RTCS

Views on the News

April 18, 2009

 

Views on the News*  

The Tea Parties represent real citizens' anger over watching powerlessly for the past two months as a president, who ran as a moderate to get elected, has taken the fastest, boldest leap to the far left of any president to date.  The nation's anger level is rising as a result of intrusive and unconstitutional acts by the federal government, especially the mishandling of the US economy by lawmakers and the White House.  Fed up with excessive spending, planned tax increases and a federal government that first caused the financial bubble through mis-regulation, and then grabbed power in order to "fix" it, they're hitting the streets to protest.  These aren't the usual semiprofessional protesters who attend antiwar and pro-union marches, but turned out to be close to a million mothers with their young children, senior citizens, and people who came directly from work.  These are people with real jobs and most had never attended a protest march before.  There is no political party behind these rallies, no grand right-wing conspiracy, not even a 501’(c) group like MoveOn.org.  At the rally I attended, politicians were not welcome, since government is viewed as the problem not the solution!  I remember these people being called the “silent majority” who have now awoken from their slumber to finally rise up and protest!  I agree with Rush Limbaugh that it is no coincidence that the paranoid Department of Homeland Security report was insulting, identifying conservatives and veterans as potential right wing extremists, and was timed to deflect any positive publicity from the grass roots Tea Parties.  The Mainstream Media (the same folks who sent more reporters than there were protesters to a staged ACORN protest over AIG bonuses), did its best to dismiss these 300+ Tea Party protests in all 50 states as discontents.  These Tea Party protestors may merely be the tip of a growing-by-the-day iceberg of anger experienced by millions and millions of Americans who see the overreach of a federal government drunk on its own power.

 

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Both the stock market and the economy are beginning to show tiny signs of recovery, but the national mood, defined by continuing popular rage over the bailouts, seems darker.  The anger is entirely righteous.   It is being driven by four factors--all of which are completely rational.  First is the cheapening of our good national character. Most people don't begrudge being the proverbial helping hand, but the bailouts tarnish this charitable impulse by functioning like a stickup.  Secondly the bailouts are an offense to our political culture.  We elect politicians to do things that we favor and stop things we don't.  Thirdly justice, the judicial kind, has been a no-show.  The whole point of being a nation of law is that the law, in its abstract but relentless way, will punish. But few are getting punished.  Finally there is fright, pure and simple, at the vast amount of government spending.  Consider that the billions of dollars of bailouts come on top of billions of dollars motored out in the so-called stimulus package and next year's budget.  Despite all the doom and gloom preached by our president, and despite the mixed messages accompanying each successive liberal spending bill, the market has ignored this and begun to quietly recover.  Both Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo showed a profit, but not sure whether it is due to good business decision-making or ability to milk the government for “free” money?  The public's satisfaction with the direction of the country is the highest it has been since April 2007, according to Gallup tracking, rising to 26% from a mere 15% in mid-February.  A third of Americans now believe the economy is improving, twice the portion who were optimistic in mid-January.  A slim majority of Americans, 52%, agreed that the U.S. economy has stabilized, with pessimism dwindling to 36% who believe the worst is yet to come.  A CBS News/New York Times poll reported that only 39% of Americans "feel things in this country are generally going in the right direction," while still low is the highest result since February 2005.  No doubt by summer Obama will begin claiming credit for the economic turnaround and apparent effectiveness of his policies - that were never needed in the first place!  Remember that this positive news is appearing now well before any of the “stimulus” spending is felt in the economy.

 

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Obama political strategy is one of distraction and obfuscation, to confuse voters with trivial considerations and side issues while the overriding agenda is forced down the throats of Americans.  Obama is biting off way more than he can chew, ‘overloading’ the system and dealing with all sorts of ‘side issues,’ when he should be focusing solely on the broken economy.  What we are witnessing is not a legislative strategy, but a political one; and a brilliant one at that.  There’s not one plan or program announced that would not strike most Americans (most non-ideologically driven or self-interested observers) as over-reaching and unaffordable.  The strategy is to bombard the Congress with an avalanche of legislation and try to force a vote before sufficient time is taken to actually read and understand these bloated bills.  Obama enacted a $700-billion financial bailout, followed by an earmark-laden $787-billion “stimulus” law and plans to ladle out $1.6 billion in federal government bonuses in 2009.  The White House and Congress have now proposed a $3.5 trillion 2010 budget and the prospect of $9.3 trillion in total indebtedness over the coming decade.  Almost all of these spending bills inspire opposition that cannot fail to polarize the public.  Obama’s Republican opponents are portrayed as angry, unreasonable, unfriendly, and generally distasteful as they struggle to perform a due diligence review of these spending orgies.  The latest outrage is Treasury’s plan to create Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) in every financial sector to create more companies “too big to fail,” ensuring a vehicle for government intervention and interference in the free market.  Did the government learn nothing from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG?  Meanwhile the president ties to float above the fray.  The strategy is clear – paint the opposition as unreasonable and irresponsible, while appearing to be the “Teflon President

 

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Nobody seems to care that Obama has been revealed as a real life socialist, hiding inside an empty suit, since ordinary Americans no longer even understand the history and the threat of socialism.   A new Rasmussen poll found that just 53% of Americans favor capitalism over socialism.  Americans no longer consider the label "socialist" to be a pejorative, since it is now just another content-neutral political ideology.  Socialist ideas can be traced back to the French Revolution, when various utopian dreamers envisioned a class-free society in which everyone shared equally in what the socialist utopians firmly believed was a finite economic pie.   It took Marx and Engels to carry socialism to the next level, in which they envisioned the complete overthrow of all governments, with the workers of the world uniting so that all contributed to a single socialist government, which in turn would give back to them on an as needed basis.  The one shortcoming is that it does not take into account the fact that the state has no conscience.  Once you vest all power in the state, history demonstrates that the state, although technically composed of individuals, in fact takes on a life of its own, with the operating bureaucracy driving it to ever greater extremes of control.  Additionally, history demonstrates that, if the wrong person becomes all-powerful in the state, the absence of individualism means that the state becomes a juggernaut, completely in thrall to a psychopath's ideas.  Nazi Germany began as a socialist dictatorship, named the National Socialist German Worker's Party.  Practically within minutes of the Nazi takeover of the German government, individuals were subordinated to the state.  Even industries that remained privately owned were allowed to do so only if their owners bent their efforts to the benefit of the state.  Show a hint of individualism, and an unwillingness to cooperate, and you'd swiftly find yourself in Dachau, with a government operative sitting in that executive chair you once owned.  People who appeared to be outliers to the harmony of the conscienceless government entity (gays, mentally ill-people, physically handicapped people, Jews, gypsies) were dehumanized and eventually slaughtered.  From its inception, the Soviet Union brutalized people, whether it was the upper echelon party purges or the mass slaughter of the kulaks -- all in the name of collectivism and the protection of the state envisioned by Lenin and Stalin.   Most estimates are that, in the years leading up to World War II, the Soviet socialist state killed between 30 and 60 million of its own citizens.  Those who didn't receive a swift bullet to the head might starve to death on collective farms or join the millions who ended up as slave laborers in the gulags, with most of the latter incarcerated for thought crimes against the state.  The People's Republic of China was another socialist state.  Individuals were instantly subordinated to the needs of the state and, as the state's needs became ever more grandiose, more and more people had to die.  Current estimates are that Mao's "visionary" Great Leap Forward resulted in the deaths of up to 100 million people.  The people died from starvation, or were tortured to death, or just outright murdered because of thought crimes and the same pattern, of course, daily plays out on a smaller scale in socialist North Korea.  Soft socialism is marginally better, and Britain springs to mind as the perfect example of soft socialism.  Britain's socialist medicine is a disaster, with practically daily stories about people being denied treatment or receiving minimal treatment, when the State's needs trump the individual's.  Both history and current events demonstrate that the socialist reality is always bad for the individual, and this is true whether one is looking at the painfully brutal socialism of the Nazis or the Soviets, or the Chinese, or the North Koreans, with its wholesale slaughters, or at the soft socialism of England, in which people's lives are ever more tightly circumscribed, and the state incrementally destroys individual freedom.  Regardless of Obama’s presumed good intentions, socialism always brings a society to a bad ending.

 

President Obama has made no secret of his vision for America's 21st-century economy.  He wants to lead the world in "green" technologies to stop global warming.  Advancing medical breakthroughs will improve our well-being, control health spending and enable us to expand insurance coverage. These investments in energy and health care, as well as education, will revive the economy and create millions of well-paying new jobs for middle-class Americans.  It's a dazzling rhetorical vista that excites the young and fits the country's mood, but the trouble is that it may not work as well in practice as it does in Obama's speeches.  What Obama proposes is a "post-material economy."  He would de-emphasize the production of ever-more private goods and services, harnessing the economy to achieve broad social goals.  In the process, he sets aside the standard logic of economic progress, since the logic of the "post-material economy" is just the opposite: Spend more and get less.  Consider global warming where the centerpiece of Obama's agenda is a "cap-and-trade" program.  This would be, in effect, a tax on fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas).  The idea is to raise their prices so that households and businesses use less or switch to costlier "alternative" energy sources such as solar.  In general, we would spend more on energy and get less of it.  The story for health care is similar, though the cause is different. We spend more and more for it and get less and less gain in improved health.  This is largely the result of costly new technologies and the unintended consequence of open-ended insurance reimbursement that encourages unneeded tests, procedures and visits to doctors.  Expanding health insurance might aggravate the problem.  Together, health care and energy constitute about a quarter of the U.S. economy, so if their costs increase, they will crowd out other spending.  The president's policies might create high-paying "green" or medical jobs, but if so, they will destroy old jobs elsewhere.  The prospect is that energy and health costs may rise without creating much gain in material benefits.  What defines the "post-material economy" is a growing willingness to sacrifice money income for psychic income -- "feeling good."  Some people may gladly pay higher energy prices if they think they're "saving the planet" from global warming.  Some may accept higher taxes if they think they're improving the health or education of the poor.  Unfortunately, these psychic, feel-good socialist benefits may be based on fantasies.

 

A Bloomberg study found that the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, FDIC and HUD have thus far obligated generations of Americans to $12.8 TRILLION in debt.  It’s more accrued debt than 43 previous administrations combined, and it doesn’t include the US share of the $1.1 trillion “global stimulus” devised by the Group of 20, to be administered by professional spenders at the International Monetary Fund – or the cost of servicing these debts.  At the same time President Obama wants energy prices to “skyrocket,” to coerce Americans to slash carbon dioxide emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 – to levels last seen in 1905!  "Cap and Trade" is not really about so-called global warming, because it is really designed to secretly extract $2 trillion per year in hidden "consumption taxes" to pay for the bloated pork, earmarks, "stimulus" and "bailout" programs that the US government has recently created to pay off their Wall Street cronies and lobbyists.  He says cap-and-trade will “raise” $656 billion between 2012 and 2019, to fund green energy, green job and other government programs.  Obama repeatedly has said that the United States should look to Spain as an example of a country that has successfully applied federal money to green initiatives in order to stimulate its economy.  Every “green job” created with government money in Spain over the last eight years came at the cost of 2.2 regular jobs, and only one in 10 of the newly created green jobs became a permanent job.  The National Economic Council and other analysts put the tax bite at $1.3 to $3.0 trillion.  These all-intrusive energy taxes will hit poorest households hardest.  It is a massive wealth transfer – extracted from every hydrocarbon-using business, motorist and family, and doled out by Congress and bureaucrats to politically favored constituencies.

 

Hundreds of climate scientists say CO2 plays little or no substantive role in climate change.  They point out that even total elimination of US carbon dioxide emissions would quickly be offset by emissions from China, India and other rapidly developing nations.  Hydrocarbons and nuclear generate 93% of all the energy that safeguards our jobs, health, living standards and national security.  With 90% reliability, they turn on the lights and make America work and prosper.  And they are being closed down – to be “replaced” by pixie dust energy from wind turbines and solar panels that now meet barely 1% of our total energy requirements.  Wind turbines actually generate electricity only 2-6 hours a day, on average.  They are built and operated only because of billions in taxpayer subsidies.  And they require large swaths of land and prodigious amounts of concrete, steel, copper and fiberglass: 700 tons for each 1.5 MW turbine – plus enormous additional quantities for natural-gas-fired electrical generators that kick in every time the wind dies down.  Solar is even further away from making a perceptible contribution to our energy needs.  The calculated so-called environmental "benefit" in the reduction of carbon dioxide created by the reduction in consumption that this tax will "encourage" when fully implemented will be made completely worthless by just 6 months of increased Chinese growth in energy consumption during the year 2009 alone.  Whatever happened to the cooperation, bipartisanship, ethics and social responsibility voters thought they were electing last fall?  It’s time to say, enough!

 

Obama’s reliance on international bodies to define and control international relations has been unsuccessful, since it follows a very predictable and ineffective pattern.  The North Korean missile launch brings with it an unmistakable sense of déjà vu.  We have seen the movie over and over: We saw it in 1993 and 1994, again in 1998, and again in 2006 and 2007.  The pattern follows a predictable course.  First Pyongyang announces to the world its intention to take a certain action: a missile test, a nuclear test, the resumption of plutonium production.  The U.S. president declares that such an action would be “provocative,” the secretary of state warns that there will be “consequences,” and the U.N. ambassador announces that the issue will go to the Security Council.  Then North Korea carries out the act, most recently firing an intercontinental missile into the Pacific.  The president and others condemn it and seek a Security Council resolution.  The Security Council then issues a statement (non-binding in this case) condemning the act, and calling for enforcement of some sanction (Resolution # 1718, passed in 2006).  Within hours, anonymous U.S. diplomats are cited in the media suggesting that the act was not all that provocative, and that our real goal must be to get North Korea back to the negotiating table.  Within weeks or months, North Korea is given major concessions in exchange for returning to diplomatic talks.  While the return is trumpeted as a major diplomatic breakthrough, the talks stall because Pyongyang will not abandon the type of actions that it has learned will produce positive results for the regime.  The only question is how long before the rest of this UN “dance” unfolds and what concessions will North Korea receive as “punishment” for its behavior?

 

* There is so much published each week that unless you go out of your way to find it, you will miss important breaking events.  I package the best of this information into my “Views on the News” each Saturday morning for your reading pleasure and to fill in factual discrepancies. 

 

If you are sick and tired of government and politics as usual, read my web site with its individual issue analysis and recommendations sections at: http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com .  Individual issue updates this week include:

 

Week’s Best Articles:

·         Obama On Overload” by Eric Alterman dated April 12, 2009 published by The Daily Beast at http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-04-12/obama-on-overload .

·         Spend More, Get Less: Obama’s Mirage” by Robert Samuelson dated April 13, 2009 published by Real Clear Markets at http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2009/04/spend_more_get_less_obamas_mir.html .

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY