Views on the News

November 5, 2011


Views on the News*  

America’s indispensable role in the world does not result from the sincerity of its leaders, but from the verity of its exceptional principles, with its commitment to the principles of liberty, as proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and secured in the Constitution, have implications for foreign policy as well.  Despite dismissals of American exceptionalism and defeatist claims of America’s decline among some academics and left-wing pundits, the foundations of American statecraft are strong because they were well laid by the country’s founding fathers.  Understanding the exceptional nature of America’s role in the world offers the best guide to confronting the international problems we face today.  Dismissing them is not realism; it is surrealism.  American exceptionalism is meant to define the nature of America’s political order.  This uniqueness is based on the fundamentals of America, since our principles are based on a dedication to universal principles rather than a restrictive understanding of nationhood based on language, ethnicity, territory, or religion.  Ours is a nation open to all that adheres to its core principles, founded on reason and grounded in tradition.  America was the first country on earth to commit to the ideas of liberty and equality at precisely the same moment it conceived of itself as an independent nation.  America soon enshrined these principles in the oldest surviving written constitution in history.  Critics focus too much on the last 50 years of U.S. foreign policy instead of America’s rich diplomatic traditions, some of which were abandoned during most of the last century, and reject the exceptional nature of American statecraft.  Rejecting the source of our goodness, our true principles, will dash any hopes for future greatness.  As Alexis de Tocqueville noted, “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” And in the 21st century, Americans need to learn from the examples of our earlier statesmen who prudently applied our exceptional principles to the constantly changing circumstances of international affairs.

(“America Abroad: Exceptional Since 1776” by Marion Smith dated October 28, 2011 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/281416/america-abroad-exceptional-brsince-1776-marion-smith )


Some of the Republican Presidential candidates consistently suggest that the economy is the only first-tier issue in the upcoming election, but the party is missing a tremendous opportunity to run against the Obama administration’s unprecedented amassing of power and money at the expense of Americans’ liberty.  A recent Rasmussen poll asked likely voters, “Does the federal government have too much power and money, too little power and money, or about the right amount of power and money? By a tally of more than 7 to 1, Americans answered “too much” (64%), rather than “too little” (9%).  Republicans won the last election in a landslide first and foremost because of their unflinching opposition to ObamaCare, for which not a sole Republican voted, and their clear commitment to repealing it.  So far in the Presidential race, however, only Newt Gingrich has eloquently, knowledgably, and thoroughly explained how ObamaCare represents an attack on the core principles of limited government and liberty on which this nation was founded.  The Rasmussen poll suggests that Americans are open to this message of limited government vs. personal liberty and are actually craving such leadership, so the question is which Presidential candidate with will step up and provide this leadership?

(“The Real Issue in the Upcoming Election” by Jeffrey H. Anderson dated October 27, 2011 published by The Weekly Standard at http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/real-issue-upcoming-election_604102.html )

Government debt has become the single greatest threat to liberty and prosperity around the globe, and America is no exception.  It has swamped Greece and it threatens Ireland and Portugal.  The possibility of its spreading across Europe has provoked panic.  America faces its own equally daunting challenge.  Our national debt now stands at $14.7 trillion, nearly equal to our entire annual output.  This summer, Congress had a golden opportunity to use the debt ceiling crisis to force the substantial spending cuts that everyone knows are needed to save our economy.  But once again, the Beltway crowd failed us.  Just as we saw in 2009 and 2010, the TEA Party is stepping into the breach.  Together with local groups across the country, a “Tea Party Debt Commission” has been formed.  On November 17th, these twelve outsiders will unveil a bold, serious, and credible plan that stabilizes the debt, reduces spending by $9 trillion over the next decade, and balances the budget within ten years without tax hikes.  Through their website, teapartydebtcommission.com, a state-of-the-art crowd-sourcing technology has been employed to learn about people’s priorities.  More than 50,000 people have visited the site to date, and more than 8 in 10 of them have participated in this priority consensus building.  Here are the top 10 currently trending ideas (with the percentage of people who chose the idea over an alternative):

·    Repeal ObamaCare (93%).

·    Reduce duplicative purchases of Pentagon supplies (90%).

·    Eliminate the Department of Education (81%).

·    Privatize Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac (81%).

·    Reduce discretionary spending to 2008 levels (76%).

·    Block-grant Medicaid (73%).

·    End ethanol tax credits (71%).

·    Sell under-used federal buildings (71%).

·    Eliminate HUD (70%).

·    End earmarks (68%).

Together, these reforms would generate $6 trillion in 10-year savings, the same amount as the House-passed Ryan budget, twice as much as the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission, and five times the Super Committee’s goal.  Are you listening, Washington? The public is informed and engaged and voters understand what you apparently still don’t: to avoid our becoming another Greece, you must get spending under control, so Go bold or Go home!

(“Go Bold or Go Home” by Dean Clancy dated November 3, 2011 published by Human Events at http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=47285 )

That slight dizziness you’re feeling is a contact high from the clouds of left-wing nostalgia in New York City and Washington because the anarchists, anti-globalization activists, student radicals, and sympathetic journalists gathered at Occupy Wall Street desperately are trying to recapture the protest spirit of the 1960s.  Meanwhile, Democrats from Paul Krugman to Barack Obama pine for the economy of the 1950s, when the distribution of incomes was much more equal than today.  At the same time, high unemployment, lackluster growth, and austerity have led these Democrats to attempt to restore the politics of the 1930s, pitting “economic royalists” against the downtrodden masses.  We knew liberals believed in recycling, but this is getting ridiculous.  Today’s liberals say conservatives are radicals who want to overturn the American political tradition.  What remains of the liberal confidence in progress seems to be restricted to the culture, where Americans continue to perform occasional experiments of living.  Even the cultural left seems withered, exhausted, ready to go to that big Oneida community in the sky.  Even if you grant the premise that government should redistribute wealth to equalize incomes, the 1950s are odd years for the left to champion.  Millions of women in the 1950s stayed home to care for the children, thereby restricting the supply of labor and raising their husband’s wages.  You cannot have the economy of the 1950s without the society of the 1950s.  Marriage was the norm, and children were brought up in two parent families.  The government focused almost the sum total of its resources on defense and Social Security.  The wistful left reaches back farther when it mimics the class politics of the 1930s.  The strategy of division and resentment has not had a good track record.  To be sure, it worked for FDR, but Roosevelt had 25% unemployment, a minuscule federal government, and a sunny disposition.  Since LBJ, the spokesmen for American liberalism have been dour and passive and condescending.  Their populism has lacked bite because it is a pose.  The longing for the culture of the ’60s, the economy of the ’50s, and the politics of the ’30s is evidence of the left’s failure.  No longer able to inspire with a utopian vision of the future, the left has been forced to return to its past.  The left’s failure, then, is the right’s victory, because a return to the past is what we’ve been calling for all along. What Americans should be trying to recapture is not any particular set of historical social, economic, or cultural conditions but a lost philosophy of government, a missing understanding of politics, and in this understanding, the equality that matters is the equal protection of natural rights.

(“The Reactionary Left” by Matthew Continetti dated November 7, 2011 published by The Weekly Standard at http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/reactionary-left_604180.html )


The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters we see on TV tend to look mostly young and able-bodied, and a little logic suggests that they are not among the struggling Americans working two or three jobs to keep a roof over their heads and feed their children.  Those people are too busy to camp out in public parks.  Sooner or later, someone has to start calling them on their inconsistent behavior.  They claim to speak for 99% of Americans, including most who work or are looking for work, but they're not walking that talk.  The backlash blogs share a tag, "the 53%", referring to the percentage of American households that, according to the Tax Policy Center, pay federal income tax.  In other words, stop complaining about the distribution of other people's wealth and try making some wealth of your own.  A typical liberal arts degree was never really a ticket to a specific type of job.  Today's protest population may be smart in the raw IQ sense, but their practical intelligence seems to have fallen short when it came to planning for life after school.  These days, the smartest 20-somethings may turn out to be former college sociology majors who switched to two-year schools and learned how to operate computerized machine tools.  Manufacturers are begging for people like that, and paying them very well.  For those without special skills, there's always the time-honored course of moving to where the work is.  The only thing wrong with the 53% movement is that the number should be higher.  When roughly half the people know they won't have to pay for forgiveness of student loans, they'll push for such things, and the current President, at least, seems more than willing to oblige, so he appears to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

(“Message From the 53%: Get a Job” dated October 27, 2011 published by Investor’s Business Daily at http://news.investors.com/Article/589658/201110271855/Message-From-The-53-Get-A-Job.htm )


Those who heaped high praise on Keynesian policies have grown silent as government spending has failed to bring an economic recovery, and except for a few diehards who want still more government spending, and those who make the unverifiable claim that the economy would have collapsed without it, most now recognize that more than a trillion dollars of spending by the Bush and Obama administrations has left the economy in a slump and unemployment hovering above 9%.  Why is the economic response to increased government spending so different from the response predicted by Keynesian models?  Here are four major omissions from Keynesian models:

·    First, big increases in spending and government deficits raise the prospect of future tax increases. Many people understand that increased spending must be paid for sooner or later. Meanwhile, President Obama makes certain that many more will reach that conclusion by continuing to demand permanent tax increases.

·    Second, most of the government spending programs redistribute income from workers to the unemployed. This, Keynesians argue, increases the welfare of many hurt by the recession. What their models ignore, however, is the reduced productivity that follows a shift of resources toward redistribution and away from productive investment.

·    Third, Keynesian models totally ignore the negative effects of the stream of costly new regulations that pour out of the bureaucracy. ObamaCare is not the only source of this uncertainty, though it makes a large contribution. We also have an excessively eager group of environmental regulators, protectors of labor unions, and financial regulators.

·    Fourth, U.S. fiscal and monetary policies are mainly directed at getting a near-term result. The estimated cost of new jobs in President Obama's latest jobs bill is at least $200,000 per job, based on administration estimates of the number of jobs and their cost. How can that appeal to the taxpayers who will pay those costs? Once the subsidies end, the jobs disappear—but the bonds that financed them remain and must be serviced.

The Federal Reserve, too, has long been overly concerned about the next quarter, never more than in the current downturn.  Fears of a double-dip recession, fanned by Wall Street, have led to continued easing and seemingly endless near-zero interest rates.  By now even the Fed should understand that we do not have a liquidity shortage.  It has done more than enough by adding excess reserves beyond any reasonable amount.  Clearly, a more effective economic policy would aim at restoring the long-term growth rate by reducing uncertainty and restoring investor and consumer confidence.  Here are four proposals to help get us there:

·    First, Congress and the administration should agree on a 10-year program of government spending cuts to reduce the deficit.

·    Second, reduce corporate tax rates and expense capital investment by closing loopholes.

·    Third, announce a five-year moratorium on new regulations.

·    Fourth, adopt an enforceable 0%-2% inflation target to allay fears of future high inflation.

Now that the Keynesian euphoria has again faded, perhaps this administration, or more likely the next, will recognize the reasons for the failure and stop asking for more of the same.

(“Four Reasons Keynesian Keep Getting It Wrong” by Allan H. Meltzer dated October 28, 2011 published by The Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204777904576651532721267002.html )


President Obama is determined to make fairness the primary issue in the 2012 election since he's right about fairness, but he's wrong when he points his finger at the richOur problem isn't that the rich pay too little tax or that income inequality is getting worse.  Our problem is that we spend too much money at the federal level of government on giveaway programs that produce citizens who are dependent on government for their well-being, people like those in the OWS crowd, and approximately half of our citizens who pay no federal income tax.  There is nothing fair about that.  Soon, people who pay no taxes and receive the lion's share of the benefits will be the majority in this country, and you can expect them to vote in their own self-interest.  They will support candidates like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid who promise to continue funding programs that funnel money to them and to tax the rich to pay the bills.  In the process, they will destroy this nation.  We may have reached the point of no return, and if Barack Obama is re-elected, the end of the United States as we know it may be in sight.   The utopian Marxist/socialist society that President Obama and OWS activists clamor for has never existed, and it never will.  Everywhere Marxism/socialism has been tried, it has failed.  The reason is simple: people living under Marxist/socialist regimes gravitate toward doing as little as they possibly can to get the meager benefits to which they are entitled.  It happened in the Soviet Union and in China.  The Soviet Union collapsed under the pressure of Marxism/socialism and is now history.  Realizing that their political system was in jeopardy, leaders in China made a radical shift toward capitalism to avoid the same fate.  Countries throughout Europe are imploding under the crushing weight of Marxism/socialism and will fail just like the Soviet Union did if they don't change their ways.  Greece gets most of the attention, but Italy, Spain, and Ireland, to name just a few, are not far behind.  President Obama is anti-business, and on top of that, he's an inspiration to the freeloaders among us, many of whom are OWS activists.  We need a President who inspires the doers, the wealth and job creators, but Barack Obama is not that person.  Our current trajectory leads to insolvency.  We engage in wild-eyed deficit spending and pretend that there are no consequences, we have piled up almost $15 trillion of debt, and we are forecasting huge deficits as far as the eye can see.  Things can't continue as they are.  Our creditors will make sure that they don't if we fail to take action ourselves.  President Obama has proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that he can't or won't set aside his predilections and focus his attention on economic reality, so that's one important reason why the United States can't afford four more years of his Presidency.

(“The United States Can’t Afford Four More Years of President Obama” by Neil Snyder dated October 29, 2011 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/10/the_united_states_cant_afford_four_more_years_of_president_obama.html )


Despite the globalization of a great range of issues, from the environment to terrorism, the world is still substantially directed by the applied influence of its principal countries, and however down-at-the-heel and -mouth it may be, or at least feel sometimes, the U.S. is still incomparably the world’s most important country.  At some point, unfashionable though it is to do so, the United States will have to take stock of its position as a great power.  It has by far the largest economy and most productive work force, and the greatest military capability.  Though this is not especially an incitement to Americophilia, it has a preponderant pop-cultural influence as well. It also benefits from the retention of a level of collective optimism and national purpose that is comparatively greater than existed when Japan was mounting its great industrial challenge, the Soviet Union was a superpower, and Europe was intoxicated with the mirage of a renascence of its worldwide influence in a flush of Euro-federalist euphoria.  Since the Berlin Wall came down and the U.S. was left alone at the summit of the world, the country has inexplicably lost its strategic compass and stoked up annual $800 billion current-account deficits, suffered a terrible fiasco in public finances and an alarming self-inflicted debacle in corporate debt; the political class and Wall Street have failed badly, as have many whole industries. The education and justice systems have deteriorated alarmingly.  Yet the U.S. has been an overachieving super-nationality compared with the stagnation, dyspepsia, and outright disintegration of, respectively, Japan, Europe, and Russia.  Great powers can endure much more disappointing and unsuccessful government than the U.S. has had lately, as China, a corrupt dictatorship of a largely command economy in a country that still includes over 750 million almost indigent peasants, demonstrates.  Terrorism, though ghastly and barbarous, is a nuisance, like the 19th-century Assassins, not an alternative authority in the world.  America’s best days are not ahead of it, as platitudinous orators tediously claim at every opportunity, but the future can be a bright and extended plateau and the future is ours to mold and set as a proud nation.

(“The U.S. as Global Power” by Conrad Black dated November 3, 2011 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/281944/us-global-power-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.  There are no updates this week to the issue sections.


David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY