RTCS

Views on the News

October 2, 2010

Views on the News*

Barack Obama’s popularity has cratered faster and deeper than any President in recent history, and the reasons are a mixture of both the personal and political. The reasons revolve around five distinct areas:

·    A bad agenda. Nearly every issue the president embraces polls against him, often at a 3-1 margin. Cap-and-trade, amnesty, state-run health care, more bailouts, takeovers, taxes, deficits, and the national debt. The answer to every challenge is to found a new program, borrow billions to run it, hire millions more loyal to the progressive gospel of public employment, and demagogue any who oppose it.

·    Anything, anytime. The president does not conduct himself in a sober and judicious manner and neither do those around him. On any given day he can slur Arizonans as wanting to round up innocents on the way to ice cream. He can slander police as stupidly acting stereotypers. The attorney general can call us cowards and swear without reading a bill that it profiles the innocent. Legitimate worry over a Ground Zero mosque translates into anti-constitutional efforts to stifle freedom of worship. Those with money, defined by an arbitrary annual income level of $250,000, owe the rest of us their ill-gotten gains. Surgeons transmogrify into tonsil-loppers, insurers are greedy, investors are put back at the end of the creditor line; all are worthy of a boot on their necks and a kick in the ass.

·    There is no eloquence, period. The President himself suffers from three rhetorical liabilities. He simply cannot leave the teleprompter, even for a second. To do so means that “like a dog” petulance immediate spews forth. Second, the divergence from his sort of nerdy Harvard Law Review wonk-talk and his Reverend Wright black liberation preaching is simply too shrill to suggest that he is modulating Hillary-like for audiences. Third, he cannot leave the campaign mode, so all his lectures are rehashes of “hope-and-change,” Bush did it, I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my, my and spiced with the now tedious “Let Me Be Perfectly Clear” and “Make No Mistake About It,” as if we are inattentive school children.

·    His team is imploding. We heard all last year about “Team of Rivals” as if he collected brilliant and ambitious contrarians, and by sheer force of brilliance brew administrative excellence. Orszag, Summers, and Romer are going or have gone. Geithner will leave too. Emanuel will be out, and leak to the world that his pragmatic “genius” was rejected. The so-called centrists like Gates and Jones will leave soon, before the reckoning of a Carter 1979 year comes due. Hillary will leave unless there is a rebound back over 50%.

·    Obama has been lucky but it won’t last. His bad war he campaigned against is essentially over in Iraq, and was by the time he entered office. The good war he wanted at in Afghanistan heated up when we turned his focus to it. The financial panic of September 15 was largely calm at the end of 120 days, and before Obama took office. The recession officially ended in June 2009. What then happened is that we took a deep downturn and turned it into something akin to European stasis by borrowing trillions more dollars and investing in redistributive schemes that destroyed incentives while terrifying entrepreneurs.

The real question is what will happen next? World tensions may explode anywhere: China-Japan, North-South Korea, Iran and its neighbors, Russian expansionism, another Mideast war, a crack-up in the EU. There will be a lot of jostling as nations try to make re-adjustments in the new climate of anything goes. Now Obama faces one of the most vicious midterm elections in memory and voters are anxious to send a message to stop the damage.

(“President 40/60” by Victor Davis Hanson dated September 27, 2010 published by Pajamas Media at http://pajamasmedia.com/victordavishanson/president-4060/ )

Obama has overpromised and under-delivered on countless issues such as the economy, job creation, healthcare reform and transparency and, after 19 months of teleprompted platitudes, Obama has surrendered all credibility regarding the economy and Americans are skeptical of his latest promises. For many Americans this has been the summer of discovery, not recovery. The rosy glow from electing the first African American President has faded and the failures and the flaws of Obama’s economic policies and Obama’s economic team have been exposed. Americans are painfully aware that the 3.5 million jobs that Obama promised have not been created. Americans are also painfully aware that the 3.5 million jobs weren’t saved either. Americans have seen that the shovel ready projects weren’t very ready and that transparency is a lot easier to talk about than to achieve. But what is most likely apparent to all Americans is that Obama has made mistakes. Any experienced CEO knows that mistakes happen, that oftentimes plans don’t materialize as anticipated, and a course correction is required to save the enterprise. But Obama does not seem to have learned this lesson. As recently as last week, the President is still stumping, still trying to convince Americans that his economic recovery policies are working. We’ve come a long way since December 2008 when Obama named his “dream team” of economic advisors, claiming to have selected “leaders who could offer both sound judgment and fresh thinking, both a depth of experience and a wealth of bold, new ideas,” Since July, most of the architects of the Obama Administration economic strategy for recovery have resigned. Instead, what Americans have seen is failed leadership at all levels of the Obama Administration’s economic policy team and a lack of innovation. The team may have had its internal squabbles, but they were united in their flawed beliefs that more government intervention, subsidies and control would be the cure to all economic ills. They were wrong and the country has suffered as a result. There comes a point when Obama Administration’s statements simply aren’t credible and our President, who reads them off the teleprompter each day, isn’t credible either and until he admits that his policies aren’t working, and some changes are going to have to be made, Obama will not be trusted by many Americans.

(“Obama’s Summer of Surrender” by Lurita Doan dated September 27, 2010 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/LuritaDoan/2010/09/27/obama%E2%80%99s_summer_of_surrender )

 

The American Dream is the glue that keeps this country all together; it's the vague promise that our lot will get better over time that gives us the patience to endure whatever indignities we suffer at the moment. It's the belief that our kids will have a better chance in life than we do that keeps the many elements of this diverse, highly competitive society from ultimately tearing each other apart. More than anything else, it's the fabled dream that fuses hundreds of millions of separate, even competing individual dreams into one national collective enterprise. An ABC News and Yahoo opinion poll this week showed that 43% of those surveyed thought that “the American Dream” is a thing of the past, and although it “once held true” but no longer does. Only half the country believes the American Dream “still exists,” according to the poll. This isn't the first opinion survey whose findings suggest that our social glue has begun to lose its grip. The signs began to arise well before the Great Recession because in 2006, a CNN poll found that over half of respondents thought the American Dream was no longer attainable for most Americans. Though a certain level of income inequality is necessary for competition because without it, there'd be little incentive to strive, too much not only diminishes the size of the middle class, which is something like the nation's social rudder, it challenges the very idea of ourselves as a nation. Undermining the perception of the American dream is the redefinition of terms such as poverty, security, success, etc. to increase unhappiness and dissatisfaction which are then used by government as a basis for change and instability.

(“Obama and the American dream in reverse” dated September 24, 2010 published by Reuters at http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2010/09/24/obama-and-the-american-dream-in-reverse/

The American dream: Is it slipping away?” by Gregory Rodriquez dated September 27, 2010 published by Los Angeles Times at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-rodriguez-dream-20100927,0,1797219.column )

The only hope for American democracy lay in a revival of the middle class, particularly what were once known as middle-class virtues and the Tea Party movement is taking the lead. The Tea Party is the leading edge of a "Great Awakening" in America. This great awakening is not religious in nature; it is purely secular. It deals not with church institutions, but with our government; not with the enlivening of ancient scriptures, but with bringing to life our founding documents; not with each individual's incorporation into a congregation, but rather our relationships within our local communities; not with eternal salvation, but with liberty experienced in the here and now. It is the elites who are the materialists and the Tea Party/middle-class American who is prepared to sacrifice for our grandchildren's freedom and prosperity. The very idea of virtue, and other absolutes, has fallen into disfavor with the elites. Middle-class values are being hollowed out by a value-neutral educational system preaching multiculturalism. Their replacement is a narcissistic values-based on self-gratification and worshipful of fame and celebrity as the ultimate values in a world devoid of deeper meaning. The middle class's antiquated values of hard work, family, faith, community are a possible bulwark. What we are witnessing is the antithesis of elite-driven greedy self-serving government debt creation, multiculturalism and soulless globalism. The Tea Party movement is asserting middle-class values, economic nationalism, patriotism and other concepts derided by post-modern elitists. The Tea Party movement's central tenets of small government, decentralization of power and end to profligate spending are precisely what is needed to restore American democracy. Many people now see that our nation is at a crossroads: Our personal liberties, economic prosperity and the place of the United States within the world are at risk. Their eyes have been opened to the reckless stewardship of the political class in Washington, which, by creating an ever-growing government with massive, unsustainable entitlements, sweeping unintelligible legislative reforms and volume after volume of free-market-choking regulations, has charted this ill-fated course toward its progressive vision for America. The elite's fear and loathing of the Tea Party movement is rooted in the recognition that the real change is only now coming. They are right to be fearful, for the ultimate outcome of the Tea Party's triumph will be to constrain the elite's economic and cultural hegemony. This reversal of fortune, with power flowing from the elites back to the middle class, will take time to fully manifest itself, but an inexorable movement has begun. History will show that the Obama Presidency is both the high watermark, and the beginning of the end, for elite multicultural materialism in America.

(“Tea Party Has Elites on the Run” by Tony Blankley dated September 29, 2010 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/TonyBlankley/2010/09/29/tea_party_has_elites_on_the_run

We are all Tea Partiers now” by Doug Mainwaring dated September 30, 2010 published by The Washington Times at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/sep/30/we-are-all-tea-partiers-now/ )

 

Since the “Pledge to America” release this week, reactions have ranged from mild satisfaction that the GOP appears attuned to Tea Party concerns to doubt that Congressional Republicans will follow through on the policies outlined in the pledge to grumbling that it’s stealing the thunder of a more aggressive Tea Party-produced document called the "Contract from America." The pledge is not a call to arms for revolutionaries. The pledge does not advocate the elimination of the Department of Energy or Department of Education, call for private Social Security accounts or suggest the transformation of federal entitlement programs. The pledge is a document designed to put forth a strong alternative to the Obama/Pelosi excesses without alienating independent voters who went with Obama in 2008 but now find themselves disillusioned. It was written not for Tea Partiers, but for Americans who, though disenchanted with Obama, still remember why they voted for Republicans two years ago and need to regain trust which in itself is very encouraging. Republicans in Washington seem to be learning and unlike the party in power at the moment, they seem to be listening, which is the first prerequisite of learning. One of the defining characteristics of the Tea Party has been frustration with what activists see as the Republican establishment’s complicity in federal spending increases, not only under President Barack Obama and the Democrat Congress, but dating to the Bush administration and Republican Congress. Any conservative looking at the pledge should conclude that it’s pretty good: it’s not radical; it is not libertarian; and it has flaws. The pledge focuses largely on the fiscal and limited government issues around which the Tea Party arose. While it embraces some of causes popular among movement activists such as its call to repeal the Democrat health care overhaul, capping federal spending, extending the Bush tax cuts, subjecting legislation to constitutional review, rejecting efforts to limit carbon emission and setting up a carbon credit market, it avoids others that could turn off more moderate voters. It doesn’t go far enough on economic growth or government reform; it doesn’t even mention earmarks; and some of the changes could be easy to get around. So the Pledge to America is not a great document, but it’s a pretty good one and it gives Republicans a middle ground to run between the Democrats’ extremism on the Left and what might generally be called the Tea Party movement’s more conservative activism on the Right.

(“GOP’s Pledge to America” by Andrew Cline dated September 24, 2010 published by Front Page Magazine at http://frontpagemag.com/2010/09/24/the-gops-pledge-to-america/

Tea party cool to GOP pledge” by Kenneth P. Vogel dated September 25, 2010 published by Politico at http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/42700.html )

 

In a little more than 90 days, taxes on incomes, capital gains, dividends, and estates are going to rise; not just for some families but for every family, and the Democrats haven’t lifted a finger to stop it or even written a bill to amend it. Let’s examine what the 111th Congress has accomplished so far:

·    There was a $1 trillion stimulus bill that failed to jumpstart the economy.

·    There was a $1 trillion health care overhaul that the public did not want.

·    There was a financial bill that gave huge amounts of power to unelected regulators.

·    Now the Democrats who run Congress have decided to leave Washington without doing anything to prevent the largest tax increase in history.

·    God only knows what they are planning for an encore.

It’s amazing: the Democrats have no problem passing unpopular legislation, but when they are charged with doing something that the public actually wants, such as preventing the coming tax hike, they turn to jelly. The chances for a Congressional compromise are nil, at least until after the election. It’s a decision that reveals the depth of the Democrats’ ideological commitment. One of the President’s favorite lines during the tax debate has been that Republicans are holding tax cuts for the middle class “hostage” to tax cuts for the rich. However events have proven that it’s the Democrat leadership and Obama who are holding taxpayers hostage. It’s the Democrat leadership and Obama who would rather have taxes rise on everyone than extend current tax rates for everyone including the wealthy. The government raises taxes on things they want to discourage, like cigarettes, so increasing taxes on capital gains and dividends are a clear formula for a higher cost of capital which means less capital will be employed and fewer jobs. The result is less output, less income and larger government deficits as fewer tax dollars flow into government coffers. This obsessive focus on income redistribution has divided the Democrats and left them in the grip of a political panic. Notice how the actual, real-life, day-to-day economic fortunes of 300 million Americans do not figure in the Democrats’ philosophical and partisan calculations. When Americans elected Obama they didn’t realize at the time was that they were also emboldening an arrogant, belligerent liberalism. It’s a liberalism that believes all answers to political questions have been scientifically decided, in the liberals’ favor. What’s the legacy of the 111th Congress: the economy remains weak; government has grown larger and is no more effective; more lobbyists than ever are feeding at the trough; corruption still exists; trust in institutions keeps falling; Congress can’t pass a budget, and it can’t prevent a tax increase. Democrats try to blame Republican opposition but the reason Democrats have failed is that big-government liberalism has been exposed, over and over, as an inadequate response to the challenges of our times.

(“The Tax Hikes Cometh” by Matthew Continetti dated October 4, 2010 published by The Weekly Standard at http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/tax-hikes-cometh

’Fairness’ at an unfair cost” by Ralph R. Reiland dated September 27, 2010 published by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/s_701191.html )

The federal taxes you pay do not go to the run the federal government, but instead really go out in payments to other people since Washington is redistributing even more wealth than it takes in. Nothing is left to pay the more than 2 million federal civilian employees, the armed forces or otherwise run the government. The Office of Management and Budget calls the category "Payments for Individuals" which includes more than 100 antipoverty programs such as welfare, food stamps and Medicaid, plus tens of billions each year for "tax credits" to people who pay no income tax. The bulk of the federal tax revenue goes to Social Security and Medicare, but also to unemployment benefits, student assistance and day-care payments, to name a few. Only about 6% or 7% is for items arguably related to delivery of (past) government services mainly veterans' benefits and civil-service retirement checks. This year, the feds will spend $2.39 trillion in PFIs, at 16.4% of GDP, which exceeds federal revenues. The difference, 1.6% of GDP, amounts to about $228 billion more than they collect per year in taxes, on just PFIs. What has all this redistribution accomplished?

·    It's lowered overall prosperity by robbing the entrepreneurial class of incentives, which has resulted in less business expansion and fewer jobs.

·    It's helped grow a vast nanny state by creating a convenient co-dependency between it and the poor.

·    It's kept the poor where they are, by eliminating the incentive for work, and stripped them of their dignity.

·    It's taken a terrible toll on the middle class which is taxed to death to pay for it all, and has ended up with the same share of a smaller pie.

Taxes are for running the business of government, not for politicians to award as favors while talking about "fairness." It is high time liberals give up pretending their redistribution is evening the score, and focus on equalizing opportunities, not outcomes.

(“Where your taxes all go” by Stephen B. Meister dated September 29, 2010 published by New York Post at http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/where_your_taxes_all_go_YyQCyjIHUNnHbVbhJv0qNI )

 

At the crossroads the Middle East is approaching: in the Iranian nuclear program, the Afghan War, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the internal political evolution in Pakistan, Iraq, and Turkey, there is a confusing glimpse of what the world’s most turbulent region looks like as American influence conducts an orderly retreat. All present indications are that the Obama administration is not prepared to interdict militarily the Iranian acquisition of a deliverable nuclear military capability, and also lacks the political muscle or ingenuity to persuade the necessary powers of the virtues of what Secretary Clinton boldly described in more purposeful recent times as “crippling sanctions.” President Obama has muddied the waters with a lot of hopeful but rather vapid talk of nuclear disarmament, which the Russians are prepared to join in as long as it reduces American nuclear superiority, but not further; and to which no other present or imminent nuclear power will accord the slightest credence. The effort to arm the friendly Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and Emirates, with intermediate missile defenses (THAAD) is a sensible step. But to the extent that the administration thinks that it will be an adequate balm to the host countries’ concerns about nuclear-warhead-equipped ayatollahs in Tehran, it is another dangerous fantasy. Now that Iran, whose leadership speaks glibly of a love of death and of its intention to obliterate Israel is thrusting into the nuclear club, to the apparent indifference of most of the neighboring countries that have the most at risk from such a move (i.e., Russia, China, and India), all doors and windows will be open. If the U.S. sits like a great jelly while Iran arms up, there is only one happy ending to this chapter: The Arab powers may set aside the insane preoccupation with the red herring of Israel that has enabled them to distract the Arab masses from their chronic national failures and general misgovernment for the past 60 years, and pressure the Palestinians into a sensible land-for-peace deal in exchange for Israel’s knocking out the Iranian nuclear capability and returning as often as necessary to keep it down. On Afghanistan the idea to want to “nation-build,” or to stay ten years, or to spend a trillion dollars, in Afghanistan is a non-starter. The U.S. shows no signs of being prepared to pay down its mountain of debt, and is every year forfeiting the natural respect it acquired in the 1940s and maintained to the end of the 20th century as the world’s undisputed leader. The U.S. cannot afford to masquerade as a decisive influence where it does not have the will or judgment to assert such an influence. Unless new leadership arises in the next election to end the current-account deficit and unsustainable oil imports, reorient the country to physical production and less unproductive “services,” and redesign alliances to contemporary needs and real possibilities, it may be forced to continue the orderly withdrawal already in progress. It was the indispensable country to the West, in 1917–18, and 1939–90, but it is largely dispensable now, and is providing no discernibly useful leadership at all. If the U.S. rediscovers its aptitude for successful and innovative internationalism, it can raise its level of involvement. The trend to decentralization of national influences relieves the U.S. of the burdens of a superpower and provides regional balances that can be influenced from Washington with relatively little exertion, but the current level of official amateurism, if allowed to continue indefinitely, is going to lead to needless disaster.

(“U.S. Lead or Get Out of the Way” by Conrad Black dated September 30, 2010 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/248110/u-s-lead-or-get-out-way-conrad-black )

 

* 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:

·  Bibliography at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/welcome/bibliography.php

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

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

·  United Nations at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/fp/unitednations.php

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY

www.ReturnToCommonSensesite.com