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Views on the News

Views on the News*

September 28, 2013

 

Much has been written and spoken about the deep divide between “red” and “blue” America, but the real chasm increasingly is between Washington and the rest of the country. This disconnect may increase as both conservatives and liberals outside the Beltway look with growing disdain upon their “leaders” inside the imperial capital.  Indeed, according to Gallup, trust among Americans toward the federal government has sunk to historic lows, regarding both foreign and domestic policy.  The debate over Syria epitomizes this division.  For the most part, Washington has been more than willing to entertain another military venture.  Out in the country, where people, even those who supported Iraq initially, know that that war was not worth the price, in blood, treasure or damage to national unity.  The citizens are not remotely interested in getting a second shot of neoconservative disaster in Syria.  A recent CNN poll found that 70% would oppose attacking Bashar al-Assad's regime without Congressional approval, which about 60% think Congress should not give.  This is not a partisan consensus, but an outside-the-Beltway one.  Americans in general have concluded that the country's elites of both political parties and across the political spectrum have been wrong on just about everything they have done since the end of the Cold War.  This chasm between the ruled and the rulers has both widened and deepened during the Obama years.  Initially, Democrats supported the idea of a strong federal expansion to improve the economy.  However, the stimulus and other administration steps did little to help the middle and working classes.  Besides shared concerns over Syria, the NSA and IRS, grass-roots conservatives and liberals increasingly reject the conventional wisdom of their Washington betters. What increasingly matters here is not political “spin,” but the breadth of anti-Washington sentiment.  While most of the country suffers low economic growth, the Washington area has benefitted from the expansion of federal power.  This has been a golden era for the nation's capital, perhaps the one place that never really felt the recession.  Of the nation's 10 richest counties, seven are in the Washington area.  This is intolerable to Americans.  It is not just a detestation of government but also of the Washington-centered media.  Along with Congress, the media's credibility has been crashing to historic lows, with 60% expressing little trust in the fourth estate.

(“Bipartisan distrust of the Beltway” by Joel Kotkin dated September 20, 2013 published by The Orange County Register at http://www.ocregister.com/articles/washington-527192-percent-government.html )

Though his list of offenses against American liberty is lengthy, Barack Obama will not be held accountable.  The American press will never become critical of his words or deeds in a substantive and sustained manner, and, short of an epiphany, Congress will not muster the courage to judge him with normative standards.  We all know why, but we are not allowed to say it: he is immune to substantive criticism because of skin color.  Attempting to remedy the former institutional injustices that black people suffered in America, the press overcompensates to alleviate the ongoing white guilt phenomenon of postmodern liberalism.  Racial narratives are sometimes manufactured when racism is nonexistent in the actual story, and in the case of Barack Obama, storylines were created out of whole cloth.  The public, liberals and conservatives alike, have been conditioned to suspend disbelief and exercise good manners and enjoy (or at least accept) the performance of Obama as a post-partisan, post-racial, all-American president of the United States.  Though, remarkably, almost everything about the Obama production is built on pretending one thing or another.  The very candidacy of Obama was make-believe.  Obama himself acknowledged that, if plunged into the White House, he would not know what he was doing.   Obama then revealed a complete lack of character.  Nevertheless, the elitists who form public opinion pretended that Obama was ready for the White House.  After, all, they were making history.  At the core was a man with no entrepreneurial, business, executive, or military experience.  Yet layer upon layer of made-up persona was wrapped around the empty center until fiction somehow became non-fiction.  With each layer of pretension came a new occasion to suspend disbelief.  What otherwise would have been normal and reasonable vetting of a candidate became unreasonable persecution of a black man.  Obama further revealed his lack of character and his utter contempt for the citizenry by refusing to deal openly with the question of whether he was even constitutionally eligible for the Presidency.  The question of whether one could be born with conflicting national allegiances and still be a "natural born" citizen per our Constitution's Presidential eligibility clause has never been answered by our Supreme Court.  The possible red herring or bait-and-switch was the birth certificate debacle.  Regardless of the seemingly endless oddities of Obama's background, including the fact that Obama portrayed himself for a decade and a half as having been "born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii," those who wanted full disclosure were the bad guys -- the racist haters.  Obama was shielded from his lack of experience, his own middle name, and the facts of his training in Indonesia (third-world Islam), Hawaii (Marxism via Frank Marshall Davis), and Chicago (black grievance via Jeremiah Wright).  Since Obama was and is above the inconvenience of submitting to a controlling legal opinion on the question of natural-born citizen status or even producing a requested legal document, this shield became permanent.  That is why we have a president who adds to the national debt like no other, but insists he is reducing it; wastes tax dollars by the trillions, but preaches about fiscal responsibility; condemns Bush for illegal torture of terrorists, but summarily drone-kills suspects (and even an American citizen); stirs up racial divide with his impetuous remarks, yet is portrayed as a post-racial healer; ignores laws and Congress when he wants to (see the bombing of Libya without congressional authorization) but seeks congressional authorization to bomb Syria because democracy makes us stronger (not because he couldn't gather a coalition and again surrender U.S. military power to the UN); and on and on.  It's surreal.  It's pure madness.  In order to get to the core of Obama, an army of brave statesmen would need to rise up and deal with the real issues.  Until then, come hell or high water, the show must go on until that blessed day when the curtains finally close on the theatre of the absurd.

(“The Theatre of Barack Obama: The Show Must Go On” by Monte Kuligowski dated September 21, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/09/the_theatre_of_barack_obama_the_show_must_go_on.html )

If the media had fulfilled its critically important duties, Barack Obama would not have been elected or reelected President.  The media is not motivated by professionalism and integrity but rather by fear, prejudice, guilt, and bias.  The mainstream media has a kind of inverted colorblindness.  Their form of colorblindness causes them to see nothing but color.  More specifically, it means they cannot see anything but a person's skin color.  The foremost beneficiary of their malady is Barack Obama, who is President today because the media and many voters could not see anything but the color of his skin.  They are the polar opposite of Martin Luther King's character-not-skin-color dream.  Making race such a huge issue is itself a kind of racism.  The amount of racial guilt in America is way out of proportion with the amount of racism that actually exists.  The media were so taken with the historical significance of "the first black President" that nothing else mattered to them.  Obama became the most unexamined Presidential candidate in history.  Why are so many in and out of the media still in deep denial about how grossly incompetent Obama is?  The media is totally invested in the outcome of the Obama presidency, but their identification with his success destroys their objectivity and judgment.  Current events are evaluated by the media not by how they will affect the country, but rather by how they will affect Obama.  The Hollywood left was one of the most vocal and vociferous opponents of the Iraq war.  They have said almost nothing about Obama's military threats against Syria.  For whatever reason liberals have intense racial guilt.  America is not the most racist nation in the world, but it seems to be the most race-conscious and race-obsessed nation.  Barack Obama is the ultimate and most disastrous application of "affirmative action."  Just as affirmative action in college admissions results in tragic mismatches for minority students, Obama is a colossal mismatch for the White House.  Obama was a liberals' dream come true.  If Obama had been a competent, successful President it conceivably would have reduced prejudice against blacks.  However Barack Obama is having a negative, not positive, impact on the U.S. and the world.  He has no love lost for the country he leads. That's not good. He wants to see the country he leads decline, not progress.  Sad to say, we're stuck with him and his administration for three and a third more years, so it's going to be a test for America's fundamental strength, but in the meantime don't expect the media to come to our rescue.

(“Media Dereliction” by Ron Ross dated September 22, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/09/media_dereliction.html )

President Obama’s attempt to lead the United States into an intervention in Syria may have provided the White House a distraction from the summer of scandal, but these scandals are still there, festering. As Obama waddles toward lame duck status, the various scandals will probably shape his second term. Here are four ongoing clouds hovering over the President:

·    No budget - The last time the federal government operated under an actual budget passed by Congress and signed by the president was in 2009.  It took more than three years for the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass another budget measure, which didn't lead to a passed budget.  Instead, the federal government has been operating under a series of short-term resolutions.  Instead of working towards a solution, Democrats continue to shift blame to Republicans.  The President’s own proposed budget was two months late this year and planned to add $5.2 trillion to deficits over the next decade.  The government continues to spend far more than it brings in revenue and Congress is expending its energy on yet another continuing resolution.

·    Benghazi cover-up - The Obama Administration has tried to obfuscate the issues surrounding the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 since they happened.  The ongoing cover-up over Benghazi and refusal to allow CIA employees to comment is illustrative of the Obama Administration’s, and the overall government’s, discomfort with transparency and the truth.  In calling the Benghazi scandal a “side show,” Obama hoped the media would follow his campaign slogan: move forward, but who knew what when, and who covered up what, remains relevant.  Despite Hillary Clinton’s insistence it doesn’t matter anymore, the scandal could yet haunt her all the way to the 2016 election season.

·    IRS targeting - When news about the NSA’s domestic surveillance efforts first broke, the White House was already embroiled in a scandal involving the IRS targeting Tea Party groups.  The President’s words have been revealed to be less than true as more information comes out.  Lois Lerner’s testimony has been proven to be misleading and false, as this scandal continues to fester.  In addition, the IRS has thus far handed over to the House Oversight Committee less than 10% of the documents requested.

·    NSA surveillance - Ever since the first Edward Snowden disclosures back in May, Obama has been on the defensive on the issue of domestic surveillance. Often, the President’s statements have turned out to be untrue or deceptive when new revelations come out.  James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, believes Congress will curb or even shut down the NSA’s domestic surveillance efforts.

Obama’s time in office has been marked by few real accomplishments and an unending series of distractions from his trail of failures, and we may face another three years of this non-productive behavior.

(“Four Washington Scandals That Still Matter Despite the Distractions” by Ed Krayewski dated September 20, 2013 published by Reason at http://reason.com/archives/2013/09/20/4-washington-scandals-that-still-matter )

 

Five years in, Obama’s Presidency appears more divisive than decisive which is a high irony for a candidate elected on promises of unity and change.  Yet the increasingly obvious pattern is that Obama is unwilling to make a tough decision and as a result, he not only alienates a growing number of voters, but an increasing number of his supporters.  Obama won with the largest popular vote percentage (52.9%) of any Democrat since LBJ in 1964.  The day after his inauguration (1/20/09), Rasmussen polling showed he had a 65%-30% approval to disapproval rating.  However, that favorable view has faded fast.  Unlike other two term presidents, whose popular vote percentages increased in reelection, Obama’s fell, winning with only 51% of the popular vote and by just over half his 2008 margin (3.8% to 7.3%).  Still in only his second term’s first year, his disapproval rating routinely exceeds his approval rating and his signature policy achievement fares worse.  ObamaCare’s disapproval margin is in double-digits in virtually every poll.  Obama’s lowest job performance ratings come on Americans’ biggest concern:  the economy.  Despite assuming the ability to take actions unilaterally without enabling legislative action, the administration is increasingly demonstrating an unwillingness, or inability, to make tough decisions.  Recent examples of this inability have had particularly high profiles.  Military intervention in Syria is the most prominent.  Every move – from his famous “red line,” to moving military assets into place – appeared premised on the President ordering such action.  Yet at the last second, he did not.  Instead, he called for a Congressional resolution virtually no one believed he needed as Commander-in-Chief.  The Keystone Pipeline is another policy non-decision that has twisted in the wind for years without resolution.  Tough decisions do not get easier with time, instead just the reverse occurs.  The effect of this indecision has been to have choices second-, third- and fourth-guessed in public.  Far from inspiring confidence, it instead inspires in-fighting among those, particularly damaging one’s supporters, seeking to make the decision in Obama’s place.  Looking through this prism of procrastination, the pattern is really not new to Obama.  From the beginning, there has been an overt willingness to turn big decisions over to others.  An absence of will is increasingly coming to define this Presidency, which has gone from the pledge of “Yes we can,” to the reality of “No we won’t.” 

(“Obama’s Aimless Presidency Is Starting to Alienate His Most Die-Hard of Supporters” by J.T. Young dated September 25, 2013 published by Forbes at http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/09/25/obamas-aimless-presidency-is-starting-to-alienate-his-most-die-hard-of-supporters/ )

 

Since the Great Recession of 2008-9, the labor market has recovered at an agonizingly slow pace and despite 42 consecutive months of gains in private-sector employment, the unemployment rate is still at 7.3%; in December 2007 it was only 4.6%. The current unemployment rate is higher now than in 2007 across all age, education, occupation, gender and ethnic groups.  That’s despite the fact that about four million workers have left the labor force, driving the labor force participation rate to a historic low, at least a percentage point below its long-run (downward) trend, according to the Council of Economic Advisers.  Both hiring and quit rates remain significantly below their pre-recession peaks.  About eight million people are working part-time for “economic reasons,” a euphemism for those who would like a full-time position but cannot find one.  The weakness of the labor market is manifest not only in the number of jobs created and the number of unemployed but also in the quality of jobs.  Low-wage jobs usually account for 40% to 50% of job gains during recoveries.  Based on history, what’s distinctive about this recovery is its sluggish pace, not the composition of its jobs.  The economy’s growth rate has been less than half the rate of previous recoveries and the employment losses in the Great Recession were more than twice as large as those in previous recessions.  The employment hole is much deeper, and it is taking much longer to get out of it.  Prolonged labor market slack has meant falling real wages for most workers. According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, between 2007 and 2012 average real hourly wages for all private-sector workers grew by a paltry 1.2%, but this average obscures differences among workers at different skill and pay levels: real hourly wages fell for 70% of the wage distribution, with larger losses for those holding lower-wage jobs.  During the year ended in mid-2013, real wages finally began to increase a bit for workers between the 50th and 70th percentile but continued to fall for those below.  In contrast, real wages have increased, albeit at a much slower clip than before the recession, for those in the top 30% of the wage distribution since 2011 and are up over the entire 2007-12 period.  These patterns are not surprising.  High unemployment harms wage growth across the wage distribution with the negative effect getting larger as one moves down the distribution.  What is distinctive during this recovery relative to earlier ones is the growing disparity in wages across sectors, a trend that was apparent long before the Great Recession.  Between 2000 and 2007 real hourly wages increased 2.6% for the median worker, 1% for workers in the 20th percentile of the wage distribution and 4.6% for those in the 80th percentile.  Over the entire 2000-12 period, real hourly wages were flat or declining for the bottom 60% of the wage distribution, and that’s despite productivity growth of nearly 25% during the same period.  According to economic logic, wage growth should reflect productivity growth. This was the case until the late 1970s. Since then, however, wage growth has fallen far short of productivity growth, and that’s true for workers regardless of education, occupation, gender or race.  Jobs that are routine, that do not involve manual tasks and that do not need to be done near the customer are being replaced by computers and automation or are being outsourced to low-cost workers in other countries.  Many of these jobs are middle-income and middle-skill jobs.  At the same time, technology is increasing the demand for workers who perform non-routine tasks that complement automated processes or perform non-routine, manual tasks that cannot be automated. Such tasks lie at opposite ends of the skill and wage distribution – from retail sales clerks and restaurant workers at the bottom to software programmers and engineers at the top.  The result is “polarization” of employment with job growth concentrated at the high and low ends of the wage and skill distribution and the disappearance of jobs in the middle.  These trends are apparent in most developed countries but are most pronounced in the United States.  Recent data indicate that polarization has continued through the recovery: job growth has been stronger at the top and bottom ends of the wage distribution than in the middle.  The trends of disappearing middle-income jobs, stagnating wages and growing income inequality predated the Great Recession and are likely to persist even after the labor market has fully recovered, as measured by the quantity of jobs and the unemployment rate.  Without significant institutional and policy changes, supported by changes in social norms about wage inequality, the “new normal labor market” could feel a lot like the “old normal labor market” in terms of job quality for a large number of American workers.

(“The Quality of Jobs: The New Normal and the Old Normal” by Laura D’Adrea Tyson dated September 20, 2013 published by The New York Times at http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/the-quality-of-jobs-the-new-normal-and-the-old-normal/ )

In a government shutdown, the Treasury would be faced with the challenge of prioritizing payments since we could still pay the debt, but perhaps less essential programs would be defunded.  If there is a government shutdown, it would not be as calamitous as they make it sound, because the government will still provide “essential services.”  This could pose an opportunity for the government to redefine each agency and department’s roles and relevance, and if they are not essential, justifying their existence.  Defaulting on our debt is not a matter of “if,” but “when.”  According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research the government has $70 trillion in off-balance sheet liabilities, as of 2012.  This includes implicit and explicit government guarantees, as well entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.  Most of these programs can be statutorily amended before bankrupting the country, but given Congress’ “govern by crisis” habits, that’s not necessarily a wise assumption.  The time to act is now and this is why Republicans are picking a fight with the President over the debt ceiling.  This is one of the few tools they have to make any progress on cutting government spending.  If you incorporate the off-balance-sheet liabilities, our current debt-GDP ratio is over 500%.  The only way to operate a government with this type of debt is by extraordinary measures, and after a closer look, they look dangerous.  The US government already hit the debt limit on May 17, 2013 and the Treasury has been enacting “extraordinary measures” to buy extra time and money.  This slush fund consists mostly of accounting maneuvers.  Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times since 1960, but Congress is not obligated to raise the debt ceiling.  Another extraordinary measure the US Treasury is positioning itself to exert is even more dangerous than the example above and consists of shorting the dollar.  The government is so large and expansive that it can’t even produce a full list of all agencies, departments, and programs. There are plenty of nonessential programs and departments within government that can be made more efficient and stripped of waste, fraud and abuse. Before we raise the debt ceiling, let’s take a hard look at every dollar spent and justify it, instead of resorting to extraordinary measures and accounting gimmicks to stay afloat, let’s pick up our buckets and scoop out the budgetary waste that’s sinking the ship.

(“Don’t Believe the Hysterics, The Federal Government Will NOT shut down if the Debt Ceiling Isn’t Raised” by Perianne Boring dated September 19, 2013 published by Forbes at http://www.forbes.com/sites/perianneboring/2013/09/19/dont-believe-the-hysterics-the-federal-government-will-not-shut-down-if-the-debt-ceiling-isnt-raised/ )

 

The administration finally has released its rules for curbing CO2 emissions from U.S. power plants, but far from being a plan to clean up the environment, it is in fact a road map to de-industrialization and poverty.  Far from being an economically sensible plan to reduce U.S. pollution, this proposal will sharply raise the cost of energy to all Americans, while doing little to improve our environment.  Last year, the Institute for Energy Research estimated that the administration's "regulatory assault" on power plants would eliminate 35 gigawatts of electrical generating capacity, or 10% of all U.S. power.  The new EPA rules will make that even worse.  If you wonder why Obama has the worst jobs record of any President in modern history, look no further.  Even though the EPA already has extensive rules in place to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, it has no evidence that they had done anything to halt global warming.  This is a stunning admission that these regulations aren't about climate change at all, but rather part of an ideologically driven fight to tear the capitalist heart out of western civilization — plentiful energy, source of our highest-ever standard of living.  New coal-fired plants will be forced to use technology to trap carbon dioxide and bury it in the ground.  The problem is no coal-fired power plant has done this yet, in large part because of the cost, and also since the technology does not exist.  The U.S. has hundreds of years worth of low-cost coal to supply our energy needs, but the EPA has placed it off limits, thanks to another federal edict that will cost the economy hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs.

(“New Rules On Power Plants Will Kill Coal Industry” dated September 20, 2013 published by Investor’s Business Daily at http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/092013-671984-epa-rules-will-send-energy-costs-up-sharply.htm )

 

* 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:

·  Culture at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/philosophy.php

·  Abortion at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/abortion.php

·  Social Security at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/socialsecurity.php

·  Domestic Policy at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/policy.php

·  National Defense at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/fp/defense.php

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY

www.ReturnToCommonSensesite.com