Views on the News
April 13, 2013
Views on the News*
We have already seen Peak Obama; from here on, it's going to get rougher and rougher for the President as even liberals find it “ok” to apply the word "incompetence" to the Obama administration. This represents something of a breakthrough. Until now, it has been taboo to suggest that the first black President could be anything other than fully qualified and capable of his job. Obama has met his image Waterloo with ObamaCare. The Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs have failed to come up with a unified electronic health care records system. There has also been the studied inattention to the myriad ineffective job-training programs scattered through the bureaucracy. There have been the oblique and belated efforts to reform Head Start, a $7 billion program that a study conducted by its own bureaucracy (Department of Health and Human Services) has found nearly worthless. As a Democrat and as someone who believes in activist government, he has a vested interest in seeing that federal programs actually work efficiently, but there is not much evidence that this is anywhere near the top of his priorities. ObamaCare will fail if he doesn't start paying more attention to the details of implementation, if he doesn't start demanding action, and the notion of activist government will be in peril. Democrats are going to start bailing out on ObamaCare, taking it apart, bit by bit, as they just did with the repeal of the medical device tax. The perception of Obama is eroding in the heads of voters who are dissatisfied with the results of his stewardship but still tell pollsters they approve of him. They are bonded to him emotionally, and may be reluctant to turn against him. That's why the I-word is so dangerous. One can still like someone without thinking they deserve support once the reluctant conclusion has been reached: likable, but over his head. A trivial incident on a basketball court has taken on mythological dimensions in the media, his two-for twenty-two "off day" at the basketball court. Taken by itself, it is not a huge deal, but it is also a brick in the wall, an image that lurks in the back of the collective brain of the public. This President promises much more he can deliver, and it looks like he talks up a storm but he can't deliver.
(“Oh-oh! The dreaded i-word starts attaching itself to Obama” by Thomas Lifson dated April 4, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2013/04/oh-oh_the_dreaded_i-word_starts_attaching_itself_to_obama.html )
Usually a President is deemed a lame duck when he is in the final two years of a second term or has lost the support of his party in his first, losing political leverage for his agenda, but Obama has managed to render himself a lame duck barely three months into his second term and functioned as one through much of his first. Other than ObamaCare, can anyone name a single major piece of legislation that the President championed in his first term that got through Congress? Isn’t it also true that ObamaCare is falling apart before it goes into force in 2014? The President’s epic failure to sink more than two basketballs out of twenty-two tries during the Easter Egg Roll celebration at the White House instantly became symbolic of his other failures to date. The budget drama reveals a more important phenomenon that Obama has become a minor actor on Capitol Hill. On a growing array of issues, members of both parties have come to understand that progress is more likely with the President on the sideline. On issue after issue, Obama is being routinely ignored or rebuffed, and that’s the good news! The sequester budget cuts, the result of the inability of Democrats and Republicans to come up with a plan to cut spending as a response to America’s huge national debt, were used by the White House to frighten Americans into accepting more spending, but that quickly fizzled and created a backlash of derision. Under Obama, the nation’s economy has been a slow motion disaster. The media began to refer to “low information voters” to describe those who blindly ignored the facts and voted for Obama. On issue after issue, Obama’s promises did not begin to solve the problems he was elected to solve. 2012 marked the fourth year that the deficit exceeded one trillion dollars. Obama’s energy policies focused on “green” energy, wind and solar projects, along with electric cars and even high-speed rail. The bankruptcy of one solar firm after another was testimony to how wrong the waste of billions in loans, grants, and subsidies has been. While that was occurring, coal-fired plants were being closed down thanks to the regime’s war on coal, an energy resource the U.S. has in abundance; enough for hundreds of years’ use. In the area of foreign policy, Obama has proved to be a spectacular failure. His 2009 trip to Cairo to deliver a speech he was sure would transform the Middle East did not turn out as planned. Under Obama, there was a failure to negotiate a status of forces with Iraq, requiring our complete withdrawal after a decade in which that war proved to be a failure of planning and of securing the trust and support of the Iraqi people. When the U.S. leaves Afghanistan in 2014, it will likely revert to Taliban control. The overall result in both conflicts has been a big fat zero and, the failure not to maintain any U.S. presence belongs to the Obama administration. None of Obama’s policies have resulted in any success, but his failures regarding the U.S. economy have been the most dramatic. This economic recovery is rocky at best and Washington policies only make job creation worse. We are at a 63.3% participation rate, which is the lowest rate since May of 1979. Welcome to Carter country - an American economy of slow growth and anemic job creation.” Even the President’s gun control initiatives have backfired on him as Democrats in Congress look to the 2014 midterm elections with trepidation since he ignored Congress throughout his first term, using executive orders, to advance his agenda, but payback has already made him a lame duck President.
(“Quack, Quack! Obama is the Lamest Duck” by Alan Caruba dated April 10, 2013 published by Canada Free Press at http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/54399 )
Recently Rush Limbaugh opined that the United States is a dying country, repeating the disastrous evolutionary process that has plagued so many failed nations throughout mankind's history. This process begins with a society willing to reject the fundamental concept that is necessary for any nation to thrive and prosper: respect for the uniqueness of each individual and self-determination. On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court validated abortion on demand regardless of circumstances. Over the past 40 years the American people have sanctioned, through legal abortions, the death of over 54.5 million children. Once this disregard of human life took hold, the citizens of this nation were susceptible to wholesale changes within society. Far too many of the American people willfully ignored the infiltration of the education, media and entertainment establishments by the 1960's radicals, the most narcissistic and radical legion of socialist true-believers on the face of the earth. Through the control of these media of indoctrination, an ever increasing percentage of the population has been conditioned to believe there are no moral absolutes and there is a limitless list of rights as granted by the government. Since 1973 there has been the open promotion of euthanasia, the abandonment of traditional behavioral guidelines and the active denigration of organized religion together with the successful inculcation of the entitlement mentality. The concurrent belief in an all powerful government has unalterably frayed the ties that bind all Americans and greatly eroded the ability of the society as a whole to successfully weather an overwhelmingly severe financial or societal crisis without looking to the government as the savior. Thus the populace was pre-conditioned to elect a charismatic demagogue and radical as President. In keeping with many of the tactics employed in Italy and Germany in the 1920's and 30's, and many other nations since, Barack Obama and his fellow travelers in the Democrat Party have, over the past five years, followed in the footsteps of these despotic regimes, all of which have ended up on the ash heap of history. Through new legislation, government regulations, tax policy, and direct investment, Obama is in the process of creating a fascist economy whereby major corporations, financial institutions and small businesses will be, on a de facto basis, controlled and manipulated by the government. It is immaterial that this will make American businesses overwhelmingly uncompetitive or be unable to expand and thus create wealth and jobs. The economy that has created the highest standard of living in history will thus stagnate and decline drastically altering the nation's ability to defend itself. Through ObamaCare, which was never about health care per se, the government will eventually control not only access to health care but the behavior of all Americans. All autocratic regimes require a scapegoat in order to keep the populace in turmoil while they go about seizing all the levers of power; this regime has done this targeting the wealthy, conservatives, evangelical Christians, and a clueless Republican Party as their focus of evil. The Obama cabal is intent on keeping the border unguarded and allowing millions of illegal aliens to become citizens as further assurance of maintaining control of the government. Their unrelenting effort to fight all legislation requiring voter identification confirms this determination. The United States is a dying country, and until the American people and the only viable political opposition, the Republican Party, begin to understand that reality, there is no hope of recovery.
(“Why the United States is a Dying Country” by Steve McCann dated April 10, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/04/why_the_united_states_is_a_dying_country.html )
When President Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said that "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste," to capitalize on actual crises while they were hot, to promote legislation liberals had craved for decades but didn't have public support to pass, but some suspected he was talking about manufactured crises, as well. It's interesting that an infamous radical professor duo, Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, and Obama mentor Saul Alinsky advocated the strategic use of manufactured crises to advance the leftist political agenda. Not sure whether Obama is deliberately, religiously following a Cloward-Piven/Alinsky strategy as many have argued, but it shows that he is employing the despicable tactics those radicals recommended. Here is a non-exhaustive sampling of manufactured-crisis strategy to achieve a policy agenda:
· Obama used the actual financial crisis we were experiencing (a result of liberal policies that he himself endorsed and continues to endorse) to press for his stimulus packages.
· He created a crisis atmosphere to justify his takeover of GM and Chrysler.
· He has repeatedly attempted to suggest we have an infrastructure crisis (claiming stable bridges are about to crumble) in order to push further stimulus packages.
· Obama described the state of our health care as a national crisis in order to force through ObamaCare.
· He even treated existing nuclear arsenals as a crisis and said that ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia was a matter of utmost urgency.
· He said we had to act immediately by passing the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in order to avert another potential banking collapse.
· When it served his purposes, Obama even suggested we have a debt crisis, which he now adamantly denies.
· Obama depicted the Gulf oil spill as a national crisis in order to justify re-imposing his coveted ban on offshore drilling.
· He consistently used alarmist rhetoric and fear-mongering over highly disputed nightmare environmental predictions to promote cap and trade, his newly imposed fuel efficiency standards and his disgraceful green energy projects.
· Unable to learn his lesson from the housing crisis, Obama is determined to repeat the mistake with a $75 billion program, urging banks to make more uncreditworthy loans.
· Obama went on speaking tour to predict a crisis for the sequestration.
· Obama characterized gun deaths as a national crisis.
How many times can this man cry wolf? How long before the American public catch on to his false strategy and begin ignoring his false rhetoric?
(“A Government Of the Crisis By the Crisis and For the Crisis” by David Limbaugh dated April 5, 2013 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/davidlimbaugh/2013/04/05/a-government-of-the-crisis-by-the-crisis-and-for-the-crisis-n1558323 )
Totalitarianism is usually associated with an omnipresent state which enchains the individual with iron manacles of edicts, orders, and regulations. The voracious appetite of government and its eager use of coercive power make citizens into slaves whose lives are the property of those who rule rather than serve the people. Government power is like gravity in a black hole: it relentlessly and mindlessly accumulates more and more mass over time. There is another incarnation of totalitarianism, cultural totalitarianism, which is just as dangerous as government totalitarianism. We see cultural totalitarianism all the time, although it is harder for us to grasp because we assume that those cultural totalitarians are rational participants in the marketplace of goods and services. When giant corporations behave as if they were one, then those on the left scream collusion and monopoly, but in the case of the news media, the stupefying fact that tens of millions of Americans literally never hear the different sides of social and political issues does not bother the left at all. More dangerous are the monopolistic practices of the left in the area of entertainment and recreation. There is a dull sameness to it all, and the same groups who are safely mocked are the same groups made noble victims. Art ought to be individual too. Once, America had directors like Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and Frank Capra, each with a very different outlook on life, but all of whom were creative geniuses. Instead, today we have remakes of their great films which are just plain awful. Remakes of television programs are just as bad. If we are to reclaim a sane and moral world for our children, it is important to win the war for a genuinely great and varied culture which refreshes the mind, delights the heart, and intrigues the conscience. If we do not defeat the monster of cultural totalitarianism, it will consume us whole.
(“Combating Cultural Totalitarianism” by Bruce Walker dated April 7, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/04/combating_cultural_totalitarianism.html )
Everyone except President Barack Obama understands that the federal government has a spending problem, yet Uncle Sam gives away more than $600 billion to states and localities every year. It’s time to turn off the spigot, implementing the Reagan vision of transferring program responsibilities and revenues sources away from Washington. The original governmental system for the newly independent colonies envisioned states funding the national authorities. The best way to constrain national politicians was to make them dependent on local folks for money. The Constitution provided the federal government with independent sources of revenue, but still envisioned states playing the dominant government role in citizens’ lives. The national government primarily relied on tariffs and the proceeds of land sales for money. During the Civil War, the national government avidly pursued new revenue sources to satisfy its voracious appetite for cash to fund the invasion of the southern states. Although federal outlays dropped when the conflict ended, federal memories of the joy of taxing did not. By the early 20th century Washington had a vast new source of money, the income tax, and ever higher expenses, including a big war overseas, an economic crisis, and another, even larger global war. As the national government absorbed more of America’s resources, states and localities eventually became dependent on Uncle Sam. There are constitutional restrictions on what the national authorities can tell other governments to do. There are no similar limits on what the national authorities can bribe other governments to do, hence the rise of federal grants to states and localities. Although the number of programs and amount of outlays have varied over time, the federal role has expanded over time. According to CBO, as of 2011 there were more than 200 grant programs administered by 30 federal agencies costing $607 billion. Those funds accounted for 17% of federal outlays, 4% of gross domestic product (GDP), and 25% of spending by state and local governments that year. Almost half of current transfers, $293 billion, go to health care, principally Medicaid, the shared program which threatens to bankrupt both national and state governments. Welfare, officially styled “income security,” accounts for another $114 billion. Education, a one-time quintessentially local activity, consumes $89 billion. Another $61 billion goes for transportation, a function which, other than some genuinely interstate facilities, also should be the responsibility of states and localities. Washington places varying numbers of strings on the cash being handed out. Block grants are essentially free money, as least so long as the cash is spent within broad program areas. Categorical grants may set stricter criteria while still leaving the exact funding initiative up to the grantees’ discretion. Project grants are more likely to be tied to specific activities. Some federal subsidies are animated by the belief that states and localities are better at handling functions which require knowledge closer to home. In some cases Congress may genuinely believe that internal state activities yield spillover benefits to the nation and thus warrant federal support. However, far more important are the least benign motivations: 1) to get states to go along with federal priorities; and 2) to redistribute resources among communities and individuals. This is bad policy for several reasons:
· First, Uncle Sam is bust. The federal government is borrowing to fund all of these grants, which means national taxpayers will end up paying interest in order to transfer their own money to state and local officials.
· Second, separating responsibility for raising money from spending it creates perverse incentives. If no one entity is comparing both costs and benefits, there still will be a bias toward more spending on projects worth less than the combined contribution of the separate jurisdictions.
· Third, states and localities naturally will spend less if the federal government spends more. Federal grants for education and transportation have been found to encourage state and local governments to scale back their own commitments to these priorities, so you get the worst of both worlds: no net funding increase and less accountability.
· Fourth, Washington’s abundant, if borrowed; resources have enabled it to increasingly subjugate states and localities. Uncle Sam’s ability to purchase compliance from states and localities unwilling to stand on principle has malformed the constitutional system. The fact that no state is willing to abandon the ever more expensive Medicaid system suggests that states no longer operate as genuinely independent political entities.
It is time to rethink federalism. Federalism is the national government leaving states and localities to raise and spend their own money. Reagan understood that decisions are best made when one person or organization both incurs the costs and reaps the benefits of an action. He also recognized that the federal government had seized too much authority, taking money away from and making decisions for governments better positioned to act on a range of issues. Only returning both responsibility and revenue would address this problem. Congress could begin the process by scaling back inter-governmental grants with the ultimate objective of ending federal transfers to states and localities. As for revenue, legislators should start by ending all federal excise, estate, and gift levies, leaving those to states. Federal spending must come down, which requires reducing outlays on most everything, aligning responsibility for outlays and revenues. The sooner Congress begins downsizing the federal government, the better for America’s fiscal and constitutional health.
(“Time for Real Federalism” by Doug Bandow dated April 8, 2013 published by The American Spectator at http://spectator.org/archives/2013/04/08/time-for-real-federalism )
The Obama administration, in its relentless quest for “social justice,” is pushing banks to make more loans to people with weak credit ratings, despite history that proved this caused the financial crisis the last time. It seems that Obama and his “economic advisers” have concluded that the current “housing rebound” is “leaving too many people behind,” most notably, undercapitalized first-time homebuyers and nonwhite minorities with low credit scores. To remedy this putative disaster, the administration wants banks to rely less on the time-tested, race-neutral lending criteria that have served as reliable barometers of credit-worthiness since time immemorial: income, net worth, credit history, etc. If this policy ultimately causes borrowers to default on their loans, that’s no big deal. “Taxpayer-backed programs,” including those offered by the FHA, will magnanimously pick up the tab. Difficult as it may be to believe, the current President of the United States is actually prescribing precisely the same practice, government policies pressuring banks to lend money to unqualified applicants that caused the crisis in the first place. These types of government policies initially emerged the mid-1970s, when “progressive” Democrats in Congress began a campaign to help low-income minorities become homeowners. This led to the passage, in 1977, of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a mandate for banks to make special efforts to seek out and lend to borrowers of meager means. Founded on the premise that government intervention is necessary to counteract the fundamentally racist and inequitable nature of American society and the free market, the CRA was eventually transformed from an outreach effort into a strict quota system by the Clinton administration. Under the new arrangement, if a bank failed to meet its quota for loans to low-income minorities, it ran the risk of getting a low CRA rating from the FDIC. This, in turn, could derail the bank’s efforts to expand, relocate, merge, etc. From a practical standpoint, then, banks had no recourse but to drastically lower their standards on down-payments and underwriting, and to approve many loans even to borrowers with weak credit credentials. This led to “skyrocketing rates of mortgage delinquencies and defaults.” The CRA was by no means the only mechanism designed by government to impose lending quotas on financial institutions. For instance, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) developed rules encouraging lenders to dramatically hike their loan-approval rates for minority applicants and began bringing legal actions against mortgage bankers who failed to do so, regardless of the reason. Moreover, HUD pressured the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two largest sources of housing finance in the United States, to earmark a steeply rising number of their own loans for low-income borrowers. Many of these were subprime mortgages, loans characterized by higher interest rates and less favorable terms in order to compensate lenders for the high credit risk they were incurring. Additional pressure toward this end was applied by community organizations like the pro-socialist ACORN. By accusing banks, frivolously or unjustly, of having engaged in racially discriminatory lending practices that violated the mandates of the CRA, these groups commonly sued banks to prevent them from expanding or merging as they wished. Obama has been a staunch supporter of the CRA throughout his public life and has long advocated the very policies that already have reduced the real-estate market to rubble, so now he is actively pushing those very same practices again.
(“Let’s Start a New Financial Crisis” by John Perazzo dated April 5, 2013 published by Front Page Magazine at http://frontpagemag.com/2013/john-perazzo/obama-lets-start-a-new-financial-crisis/ )
Throughout our population, experts and non-experts alike, the verdict is nearly unanimous that the U.S. tax code is a hopelessly complex mess, antithetical to growth, and is crammed with conflicting incentives, which screams for reform, but there is little agreement on how to repair it. Tax reform is the most difficult and complicated piece in the U.S. budget battle. As in every budget item, there is a conservative vs. liberal confrontation, but tax reform is loaded with more confusing detail, and it adds extra layers of difficulty to the budget debate. Some liberal and conservative inclinations tend to intersect when the conversation focuses on elimination of tax preferences, but, both sides have their favorite exceptions. Democrats love tax expenditures for the less affluent. Republicans love the preferences they suspect will stimulate growth. Additionally, there are wide divergences about how the deficit savings from eliminated tax preferences should be used. Republicans like deficit-neutral solutions which invest all savings in lowering rates for growth. Democrats would like to spend those savings, either for compassionate spending or for Keynesian growth stimulus. Reforming individual preferences is tough, but corporate preferences are, in some ways, even more perplexing. The last tax reform was achieved by shifting individual tax burdens on to corporations. Today the common wisdom in both parties is that the U.S. corporate income tax rate must be reduced for reasons of international competition. Business operations are scattered over the U.S. Supply chains extend everywhere. Some budget observers believe that tax reform could be the key to long term fiscal compromise. Instead, some of these extra dimensions could make it the enemy. On the positive side, the tax committees of both houses are primed and ready to move forward. If President Obama can extend his Congressional charm offensive, tax reform will never be the odds-makers’ favorite, but reform is not out of the question for 2013, since both parties want to try it.
(“The Tax Code Is a Hopeless Complex, Economy-Suffocating Mess” by Bill Frenzel dated April 4, 2013 published by Forbes Magazine at http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrenzel/2013/04/04/the-tax-code-is-a-hopeless-complex-economy-suffocating-mess/ )
* 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