RTCS

Views on the News

June 5, 2010

Views on the News*

Americans are not getting leadership today that is delivering a vision that captures their sense of what this country is about. Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter (in his misguided notions about the world), to Richard Nixon (in his sleazy backroom dealing and lack of transparency) and to LBJ (in his infatuation with government). Unfortunately, it appears that he embodies the worst of three unsuccessful presidents, and like all three, he may manage to drag his party down with him. Our current political leadership is out of touch with public sentiment. A political leader needs to know who we are as well as who we are not. Recent polling by Rasmussen shows the percentage saying they “strongly disapprove” of President Obama’s performance 22 points higher than those who “strongly approve,” the worst showing yet of his Presidency. Obama is among the most thin-skinned Presidents we have had, and we see evidence of it in every possible venue imaginable, from one-on-one interviews to press conferences, from extemporaneous remarks to set speeches. The President is constantly complaining about what others are saying about him, as if he is above criticism. Americans tend to tire of those who are look back rather than ahead and are always blaming others for the problems they face. The latest political chicanery surrounding Pennsylvania’s Joe Sestak and Colorado’s Andrew Romanoff appears to be yet another in a long line of sleazy, Chicago backroom deals being covered up by the White House. President Obama's more unattractive personal qualities probably won't wear well with the electorate. Governing is not campaigning, and making promises is quite different from keeping them, especially when the details are revealed. Barack Obama, a man who was as unprepared to be President as any man in our lifetime, has over the last 16 months shown that he is overmatched by events. Americans are looking for leaders whose understanding about American exceptionalism is not, in the words of our President, the same way “the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Americans are looking today for political leaders that understand that this is not just another country… Americans want to become “American” again!

(“Obama, the Thin-Skinned President” by Peter Wehner dated May 27, 2010 published by Politics Daily at http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/05/27/obama-the-thin-skinned-president/

Today’s Political Mandate – Become America Again” by Star Parker dated May 31, 2010 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/StarParker/2010/05/31/todays_political_mandate_-_become_america_again )

 

America faces a new culture war: Overreaching's perils

·                     a new struggle between two competing visions of the country's future as an exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise with limited government, a reliance on entrepreneurship and rewards determined by market forces vs. a European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, a managed economy and large-scale income redistribution. These visions are not reconcilable, so we must choose, and it is not at all clear which side will prevail. The forces of big government are entrenched and enjoy the full arsenal of the administration's money and influence. Our leaders in Washington, aided by the unprecedented economic crisis of recent years and the panic it induced, have seized the moment to introduce breathtaking expansions of state power in huge swaths of the economy, from the health-care takeover to the financial regulatory bill that the Senate approved Thursday. President Obama has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use manufactured crises to enhance his own power and prestige at the expense of the Constitution. Positioning himself through the use of his own engineered economic meltdown, Obama has fired the executives of private companies, claimed the power to set pay, nationalized health care, and nationalized manufacturing. Obama has even gone as far as using the mistakes of some banks in over-leveraging as a door to threaten banks with "pitchforks," echoing Leninist populism. Additionally, he orders banks to lend despite the serious drop in deposits, a ludicrous directive that demonstrates his extreme ignorance. If these forces continue to prevail, America will cease to be a free enterprise nation. Entrepreneurship can flourish only in a culture where individuals are willing to innovate and exert leadership; where people enjoy the rewards and face the consequences of their decisions; and where we can gamble the security of the status quo for a chance of future success.

 

Americans support free enterprise by a wide margin. A Gallup poll found that 86% of Americans have a positive image of "free enterprise," with only 10% viewing it negatively. A Pew Research study found almost 70% of respondents agreed that they are better off in a free-market economy, while only 20% disagreed. The George W. Bush administration began the huge Wall Street and Detroit bailouts, and for years before the economic crisis, the GOP talked about free enterprise while simultaneously expanding the government with borrowed money and increasing the percentage of citizens with no income tax liability. But the real tipping point was the financial crisis, which began in 2008. The meltdown presented a golden opportunity for the 30% coalition to attack free enterprise openly and remake America in its own image, and it seized that opportunity. While Republicans had no convincing explanation for the crisis, seemed responsible for it and had no obvious plans to fix it, the statists offered a full and compelling narrative. For a lot of panicky Americans, the prospect of a paternalistic government rescuing the nation from crisis seemed appealing as stock markets and home prices spiraled downward. In reality, it was government housing policy that was at the root of the crisis. Moreover, the financial sector, where the crisis began and where it has had the most serious impact, is already one of the most regulated parts of our economy. The chaos happened despite an extensive, intrusive regulatory framework, not because such a framework didn't exist. Using a falsified tale of economic malfeasance, Obama asks us to accept government by councils of wise men. As part of his financial regulatory plan, Obama would create a select group, i.e. the Financial Oversight Council, charged with formulating the regulations that govern the entire financial sector. On the contrary, such changes would give us a false sense of security, especially when Washington, a primary culprit in the crisis, is creating and implementing the new rules.

 

Recessions can and do end without the kind of stimulus we experienced, and attempts to shore up the economy with huge public spending often do little to improve matters and instead chain future generations with debt. If we reject the administration's narrative, the 70-30 nation will remain strong. If we accept it, and base our nation's policies on it, we will be well on our way to a European-style social democracy. The new statism in America, made possible by years of drift and accelerated by the panic over the economic crisis, threatens to make us permanently poorer. The real risk is that in the new culture war, we will forsake the third unalienable right set out in our Declaration of Independence: the pursuit of happiness. Free enterprise brings happiness; redistribution does not. The reason is that only free enterprise brings earned success.

·    Earned success is the creation of value in our lives or in the lives of others.

·    Earned success is the stuff of entrepreneurs who seek value through innovation, hard work and passion.

·    Earned success is what parents feel when their children do wonderful things; what social innovators feel when they change lives; what artists feel when they create beauty.

Not surprisingly, unearned money, while it may help alleviate suffering, carries with it no personal satisfaction. The same results emerge with other kinds of unearned income such as welfare payments. Studies show that recipients are far unhappier than equally poor people who do not receive such government benefits. If unearned money does not bring happiness, redistributing money by force won't make for a happier America, and the redistributionists' theory of a better society through income equality falls apart. The goal of our system should be to give all Americans the greatest opportunities possible to succeed based on their work and merit. That's exactly what the free enterprise system does: It makes earned success possible for the most people. This is the liberty that enables the true pursuit of happiness.

 

President Obama's financial "reform" is nothing less than the destruction of individual freedom in America. If government controls both the means of credit and the object on which it will be spent, it controls people. "We the people" must resist this despotic turn of events while we still can. Protests against the new statism have flared around the nation for more than a year. While some have tried to dismiss the "tea party" demonstrations and the town hall protests of last summer as the work of extremists, ignorant backwoodsmen or agents of the health-care industry, these movements reveal much about the culture war that is underway. To win, the 70% majority must come together around core principles: that the purpose of free enterprise is human flourishing, not materialism; that we stand for equality of opportunity, not equality of income

(“America’s new culture war: Free enterprise vs. government control” by Arthur C. Brooks dated May 23, 2010 published by The Washington Post at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052101854.html

Wise Guys: The End of Free-Market Capitalism” by John Griffing dated May 30, 2010 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/05/wise_guys_the_end_of_free_mark.html )

 

Arguably the most crucial, and underappreciated, reason behind the financial sector collapse has been excessive federal intervention and social intervention. The 1970s brought the Community Reinvestment Act, followed by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. These laws were then used by socio-political activists to pressure banking and lending institutions into making bad loans, which these institutions probably would not have made without the new laws in place. In the name of social justice, the FDIC was further empowered to audit lenders for redlining practices and pressured regulated private lending institutions to make marginal and bad loans. Starting in 1993, pursuant to new federal statutes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s regulator, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), established new “affordable housing” goals. Each GSE now would have to expand their purchases of mortgages made to low- and moderate-income households, especially members of racial minority groups. In 1999, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo announced a historic “agreement”: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would buy $2.4 trillion in mortgages over the next 10 years to create affordable housing for 28.1 million low- and moderate-income households. By 2007 HUD stipulated that at least 55% of loans acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to meet low- and moderate-income affordability standards. The two GSEs complied rather than lose advantages contained in their respective congressional charters, such as exemption from state and local taxes and a $2.25 billion credit line from the Treasury Department. From within Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, these bad loans were bought and packaged or securitized as collateralized mortgage obligations (CMO). The bad loans were packaged with a collection of good loans into multi-year tranches so that the entire loan package could receive an investment-grade bond rating. With rating institutions giving good ratings to these volatile, risky CMOs, an artificial, government-created market was born. After the Glass-Steagall Act was officially repealed in 1999, every mortgage originator got into the business and legally underwrote marginal loans. These “highly rated” CMOs began replacing much safer U.S. Treasury notes in the banks' investment portfolios. These practices were all legal and supported by an artificial, government-created and -regulated market. Basically, our nation has over-invested in housing, or to put the matter more simply, we’ve bought more housing than we can afford. With the absolute failure of their artificial and unsustainable government-mandated market singlehandedly collapsing the U.S. economy, the government began fulfilling its traditional role -- throwing good taxpayer money after bad, casting the net of blame widely, and all the while tactfully avoiding any blame for itself. The bottom line: There never would have been a mortgage crisis if it had not been for the government's creation of the laws and regulations that allowed for the CMO market to be born. President Obama intends to correct this mess through more regulation and become the avenging angel of the progressive party. All that will come from his intentions is more intrusive and dysfunctional government regulation. As the government continues to force mortgage modifications, support the sub-prime market, and use taxpayers' money to bail out failed institutions, we are led farther into economic problems. If the government had left the housing markets alone in the first place, this system-wide failure would never have happened, because banks and other financial institutions would never have made high-risk sub-prime loans.

(“Has the SEC Charged the Right People with Securities Fraud?” by Larry N. Smith and C. Gary Mondy dated May 28, 2010 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/05/has_the_sec_charged_the_right.html

Frank Data: How Federal Policy Triggered the Mortgage Meltdown” by Carl Horowitz dated may 29, 2010 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/CarlHorowitz/2010/05/29/frank_data_how_federal_policy_triggered_the_mortgage_meltdown )

 

For seven weeks, the American Gulf Coast has been threatened by a gigantic oil spill, caused by the April 21 explosion of a British Petroleum (BP) deepwater rig, yet unlike five years ago when the media were quick to put the onus on the Bush administration for its handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, ABC, CBS and NBC failed to scrutinize the administration’s ineffectual response to this disaster, now blasted even by such Democratic stalwarts as ex-Clinton operative James Carville. While the media fancy themselves as government watchdogs, such criticisms were virtually absent from the first four weeks of the networks’ oil spill coverage. The 40+ day drama of the uncontrolled oil flow from BP's well, now the largest spill in U.S. history, has become a public test of Obama’s competence at handling an unanticipated crisis. In times of national disaster, the federal government has a role it must perform, quickly and well. It failed for too many days during Katrina and is now failing for over six weeks. America is watching the president alternate between wringing his hands in helplessness and pointing his finger in blame when he should be solving the most pressing environmental problem America has faced in the past 50 years. Rather than ask “how can we fix this?” the President spent a month painting BP as nothing more than the latest entry in his growing list of evil corporations. Instead of facilitating the fix, the President went to war with it. Despite bestowing a safety award upon the rig in question, Obama has blamed everyone from BP to the Bush administration for a failure to anticipate this disaster. He’s halted all deep-sea oil drilling in the gulf for six months, or until a Presidential Commission completes its investigation. He also wants new agencies, expanded federal powers, and more funding to deal with possible future spills. When faced with a challenge, be it an oil spill, a health care debate, or a financial meltdown, Obama’s M.O. is now painfully clear: blame someone else, grow the size of government, and increase taxes. It’s a plan of attack that will only serve to create greater problems down the road. Everybody is comparing the oil spill to Hurricane Katrina, but the real parallel could be President Carter’s Iranian hostage crisis, when the hostage crisis became a symbol of America’s inability to take decisive action in the face of pervasive problems. Obama seems not to know what to do and finds himself consigned to the roles of observer and critic, and America is getting the point that its President doesn’t have a clue.  The question is whether the federal government should be given more power to regulate energy industries, or is the federal bureaucracy too inefficient to deliver relief supplies, let alone regulate big chunks of the economy?

(“Media Double Standard on Gulf Coast Disasters” by Rich Noyes and Kyle Drennan dated May 26, 2010 published by Media Research Center at http://www.mrc.org/realitycheck/realitycheck/2010/20100526033414.aspx

The BP spill: Obama’s Katrina?” by Doyle McManus dated May 30, 2010 published by Los Angeles Times at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-mcmanus-bp-20100530,0,5554554.column

It’s time to plug the leadership hole” by Robert Laurie dated June 1, 2010 published by The Daily Caller at http://dailycaller.com/2010/06/01/its-time-to-plug-the-leadership-hole/

Obama doesn’t have a clue” by Dick Morris dated June 1, 2010 published by The Hill at http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/dick-morris/100913-obama-doesnt-have-a-clue )

 

Democrat Senators and Representatives comforted themselves with their own self-created myth that, although ObamaCare was horribly unpopular as a bill, it would prove to be quite fetching as a law, but reality has proven just the opposite. In the two months since, President Obama has pulled out all the stops, aggressively trying to sell the overhaul while also rolling out ostensibly popular provisions ahead of schedule. Unfortunately a steady stream of revelations of previously undiscovered horrors buried in the bowels of ObamaCare appears to have more than negated any gains that the administration might otherwise have made.  Since passage, reports have revealed that ObamaCare would cost over $1 trillion by any standard, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), not “merely” $940 billion as previously reported (while its total costs in its real first decade, 2014 to 2023, would continue to be well over $2 trillion); that ObamaCare has prompted major corporations to discuss dropping their employer-provided health-care plans; that businesses would have to file 1099s not only for every person to whom they pay $600 in wages but for every vendor with whom they do $600 in business, thereby imposing a paperwork nightmare and incentivizing companies to avoid doing business with a myriad of small firms rather than a handful of big ones; that ObamaCare would create 159 new federal agencies, offices, or programs; that the Obama administration’s Medicare Chief Actuary says ObamaCare would raise U.S. health costs by $311 billion in relation to current law and would shift about 14 million people off of employer-provided insurance — and some of them onto Medicaid; that ObamaCare’s would discourage employment, as hiring a 25th worker would cost a business $5,600 in addition to wages and benefits; that ObamaCare would impose a severe marriage penalty, offering additional subsidies as high as $10,425 a year if couples merely avoid marriage; that a lone provision in ObamaCare, which would penalize employers if their employees spend more than 9.5% of their household income on insurance premiums, would cut the net income of businesses like White Castle by more than half; that even though ObamaCare was supposed to get people out of emergency rooms and into doctors’ offices, those who build emergency rooms say the effect will be just the opposite and that they are gearing up for increased business; that doctors shortages are looming and would be accentuated by ObamaCare, both because more people would seek care (otherwise, what would the $2 trillion be buying?) and because fewer people would likely enter a demanding profession that would now promise greater restrictions and lower pay; and that President Obama’s nominee to head Medicare and Medicaid under ObamaCare is an open advocate of the British National Health Services’ NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) and its methods of rationing care. These revelations appear to have taken a toll, making a notoriously unpopular law significantly less popular. After a brief bump, support for Democrat health reform has declined. Another troubling development is that the administration has missed deadlines for issuing four sets of regulations specified by the bill and lacks a master time-line for the other required regulations. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 63% of voters support repeal of the law, the highest level since passage. A Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll shows erosion in the intensity of support, with only 14% of Americans holding "very favorable" views of the law. The health care concerns of millions of Americans will ripple through the electorate before November and will galvanize support for real health care reform that would empower patients, make prices more transparent, give patients more opportunity and incentive to shop around, and thereby lower health costs, all without reducing liberty or lowering the quality of care, but first we have to get rid of the existing ObamaCare.

(“ObamaCare Taking on Water” by Jeffrey H. Anderson dated May 28, 2010 published by The weekly Standard at http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obamacare-taking-water-0

Refusing the Entitlement Lollipop” by Michael Gerson dated May 28, 2010 published by Real Clear Politics at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/05/28/refusing_the_entitlement_lollipop_105762.html

GOP aims to revive health care debate” by Carrie Budoff Brown dated June 1, 2010 published by Politico at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/37990.html

ObamaCare’s Ever-Rising Price Tag” by Karl Rove dated June 3, 2010 published by The Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703561604575282482320389198.html )

 

There are now 18 states moving forward with a version of Arizona’s controversial, yet popular immigration law, reflecting widespread support for immigration enforcement. The metaphor of America as a “melting pot” is no longer apt. More recently a better metaphor is of America as a “salad bowl” of mutually exclusive groups. Today, hyphenated Americans often put other affiliations first. One poll of Hispanics in America found that 64% consider themselves “mostly Hispanic,” while only 15% see themselves as “mostly American.” Even worse, 27% of the survey sample had lived in America for more than 25 years, while only 15% lived here less than six. The current list of states following Arizona’s lead on immigration enforcement include Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Numerous scientific and certified polls indicate 60-81% public support for local police enforcing immigration law as the Arizona bill does. Arizona has expressed a lack of confidence in the federal government who has promised to close the borders since the last 1985 amnesty bill, but know full well that only 34 of the 700 miles of double layer border fence has ever been completed.

(“North Carolina Becomes 18th State Pushing Arizona’s New Immigration Law” by ALIPAC dated May 31, 2010 published by Land of the Free at http://www.thelandofthefree.net/conservativeopinion/2010/05/30/north-carolina-becomes-18th-state-pushing-arizonas-new-immigration-law/

Just Finish the Dang Fence” by Jeff Lukens dated June 2, 2010 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/06/just_finish_the_dang_fence.html )

 

The most striking feature about President Obama’s new National Security Strategy (NSS) is that it is just warmed-over liberal internationalism, and the principal theme in this NSS is burden sharing. This document concedes the importance of the military but emphasizes the security imperatives of "affordable health care" and "redeveloping our infrastructure." Nearly all of the policy weight of the NSS rests on the project of creating a new international infrastructure to replace the current one, which is "buckling under the weight of new threats" such as nuclear proliferation. However the document provides no actual strategy in this area. The tone of the NSS is rather different from the Bush administration’s implied preference for unilateralism, but even that change merely takes U.S. strategy back to the days of the Clinton administration and most of its predecessors. The United States, the document stresses, cannot afford to be the world’s sole policeman. Washington needs partners who are willing and able to meet security challenges and help preserve global peace and prosperity. At best, “burden sharing” is likely to take the form of the same militarily useless, largely symbolic force deployments that we have seen from many of the NATO allies in Afghanistan. Even worse, faux burden sharing may mean that the U.S. forces do all the security heavy lifting, and face the bulk of the dangers, while allies perform nonmilitary nation-building tasks of dubious utility. Nor can the United States turn to powers other than its supposed allies to share global security burdens. In short, his NSS is little more than a pious wish. Matters will not improve as long as the United States obligingly takes care of the security needs of all of its allies and clients. They then have every incentive to continue free riding on the enormous U.S. military exertions and devote their resources to shoring-up their financially beleaguered social welfare states. Unless Washington changes that incentive structure by scaling-back commitments to security clients who ought to be doing far more for their own defense, nothing will change for the better. Given the current incentive structure and the clueless U.S. policy that makes it possible, President Obama’s search for willing and capable security partners will prove even more futile than the famous search by Diogenes for an honest man in Ancient Greece.

(“Obama’s Security Strategy is Clueless” by Ted Galen Carpenter dated May 28, 2010 published by The National Interest at http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=23448

America’s strategic poker face” by Michael Gerson dated June 2, 2010 published by The Washington Post at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/01/AR2010060102505.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 section:

·         Politics at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/intro/politics.php

·         Gun Control at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/guncontrol.php

·         Terrorism at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/fp/terrorism.php

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY

www.ReturnToCommonSensesite.com