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Views on the News

Views on the News*

October 5, 2013

 

There is plenty of anger to go around in this country, since the mood of the nation is one of anger from one end of the political spectrum to the other.  I have been trying to remember when there was so much anger between the Democrats and Republicans.  Maybe I should say between liberals and conservatives? Maybe I should say between the Tea Party and the Republican Party?  Maybe I should say those who find the President of the United States a contemptible liar who has diminished a once great superpower to an object of disrespect?  What is one to make of a White House senior advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, who compared Republicans to arsonists, hostage-takers, and suicide bombers?  The Majority Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, told Republicans that “There’s no need for conversations” telling them to send over a continuing resolution without defunding ObamaCare.  He has called Tea Party members of the House “anarchists.”  Meanwhile, Republicans who do not want to see the government shutdown are labeled “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only).  Instead of keeping the spotlight on the Democrats who foisted ObamaCare on us, we have been watching the Republican Party tear itself apart.  RedState’s Erick Erickson put it with his usual eloquences, about shining a light on the ‘cockroaches’ in the GOP.  Ted Cruz has spent months berating his own side as ‘appeasers’ who care only about ‘being invited to all the right cocktail parties in town.”  Hating Obama is not enough. Understanding how our republic works is essential.  The Tea Party came about initially as a protest against ObamaCare and then grew as a grassroots political movement that elected a number of those it supported to the House.  It is this bloc of votes that Speaker John Boehner has struggled to work with.  In the Senate, Tea Party members include Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Tom Coburn, Marco Rubio, and Pat Toomey.  Obama has many faults, but he has proven himself a master manipulator.  The general anger against ObamaCare will gain in momentum, but if the GOP is seen as a bunch of crazies, it will affect the outcome.  That’s the way it played out in 1964.  Until the GOP secures control of the Senate, the House, and the White House, ObamaCare will remain the law of the land, which is very bad news for all Americans and the future of America.

(“A Very Angry America” by Alan Caruba dated September 29, 2013 published by Canada Free Press at http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/58216 )

There certainly is no question that Barack Obama wants to change the United States, and this fundamental transformation is difficult, even when Obama entered office with large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, an enthralled media, and a closely divided Supreme Court. So how well has he succeeded in changing the United States?

·    Federal spending. We are $6 trillion more deeply in debt, and there are record numbers of Americans on food stamps, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance, or simply disengaged from the work force.  Obama has also fundamentally changed Americans’ ideas about the redistributive state.  After 2009, the regulations governing food stamps and welfare were liberalized and politicized as never before. These payouts were judged by increasing the number of recipients so as to change political realities.

·    Taxes and debt. Democrats usually wish to raise them, Republicans to shrink them. Under Obama, there is now a twist. Higher taxes are not a means to achieve a balanced budget.  We will still have huge annual deficits of two-thirds of a trillion dollars or more, because nearly half of Americans will continue to pay no federal income taxes, and the old Clinton rates were imposed only on the upper brackets, we have the worst of both worlds: high taxes on job creators, along with continuing huge deficits.  Taxes are seen now not just as a way to fund expenditures, but as a punitive tool.

·    Health care. ObamaCare is now an orphan disowned by most of its parents. The purpose of this vast new entitlement was not to ensure all Americans better health care, but instead a sort of health-care TSA bureaucracy, with more dependents, more federal workers, and higher redistributive taxes, in short, larger government.

·    Interest rates. Ostensibly, de facto zero interest rates are used as a stimulus for a moribund economy that so far seems oblivious to all the traditional liberal priming tools of massive borrowing, growth in federal spending, and more entitlements and public hiring.  Yet almost nonexistent interest rates have sharpened the class divide. The very wealthy have benefited enormously as capital streamed into the stock market in desperate search of almost any return.  The very poor do not depend on interest on savings as a hedge against inflation or as central to retirement.

·    The presidency. An imperial presidency is not new, but rule by executive fiat that escapes audit from the media is.  Various wars, on coal, guns, non-union businesses, and political opponents, are waged by executive action.  Obama has set the precedent of creating, ignoring, or defying laws as he sees fit to forward a progressive agenda.

·    Scandal.  Whether it is the Benghazi deception, the IRS scandal, the NSA disclosures, the AP monitoring, or Fast and Furious, a new precedent has been established that the public is supposed to weigh two considerations in assessing scandal: the truth versus the damage that the truth can do to a progressive vision of a fairer America.

·    Energy. Before Obama, natural gas and nuclear power were seen as preferable alternatives to oil and coal.  If new restrictions on reactors and a de facto end to the new federal leasing of land for oil and gas exploration are any indication, neither energy source is now acceptable.  The chief energy issues for the Obama administration are not national security, not energy independence, not greater competitiveness for American business, not savings for the American consumer, and not jobs.  Instead, whether a fuel might heat the atmosphere seems the sole concern.

·    Race.  The Obama administration has sought at opportune times to emphasize racial differences, mostly to secure the base for Obama’s own reelection and for midterm elections.  The result is that race relations have become more polarized than at any other time in the last 30 years.  The President’s goal has often been division, not unity.  We have reached a surreal situation of reading daily accounts of black-on-white crime in the media, reported by PC journalists who dare not mention the perpetrator’s race, followed by enraged readers’ comments that are the most patently racist in modern memory.

·    Illegal Immigration.  Before Obama, the debate over illegal immigration was mostly an argument between two schools: literalists who believed the law had to be enforced to its full extent, postfacto as well as preventatively, and realists who agreed in theory but felt that many of the 11 million who resided illegally in the U.S. could be given a pathway to citizenship, so long as they have no criminal record, have avoided public assistance, and could claim long residence — contingent on closing the border. Under Obama, illegal immigration has become a political if not a racially charged issue.  

·    Foreign policy. Fundamentally transforming the role of the U.S. means tilting toward countries that are suspicious of the Western tradition, and favoring groups and countries like Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Palestinians that have supposedly legitimate grievances against the United States.  The goal is the transformation of the U.S. into something like the EU, whose democratic socialism is failing and being dialed back.

·    Guns. The Obama administration has created a climate of fear, which has prompted hoarding, shortages, panic buying, and paranoia, which have accomplished what the federal government could not.

To what degree these changes will be reversed or institutionalized depends on the 2014 and 2016 elections, and for now, Obama’s transformations can be found not only in his legislative record, but also in the way we envision and talk about America.

(“Obama: Transforming America” by Victor Davis Hanson dated October 1, 2013 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/article/359967/obama-transforming-america-victor-davis-hanson )

A common failing of politicians in general and liberals in particular is to believe that passing legislation or issuing regulations that address some concern implies the problem has been solved, because unfortunately, in many cases legislation does little to solve problems and in some cases the legislation just causes different problems to take the place of the one addressed by the new laws.  The track record of regulation is not much better.  The lesson to be learned is that implementation of laws and regulations is where the actual problem solving must occur (if the problem is going to be solved by government intervention).  People need to stay focused on the problem until they see whether it is really fixed or not.

·    Only a few of the problems the Affordable Care Act was meant to address have been "solved," and many of the problems in our health care and medical insurance systems remain the same or worse than when the bill was signed. Aggregate spending on health care has not declined and the number of uninsured remains roughly the same as it was before the law.  The Obama Administration is putting out regulations, interpretations, waivers, and explanations designed to move implementation forward.  Implementation is hard and new problems pop up every time they think an old problem is solved.

·    Gun control bills have been passed repeatedly by Congress and by many state legislators. Passing laws is easy, but it is also consistently ineffective at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

·    Laws have been passed to raise the minimum wage, provide for welfare, disability payments, and food aid, to fund job training and subsidize education. In total, government has transferred roughly $15 trillion over the last fifty years from high earners to the poor. Yet poverty remains stubbornly unaffected by all this legislation.

·    Over one hundred countries signed the Kyoto Treaty on climate change but little has been accomplished to reduce the greenhouse gasses it was designed to reduce.

·    The No Child Left Behind Act was the federal government's most involved and most expensive piece of legislation designed to improve K-12 education nationwide.  The outcomes have been so disappointing that the Obama Administration is waiving the law for any state that asks.

·    Prohibition was not successful at stopping people from drinking and our current drug laws have had a similarly spotty record at reducing the use of drugs.  The point of the laws was to reduce or eliminate the use of the specified drugs, and at this they have failed more than they have succeeded.

·    The federal government has recently been trying to expand the green energy industry by legislation that provided government funds and loan guarantees to companies in this area to fund both production and research.  A large number of green energy companies that received government funding have gone bankrupt or fallen short of their goals. Most of the government funding to green energy companies appears to have been wasted or used poorly and the results so far are nearly nonexistent.

·    Laws designed to nudge us into better eating habits is another area where legislation does not seem to have solved the problem. Evidence is that laws requiring restaurants to provide nutrition information on their menus did not lead us to consume fewer calories.

I do not mean to suggest that legislation never leads to problems being solved. Sometimes it works, either because the law is well-crafted or because the implementation is well done. In many cases legislation has left problems unsolved or even created new and larger problems than we started with. Too often liberals assume that all problems can and should be solved with legislation and government intervention, and then believe the problem is solved as soon as a new law is passed, but in reality time and again has proven this belief to be false.

(“Don’t Ever Confuse Legislation with Problem Solving” by Jeffrey Dorfman dated September 30, 2013 published by Real Clear Markets at http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2013/09/30/dont_ever_confuse_legislation_with_problem_solving_100635.html )

 

Much has been written regarding the economy and the Fed's Quantitative Easing (QE) policy with the stock market as proof of economic growth.  As John Adams said, "facts are stubborn things;" and since the laws of economics are as certain as gravity, another perspective might offer some differing conclusions.  Record market highs do not reflect wealth creation, productivity gains, or profitability via robust sales, and flat GDP numbers and high unemployment rates provide proof the market is, as always, a reflection of what the future holds.  The lure of large valuation increases and profit potential has furthered the rally, and the profitability seen in short-term gains has provided a false positive test of market strength.  The misallocation of capital into the market is the result of two basic facts: investors and business feeling there is no safer place to put their cash because of the risk involved in expanding and hiring workers in an uncertain economy and unprecedented money creation by the Fed which is re-inflating the bank's balance sheets, making them a healthy profit without the pesky need to lend.  The initial Fed stabilization policies to avert another depression were probably warranted.  However, the excess dollars created and caused by the command economists at the Fed under soft-sounding euphemisms like Operation Twist and Quantitative Easing only appear to be under control.  What is "unseen" is that all the dollars created are being held in a vacuum; with any violation unleashing an explosion of high inflation and soaring interest rates.  In the short term, those owning stocks have built a hedge, the banking system is fat and happy, and the U.S. Treasury has benefitted from monetizing the debt and low interest rates, but the American consumer is about to get hammered again as his purchasing power is devastated.  Couple this to stagnant wages and few job opportunities, and the economy may lock up.  All the economic sleight of hand going on may create a false sense of security, but the laws of supply and demand do not change just because the supply is money and the demand has not yet materialized. 

(“You Can’t Keep Drinking Forever” by Dean Kalahar dated September 28, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2013/09/you_cant_keep_drinking_forever.html )

 

Government data indicate that the U.S. remains far from winning the longest war in its history: the war on poverty, and throwing money at the problem without a clear definition of success is a mistake.  The latest line of argument from defenders of the welfare system is that we are measuring poverty inaccurately; counting welfare as income, they suggest, would show that we are winning the war on poverty.  With the coming of the debt ceiling and proposed reforms to the government's food stamp program, there is a serious debate unfolding about what the government should do to bring people out of poverty.  Census data for 2012 have just been released showing that poverty levels have remained persistently high at 15%. Nearly 48 million Americans find themselves on the food stamp rolls, and the numbers have been on an upward trajectory.  At the same time, Republicans in Congress are pushing through changes to the food stamp program that would create stronger work requirements, time limits, and stricter eligibility requirements for those receiving other government benefits. The rate of poverty should rightly be a measure of those people in need of assistance because they have little or no income of their own.  Economic dependency is hardly something to be celebrated or tolerated.  Most Americans would agree that winning the war on poverty would mean getting people jobsThe negative uproar over the reforms to the food stamp program gives insufficient consideration to the negative externalities of welfare spending in general.  The current system of government welfare, of which SNAP is but one piece, distorts incentives so that it effectively discourages people from joining the workforce. A recent Cato Institute study found that in 35 states, a recipient of typically available welfare support would be receiving more income than that available through a minimum-wage job or other entry-level positions.   In 39 states, welfare pays better than the starting salary for a secretary; in 3 states, it pays more than a position as an entry-level computer programmer.  Limited and prudent support for individuals experiencing periods of unemployment makes sense, conomically, and morally; but the data indicate that there is a point at which that support siphons away the economic incentive for a recipient to find a job and the programs become self-defeating, and this is how you lose a war on poverty.

(“Keeping the Poor Poor (Until They’re Not)” by Paul Ciarcia dated September 30, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/09/keeping_the_poor_poor_until_theyre_not.html )

The democratic countries of the world today may be heading towards a possible recurrence of a policy of appeasement, concessions made to an enemy or potential enemy in order to avoid a conflict or a resort to hostilities.  The image of the supine pessimistic British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain needs to be remembered.  It was he who submitted to and acquiesced in a policy that turned out to be disastrous, bringing war not peace.  Since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979, the Iranian leaders have made no secret of their attitude to the State of Israel.  When Ayatollah Khomeini took power in 1979 he cut off all official relations with Israel which he called an enemy of Islam and a little Satan, a friend of the Great Satan, the United States.  The present supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has restated this opinion with even stronger language.  He sees Israel as a cancerous tumor in the heart of the Islamic world.  Once again Israel is the political canary of the world, warning of the danger to other countries.  It is aware of the reluctance of many countries to accept the realities of Iranian behavior, and rather prefer to accept the "pledge" of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that Iran would never build nuclear weapons and his statement that its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes.  Rouhani's softer tone and conciliatory words do not disguise the reality that Iran is on the path to and may soon be in possession of nuclear weapons that might eliminate the "tumor" of Israel.  It is clear that Iran will continue to control its nuclear program unless it is prevented by Western actions.  At a moment when the Arab states have been weakened as a result of the turmoil after the "Arab spring," when Egypt is incapable of action, when Turkey has become more insular, the international community must be prepared to take action and prevent the possibility of a nuclear armed Iran capable of committing a new genocide.

(“No Appeasement of Iran” by Michael Curtis dated October 3, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/10/no_appeasement_of_iran.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:

·  Elections at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/elections.php

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY

www.ReturnToCommonSensesite.com