Sunny has her own ideas about Syria’s sudden prominence. I don’t know whether I agree with her, but I like her video. And of course, even if she’s correct, Syria has taken on a life of its own.
We have Sirius satellite radio in our cars. I often have mine tuned to current hits channels, both because I ferry kids and because I too like a lot of the music. This morning, my daughter was running late, so I gave her a quick ride to the bus stop, so I wouldn’t have to give her a long ride to school.
On the way back, I flipped on the radio — and heard the three early morning talk show hosts on the “Hits 1″ channel saying that they and their listeners were the first American generation since the Depression that had it harder than their parents. The three lightweight talking heads said that their parents got out of college, got jobs, and could have a life where dad worked and mom stayed home with the children, and that this was impossible to imagine for the current crop of young people leaving high school and college.
The bit about stay-at-homes isn’t exactly true, because even in my generation, a stay-at-home mom was a luxury. Nevertheless, their perception — and the one that they wanted their radio audience to have — is that this young generation is well and truly shafted. And even if the bit about stay-at-home moms is wrong, everything else is correct. These young people don’t leave college for a job, especially a job reflecting their degrees. If they get a job at all, it has nothing to do with their studies, and that’s true even if their major wasn’t Womyn’s Studies or Puppetry.
Sirius 1 never gets into political attacks, so I didn’t hear any “and it’s all Obama’s fault” during the two or three minutes I listened to the talking heads exclaim over the fact that they and their generation face a dismal economy with equally dismal prospects. One does wonder, though, if they or anyone in their audience is thinking “Obama promised us the moon and the stars, and all I get when I sent him to the White House was this lousy unemployment check.”
This generation will be the next Yorkshiremen:
I don’t have artistic skills, but I had an idea:
“Who’s Thomas Sowell?” my daughter asked.
“He’s a genius,” I replied.
“Because he has the rare gift of simplifying very complex ideas without dumbing them down.”
See for yourself:
After listening to Sowell, my blog’s motto seems appropriate: “Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts.”
Hat tip: American Thinker
Al Gore got a lot of mileage out of likening the slow accretion of anthropogenic climate change to a frog in cold water that was gradually being heated to boiling point. He contended that, just as the frogs were lulled by the gradual heat to be the point at which they’d fail to react when the heat became deadly, so too were we humans going to allow our planet slowly to boil us to death.
Except that everything Al Gore said was untrue. First of all, there’s increasing evidence that anthropogenic global warming doesn’t exist. Climate change definitely exists, and always has. Sadly for Gore’s inflated sense of self, though, the earth’s climate does not bend to human will. Humans are capable of polluting their environment, something that they’ve done since time immemorial, but the evidence for them changing the climate doesn’t add up. Second of all, frogs do not allow themselves to be slow-boiled.
Unlike the earth’s climate, humans have direct responsibility for economic changes. In America, the tension is between free markets and a government-managed economy. At the federal level, voters opted for government-management. At the local level, it was a mixed bag. As a resident of California, I can tell you that a government-managed economy, especially one further tainted by union favoritism, is a recipe for economic disaster. In California, we are the frogs in the hot pot.
Here’s the question: will we humans react like real frogs and try to escape from the government-managed economic mess we’ve created, or will we go Gore and sit there was we boil to death?
National Review Online had three articles this morning that I thought worth passing on. The first two form a matched set, although I suspect it was inadvertent that NRO published them on the same day.
We begin with Noemie Emery’s article explaining why Franklin Roosevelt was a singular phenomenon:
Put aside the fact that FDR was a great politician, who would no more have dreamed of passing a game-changing bill without strong and bipartisan backing than he would have thrown himself off a tall building in the belief he could levitate; he still had an advantage that no modern progressive will ever replicate: He became president at the one time in our history when the federal government was too small for its burdens and truly cried out to be expanded.
The match to Emery’s article is a Victor Davis Hanson piece that examines the Progressive yearning for that Rooseveltian past — and its failure in the present.
The third NRO piece I liked was Daniel Pipe’s article pointing out the significant differences we can expect in presidential attitudes towards Israel if Romney is elected or if Obama has a second term. In that article, Romney speaks about Israel being a symbol for larger beliefs that Americans have about Middle Eastern policies generally:
Second, attitudes toward Israel serve as a proxy for views on other Middle East issues: If I know your views on Israel, I have a good idea about your thinking on topics such as energy policy, Islamism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, AKP-led Turkey, the Iranian nuclear buildup, intervention in Libya, the Mohamed Morsi presidency in Egypt, and the Syrian civil war.
I particularly liked that bit, because it seemed to me to speak to an interesting debate we had on this blog about whether Israel is a friend, an ally, or a useful . . . not enemy, but non-friend. Everyone who wrote agreed that America should support Israel, regardless of her friend or non-friend status, and I think Pipes’ article helps explain why we all feel as we do about the necessity of maintaining ties with that beleaguered little nation.
From Israel to Enron. JKB pointed me to a post that indicates that Enron wasn’t a capitalism failure, it was a government failure. That is, putting aside the sleaziness of Enron’s upper management, the real problem is that Democrat financial policies created huge incentives for corruption.
The fifth article I’d like to bring to your attention is another VDH column, this one about the way in which Progressive policies (or Obama policies, if you want to parse words) have effectively destroyed the hopes of both the old and the young. VDH is the first one I’ve seen who has addressed head on the consequence of keeping interest rates down. Those seeking mortgages liked it, but the same policy has brought financial ruin to too many old people:
The hallmark advice of retirement planning was always to scrimp, save, and put away enough money to make up for retirement’s lost salary, increasing medical bills, and the supposed good life of the “golden years.” If a couple had saved, say, $300,000 over a lifetime (again, say, putting $500 away each month for 30 years at modest compounded interest), then they might expect a so-so annual return at 5% of about $15,000 a year on their stash, or about $1,250 per month.
In other words, perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Retiree could find enough with Social Security to live okay and pass on the principal to their kids. But well aside from the fact that many Americans have been laid off, taken pay cuts, lost home equity, had their 401(k)s pruned, or had to take care of out-of-work relatives, there is no 5% any more on anything, not even 2% or in most cases 1%. Saving money means nothing really in terms of return, only the realization that inflation eats away the principal each year.
Put another way, we’re experiencing tremendous inflation, if inflation means that money ceases to have value. It’s just that the inflation is hidden behind dangerously low interest rates, rather than boldly announcing itself as dramatic price increases. (Although if the $140 I spent tanking up our family cars this weekend is any indication, inflation is here, loud and clear.)
My Mom falls in this category. She had dreamed of living of her income. She is, instead, paying down her principal and hoping that, in a race against time, her dwindling wealth lasts longer than she does.
If you have anything to add here, please do.
Danny Lemieux left a link to this video in the comments. I think it deserves its own post. You might also want to share it with your friends. It’s studiously non-partisan, so one hopes it will make liberals thoughtful, rather than defensive.
Incidentally, if any of your liberal friends think the answer is just to tax the rich, Iowahawk already considered that possibility and concluded — based on actual math — that it can’t be done.
For those who panic when numbers show up, Bill Whittle made a nice video based upon the Iowahawk post:
The Huffington Post is one of the ugliest websites I’ve ever seen. I’m not talking about content (although I’ll get to that), but about its layout. The left-most column (and that turns out to be a very clever pun on my part) actually has some visual stability, insofar as it allows the hapless visitor to grasp what content the various blogs are offering. The central column and right columns, however, are a disorganized amalgam of pictures and one- or two-word summaries of underlying stories. Even I, an adept at reading the internet, find that these summaries range from cryptic to unintelligible. Even worse, they keep resetting automatically, so it’s difficult to find a story that, one or two minutes before, might have caught my interest.
Having had occasion to read the substantive articles at HuffPo, I’m beginning to wonder whether this home page chaos is intentional, insofar as it’s meant to keep people away from content. I mean, if I was the one publishing Robert Kuttner’s article about the American economy, I’d be so embarrassed as the publisher that I too would want to use subterfuge and prestidigitation to keep people away.
Kuttner, bless his little ol’ heart, is someone who seems to have missed the last 80 years. More than that, he’s missed any sophisticated analysis of the last 80 years. His economic understanding is rooted in post-New Deal 8th grade American history textbooks that assured credulous youngsters that even FDR’s best efforts at centralizing America’s economy failed, making WWII an economic necessity. I kid you not:
Something similar [to today's economic problems] happened in the late 1930s. Though economic growth returned, it wasn’t strong enough to repair the damage of the Great Depression or create enough jobs. Despite the New Deal, unemployment remained stuck at around 12 percent.
World War II solved the problem — it was the greatest accidental economic stimulus in economic history. It put people back to work, retrained the unemployed, and recapitalized industry. But today, there is nothing in the wings waiting to play the role of the Second World War.
During the war, federal deficits averaged more than 25 percent of GDP, nearly triple today’s deficits. But that’s what it took to blast out of the depression. After the war, high growth rates paid down the accumulated national debt.
Anyone who had read Amity Shlaes’ very accessible The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression knows that Kuttner’s view of the 1930s is based upon Progressive propaganda, rather than economic facts. Shlaes cut through this gauzy reminiscent haze about the glories of New Deal Democratic politics, and looked at the economic numbers in the 1930s.
With actual data, Shlae’s ably demonstrates that Hoover, like Roosevelt, tried to manage the post-crash economy, and with equally deleterious results. Fortunately, because he was essentially conservative, Hoover’s efforts were tentative, and therefore not deeply destructive. Sadly, the 1932 election came along before the economy had a chance to right itself from Hoover’s tepid efforts at market management.
With FDR’s New Deal firmly in place, there was no hope. FDR sucked money out of the economy and into the government, paralyzing wealth creation. Since this economic experiment was the first of its kind in America, however, and because people bought into FDR’s ebullience and optimism (something sadly lacking in the dour, accusatory man living in the White House today), people cheered the sizzle and ignored the fact that it was, in fact, a scratchy recording, unaccompanied by actual steak.
When World War II came along, it had the virtue of providing almost full employment for the American public. Significantly, although the government was writing the checks, this wasn’t make-work. The U.S. needed to build ships, tanks, planes, and weapons, and it needed bodies in the field. In other words, this was the rare occasion when a centralized command and control economy was geared towards efficiency, rather than simply producing low employment numbers.
Normally, the opposite is true — that is, output is irrelevant — in a government-run economy. Milton Friedman nailed the problem with a government’s make-work “economy” when he delivered his pithy challenge to the whole notion of “shovel-ready jobs”:
Milton recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: “You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Milton replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”
Busy work does not create economic dynamism. It simply allows a government to boast about its low unemployment. Eventually, the government runs out of money, and then you have . . . Greece.
What Kuttner also fails to grasp with his erroneous Depression/WWII analysis is that part of the US’s enormous economic success in the post-war era was the fact that it was the only Western or Eastern country that hadn’t seen its infrastructure (and population) destroyed by the War. England and Germany, which had led the free world in manufacturing before the War, had seen virtually every one of their factories wiped out. Those few English factories that survived the war were firmly rooted in the 19th Century, and the stagnant socialist economy that followed the war meant that these factories stayed mired in the past.
WWII also spelled the end of Empire. England and other former imperialist powers didn’t have their previous unemployment safety valves, nor did they have ready access to the rare materials that had once powered their manufacturing.
Russia had lost perhaps 20,000,000 people, which was a heavy burden when added to the 20-30,000,000 that Stalin killed in the 30s. Add to this the inefficiencies of a Communist “economy,” and you can see that Russia wasn’t going to stand in America’s way.
In other words, it wasn’t just that America was so good after the war; it was also that everything else was so bad. Right now, under Obama, we have the worst of all possible worlds, which is that both America and the rest of the world are in dire straits. By copying the world’s disastrous economies, America is unable to rise above them.
In addition to misunderstanding the 30s, 40s, and 50s, Kuttner seems to have slept through the 80s and the aughts. I vividly remember Jimmy Carter’s malaise economy, consisting in equal parts of inflation and stagflation. I remember, too, the uproar when Reagan insisted on unleashing capitalism’s power. Sublimely locked into my juvenile Leftism, I absolutely refused to acknowledge that it was Reagan’s commitment to the marketplace that enabled me, a young lawyer, to step into a thriving economy, complete with an obscene salary. I’m glad to say that, in 2001, when Bush pushed through his tax cuts, I’d matured enough to realize that the best way to allow economic growth is to trust “We, the people” with the money, leaving to the government the job of creating a stable environment that doesn’t see wealth creators (individuals and businesses) constantly trying to hide their money from an avaricious, inefficient, frequently corrupt bureaucracy.
Working from a mountain of ignorance, amnesia, misconceptions, and misapprehensions, Kuttner assures HuffPo’s hapless readers that the only way to end Obama’s economy is to raise taxes on the producers and have the government provide jobs for the unemployed — unaware, apparently, that this is precisely what Roosevelt did in 1932, and what led to a 12 year long Depression:
What’s needed today is a massive investment program, to shift the economy to a clean energy path, modernize infrastructure, increase productivity — and along the way create millions of good jobs and restore consumer purchasing power. Then, the vicious circle could be reversed.
The problem is that neither party is proposing such a program. It is entirely outside mainstream debate.
President Obama is willing to have the federal government spend more money. But he has partly bought the story that deficit reduction has to come first. The Republicans would further gut the public sector.
Contrary to the conventional view that deficit reduction would somehow “restore confidence” and increase business investment, that’s not how economies work. Businesses invest when they see customers with open wallets. Though the Congressional Budget Office projects higher growth returning around 2014, it bases these projections on a “return to trend.” There is no plausible story about where the higher growth will come from.
Kuttner is certain that, if Obama can just get four more years, everyone in America will eventually get a spoon. Then the American people can start digging their little holes, and the government can boast about its Soviet-style full employment.
A couple more fallacies in Kuttner’s thinking:
First, Kuttner, who insists that WWII was the best economic engine possible, was against the War in Iraq. Why was that? He should have been celebrating the economic opportunities, and shilled it as WWIII.
Second, Kuttner, in common with all the Progressives, keeps nattering on about revitalizing America’s infrastructure with “green” energy products. He makes this argument even though (a) the government’s “green energy” bets have failed at a terrible cost to the American budget (Solyndra, anyone?); and (b) the strangulation of rules and regulations (especially environmental rules and regs) in the last 30 years means that it’s virtually impossible to complete a big infrastructure job, or even to begin one.
As to the malignant effect of hyper-regulation, here’s just one example proving that the Hoover Dam era is dead and gone: The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge partially collapsed in 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. That collapse proved conclusively that the original eastern half of the Bridge (built in 1936) was a seismic disaster.
In a pre-regulatory era, it’s very likely that the Bridge could have been rebuilt, both quickly and economically. In modern American, though, by the time the new structure is completed (maybe) in September 2013, it will have taken 24 years to rebuild just half the bridge, at a cost no less than $6.3 billion — a mere $6.1 billion dollars over the original estimate.
Kuttner’s post is the triumph of theory over fact. Kuttner was clearly the good little boy back in the 1970s, carefully studying his generic history textbook, and locking away in his brain forever all the Leftist fallacies about economic growth and the glory days of a government controlled economy. He is the poster child for the fact that, while the first Obama term has pushed us to the edge of the economic cliff, a second one will most assuredly push us over.
Albert Einstein allegedly defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Austin O’Malley looked at the process of insanity: “A sane man often reasons from sound premises; an insane man commonly reasons as well, but the premises are unsound.” And Guy de Maupassant examined that peculiar phenomenon we now call monomania:
I have seen mad people, and I have known some who were quite intelligent, lucid, even clear-sighted in every concern of life, except on one point. They could speak clearly, readily, profoundly on everything; till their thoughts were caught in the breakers of their delusions and went to pieces there, were dispersed and swamped in that furious and terrible sea of fogs and squalls which is called MADNESS.
The common thread in these quotations is the fact that the insane person is disconnected from reality. He doesn’t understand cause and effect, his factual premises are ludicrous, and his inability to deal with reality may be centered a specific subject, so that he appears lucid as to other things.
With Obama’s most recent speech about the economy, the one in which he cited approvingly to an immediately discredited study claiming that he’s been one of the most frugal presidents in history, a new meme sprang up in the blogosphere — “Obama the Insane.”
Of course, no one has stated it with that level of clarity. More and more writers, however, are commenting upon (1) Obama’s belief that if he keeps spending more and more money, he will magically reverse the fact that his existing spending binge has already caused inestimable harm to the U.S. economy; (2) his reliance on manifestly false facts; and (3) the way in which, even as he is cogent on other subjects (his family, rap parties, etc.), Obama’s focus on those things that most deeply affect Americans, such as the economy, foreign affairs, national security, bears no relationship to the facts on the ground.
Here are three respected writers, each of whom expresses serious concern about President Obama’s increasingly obvious disconnect from the reality of his presidency and his policies.
Peggy Noonan politely calls the presidency a “house of cards”:
There is, now, a house-of-cards feel about this administration.
It became apparent some weeks ago when the president talked on the stump—where else?—about an essay by a fellow who said spending growth is actually lower than that of previous presidents. This was startling to a lot of people, who looked into it and found the man had left out most spending from 2009, the first year of Mr. Obama’s presidency. People sneered: The president was deliberately using a misleading argument to paint a false picture! But you know, why would he go out there waving an article that could immediately be debunked? Maybe because he thought it was true. That’s more alarming, isn’t it, the idea that he knows so little about the effects of his own economic program that he thinks he really is a low spender.
Peter Ferrara is also dismayed by the President’s inability to recognize economic reality, although he believes the president is simply being deceptive. After quoting with approval the Noonan passage, above, Ferrara goes on to chide Obama for lying:
What this shows most importantly is that the recognition is starting to break through to the general public regarding the President’s rhetorical strategy that I’ve have been calling Calculated Deception. The latter is deliberately using a misleading argument to paint a false picture. That has been a central Obama practice not only throughout his entire presidency, but also as the foundation of his 2008 campaign strategy, and actually throughout his whole career.
Rest assured, Ms. Noonan, that the President is not as nuts as he may seem at times. He knows very well that he is not a careful spender. His whole mission is to transform the U.S. not into a Big Government country, but a Huge Government country, because only a country run by a Huge Government can be satisfactorily controlled by superior, all wise and beneficent individuals like himself. That is why he is at minimum a Swedish socialist, if not worse. Notice, though, how far behind the times he and his weak minded supporters are, as even the Swedes have abandoned Swedish socialism as a failure.
Mark Steyn speaks in terms of soaring rhetoric unconnected to earthbound problems:
Take, for example, the attempt at soaring rhetoric: “That’s how we built this country — together. We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did those things together,” he said, in a passage that was presumably meant to be inspirational but was delivered with the faintly petulant air of a great man resentful at having to point out the obvious, yet again. “Together, we touched the surface of the moon, unlocked the mystery of the atom, connected the world through our own science and imagination. We haven’t done these things as Democrats or Republicans. We’ve done them as Americans.”
Beyond the cheap dissembling, there was a bleak, tragic quality to this paragraph. Does anyone really believe a second-term Obama administration is going to build anything? Yes, you, madam, the gullible sap at the back in the faded hope’n’change T-shirt. You seriously think your guy is going to put up another Hoover Dam? Let me quote one Deanna Archuleta, Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of the interior, in a speech to Democrat environmentalists in Nevada:
“You will never see another federal dam.”
All three essays are worth reading in their entirety. All three struggle with the vast chasm between Obama’s words and actual reality. Although Ferrara calls Obama a liar to his face, Ferrara’s take on the matter is the most generous of the three, because he believes that Obama is a con man, not an insane man.
I wonder. Certainly if Obama is a con man, he’s a very bad one, in that he’s letting his audience in on the trick. A good con man would never rely upon such an easily proven set of numbers. If this is what Obama did, he’s once again proven himself to be the un-Churchill.
Why do I say that? It’s because of a story I once read that Churchill’s assistant told about the great man. I don’t know if it’s a true story, but it perfectly illustrates what a good con should be:
Churchill was invited to speak to a group of manufacturers about the future of their industry. He asked his assistant to research for him information about the probably economic future of this industry. The assistant returned to him and said that there were so many variables that it was impossible to put together a coherent picture of the industry’s future in the coming year, let alone the coming decade. To the assistant’s great surprise, the very next day, he heard Churchill give a speech replete with numbers, analyses, and estimates projecting out a good ten years. After the speech, the assistant approached Churchill and asked “How did you do that?” “Simple, my boy,” Churchill replied. “I made it up. You told me that there were too many variables to reach a conclusion or make a prediction about even the immediate future. That means that it will take years to prove my statements wrong, by which time there will have been so many intervening factors, no one will look back on what I said.”
Now that’s a con. What is not a con is to state as truth an absolute falsehood, and one that, moreover, has already been conclusively proven to be false. The man who does that is either the most clumsy of all lies, or a monomaniac who has become unmoored from factual reality and drifted off into an economic realm all his own.
From the moment Obama appeared on the national political scene, many writers (including me) have been harping on Obama’s malignant narcissism. The important thing to remember is that a malignant narcissist has built around an empty emotional core a carefully constructed, quite superior persona. In order to keep that illusion alive, the narcissistic must constantly assert his superiority. We’ve seen Obama do that over and over again. Here are a few examples:
Marion Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.
“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”
President Obama met yesterday with “about 20 Conservative Jewish community leaders, thanking them for the work they do to improve communities around the country and discussed their shared commitment to rebuilding the U.S. economy,” Haaretz reports.
In the meeting, Obama reportedly boasted about his knowledge of Judaism, telling the leaders that he thinks he knows more “about Judaism” than all past presidents. He said he gained this knowledge of Judaism from reading.
“Obama … stressed he probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it,” Haaretz reports.
When it comes to piloting, Barack Obama seems to think he’s the political equivalent of Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager and—in a “Fly Me to the Moon” sort of way—Nat King Cole rolled into one. “I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers,” he reportedly told an aide in 2008. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m . . . a better political director than my political director.”
The flip side of this constant self-assurance is the need to deny other people their due. Narcissists are offensive. That too is an Obama trait:
Asked in the Saturday Democratic debate about her dearth of “likability,” Clinton offered an answer both artful and sweet — first, demurely saying her feelings were hurt and mock-heroically adding that she would try to carry on regardless, then generously conceding that Obama is very likable and “I don’t think I’m that bad.”
At which point, Obama, yielding to some inexplicable impulse, gave the other memorable unscripted moment of the New Hampshire campaign — the gratuitous self-indicting aside: “You’re likable enough, Hillary.” He said it looking down and with not a smile but a smirk.
Obama poked fun of McCain and Palin’s new “change” mantra.
“You can put lipstick on a pig,” he said as the crowd cheered. “It’s still a pig.”
“You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It’s still gonna stink.”
“We’ve had enough of the same old thing.”
The president defended his talks with Gulf fishermen and oil spill experts, saying their purpose was not academic – rather, they were an exercise in asserting where the presidential boot should be administered, “so I know whose ass to kick”.
President Barack Obama says police in Cambridge, Mass., acted “stupidly” this week when they arrested Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, someone they knew was in his own home.
The big question, of course, is what happens to a malignant narcissist when reality is so overwhelming that his normal coping mechanisms — self-aggrandizement and the denigration of others — no longer work? Obama is being soundly slapped in the face by economic reality, by statistics, by an aggressive political opponent (You go, Mitt!), and by a disillusioned, although still loyal, media.
One could say that insanity is the last refuge of a narcissist. If the real world will no longer conform to his self-image, he’ll deny the real world, and come up with a better one that allows him to boast to his heart’s content, not just about his own alleged qualities, but about larger, objective reality.
Obama’s intellectual and emotional collapse would normally be a sad sight, indeed. Because of his peculiarly exalted position, though, a mad President Obama is just as unnerving and dangerous for the State as any mad monarch of old.
ABC reports that President Obama treated two service men and two local barbers to a high-fat Father’s Day lunch (high-fat, at least, for Obama), and then left without paying the tab:
Amid the bustle of President Obama’s surprise stop for barbecue Wednesday the White House apparently overlooked one key detail: the bill.
Celebrating Father’s Day early, the president had lunch with two service members and two local barbers at Kenny’s BBQ on Capitol Hill.
As the group chatted about fatherhood, the president enjoyed a steaming plate of pork ribs with hot sauce, collard greens, red beans and rice and cornbread.
The bill for the president and his four guests was $55.58, but was left unpaid at the point of sale, according to pool reports.
The White House corrected the oversight and settled up the tab by the end of the business day.
I don’t for one minute blame Obama for forgetting to pay the tab. That’s not his job. But it’s apparent that in the swirl of government employees constantly circling around him, no one felt that it was his or her responsibility. Isn’t that whole scenario a perfect paradigm for government? Obama, the service men, and the barbers were all happily dining on someone else’s tab — and then the person who was supposed to pay didn’t.
(It’s ironic, really, that this happened within a couple of days of Obama’s sudden obsession with paying the tab at a restaurant:
“I love listening to these guys give us lectures about debt and deficits. I inherited a trillion dollar deficit!” he said. Obama compared Republicans to a person who orders a steak dinner and martini and then, “just as you’re sitting down, they leave, and accuse you of running up the tab.”
I mean, isn’t this better than a film script? Within a week of accusing the opposing political party of hypothetically stiffing the American people at a restaurant, Obama actually stiffs an American restaurant owner.)
Although not directly on point, to the extent we’re talking about personal responsibility, this whole scenario is analogous to Hillary Clinton’s “It takes a village to raise a child” shtick from the 1990s. The expression is true, of course, if there’s a real village. I live in a very tight neighborhood where I know all the kids and all the parents, and they all know each other. If a kid does something wrong — drinking, drugs, etc. — he can be assured that his parents will know within a day or two. The children know that every parent in the neighborhood is watching out for them. The kids also watch out for each other. We are a genuine, organically grown community, based upon proximity, shared values, and social connections. We all look out for each other, because we all know each other, and we know what matters to the other families.
Hillary, though, wasn’t envisioning a network of small communities that take care of their own. That world view smacks of conservative thinking. Instead, she pretended that an impersonal, distant government was precisely equivalent to that village. Her promise was that, if we paid enough in taxes to create the Nanny state, we would get the “village” without the effort of looking after our own. Almost daily stories out of England about horribly abused children who slipped through the cracked network of social services tells us just how well that “government village” works.
The Democrat desire to avoid personal responsibility goes all the way up the ladder to the top man, the guy in the White House. Obama avoids personal responsibility like the plague and is beginning to get mocked for that, even by his own party. But why are his compadres surprised? The entire Democrat ethos is based upon eating the food and having someone else pay the bill — and then expressing surprise when the bill goes unpaid.
To skip to another scenario (this is the scenario equivalent of mixed metaphors), think back to the last CPR class you took. I always forget the number of pumps and breaths (and understand that they’ve now simplified it down to a Bee Gees song). What I do remember, though, is that the one thing you should never do is holler out a generic “Call 911!” This makes everyone responsible for making that call and experience has shown that if everyone is responsible then no one is responsible. Instead, you have to tag someone. “YOU, the guy in the black shirt, call 911.”
The same principle of failing to invest specific people with responsibility — and thereby creating a responsibility vacuum — holds true when the government sucks responsibility away from people and distributes it into its vast machinery. Suddenly, individuals aren’t responsible — and you can’t find the clerk with the cash when you need him.
My sister once worked with a secretary who felt put upon. No matter what one asked her to do, she came back with a single answer: “That’s not my job, man.” Since she was working for a private company, she was fired as soon as the company felt that it had protected itself against a potential wrongful discharge lawsuit. In the federal world, this same gal would not only have lifetime employment, she’d be teaching taxpayer-funded seminars on avoiding direct responsibility for anything.
It starts at the bottom, with Barack Obama’s minions in the restaurant saying “That’s not my job, man.” And it ends at the top with Barack Obama, speaking of the American economy and saying, “Bush started it. That’s not my job, man.”
Americans hunger to take on the job of creating work and wealth. Isn’t it time to let them?
I tend to shy away from predicting the future. If I’m right, the future was probably so obvious that everyone else had the same prediction. If I’m wrong, I should have known better, and I end up walking away sadly scraping the egg from my face.
All morning, though, I’ve been toying with a post about the fact that I think November 2012 is going to be a blow-out election for Romney. Originally, I thought he’d run a competent campaign (I’ve always had faith in his competence) and sort of ooze by Obama in a small victory. With five months to go, though, I started revising that thought. Day by day, especially this week, I’ve had a bizarre mix of metaphors running through my brain: the walls are caving in, the dike is cracking, the avalanche is beginning its descent, etc. Regardless of image, the point is the same: a slow breakdown in a system is followed by a speedy collapse.
Politically, one of the best examples of the speed with which entropy occurs when a natural or man-made organism runs out of the energy to hold itself together is the Soviet Union’s collapse. It was only in retrospect that people understood how rotten and fragile the USSR was. It had been sold to us as a nation and political system every bit as hardy as the United States. That’s why, in establishment eyes, Reagan committed the ultimate sin when he called the USSR an Evil Empire. The establishment thought to itself “Never wave a red flag in front of a raging bull.” Reagan, however, knew two things. First, that something rotten to its core will disintegrate at the slightest touch and, second, that the USSR was just that rotten. Reagan, and then Bush 41, tapped and tapped and tapped away at the weakened Soviet carapace and then, overnight it seemed, the Wall fell and the Iron Curtain vanished.
Precisely the same thing is happening with the Obama campaign. It is imploding. It was a bubble, a facade, a Potemkin village. It’s essential fragility is making itself increasingly obvious.
I thought that earlier today and then I had that thought reinforced when I wandered over to HuffPo and saw this front page:
Keep in mind as you look at that screen shot that HuffPo one of Obama’s friends. But it’s also a business (even though it’s run by people who view business as an activity for them, the elites, but not for all the peons who need to be under government control). And a business goes with a big, big headline: Total Mess.
“Total Mess” doesn’t just describe the world economy on Obama’s watch. It describes the Middle East on his watch. And it describes his own implosions: the boastfulness, the arrogance, the ignorance, the viciousness. The campaign is stumbling from one incompetent moment to another.
Those closely allied with Obama are falling too. Watching the Elizabeth Warren debacle, which has finally made it to the MSM, is almost embarrassing. She can’t open her mouth without humiliating herself with another stumbling lie or explanation. The only thing that saves the Warren spectacle from being truly embarrassing, as opposed to almost embarrassing, is the fact that Warren had this downfall coming. An academic and political career built upon dishonesty and arrogance should flame out spectacularly. The people of Massachusetts may yet step in to save Warren, but the public humiliation will never go away.
And how about the Wisconsin story? It’s not just that Gov. Walker leads in the recall polls. The really big story is that, given the choice not to join public sector unions, workers aren’t joining those unions, and they’re not joining in droves. This means that, for all the corruption at the top — both within the State House and the Union shops — the ordinary workers didn’t feel they were getting a benefit. If they had, they would have checked off that little contribution box without the necessity of political coercion. Perhaps people are starting to figure out that, when the union bosses raise the funds that put the politicians in office, who then pay off the union bosses, the only ones who benefit are the politicos and the bosses. The reality is that nobody likes either of those groups very much.
More than Obama’s flame-out, we’re also seeing Mitt Romney run a nimble, aggressive, and likeable campaign. His team is getting responses up in minutes or hours. Romney himself, having been shaped in the primary crucible, is more fluent in his speech and more accessible in his presentation than he’s ever been before. He’s also adroitly side-stepping each of the traps that the Obama-ites think that they’ve oh-so-cleverly baited for him.
The snowball is rolling bigger and faster. The avalanche is going from a whisper to a thunderous roar. The dike’s cracks are widening into unstoppable failures. Romney will win and Obama will lose. And the win will be big and the loss will be a significant blow to Progressive politics. To finish on a schadenfreude note, I will not regret seeing the most arrogant man ever to occupy the White House, and moreover a man whose arrogance was completely unjustified, take a well-deserved and public fall.
Women have been responsible for some pretty bad presidents. Warren Harding leaps most easily to mind, since his was the first presidential election in which women participated, but women were also water carriers for JFK and Bill Clinton.
The Barack Obama campaign clearly hoped to capitalize on women’s bad habit of voting for bad boys, so they offered women (1) free birth control, (2) the charmingly helpless Julia, (3) stunningly stupid attacks against Ann Romney; and (4) the pithy claim that Republicans (and Romney) are waging a “War Against Women.” If you live in a liberal bubble, this seems like a very good tactic.
Sadly for the Obamites, what looks good on Dem party paper doesn’t necessarily work in real life. In real life, women have children, and they worry about those children. That worry trumps their concerns about birth control or silly wars on women or gay marriage. And that concern focuses on two things: a strong economy, so that women can raise healthy, happy children who go on the a good life; and a safe world in which those same children will thrive. Funnily enough, when the soccer Moms, and working Moms, and la crosse Moms, and football Moms, and harassed Moms, and happy Moms look at these serious, rather than superficial concerns, one candidate floats to the top — and it ain’t Barry:
After months of manufactured “GOP War on Women” silliness, a new CBS/NYT poll (!) finds Romney leading Obama 46-44% among woman voters. Mind you, that isn’t GOP woman or even independent women, but ALL women voters.
More importantly, today’s poll finds a notable shift among women in just the last month. In April, Obama was leading Romney by 6% among women. No other group saw an 8 point shift in their support.
Turns out women’s top concern is the same as men’s: The Economy. All the contrived outrage about contraceptives and women’s health can’t mask the fact that 73% of voters listed either the economy or the federal deficit as their number on issue.
I feel vindicated. Last week, I wrote that Barry is the Eddie Haskell of politics. He’s a bad boy, who seems like fun, until he gets you in trouble. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is this election’s Ward Cleaver. He’s the voice of reason, the protector, and the bread winner. The girls in the political world know a good provider when they see one — and, more importantly, they understand that this “providing” doesn’t mean selective government handouts that slowly but surely eat away at the nation in which their children are born but, instead, means a stable, healthy economy that gives opportunity to all.
[Gotta run, so this is "dictated, but not read." My apologies for typos.]
This article that just appeared in Bloomberg.com, regarding Stockton-writ-California-writ-USA-writ-large’s pending bankruptcy, is just so absolutely jaw-dropping crazy…uh, no, wait….it isn’t really so crazy after all. Never mind.
If Stockton Is Broke, Why Isn’t San Diego?: Steven Greenhut
Here’s the money take-away: referencing the fact that, for the past 20 years, city employees could earn full lifetime health benefits (employee and spouse) after working only one month, Stockton City Manager Bob Deis noted…
“There was no money set aside to fund those commitments.”
And that’s the rub with our national, state and local governments, isn’t it? They can promise anything to get peoples’ votes, but there is no obligation to deliver. All they can do is make empty promises. And so, like moths to a flame, do we the people incinerate our futures and our freedoms on the soaring promises of hopey-change utopians. We once-proud, free, self reliant Americans have shown ourselves to be all too willing to give up our freedoms in exchange for promised government benefits…i.e., retirement pensions, health care, security, education…with not even a guarantee that the government will or can deliver.
You see, the government can never guarantee such promises, because (as our European cousins have so amply demonstrated) these are promises that government never could deliver. Government can’t deliver because a) government itself cannot create those benefits and b) because, inevitably, in the end, there is never enough money to pay for other people to provide those benefits.
The only thing the government can guarantee is that a) once surrendered, you won’t get your freedom, retirement, health care, security, or money back and b) the only way that it can even pretend to deliver on its promises is by taking away even more of your freedoms and money. Flame – moth – destruction.
Clark S. Judge sent to Hugh Hewitt a great note analyzing what Obama really said during the SOTU. I’m going to do something here that I almost never do, which is to reprint the note in its entirety at my own blog, albeit reformatted from the original. Why? Because the paragraph breaks vanished at Hugh Hewitt’s site, making it very difficult for those of us who are struggling with glasses versus computer glasses versus bifocals to read the darn thing:
SOTU: Did I hear that right?
By Clark S. Judge: managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc.; chairman, Pacific Research Institute.
It sounded like such a soft, even conservative speech.
But let me get this straight:
1) banks will be punished (do I understand this right, by a committee headed by Eric Holder?) if their lending is too risky,
2) and they will be required (by the same committee) to give more home loans (meaning, it must be, to people who would otherwise not qualify for the loans, or else the government would not have to be involved) at lower rates (which means rates that do not compensate them as much as the market says they need to be compensated for the risks they are taking, all of which sounds like a new edition of the policies that brought on the financial collapse),
3) which must mean that they will have to pull back on risky lending someplace other than homes,
4) the only place that most banks would be able to pull back on riskier customers would be loans to small and new businesses,
5) but these are the businesses that have created just about all the jobs over the last 20 years and he said early in the speech he wants to encourage them,
6) so maybe their growth capital will come from selling stock to the kinds of people who invest in new and small businesses,
7) but through the Buffet Rule he’s going to double the tax rate on investment income for those people, meaning that, like the banks, they can’t be fully compensated for the risk of backing small and new businesses,
8) so they will not invest more in small and new companies but in big established firms,
9) so more of those small and new firms will have to turn to the government for capital,
10) which luckily he said would up its investing in early stage businesses with “the best” ideas,
11) “the best” ideas meaning, I guess, as with Solyndra, ideas that advance his agenda through companies whose owners support his candidacy),
11.2) or maybe it would be companies that agree to invite unionization (since the unions have failed to organize the new and dynamic sectors of the economy, which is why they have been shrinking),
12) but then with the big businesses, he wants to punish American companies if they invest overseas,
13) and he wants to increase exports,
14) but being competitive in the global markets often means having part of your production near your markets, which is why many companies have opened production facilities abroad and many foreign companies (BMW and Honda, for example) have opened their facilities here,
15) so he’ll make these companies less competitive, meaning less able to export anything that might be paired with some other product the company makes abroad in order to attract buyers,
16) and it also means he’ll have the U.S. ignoring many of the international trading rules of which we have been the principal sponsor since the end of WWII, rules that have led to an incredible growth in widely shared wealth all over the planet,
17) which means that, if he follows through, he’ll blow up the post-WWII global economic system,
18) which in the very short run may help the uncompetitive American labor unions but in the not-so-long run would devastate every economy on earth,
19) but it would also mean he would be in a position to decide where big companies could invest, and when, just as he’ll be in control of all new and small businesses, too,
20) meanwhile he is going to tell states and localities what their budget priorities should be,
21) and make them adopt his policies for running their schools, leaving me to wonder, when he’s through, what won’t he control?
I believe that’s what I heard the president advocate last night. But one term I didn’t hear, maybe I missed it: “The Constitution.” Then again, wasn’t he suggesting that, in brave times like these, we need to put aside those old rules. Do I have this straight?
We can expect tomorrow night’s State of the Union address to be an action-packed hour (or so) of vitriol and self-pity. Obama will cherry-pick a few numbers about the 1% and then whine about how he’s been trying really hard to destroy that same 1%, but that a vast array of insurmountable obstacles — Congress, Republicans, the media, the American people, the Jews — have prevented him from doing so. In a most-read piece, Joseph Curl explains what Obama will be hiding:
The unemployment rate when Mr. Obama was elected was 6.8 percent; today it is 8.5 percent — at least that’s the official number. In reality, the Financial Times writes, “if the same number of people were seeking work today as in 2007, the jobless rate would be 11 percent.”
In addition, there are now fewer payroll jobs in America than there were in 2000 — 12 years ago — and now, 40 percent of those jobs are considered “low paying,” up 10 percent from when President Reagan took office. The number of self-employed has dropped 2 million to 14.5 million in just six years.
Regular gasoline per gallon cost $1.68 in January 2009. Today, it’s $3.39 — that’s a 102 percent increase in just three years. (By the way, if you’re keeping score at home, gas was $1.40 a gallon when George W. Bush took office in 2001, $1.68 when he left office — a 20 percent increase.)
Electricity bills have also skyrocketed, with households now paying a record $1,420 annually on average, up some $300.
Some 48 percent of all Americans — 146.4 million — are considered by the Census Bureau either as “low-income” or living in poverty, up 4 million from when Mr. Obama took office; 57 percent of all children in America now live in such homes.
And that’s not even the half of it. You can read the rest here.
In this target-rich environment, the tone-deaf Mitt Romney is attacking . . . Newt. This is why Newt is surging. While Mitt attacks him, Newt, although he too has taken too many time-outs for vicious internecine warfare, hasn’t forgotten that the American people care about the economy and national security. Even Newt, though, could step up the attacks on Obama. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
And here’s a judo-style suggestion for dealing with all of Obama’s victim talk:
President Obama claims that the media misrepresents him, Republicans are evil, Congress is obstructionist, and the American people are lazy. These are the reasons, he says, that he has been unable to implement his agenda. It’s not his fault; it’s everyone else’s fault.
Well, let’s assume, solely for the sake of argument, that everything the President says about the obstacles facing him is true. That assumed truth leads to one, and only one possible question: What the heck type of a leader is President Obama? By his own admission, he is unable to handle anyone or anything that stands in his way. This isn’t just an inability to handle the 3 am phone call. Instead, this is the inability even to pick up the phone.
The man who occupies the highest leadership position in the land — indeed, in the world — has repeatedly conceded that he isn’t up to the job. Since he’s not going to quit, it’s up to you, the American people, to fire him. And when you replace him, I’m the man for the job because….
Does history repeat itself? I fervently hope not.
Ok, I have grudgingly thrown my support behind Mitt Romney. It’s not that I am excited about Romney as a candidate, but I am genuinely excited about the need to get Obama out of office before he does irreversible damage to this country. But, here is where I see a problem:
In one corner, we have a radical Marxist/Progressive, with little to no understanding of human nature and economics, who is on a tear to totally transform society to fit a bankrupt utopian ideology. In the process, he destroys jobs, strips companies of investment capital, destroys human capital, demonizes success, romanticizes failure, takes command of and promptly ruins entire segments of the economy, undermines the Constitution, blatantly disregards the law and does his very best to bankrupt the country while redefining entire segments of the population as dependent wards of the state.
In the other corner, we have a square-jawed, well-coiffed, highly intelligent, erudite and successful businessman who made his mark in an industry demonized and under constant assault by the President. Formerly a Liberal, he now claims to be a Conservative, although large swaths of the Republican party refuse to accept his supposed conversion to conservatism as sincere. He is a nice, rational man who believes in using soft-spoken discourse to sway people and find common ground. Rather than go on a blistering attack in support of the capitalist, free-enterprise economy, he ends up trying to placate the population with his moderation and management credentials, while fending off internal strife within the Republican Party between those that promote strong advocacy of conservative principles and those seeking an accommodationist “middle way”. In many ways, he remains tone deaf to how others perceive him to be and how they react to his awkward choices of words.
This man of whom I speak was Wendell Willkie. He ran against FDR in 1940 and got creamed by 5 million votes. Now, I realize there are many differences between then and now, but take a look at these photos below and please tell me they don’t suggest a spooky echo of the past.
Andy Stern, who led the SEIU to its current status as a statist political powerhouse, has a lengthy op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, touting the wonders of China’s economic model. His basic point: China’s recent economic surge shows that government should control the economy. To support this premise, he points, not to China’s current economic status, but to its wondrous five year plan:
I was part of a U.S.-China dialogue—a trip organized by the China-United States Exchange Foundation and the Center for American Progress—with high-ranking Chinese government officials, both past and present. For me, the tension resulting from the chorus of American criticism paled in significance compared to reading the emerging outline of China’s 12th five-year plan. The aims: a 7% annual economic growth rate; a $640 billion investment in renewable energy; construction of six million homes; and expanding next-generation IT, clean-energy vehicles, biotechnology, high-end manufacturing and environmental protection—all while promoting social equity and rural development.
Gosh! Propaganda really sounds good when it’s read out loud to an adoring, credulous audience.
I’d like to introduce Mr. Stern to another article about the Chinese economy, this one by Gordon Chang, a veteran China watcher who’s actually paying attention to the details. Mr. Chang’s take, which is premised upon actual facts, not wishful thinking is a little different. With a wealth of detail, he points out that, as with all socialist experiments, China is running out of economic gas:
On Wednesday, HSBC roiled markets around the world by releasing its Flash China Purchasing Managers’ Index for November. The widely followed indicator dropped from 51.0 to 48.1, crossing the crucial line of 50 that divides expansion from contraction. Most worrisome, it appears that the factory sector is shrinking due to weakness in domestic, as opposed to export, orders.
The drop in the HSBC Index, which normally moves only tenths of a point at a time, is just another sign that the world’s second-largest economy is contracting from one month to the next. The troubling news follows October numbers, which also pointed toward a rapid falloff. There was, for instance, a sharp decline in inflation, collapsing real estate prices, and a big decrease in bellwether car sales. The wheels are coming off the Chinese economy, with indicators dropping faster than virtually all analysts—including me—predicted.
Chinese technocrats have already started to react, applying monetary measures. The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, this month cut its required reserve ratio for 20 co-operative banks to 16.0%, a reduction of a half point. Officials maintained that this move did not represent a change in their tightening policy, but, as Tom Holland of the South China Morning Post points out, the denial “stretches credulity.” PBOC watchers, therefore, see the limited relaxation as a hint that the institution will soon cut reserve requirements, now at historic highs, for all banks.
You can — and should — read the whole thing here, and then go back and compare it’s tight focus on real world economic facts and figures with Stern’s airy-fairy press release on behalf of Communism.
Let me toss one more thing into the mix here, which is James’ Taranto’s masterful take-down of Eugene Robinson’s love letter to China’s heavy-handed economic management:
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson is in Red China, where his shoe-leather reporting has turned up evidence that . . . Republicans are stupid. Seriously, that’s the subject of the first of what he promises will be several columns filed from Beijing. Let’s examine his closing argument, which responds to a quote from Rick Perry:
But this ignores the big picture. Yes, China is governed–in an authoritarian, repressive, at times shockingly brutal manner–by a regime that calls itself communist. But communism self-immolated two decades ago. Walk down any commercial street in Beijing and you see storefronts, venders and hawkers selling anything under the sun. Communism is no longer a system in China. It’s just a brand name that officials haven’t figured out how to ditch.
I’m aware, of course, of the shameful human rights violations that the Chinese government commits every day–and of the government’s selfish, corrupt insistence on maintaining a monopoly of power. These atrocities can never be forgotten.
But I’m betting that the burgeoning middle class will find a way to cast off these shackles. The correct response would be to cheer them on.So, to recap: China’s Communist Party has already abandoned communist economics for something that looks very much like American commercialism. Politically, however, it remains a brutal and corrupt one-party state. But that can’t last. Robinson both thinks and hopes that the Chinese people will rise up and change the regime.
OK, now here’s the Perry quote: “I happen to think that the Communist Chinese government will end up on the ash heap of history.”
Perry said the same thing Robinson did, only much more pithily and memorably. How does that make Robinson the smart one?
And just in case anyone has forgotten that the Chinese economy also runs on slave labor (a peculiar thing for a former SEIU head to laud) and criminal corruption, the links I just gave you ought to refresh your recollection.
My bottom line: Feudal, slave and communist economies all function the same way, which is to have a powerful central controls system over labor. It enriches a few, and impoverishes the many, both physically and spiritually. Even if it looks good on paper, it’s bad for the soul.
(Chinese factory photo by High Contrast.)
Oh dear, it appears the CBO has turned a tad pessimistic about its earlier prognostications on the economy, stimulus and ObamaCare, heralded as dogma and chiseled in stone tablets on the alters of the Left’s Temple of Orthodoxy.
Drinks all around for the Bookworm Room denizens that correctly anticipated the outcomes cited herein. It appears that we are better read and even more astute than we thought, even though (I suspect) most (97% – a consensus!) of us do not generally listen to NPR but watch FOX News Channel instead. I am pleased, I must say, to have our very succinct analyses of these highly complex situations confirmed by such an august body that has clearly demonstrated an intellectual honesty by letting us change its mind. Perhaps the IPCC will now deign to do the same.
I’ve linked to a summary that provides the direct link to the most recent CBO report. You can catch the gist of the CBO report in the report’s summary.
Given this blog’s recent flogging of the China versus U.S. (“us”) question, here is a primary example of how China may surpass the U.S. by becoming more business friendly as it decentralizes while the U.S. risks having to learn the lessons of socialist history all over again as our over-regulated economy grinds down to a slow crawl.
In this linked article at the American Spectator, an entrepreneur compares and contrasts the difficulties of and disincentives for creating new businesses in our country, under our increasingly socialist, statist form of governance.
Money quote: “Now, this is China so the government and the state share 30% of your business, but considering the ease of entry, increased in-country sales and helpful attitude, this is a small price to pay, especially considering America’s 35% plus corporate tax rates.”
Here, the author makes an excellent point: when the State demands 35% of a company’s earnings (I believe that Mafia shake-down artists usually demand a smaller percentage in protection money, but I may be wrong), the State de facto owns a 35% equity interest in the company…with only one major difference: it shares 0% of the risk borne by shareholders.
Is America on the road to becoming a socialist paradise like, say, Europe’s former Soviet Block during the 1960s? Naaah…don’t think so! Our future will not be one of mythical straight-line Progessive projections.
I predict instead that, given American individual initiative and creativity, our trajectory will be more like that of an Argentina – once a leading economic jewel, now a pathetic, tired, broke 3rd-world backwater. In such economic environs, two groups will prosper: the government-sanctioned nomenklatura and those clever and adept enough to profit from the inevitable underground economy.
Is our democracy germinating the seeds of its own destruction?
Alexis de Toqueville warned, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” That day has come. It is not yet gone.
Democracy in ancient Athens lasted about 250 years. We in the United States are at about that same point in our history today. In Europe, alas, democracy came but as a short, brief whimper in time. Now, post-Lisbon, it is gone…at a national scale and, very soon, at the local level, too. EUro democracy – so ancien regime! In EUrope, the new aristocracy is already taking form, with power centered in Brussels and Strasbourg. In America, our own Washington, DC-centered aristocrat wannabees remain diffuse and riven by competing factions, but they are there and waiting.
What went wrong? I propose that the primary seed of our destruction lies in our own human nature. It is the “tragedy of the commons” writ large. The tragedy of the commons, formulated by ecologist Garrett Hardin in the 1960s, describes the dynamic whereby individuals and other animals, when confronted with limited resources, have a self-interest in expropriating the maximum amount of those resource for themselves while they can, thereby hastening the resource’s destruction. The tragedy of the commons is neatly summarized by Illinois’ de facto state motto, “where’s mine?” (with a respectful hat tip to Chicago Tribune editorialist John Kass).
I suspect that, deep down, many serious people in America’s contending factions (Left, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian) believe that we are now in the end game and that we are thus witnessing a mad, vicious scramble by traditional Democrat constituencies (e.g., public sector unions) to secure to themselves as much wealth and political power as possible before the inevitable financial collapse. The primal screams and vile demagoguery harmonized by the howling mobs of Wisconsin, Greece, France and Britain (or from our Commander in Chief, for that matter) are but the beginning of this process. Change can be ugly when people lose hope!
It still remains incredible for me to contemplate how we in the West, endowed with the richest standards of living every conceived in human history, still could not find satisfaction from living within our means. The wails and tribulations of the Left notwithstanding, all groups in America are living far better material standards of living than they did 25, 50 or 100 years ago or than the vast majority of our world enjoys today. How could we not find it within ourselves to be grateful for and respectful of what our forebears built and accumulated as their legacy for us. Indeed, our unparalleled wealth and quality of life appears only to have fueled resentment of “the other” in tandem with an exponential growth in our appetites and expectations. Thus have we now come to the point of destroying ourselves and our inheritors through impossible debt obligations, gained in our quest for ever more lucre and comfort gained on other peoples’ dimes.
So today, confronted with hard choices on whether to cut back on our expectations and regenerate the wealth that we have lost on one hand (the Paul Ryan plan) and a mad scramble to secure our own selfish claims upon the commons before its dissolution, our country confronts the fork in the road that, as Yogi Berra put it, must be taken.
Why do I suspect that earlier in our democracy, when government was not expected to fulfill everyone’s economic and social needs, a national belt-tightening to confront an existential crisis would hardly have been considered controversial. A split electorate today, unfortunately, does not bode well for constructive solutions. From my limited perspective, I suspect that 25% of our population seems committed to the conviction that the government’s largesse can continue forever and another 25% (public employee unions, Liberals, Democrat politicians) cynically manipulates events to amass all it can before the inevitable collapse.
I propose, however, that these manipulators on the Left and their followers are fundamentally mistaken in the following ways:
One is to believe that whatever political and financial power they accumulate in these days will translate into power and wealth in the future. I don’t think so. You can’t, for example, pay pensions on the back of a collapsed market economy. You can’t fund ObamaCare promises through foreign largesse. Princely union boss salaries will be worthless when union members inevitably catch on to their betrayal and they, too, ultimately depend upon a healthy private sector economy.
Two, we can never really predict the future. Revolutions lead to unpredictable ends and often end-up eating their own. Anarchists and Democrats can try to collapse the system, perhaps, but nobody can know what will replace it.
Three, the real threat to our society today is not our debt but the destruction of our debt capacity. Debt capacity refers to our ability to absorb more debt in response to crises: for me, for example, debt capacity is represented by my home equity line of credit, to be drawn upon in emergencies. We can be guaranteed that our Western civilization will face serious crises that will threaten our very existence. With our home equity line exhausted, from whence will we find the capital resources to fund our survival? How will we build back from the rubble?
When FDR embarked on his wildly irresponsible debt-financed financial adventures, our country’s ability to absorb debt was still great by the time WWII arrived. We survived and, as a result, thrived. I am not so certain that we could do so today. Not to veer too far off path, but does anyone else get the sense that the ineffectual flounderings of the U.S. and our NATO allies in Libya, a misbegotten economic and military backwater of 6.5 million people, hardly reflect the actions of robust democracies?
I sense that our Western democracies have reached a point of exhaustion. Perhaps this reflects the natural lifespan of democracies. I hope not. The Ryan blueprint presents our 50:50 nation with an existential fork in the road. We shall soon discover the true strength of our national fiber. Will we tighten our belts, retrench and expand the national and global commons as we have in the past…or will we intensify our mad struggles to secure dwindling remnants thereof to ourselves? If the latter, then our democratic experiment will truly be at an end. And that would be a tragedy.
I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.
- John Adams
San Francisco is definitely up in the top five when it comes to “most Progressively governed cities in America.” No surprise, then, that the city’s finances are in a shambles. What is a surprise is the fact that, faced with a looming budget collapse, the City has suddenly discovered capitalist incentives: it’s offering the big employers tax cuts to stay in the City.
This is a smart move on San Francisco’s part. (And I can’t believe I wrote that sentence about the City that doesn’t know how.) The Leftists may call them “the rich people” or “blood sucking corporations,” but I have another name for them: employers. The City has discovered that if you constantly penalize employers, they go away.
As Obama’s vicious, dishonest budget speech shows, he hasn’t yet come to that little realization. Nor, despite his intellectual common ground with Tom Friedman, has he seemed to realize that Friedman is right about one thing: the earth is indeed flat. In the old days, employers had nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide. Now, the corporations can go to all the other socialist countries that have lower corporate tax rates than the U.S., while individuals simply bid a fond adieu to their natal land.
I realized today that what makes Obama’s class warfare even more disgusting is that he makes no attempt to pretend that he’s one of the little people. As I read in Ronald Kessler’s In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect, when Jimmy Carter, the last president who presided over such a disastrous economy, paraded around carrying his own suitcase, it was pure theater: the suitcase was empty. Nevertheless, he made the effort.
Obama, however, doesn’t bother. Even as he demagogues about the fat cats, stopping just short of demanding their heads on pikes, he openly revels in the kind of lifestyle only the very rich can afford. While he lectures us about heat and air-c0nditioning, he keeps his White House digs at 75 all year round; while he tells us to trade in our tried and true cars for expensive hybrids, he and his family jet all over the world on exotic vacations, traveling in gas guzzlers everywhere they go; while he “commiserates” with our belt tightening, he and his family dine on lobster, Kobe beef, and foie gras. His arrogance is so overweening that he assumes that he is entitled to these luxuries — at our expense, of course — even as he insists that we cut back, tone done, retrench and, of course, destroy our employer class.
Putz isn’t a strong enough word, but it’s the only one I’ll use on my PG blog.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News
One of my all-time favorite economic historians is Harvard’s Niall Ferguson, who does a very good job dissecting the transatlantic political and economic cultures with characteristic British clarity in erudition.
He’s not perfect, however: witness his bad judgment in affixing his name to a worn-out political rag like Newsweek. But, I digress…
In this nonetheless excellent article, he concisely chronicles the descent and impending collapse of the EUro-zone banking system and its political repercussions. Some might take solace in the fact that EUro-banking and welfare systems will collapse ahead of our own, but I don’t. Our economic well-being is very much entwined with Europe’s. One notable benefit that Ferguson does confer upon us is to clearly differentiate between Europe’s impending banking system collapse and our own fiscal and economic crises: these are two very independent phenomena, albeit derived from the same disease (i.e., living way beyond our means). What cannot be denied, however, is that Western civilization is about to confront a very massive economic upheaval that will have dramatic social and political consequences.
There’s an excellent article in the WSJ about the challenges that retiring baby boomers face as 401(k)s fail to meet their retirement needs.
I don’t know if this can be accessed without an online subscription to the WSJ, so to summarize…buffeted by two major stock market crashes, most baby boomers on the cusp of retirement don’t have close to what they need (median 401(k) for the 60+ age bracket is about $150,000).
The letters are especially interesting for what they reveal about peoples’ generational attitudes.
As examples of sentiments encountered:
- The “Greatest Generation” was really a generation of moochers all too happy to fund their retirements and other obligations on the back of the taxpayers.
- People will need far less income upon which to retire comfortably than financial planners claim (very good back and forth arguments on that point).
- Baby boomers should stop whining about their plight as it was they who got themselves into it.
I find that last point interesting from the perspective of what it means to be living “paycheck-to-paycheck”. For many people I know, this definition encompasses the need to pay-off massive credit card and other debts accumulated whilst purchasing toys, vacations, entertainment and all other expensive lifestyle expenses that many have come to view as entitlements.
Does this square with your observations, or am I being too harsh?
I ask this because my amazing spouse and I have been fairly heavy savers and have denied ourselves many of these pleasures during the years when we raised children. Yet I know that, inevitably, the gimlet eyes of those who lived high on the hog when times were good but failed to prepare for their future will turn their focus on our savings as the solution to their penury.
This is too good of a summary not to include in the post: