT) metric was devised to assess the ability of people to earn enough, not counting taxes and subsidies, to keep themselves and their dependent children out of poverty.  The ASPMBTAT is the ultimate quantitative test of the success (or failure) of the War on Poverty, at least in terms of its stated objective.  Shortly after the War on Poverty got rolling (1967), about 27% of Americans lived in poverty, but in 2012, the last year for which data is available, the number was about 29%.  This result would be shocking, even if we had not spent $21.5 trillion “fighting poverty” over the past 50 years.  What turned the War on Poverty into a social and human catastrophe was that the enhanced welfare state created a perverse system of incentives, and people adapted to their new environment.  The adaptation of the working-age poor to the War on Poverty’s expanded welfare state was immediately evident in the growth of various social pathologies, especially unwed childbearing.  Even people with incomes far above the thresholds for welfare state programs were forced to adapt to the welfare state.  As crime rates (driven by rising numbers of fatherless boys) rose in the cities, and urban schools systems became dangerous and dysfunctional, the middle class (of all races) was forced to flee to the suburbs.  Because many middle-class mothers had to go to work to permit their families to bid for houses in good school districts (as well as pay the higher taxes that the expanded welfare state required), self-supporting families had fewer children.  What America cannot afford is a welfare state that makes government dependency a feasible career option for its young people.  The War on Poverty made welfare (broadly defined) into a viable entry-level job, and poor people signed up for it in droves.  The pathologies that resulted from the War on Poverty were not the fault of the poor themselves.  They simply adapted, in a logical and predictable way, to a welfare state designed and promoted by our progressive elites.  Children are programmed by evolution to rebel against their parents’ control, and to seek to be independent.  Prior to the welfare state, the only way for girls to escape the authority of their parents was to become economically self-sufficient, by getting a job and/or getting married.  The progressive welfare state, especially after it was expanded by the War on Poverty, provided a third option for teenage girls seeking to get away from their parents’ control: have a baby.   As soon as a young, unmarried girl had a baby, she officially became a “poor family,” and the government would force taxpayers to support her and her baby.  The poorer a demographic group is in terms of its ability to earn market income, the more members of that group will find the welfare state attractive.  Unfortunately, the damage to poor communities was done long before the half-hearted welfare reforms of 1996.  Once the number of responsible fathers in a community falls below a certain level, the adults lose control of the adolescent males.  Gangs take over the streets, and gang values (mainly, getting “respect,” by violence if necessary) become established among the young males.  Urban crime rates rose rapidly from the 1960s through the early 1990s, at which point the public got angry, rebelled against soft-on-crime progressives, and cracked down hard on criminals.  The result was an exploding prison population, with the majority of those incarcerated being young, fatherless males.  As late as the 1960s, “shotgun weddings” were common in America.  The War on Poverty changed this, transferring the burden of supporting the offspring of irresponsible males from family members and/or the local community to a diffuse group of taxpayers.  This benefited irresponsible males in an evolutionary biological sense, but there were huge costs to society.  Only men that want to get married for reasons other than sex get married.  Lots of college-educated men seem to want to be married, but it appears that a much lower percentage of high school dropout males are looking to wed.  Poor women are getting married to the welfare state, in many cases “until death do us part,” so the War on Poverty has been a catastrophe

(“The War on Poverty Wasn’t a Failure- It Was a Catastrophe” by Louis Woodhill dated March 19, 2014 published by Forbes at http://www.forbes.com/sites/louiswoodhill/2014/03/19/the-war-on-poverty-wasnt-a-failure-it-was-a-catastrophe/ )

 

It’s shocking how quickly Russia has been revealed before the eyes of the world by its actions in Ukraine as a neo-Soviet dictatorship ruled by a pathologically violent and dishonest maniac.  It’s equally shocking to see how slowly, despite their recent history with dictators, the NATO allies have moved to confront this horrifying reality, reminding one inevitably of European dithering during the rise of the Nazis.  It’s fine, in other words, for Putin to use military force rather than diplomacy to grab territory from neighbors, but it is unacceptable for the USA to use force to inhibit the development of nuclear weapons in nations committed to its destruction.  Putin’s argument is that Crimea has a large ethnic Russian population that he needs to move in to protect.  Well, Latvia, Estonia, and Kazakhstan all have ethnic Russian populations above 20%, all higher than the 17% present in Ukraine.  Is Putin declaring that he can annex all or part of any of these nations as well?  Even if he says he has no such plans, that is exactly what he said two weeks ago about Crimea.  The consequences for Russia from Putin’s shameless dishonesty have been swift and brutal.  Credit agencies like S&P and Fitch have started mauling Russia’s credit rating.  Major financial institutions like Visa and Mastercard are severing their ties with Russia.  The ruble and the Russian stock market have taken massive hits in value, forcing Russia to burn through billions in precious reserves to support them at time when the economy was already flirting with recession.  Putin’s power is based on his claim to have stabilized the Russian economy, so events like these are devastating.  Years of public relations efforts designed to make Russia appear to be a statesman-like alternative to U.S. hegemony, a country interested in diplomacy where Americans pursue brute force, have been set ablaze.  Now, all around the world, when Putin is not being called mentally ill, he’s being compared to Hitler or a mafia kingpin.  The USA hasn’t just regained the moral high ground; it has built a shining citadel there.  Not even China stands with Russia on Crimea, just as it repudiated Russian aggression in Georgia in 2008.  Yet Putin does not seem to care about the suffering he has brought to his people or the damage he has done to his own reputation and legacy – no more than the leaders of the USSR ever cared about such factors.  Instead, his mind seems to be filled with grandiose notions of rebuilding the Soviet state and restarting the Cold War with the USA, whose values he despises.  Whether Putin will be willing to watch an international noose tighten around his own wallet remains to be seen.  For sure, his reputation can’t survive an international feeding frenzy, focusing on his personal loot, that will shatter the last vestige of his statesman persona.  However, rational thought, even financial self-preservation, may be too much to hope for now.   Half of the time, Putin acts as if he thinks the U.S. is a military juggernaut run amok, and he spends hours berating it before the world for aggressive unilateral violence, but the other half of the time, Putin acts as if the thinks the U.S. is a paper tiger, all roar and no rip.  The USA can’t be both bloodthirsty and impotent, yet Putin makes policy for Russia as if it were.  Whether Obama can ultimately bestir himself to act like an American on Ukraine remains to be seen.  Though moving at a glacial pace, there have been some signs that he ultimately may do so, but on the other hand, it’s possible that he’ll move so slowly that Obama’s chance will simply evaporate, along with his presidency.

(“The Crimea ‘Referendum’: Russia Revealed” by Kim Zigfeld dated March 24, 2014 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2014/03/the_crimea_referendum_russia_revealed.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:

· Civil Rights at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/civilrights.php

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

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

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

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY

www.ReturnToCommonSensesite.com