Views on the News
September 3, 2011
Views on the News*
There is no longer any doubt that Barack Obama has failed as a President, not as a tactician and communicator, but on a substantive basis that can be seen and judged by all. Obama has failed by his own standards:
· It’s the Obama administration that said if his stimulus package was passed unemployment would not exceed 8%.
· It’s Obama who joked there weren’t as many “shovel-ready” jobs as he thought.
· It’s Obama who promised to cut the deficit in half.
· It’s Obama who said if we passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care cost curve would go down rather than up.
· It’s Obama who promised us recovery and prosperity, hope and change.
What we’ve gotten instead is the opposite. During the Bush years he spoke out about the importance of a “reality-based” Presidency. This devotion to credibility and facts requires an empirical, reality-based look at economic life in America during the Age of Obama:
· We have lost 2.2 million jobs, and now on track to have the worst jobs record of any President in the modern era.
· The unemployment rate stands at 9.1% vs. 7.8% the month Obama took office.
· August marked the 31st consecutive month in which the unemployment rate was above the 8% level, the highest since the Great Depression.
· Since May 2009, the unemployment rate has been above 10% during three months, above 9% during 23 months, and above 8% during two months.
· The youth employment rate is at the lowest level since records were first kept in 1948.
· The share of the eligible population holding a job has declined to the lowest level since the early 1980s.
· The housing crisis is worse than in the Great Depression, with home values worth roughly one-third less than they were five years ago.
· The rate of economic growth under Obama has been only slightly higher than the 1930s, the decade of the Great Depression: from the first quarter of 2010 through the first quarter of 2011, we experienced five consecutive quarters of slowing growth.
· America’s GDP for 2Q11 was a sickly 1.0%; in the 1Q11 was 0.4%.
· Fiscal year 2011 will mark the third straight year with deficits in excess of $1 trillion, and prior to the Obama Presidency, we had never experienced a deficit in excess of $1 trillion.
· During the Obama Presidency, America has increased its debt by $4 trillion.
· Obama has achieved in two-and-a-half years what it took George W. Bush two full terms in office to achieve.
· America saw its credit rating downgraded for the first time in history.
· Consumer confidence has plunged to the lowest level since the Carter presidency.
· The number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Obama’s watch, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty.
· A record number of Americans now rely on the federal government’s food stamps program, with more than 44.5 million Americans received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, a 12% increase from one year ago.
There is more that can be said, but you get the point. What makes this record doubly horrifying is that rapid growth is the norm after particularly deep recessions, but under Obama, our recovery has been historically weak. Obama conceded his responsibility, when he declared, “One nice thing about the situation I find myself in is that I will be held accountable.” Indeed. Obama “owns” the economy. His abysmal record forces us to conclude, in a calm, specific, reasonable, rational and empirical manner, that Obama has been an utter failure, even by his own standards.
(“Answering Jonathan Alter’s Challenge” by Peter Wehner dated August 26, 2011 published by Commentary Magazine at http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/08/26/jonathan-alter-challenge/ )
While Obama's sinking prospects for re-election are disquieting, the real source of liberals' despair is their sudden, unexpected realization that the progressive agenda is dead in its tracks and will likely be in full retreat after 2012. The left are now wringing their hands fearing their agenda is overripe, blaming everyone else for their own spoiled pickling. Obama is finished, but the demise of their identity politician is neither the main event nor surprising. He cannot claim a single success. His resume is a bibliography of failure. His signature achievement, the dubious namesake ObamaCare, was designed by someone else, and its central feature, the individual insurance mandate, is destined to be overturned by the Supreme Court. The end of the Progressive Era, eclipsing Obama, has come from two places, one fiscal and pragmatic and the other ideological and visceral. First, the debt crisis and persistent economic woes have made it clear that the progressive agenda is unaffordable and unsustainable and the money pumps in the forms of more borrowing and taxes cannot possibly keep up with the tons of green water spending coming aboard. Second, beyond the limited government ideology now gaining real traction, Americans without an ideology are finding that central planning madness from Washington is making their lives worse, not better. The tipping point provoking the liberals' worst nightmare was contained in Rick Perry's speech announcing his candidacy to be the Republican nominee for president. Perry proclaimed his mission was not to make government more accountable, effective, or efficient because that's standard issue bromide from populist reformers. No, Perry was bold enough, and as his critics will assert reckless, to suggest government should be irrelevant - "as inconsequential to your lives as possible." Perry's credibility as a governor, his disdain for Washington, his unapologetic and outspoken defense of conservative principles, his jobs and business climate record, all despite occasional lapses and rhetorical excesses -- in short his popularity and substance overcoming his defects -- make him the candidate the Dems fear most. Perry, more ruthless, pragmatic, and plain spoken than any of his rivals is the most likely to lead the coming dismantling of the federal government monstrosity. It doesn't require a PhD in economics or history to sort out the origins of the progressives' inevitable downfall. During the past 60 years we've rung up deficits in 51 of them. Democrats controlled both the US House and Senate in 38 of those years. The Democrats, increasingly dominated by the ideology of redistributive economics, welfare state largesse, and central planning elitism, have simply engorged themselves without restraint, spending us into oblivion. The liberal vision of the ideal state is fat, sloppy and lazy.
· Why exert yourself if someone else will buy you food stamps and school lunches?
· Why bother learning to read, write, do simple algebra, or acquire any employable skills when you'll get free health care and subsidized housing?
· Why eat right and keep fit when obesity and diabetes is a protected disability?
Americans are finally fed up with the Democrats' value system: no personal accountability; moral equivalence; belief that success is derived from exploiting everybody else; everybody else is a hapless victim; we are all racists and xenophobes, consigned to endless acts of contrition where reparations and open borders would be the only relief. The liberal legacy soon to visit America has been displayed writ large in the London rioting. The welfare, entitlement and central planning state is a perpetual resource sink paying no dividends, and the only solution is to flush Obama and his liberal administration out of office because the Progressive Party is Over.
(“What Liberals Fear More Than Losing” by Geoffrey P. Hunt dated August 30, 2011 published by American thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/08/what_liberals_fear_more_than_obama_losing.html )
President Obama is destroying the country and some say this destructiveness is intended; most say it is inadvertent, an outgrowth of inexperience, ideological wrong-headedness and an oddly undefined character; but all have begun to see through the man and are surprised at how little is there. Yet there is something more than inexperience or lack of character that defines this Presidency: Obama came of age in a bubble of post-'60s liberalism that conditioned him to be an adversary of American exceptionalism. America's exceptional status in the world follows from a bargain with the devil, an indulgence in militarism, racism, sexism, corporate greed, and environmental disregard as the means to a broad economic, military, and even cultural supremacy in the world. Therefore America's greatness is as much the fruit of evil as of a devotion to freedom. Obama did not explicitly run on an anti-exceptionalism platform. Once he was elected it became clear that his idea of how and where to apply Presidential power was shaped precisely by this brand of liberalism. Anti-exceptionalism has clearly shaped his "leading from behind" profile abroad as an offer of self-effacement to offset the presumed American evil of swaggering cowboyism. Once in office his "hope and change" campaign slogan came to look like the "hope" of overcoming American exceptionalism and "change" away from it. America gained a President with ambivalence, if not some antipathy, toward the singular greatness of the nation he had been elected to lead. American exceptionalism is, among other things, the result of a difficult rigor: the use of individual initiative as the engine of development within a society that strives to ensure individual freedom through the rule of law. Over time a society like this will become great. This is how, despite all our flagrant shortcomings and self-betrayals, America evolved into an exceptional nation. At home the values that made us exceptional have been smeared with derision. Individual initiative and individual responsibility, the very engines of our exceptionalism, now carry a stigma of hypocrisy. Our national exceptionalism both burdens and defames us, yet it remains our fate. We make others anxious, envious, resentful, admiring and sometimes hate-driven. So we Americans cannot help but feel some ambivalence toward our singularity in the world, with its draining entanglements abroad, the selfless demands it makes on both our military and our taxpayers, and all the false charges of imperial hubris it incurs. The left seeks to trade the burdens of greatness for the relief of mediocrity. When greatness fades, when a nation contracts to a middling place in the world, then the world in fact no longer knocks on its door. To civilize America, to redeem the nation from its supposed avarice and hubris, the American left effectively makes a virtue of decline, as if we can redeem America only by making her indistinguishable from lesser nations. Moral and cultural relativism now obscure individual responsibility. We are uninspired in the wars we fight, calculating our withdrawal even before we begin, and then we fight with a self-conscious, almost bureaucratic minimalism that makes the wars interminable. As a President, Barack Obama has been a force for mediocrity. He has banked more on the hopeless interventions of government than on the exceptionalism of the people. So the concept of the exceptionalism, the genius for freedom, of the American people may still be a stretch for him, but if he can’t represent America then it should be held against him that he has failed to do so.
(“Obama and the Burden of Exceptionalism” by Shelby Steele dated September 1, 2011 published by The Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904787404576532623176115558.html )
Obama is anxious to present his new jobs plan, even though there is no rush since he was able to wait until weeks after his latest vacation and it contains only repackaged recycled ideas that have already failed the last times they were tried. Obama has promised to spell out a series of ideas in a major address shortly after Labor Day, once he and Congress return from the August recess. If Obama's fall campaign to tackle the jobs crisis sounds familiar, that's because it is since this President has talked about jobs more than 200 times since taking office. We have now had five or six stimulus plans since this recession started:
· The first came in February 2008 under the Bush administration: a $152 billion measure, featuring a $600 tax rebate, several incentives for businesses, and loan guarantees for the housing industry.
· In September 2008, Congress passed the $61 billion Job Creation and Unemployment Relief Act that pumped money into federal “infrastructure projects” and extended unemployment insurance.
· In February 2009, President Obama pushed through the giant $787 billion stimulus that was billed to restart the economy and create jobs.
· In August 2010, he followed that up with an additional $26 billion bill aimed at helping states retain teachers and make Medicaid payments.
· In September 2010, Congress created a $30 billion fund to provide small businesses with low-interest loans.
· In December 2010, the compromise that extended the Bush tax cuts included another extension of unemployment benefits and a reduction in the Social Security payroll tax, both heralded at the time as stimulus measures.
The political stakes couldn’t be higher for the President heading into a tough election season, with the economy in a near stall, unemployment stuck at 9.1%, a downgraded U.S. credit rating, the markets seemingly in the throes of a nervous breakdown, and Obama’s job approval rating at a near-record low of 40%. The CBO just forecast that unemployment would remain at 9% through the 2012 Presidential election year. Obama has decided to press Congress for a new round of stimulus spending, tax incentives and possible revenue increases to address the economic crisis while making another major down-payment on long term deficit reduction. Here are major proposals already touted by Obama or under serious consideration:
· Extend the Payroll Tax Cut: Extending this reduction of the workers’ share of the Social Security tax puts more money in people’s hands to spend, but has proven to provide no long term economic impact or create jobs.
· Extend the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE): Exempting businesses that hire new employees from paying their share of those workers’ Social Security tax (6.2% of wages), and grants them a tax credit of up to $1,000 for workers they retain for at least one year, but as only a temporary reduction it will have negligible impact on job creation.
· Extend Unemployment Benefits: Extending jobless benefits to the current 99-week maximum has been reauthorized five times since 2009, but recent studies show that extending unemployment insurance actually leads to longer periods of unemployment and does not provide the promised stimulative effect.
· Help the Long-Term Unemployed: Helping the 6.2 million Americans who have been out of work for six months or more to train for jobs at participating businesses, at no cost to the employer, while collecting unemployment benefits and a small stipend for transportation costs would help companies to productively use new hires earlier, but there will be negligible impact since employees are already targeted for employment.
· Invest in Infrastructure: Creating a national infrastructure bank to fund highway, bridge, railroad,airport, and school projects for unionized workers through a mix of low-interest private and public loans and investments has been rejected previously by bipartisan majorities in both House and Senate transportation committees, since this plan would likely yield only moderate amounts of infrastructure spending by the end of 2017, while having neglible impact on job growth or economic activity.
· Reform the Patent System: Reforming the patent laws would help spur economic growth by “cutting the red tape that stops too many inventors and entrepreneurs from quickly turning new ideas into thriving businesses,” but will have little impact on job creation.
· Reform the Tax Code: Reforming the tax code to simplify and eliminate loopholes is long overdue, but targeting the wealthy individuals and corporations only serves to amplify class warfare and will not have little impact on job creation.
· Create New Tax Incentives: Granting employers a temporary, refundable tax credit for every unemployed veteran they hire has been rejected twice by Congress since it will have negligible impact on hiring full time employees unless the decision was already made for other reasons.
· Fix Homeowner and Mortgage Relief Programs: Fixing the flawed foreclosure prevention program, Home Affordable Modification Program, is a lost cause since it is too complicated for the housing industry to execute.
This is not a pro-jobs agenda and there is very little new on this list. The real drags on our economy have nothing to do with the failure of government to spend enough. The federal government is now spending roughly 24% of GDP. State and local governments are spending another 10% to 15%, meaning government at all levels is spending around 40% of GDP. Our national debt now tops 102% of GDP. The problem is that government doesn’t create jobs that add value to the economy because taxes, mandates, and regulation typically discourages hiring and destroys jobs. Obama’s jobs plan is more of the same failed spending programs of the past that does not create jobs, and if government spending really brought about prosperity, we would already be experiencing a golden age.
(“8 Ideas that Can Save Obama and the Economy” by Michelle Hirsch and Eric Pianin dated August 23, 2011 published by The Fiscal Times at http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2011/08/23/8-Ideas-that-Can-Save-Obama-and-the-Economy.aspx#page1
“Stay on Vacation” by Michael Tanner dated August 24, 2011 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/275389/stay-vacation-michael-tanner )
Democrats have long taken blacks for granted, and this loyalty in the face of bad treatment is reminiscent of battered wife syndrome (BWS). Psychologists tell us that BWS is a physical and psychological condition characterized by violence and learned helplessness in women who are repeatedly abused by their husbands. BWS is used to explain why abused women do not seek assistance from others, nor fight their abusers, nor leave the abusive situation. Victims believe that the abuse is not the fault of the abuser; rather, the abuse originates from sources not related to the abuser. They often become aggressive or abusive to others who attempt to offer assistance. Similarly, the relationship between black voters and the Democratic Party displays many of the clinically diagnosed pathologies found in BWS: decimating abuse of the black family perpetrated by 40 years of Democratic Party welfare legislation; learned helplessness, making it nearly impossible to fight the abuse or escape the abuser; profound belief that the source of the abuse originates from sources other than the Democratic Party; aggressive and abusive treatment of others -- the so-called "Uncle Toms" and white racists -- who attempt to offer assistance; habitually seeking out the Democratic Party for succor from the very abuse perpetrated by the Democratic Party. As the battered wife is fiercely loyal to her abusive husband, so are black voters fiercely loyal to the Democratic Party and to Barack Obama, the "African-American" leader of the Democratic Party. No amount of racial demagoguery can deny that liberalism has had disastrous consequences for black America. In 2011, the Davis-Bacon Act still serves the purpose of discriminating against non-union black construction contractors and black construction workers because it prevents rural and inner-city laborers and contractors from working on federally financed construction projects in their own communities. Equally disgusting as Davis-Bacon in Obama bitch-slapping black voters to curry favor with the unions is the Project Labor Agreement (PLA). Harry Alford, CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce characterized “A Project Labor Agreement is a license to discriminate against Black workers.” Given the Obama and Democratic Party's racist exclusion of blacks from the construction industry, is there any question why black unemployment is currently at the "official rate" of 16.2% with real unemployment above 30%? The vast majority of black voters have been bitch-slapped so for so long by the Democratic Party that many blacks seem to be afflicted with the battered voter syndrome (BVS) and automatically vote for Democrats against their own best interests.
(“Black Voters and the Battered Voter Syndrome” by George Boykin dated August 25, 2011 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/08/black_voters_and_the_battered_voter_syndrome.html )
Libya is a signature example of how to lead multilaterally, encourage others to do more, and avoid the Hobson's choice of doing it all alone or retreating into defeatism or isolationism, and some might even call this an Obama Doctrine, an accomplishment, that the President can use or that others can use for or against him, to explain his overall approach to foreign policy. This so-called Obama grand strategy depicts an administration focused on counterpunching, but by definition this is not a strategy because it is reactive. The world is far too complicated to manage simply by handling one's inbox issue by issue. This administration has been trying to "lead from behind," at least on matters such as the Libya conflict and the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. While this approach might work for second-order issues, or in cases where U.S. influence is inherently limited, it is hardly a viable way for a country that remains far and away the world's dominant power to play its leadership role. It's also lousy politics, inviting ridicule while making the President appear weak. He has tried to prioritize some issues, Afghanistan, Pakistan and nuclear weapons proliferation, because they are inherently more important than many others. He has made America's economic security and recovery paramount on his own short list of priorities. He has hired good people such as secretaries Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and incoming CIA Director David Petraeus, and the team has worked competently and diligently. He is also trying to get allies such as Britain, France and some Arab states to carry more of the load, as in Libya, but also to some extent in Afghanistan. Taken together, these efforts don't fit neatly into a precise doctrine, but it is as concise as can be for this President at the moment... and that is The Problem.
(“Is Libya policy cornerstone of an Obama Doctrine?” by Michael O’Hanlon dated August 29, 2011 published by Real Clear Politics at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/2011/08/29/is_libya_the_cornerstone_of_an_obama_doctrine_262447.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:
· Education at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/education.php
· Social Security at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/social security.php