Views on the News

October 8, 2011

Views on the News*

Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign was grounded in meaningless platitudes, such as "hope and change," while his 2012 re-election effort is grounded in meaningful platitudes centered in the destructive politics of class warfare. Despite his best efforts to paint his abominable economic record in a favorable light, Obama simply cannot run on it, unless he succeeds in completely changing the traditional yardsticks by which we have always measured economic success: growth, unemployment, inflation and general prosperity. He'll continue to milk his militant class-warfare theme, hoping to shift our focus from the unemployment, economic stagnation and thunderous debt he's orchestrated to our baser instincts of jealousy, greed and envy. To be sure, Obama has paid lip service to America as a land of opportunity, just as he assured us he was a fierce advocate of the free market. But he has labored to convert America from a land of equal opportunity to one where the government equalizes economic outcomes. He has set out to achieve his goal not through a process of gentle persuasion, but by polarization and intense demonization of those who have enjoyed economic success. Liberals such as Obama would have us believe that they enthusiastically embrace the American ideal and that they just want to expand the safety net a little bit to help the poor. They are the champions of the middle class. With their decades-long track record of failure, they no longer get a pass for their allegedly good intentions. If you listen to him or any number of his advisers and associates, you can't help but notice a marked contempt for big corporations, bankers, the "wealthy" and every other symbol of business and capitalism that he can incite the "proletariat" against. Obama knows he's stoking the flames of class warfare almost every time he opens his mouth today. He knows that the lion's share of his economic policies are not even geared toward promoting economic growth and prosperity. They are designed to grow government and increase its control over our lives and to "spread the wealth around." That's his vision for America, which explains why in his view, under his perverse yardsticks, he is not failing, though America, by any conventional measure, manifestly is. In 2012, American voters are going to have a clear choice of whether America will restore itself as a glorious land of individual liberty and equal opportunity or continue down Obama's suicidal path of poverty and tyranny.

(“May 2012 Be a Referendum on Obama’s Perverse Vision for America” by David Limbaugh dated October 2, 2011 published by Human Events at http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=46570 )

In the Occupy Wall Street (aka “Days of Rage”) movement, the Left has found its own tea party, as pathetic and ineffectual that it is. MoveOn.org and some unions have embraced the protesters. The left-wing Campaign for America’s Future is featuring them at its conference devoted to reinvigorating progressivism. This is a sign either of desperation to find anyone on the left still energized after three years of Hope and Change, or of a lack of standards, or both. The Left’s tea party is a juvenile rabble, a woolly-headed horde that has been laboring to come up with one concrete demand on the basis of its “horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based system with roots in anarchist thought.” Occupy Wall Street is a project of people who do little besides protest. One Occupy Wall Street veteran was heard telling a newcomer: “It doesn’t matter what you’re protesting. Just protest.” That captures the coherence of the exercise, which is a giant, ideologically charged, post-adolescent sleepover complete with face paint and pizza deliveries. The Tea Party had such an impact because it had a better claim on the middle of America than its adversaries. It wrapped itself in our history and patriotic trappings. It plugged in to the political system and changed the course of the country in the 2010 elections. Occupy Wall Street is not a real answer because it represents an ill-defined, free-floating radicalism. It is ironic that the Democrats have embraced this clueless mob that is disconnected, incoherent, and disappointed in their fate, when the Democrats are the architects and supporters of the economic collapse they protest against. Occupy Wall Street is toxic and pathetic, anti-capitalist and anti-American, the perfect distillation of an American Left in extremis, and its fuzzy endpoint is a “socialist revolution” no one can precisely describe, but the thrust of which is overturning our system of capitalism as we know it.

(“The Left’s Pathetic Tea Party” by Rich Lowry dated October 4, 2011 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/279057/left-s-pathetic-tea-party-rich-lowry )

In the last few years, as promised, the Obama administration has fundamentally transformed America, which unfortunately drove our country into a serious decline. Income is lower, unemployment is higher, jobs are fewer, government is much larger. Federal spending is way up, and America's economic status is way down, as is the global view of our country and our economy. Hardly anyone sees any sign of economic recovery or improvement. Total government spending averaged about 19% of gross domestic product from 1996 to 2007 and rose to about 21% in 2008. In the three years of the Obama administration, it has soared to 25%. The administration is focused on its increasing control of health care, propping up labor unions, increasing taxes, and expanding the scope and size of government. In the first 70 years of the 20th century, American and European economic growth increased together, but then the Europeans shifted toward socialism, and their growth lagged. But with America is rapidly moving toward the European model, we are starting to see its detrimental impact. President Obama's recent spending and tax policy proposals would only make things worse. The Obama administration's position is that throughout this recovery the U.S. can have the highest corporate tax on earth, a big regulatory crackdown, and a vast expansion of labor-union power and still expect a positive jobs story because of cash-for-clunkers and green jobs. The most recent jobs report indicates how much damage that view has done. Obama’s new jobs plan proposals are a continuation of his old policies, policies that sadly have extended the recession, stifled economic growth, and will, for some years, have weakened America.

(“More of the Same Old Change” by Pete Du Pont dated September 30, 2011 published by The Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204422404576597781965791022.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_BelowLEFTSecond )

For a success, Barack Obama is a very bad politician, the worst politician to win the Presidency by an electoral landslide, to never lose a major election, or to rise to the Presidency from a state legislature in little more than four years. He has gone from sterling campaigner to put-upon leader; from the new FDR to the next Jimmy Carter; from being the orator who could hold millions spellbound to the man who moves no one at all. The man who promised everything is delivering nothing. Journalists who wept when he won the election now grind their teeth in despair. The gap between sizzle and steak never seemed so large or alarming, and inquiring minds want to know what went wrong.  Pundits predicted a decades-long liberal dominance.  Newsweek proclaimed us all socialists. At the same time as this massive swing towards the Democrat ticket, polls showed that the ideological split remained where it had been in the Clinton/Bush era: self-identified conservatives around 41%, moderates around 37%, liberals around 21%. Many people who voted for Obama were not in fact liberal, but centrist or center-right voters unnerved by the crash and the chaos in the Republican party, and drawn to Obama’s misleading aura of calm. This meant there was also a split in Obama’s electorate: The progressives liked his liberal ideas, the centrists his so-called “conservative” temperament; the progressives wanted transformation, the centrists stability; the progressives wanted the government grown, the centrists wanted the economy stabilized; the centrists were prepared for the small shift to the left that comes with the usual change from a center-right to a left-center government, the progressives were bent on sweeping and radical change.  Good politicians are in sync with their times, understand them, and deal with their challenges, but Obama is at odds, and often at war, with his own. In an age when debt is a problem, he is a big spender; when government has to cut back, he wants to expand both its expense and its reach. Nothing that happens appears to deter him, not the massive pushback from the American people in the 2009 and 2010 elections; not the crisis in Europe, kicked off by the collapse of Greece’s finances in April 2010, which caused an austerity panic all over Europe, and should have driven home the most cogent of lessons: that exactly as he was trying to turn his country into a social democracy like those of old Europe, which the American left had long admired, the European social democracies had been forced to admit that their model could not be sustained.  The result is that Obama is now an outlier among the world’s leaders: the one head of a first world industrial nation who is not calling for cutbacks and thrift. What went wrong in the first place was that too much went right. He never was able to learn from adversity, as he never saw any. He never learned to build and maintain coalitions; they simply assembled around him. He never argued people around from different positions, he simply inspired them to vague aspirations. He never passed laws, much less tried to enforce them. His idea of leading was making a speech. Miraculous things seemed to happen around him: In his breakout run that made him a national figure, he faced opposition from candidates who were sidelined by scandals before he could face them. Other Presidents have failed by doing too little or nothing; Obama is the first to do himself in through hyperactivity; and for a success, he is a triumph of marketing and surely a failed politician.

(“Overrated” by Noemie Emery dated October 10, 2011 published by The Weekly Standard at http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/overrated_594676.html?nopager=1 )


Politicians are addicted to OPM (Other People’s Money” - the acquisition, the rationalization for confiscation, and most of all, the spending. The problems associated with how the government spends money are not the result of who's running the government because the problems are systemic, and unless government is seriously downsized, waste and inefficiency will remain problems no matter which party is in power. In 2004, the late Milton Friedman explained the root cause of many government problems:

There are four ways to spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself (S1). When you do that, why you really watch out for what you're doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else (S2). For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well then, I'm not so careful about the content of the present, but I'm very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else's money on myself (S3). And if I spend somebody else's money on myself, then I'm going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else's money on somebody else (S4). And if I spend somebody else's money on somebody else, I'm not concerned about how much it costs, and I'm not concerned about what I get. And that's government. And that's close to 40% of our national income.”

As Friedman explains, the effectiveness of how money is spent declines inexorably as you move from S1 to S4. The important demarcation line in ways money can be spent is between S2 and S3. In other words, the issue that matters most is your money versus someone else's money. If you're spending your own money on someone else, your spouse or children, for example, you still take the expenditure seriously. You still pay a price if you don't look for bargains. When it's your own money you're spending, it costs you something when you spend it foolishly. When we spend our own money foolishly, we're left with less money to spend well. It's a self-policing structure. When a politician or bureaucrat spends taxpayer money it's treated essentially a freebie. It's only natural that taxpayer money gets treated like monopoly money. Politicians and bureaucrats have virtually no incentive to care about the value of an expenditure or its cost. A new Gallup survey finds that "Americans believe, on average, that the federal government wastes 51 cents of every tax dollar.” This is a profound disadvantage of public spending that will never, ever go away. The vast regulatory apparatus of the government is basically a system of spending someone else's money on someone else. It is estimated that government regulations currently cost the economy $1.7 trillion a year. When you spend your own money (or time) on yourself, or for your loved ones, the process is essentially self-regulating. The incentives are automatically aligned with waste minimization. When such incentives are not present, elaborate and complex systems of rules and artificial punishments must be put in their place, but there can never be enough rules and regulations to match the effectiveness and elegance of the self-regulating market.

(“Friedman’s Four Ways” by Ron Ross dated October 5, 2011 published by The American Spectator at http://spectator.org/archives/2011/10/05/friedmans-four-ways )


In order to achieve some level of fiscal integrity in our federal budget, the first change that must be accepted is the ability to “just say no.” Federal entitlements, which comprise 60% of the budget, have been correctly identified as the root cause of our growing annual deficit. We certainly need to enact significant reforms of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Our Congress, far more comfortable with trading favors than budgetary discipline, continues to underwrite pointless expenses when what we need more than ever is the ghost of Susan Powter to descend over our capital, screaming “Stop the Insanity!” There are many examples of our irrational spending habits:

·    FAA funding - Congress went home for their August break without an agreement on an FAA funding bill, leaving 4,000 federal employees out of work for 13 days. The key issue was the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars for construction and operation of airports so remotely located that they are, in effect, rarely used.

·    The Postal Service - The USPS was transformed in 1971 as an independent, self-supporting entity, which last year was underwritten by $8 billion. Congress should have dictated a balanced budget for the service years ago, but individual members demand that underutilized post offices remain open and that money-losing services are maintained. If this boondoggle weren’t subsidized by Congress by this operation would have been either slashed or in bankruptcy years ago.

·    Defense bases - There is a legitimate debate about the cost of our defense, but unfortunately this contains too little discussion about the need to consolidate our military bases. In a time of overwhelming deficits, it’s time that Congress put the interests of the nation ahead of those of their individual districts. Many bases could be reduced in size (or closed). Land could be sold off; excess supplies liquidated, and scrap metal exchanged for valuable dollars.

·    Underwriting illegal aliens - America has struggled with its budget for the last 30 years, with only a brief period where we weren’t racking up significant debts. Somehow we’ve decided that we can provide extensive services to people who enter this country in violation of our immigration laws. Despite massive deficits, the Obama Administration has chosen to abandon deportation efforts for illegal immigrants who are not convicted felons and pay to take care of them.

·    Emergency costs - No one in their right mind would argue that our governments shouldn’t help Americans affected by a major calamity such as a hurricane, earthquake or tornado. Saving lives, repairing roads and railways, and providing aid to temporarily displaced citizens is a basic aspect of government. A significant amount of the losses are due to individuals living or building in hazardous areas. The federal government has no role or obligation to provide high risk insurance.

All of these outlays have a common element: parochialism greased by OPM (Other People’s Money). If elected officials ever thought beyond their own next election and realized that not only is the money not theirs to spend, but it is money we can’t even afford, they might actually reconsider their votes. If the Congressional Super Committee looked at these areas, they could save billions of truly wasted dollars. Our new Congress has recently displayed the ability to do the right thing and cut unnecessary programs, and if they could just do it again, America might once more discover the road to fiscal sanity.

(“Why the Federal Deficit is So Large” by Bruce Bialosky dated October 3, 2011 published by Town Hall at http://townhall.com/columnists/brucebialosky/2011/10/03/why_the_federal_deficit_is_so_large )


* 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:

·  Civil Rights at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/civilrights.php

·  Education at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/culture/education.php

·  Economy at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/economy.php


David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY