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Views on the News

Views on the News*

August 10, 2013

 

Obama came to power in the third year of large Democratic congressional majorities and in his first referendum, he lost the House and he may soon lose the Senate; in other words, there followed a somewhat normal reaction against a majority party.  Obama’s popularity rating is well below 50%, despite an obsequious media and a brilliantly negative billion-dollar campaign that long ago turned Mitt Romney into a veritable elevator-using, equestrian-marrying, canine-hating monster.  In the second term, there is little of the Obama bully pulpit left.  When Obama warns about gridlock in Washington, the “same old tired politics,” the dangers of a tyrant or king in the White House, the need for an honest IRS, or the perils of government surveillance, these admonitions have tragically become a psychological tic to warn us about himself.  Each new “historic” speech is by now mostly history repeating itself as farce.  No one in the post-Benghazi, -AP, -NSA, and -IRS scandal era references the President any longer as the former “professor of constitutional law.”  In Obama’s case even the inflated title has become an oxymoron.   Slowly the press, is learning that it has been had by one of its own.  In terms of future elections, Obama has created a new racial paradox for Democrats, the ironic wage of his own racial divisiveness.  Polls now show that the public is more likely to consider Obama racially divisive than a healer. Cap and trade is dead.  Drivers have paid over $1 trillion more in collectively higher gas prices since Obama took office.  That fact will be more remembered than the promised wave of new green electric cars and high-speed rail.  One way or another, ObamaCare will be repealed.  Why would the IRS, charged with enforcing ObamaCare, wish its own employees to be exempt from the statutes it will enforce on others?  When we recount Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS mess, the AP/James Rosen affair, or the NSA disclosures, we think not of modern scandals per se, but rather in historical terms: which prior administration was more corrupt and dishonest - Nixon’s or Grant’s?  Americans are always up for a good class war. Obama gave them one, with all the talk of the “one percent,” “millionaires and billionaires,” and the “pay your fair share” boilerplate.  Obama’s eight years in theory should have far more lasting ramifications, given the huge debt, radical appointees, job-killing regulations, and dismal economy of the last five years, but in years to come, even Obama’s true believers will talk more of an iconic Barack Obama before and after he was President, but rarely during.

(“Obama Who?” by Victor Davis Hanson dated August 5, 2013 published by PJ Media at http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/obama-who/ )

Obama is trying to excuse his abysmal economic record as a “new normal,” but there is no way he can escape that this recovery is the worst since World War II.  First-quarter gross domestic product numbers for 2013 were recently revised downward from 1.8% to 1.1%. For perspective, four years into the recovery from the last deep recession in '81-'82, the economy grew at 4.1%.  The declining "labor force participation rate" counts the percentage of civilians 16 years and older working or actively looking for work. When President Barack Obama took office, the labor force participation rate was 65.7%; today it is 63.4%. Frustrated, many able-bodied and able-minded would-be workers have simply given up looking for jobs.  The number of people receiving federally subsidized food assistance today exceeds the number of full-time, private-sector working Americans. The number of Americans receiving foods stamps (now called SNAP) has reached 47.5 million, increasing an average of 13% a year from 2008 to 2012.  Almost 9 million disabled American workers currently collect federal Social Security benefits, double the number of disabled in the late '90s, many admitting that they could work, but choose not to look.  Just to break even, to keep pace with new entrants into the market, the economy must produce 150,000 jobs per month.  To date, Obama's four years of recovery have produced 4,657,000 jobs, an average of 97,020 per month.  At this juncture in the '80s, following the last big recession, the economy had produced 11.2 million new jobs, or 233,333 per month.  Even left-wing media outlets like ABC and The Washington Post cannot pretend that this is normal.  About the advance estimate of the most recent quarter's dismal 1.7% growth, a Post business writer said: "It isn't even mediocre. It's terrible. It's a sign of the diminished economic expectations."   President Ronald Reagan took an entirely different course than has Obama.  Reagan dramatically lowered taxes, reduced the speed of domestic spending and continued deregulation policies of Jimmy Carter. The economy took off, and three years into recovery, had produced an 8.9% increase in civilian employment, almost 9 million jobs, with a post-recovery GDP that averaged over 5%.  The Reagan recovery was no aberration.  Spending and tax cuts between 1922 and 1929 gave us the so-called "roaring '20s," when unemployment fell from 6.7% to 3.2%, and real gross national product grew at an annual average rate of 4.7%. Similarly, when President George W. Bush lowered taxes, the economy took off, and the unemployment rate went down to a low of 4.4% in 2006.  Seventy-four percent of small-business owners say they plan to reduce hours, put off hiring or fire people to minimize the impact of ObamaCare. ObamaCare kicks in at 50 employees and applies to full-time workers.  So employers keep the number of workers under 50 and-or reduce hours to less than full-time (30 hours or more), and they get around ObamaCare. What this does to the economy and job creation is another story.  Historically, the deeper the recession, the higher the bounce back. Since World War II, this recovery has been by far the weakest. The question is why.  Our history shows that burdening the productive through higher taxes, especially during sluggishness, hurts the economy.  Imposing billions of dollars in new federal regulations, as this administration has done, hurts the economy. Placing nearly one-seventh of the nation's economy, via ObamaCare, under the control of the federal government hurts the economy.  This is an arrogant administration led by a man distrustful of the private sector and devoid of experience in it, stacked with power-assuming administrative "czars," the Obama administration fancies itself enlightened and noble, in complete possession of the wisdom needed to know from whom to take and to whom to give.

(“When Will They See That This Is One Bad Recovery?” by Larry Elder dated August 8, 2013 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/larryelder/2013/08/08/when-will-they-see-that-this-is-one-bad-recovery-n1658962 )

The bankruptcy of Detroit is an extreme example, but it is not an isolated case because state and local governments face a prolonged squeeze between costly commitments to retirees and demands for better services: think schools, police, libraries, parks, roads and prisons.  In aging America, demography is politics. In 2025, there will be an estimated 106 million Americans 55 and over, nearly a third of the total population, up from a fifth in 2000.  At the national level, Social Security and Medicare are crowding out other programs and similar conflicts affecting states and localities are less recognized. Spending for the aged is rising rapidly, while revenue growth is slowing:

·    Swelling pensions: They're increasing as baby boomers retire and are vastly underfunded. In 2012, promised benefits for state and local pensions exceeded fund assets by $1 trillion.  This estimate may be too low, because it assumes an optimistically high average 8% annual return on pension assets.

·    Costlier Medicaid: States cover about 40% of the expenses of health insurance for the poor, and spending could increase by 87% from 2012 to 2021.  An aging population and expanded eligibility under ObamaCare) are big drivers.

·    Weakening tax bases: Since 1980, state and local tax revenues have increased an average of 6% annually. This will drop to 4.5% in the next decade, reflecting mainly lower economic growth and inflation.

·    Eroding federal grants: States receive 34% of their funds from the national government, including Medicaid's federal share.

Eligibility ages, which allowed some workers to retire in their mid-50s, are gradually rising to match Social Security's and states and localities are slowly losing control over their budgets and cutting pensions is hard.  Legally, earned benefits for existing retirees and workers enjoy contractual protection in state constitutions or laws.  Politically, retirees command public sympathy and are represented by powerful government employee unions.  Medicaid's expansion is also on autopilot. Even without ObamaCare, spending would rise significantly.  Older Americans and the disabled now account for two-thirds of costs but only a quarter of beneficiaries.  As the population ages, this burden will grow.  It's literally schools versus nursing homes. We need a better balance between workers' legitimate desire for a comfortable retirement and society's larger interests. Instead, our system favors the past over the future.  Things could be done to mitigate the bias, but none would be easy or popular.  It's first necessary to acknowledge the bias and discuss it openly, but we are far from doing it.

(“Detroit is Merely Tip of Iceberg for Local, State Pension Crisis Across U.S.” by Robert J. Samuelson dated August 6, 2013 published by Investor’s Business Daily at http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-on-the-left/080613-666568-just-like-detroit-hundreds-of-other-cities-and-counties-face-bankruptcy-from-pensions.htm )

Voices calling for amnesty do not really understand economics or free enterprise since a growing economy is only 'better' if the economy grows faster than the population increases, otherwise, each individual is worse off among a larger crowd.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures total activity, not household income for each individual family. Amnesty will create a worse economy for everyone, even if total GDP is larger.  An estimated 30 to 40 million low-skilled workers will be added.  The borders won't be secure.  Millions more trespassers will invade.  'Blue card' holders can bring in their husbands, wives, children, parents, etc. to join them.  Many who have already been deported can return.  Of course, amnesty will elect more Democrats.  Democrats will enact government policies that destroy the utopian economic pipe dreams of the libertarians and business lobbyists pushing for amnesty, as utopian libertarians and naïve business interests are pushing for their own extinction.  Regulations hostile to free enterprise, business, and libertarian pipe dreams will multiply because of 11 million new Democrat voters.  Anti-business regulations are often passed at the state, county, or city level.  Immediately after amnesty, many more county, city, and state elections will allow amnesty recipients to vote.  The solution to getting high-skilled workers is to reform our schools and universities.  It is education that needs reform, not immigration.  Data, rather than anecdotes, show that we already have too many unemployed high-skilled workers.  Flooding the economy with millions of unneeded, surplus workers will lower the market rate for labor.  Since we already have too many unemployed, low-skilled workers, adding more cannot grow the economy.  Supplying what is missing can unleash a stalled economy.  Making an existing surplus bigger won't help.  Should a company pushing for amnesty trust someone to handle money, work with coworkers, or drive a company vehicle who has already proven they don't care about following our laws? Increasingly, businesses won't hire an applicant with bad credit.  Employers won't trust workers to handle money or with company assets if they have a shady background or bad credit rating.  Republican insiders are rushing toward the cliff of amnesty for illegal aliens. GOP leaders feel the instinctive, genetic itch to leap irresistibly into the abyss, to their own political destruction. When the business lobbyists' arguments just don't ring true and violate common sense... they are probably snake oil.

(“Amnesty Driven by Voodoo Economics” by Jonathon Moseley dated August 6, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/08/amnesty_driven_by_voodoo_economics.html )

Vague terrorist threats shutting down nineteen of our embassies, Russian strongman Putin thumbing his nose at President Obama, Iran jerking our chain – the U.S. hasn’t looked this cowardly on the world stage since the Jimmy Carter administrationHere at home, too, we’ve gone back to the Carter future; unemployment is high, Keynesian economics are all the rage, our professorial President is increasingly whiny and ineffectual; all that’s missing is a cardigan sweater and that infernal violin.  Our recent contre-temps with Russia is a throw-back to the weak-kneed Carter era.  Obama was caught on tape promising Putin (via his former number two Dmitri Medvedev) even greater accommodation on missile defense once reelected. Apparently the numerous earlier rebuffs from the Russian bully, on Iran, on missile defense, on Syria etc., made no impression; Obama is ever hopeful.  Both Carter and Obama came to office convinced that by dint of righteousness or personality they could win over our enemies.  Obama, like Carter before him, has sought kindness and justice from the likes of Hugo Chavez and Bashar-Al-Assad.  Both the Carter and Obama administrations have been distinguished by the rare murder of an ambassador.  Even before the Iran hostage crisis that came to symbolize the failures of his presidency, Jimmy Carter was “shocked and saddened” when the Russians, along the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.  On Obama’s watch, of course, we lost Christopher Stevens, ambassador to Libya and three others; the President called it a “shocking attack.”  In both cases, critics charged the White House with incompetence and carelessness for not protecting our own.  Iran has proved a testing ground for both Carter and Obama, as the despots leading that country took the measure of U.S. leadership and found it wanting.  Obama’s lack of response to the mass slaughter in Syria and scrambled interactions with Egypt harks back to Carter’s impotence in the face of the 1979 OPEC oil embargo.   In Egypt today, the United States is ignored by both Islamist supporters of now-deposed President Morsi and also by the military; we are blamed by both sides for the chaos in that country. That’s quite an accomplishment, given the enormous aid we have ladled out to Egypt for decades.  The parallels between the Carter and Obama presidencies are not accidental, since both men were elected in what amounted to a national rejection of their predecessors.  Neither candidate had any significant executive experience or foreign policy chops.  Both men promised change, and fulfilled that promise, but unhappily, they did not always deliver change for the better.  The similarities between Obama and Carter are not confined to foreign fiascos.  Domestically, both have struggled to ignite growth and lower unemployment; both have clung to a profound belief in the powers of deficit spending and efficacy of federal meddling.  Faced with soaring inflation, Carter imposed price controls that caused rampant confusion and slowed growth; he also introduced gasoline rationing that led the country to quite literally run out of gas.  The same urge to tinker bedevils Obama, who cannot understand why consumers do not line up to buy the electric cars that he has required Detroit to manufacture, or why bankrolling uncompetitive “green” energy companies are bets that go bad.  One of the few divides between the Obama presidency and that of Jimmy Carter is that Obama won reelection… pity!

(“Jimmy Carter’s ghost stalks Obama White House” by Liz Peek dated August 5, 2013 published by Fox News at http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/08/05/jimmy-carter-ghost-stalks-obama-white-house/ )

 

This administration has a penchant for wordplay, the bending of language to fit a political need to disguise unpleasantness, but it also leads to incoherence.  In Janet Napolitano’s famous formulation, terror attacks are now “man-caused disasters,” and the “global war on terror” is no more, relabeled “overseas contingency operation.”  Nidal Hasan proudly tells a military court that he, a soldier of Allah, killed 13 American soldiers in the name of jihad, but the massacre remains officially classified as an act not of terrorism but of “workplace violence.”  The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others are killed in an al-Qaeda-affiliated terror attack, and for days it is dismissed as nothing more than a spontaneous demonstration gone bad.  Truth is a virtue. If you keep lying to the American people, they may seriously question whether anything you say is not another self-serving lie.  Leading a country through yet another long twilight struggle requires not just honesty but clarity.  This is a President who to this day cannot bring himself to identify the enemy as radical Islam.  For President Obama, the word “Islamist” may not be uttered.  The confusion of language is a direct result of a confusion of policy, which is served by constant obfuscation.  Obama doesn’t like this terror war.  He particularly dislikes its unfortunate religious coloration, which is why “Islamist” is banished from his lexicon.  As commander in chief he must defend the nation, but he desperately wants to end the whole struggle.  The result is visible ambivalence that leads to vacillating policy reeking of incoherence.  This incoherence of policy and purpose is why an evacuation from Yemen must be passed off as “a reduction in staff.” Why the Benghazi terror attack must be blamed on some hapless Egyptian-American videographer. Why the Fort Hood shooting is nothing but some loony Army doctor gone postal.  In the end, this isn’t about language; it’s about leadership. The wordplay is merely cover for uncertain policy embedded in confusion and ambivalence about the whole enterprise, and not leading from behind, but rather not leading at all.

(“War by wordplay” by Charles Krauthammer dated August 8, 2013 published by The Washington Post at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-obama-distorts-reality-with-language/2013/08/08/22652cf6-006b-11e3-96a8-d3b921c0924a_story.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:

·  Immigration at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/immigration.php

·  Welfare at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/welfare.php

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

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY

www.ReturnToCommonSensesite.com