Archive for May, 2010
May 29th, 2010 at 11:28 am
Bubba Backs Blanche

Fresh off revelations over his involvement in Sestak-gate, former president Bill Clinton pounded the podium yesterday in support of a fellow member of the Democratic Party’s endangered species: moderates.  Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is facing a tough run-off against the sitting Lt. Governor who is allied with a vast leftwing conspiracy to make an example out of the on again, off again liberal.

And Bill Clinton doesn’t like it.

Playing on both local pride and a wariness of outside influence, he suggested voters would be mere pawns for an agenda of party purification if they opposed Lincoln.

“If you want to be used that way, have at it,’ he said to about 200 Democrats at Philander Smith College, speaking without notes for 20 minutes

With a detailed recitation of Lincoln’s work on behalf of Arkansas down to the jobs she saved at a manufacturer in Ft. Smith, Clinton exhorted voters to not direct their discontent at her.

Good luck with that.  Of all the endangered political species this election cycle, none seems as likely for a population reduction than “moderate” Democrats.  Liberals, like conservatives, like politicians who take a consistent ideological stand for issues.  Too often being a “moderate” is just code for policymaking as situational ethics.  If Clinton fails to push Lincoln over the 50% mark, he’ll be on the hook for letting down yet another female senator seeking federal office (his wife Hillary being the other).  With Obama 0-for-3 in hotly contested races, that means Democrats running for reelection in 2010 will have to look to someone other than the two most recent Democratic presidents to gin up enough support to get a win on Election Day.

Is Jimmy Carter available?

H/T: Politico

May 29th, 2010 at 10:42 am
Obama Looks Inward

Former Bush advisor Peter Wehner pens one of the more helpful analyses of the Obama White House today for Politics Daily:

We can hope that Obama, an intelligent man, learns from the errors of his ways. But the great danger in all of this is that in the face of his troubles Obama and his aides become increasingly defensive, display a greater sense of entitlement and even a touch of paranoia. When arrogant men lose control of events it can easily lead to feelings of isolation, to striking out at critics, to bullying opponents, and to straying across lines that should not be crossed.

And so the president needs to surround himself with people who can tamp down on the uglier impulses within his administration, who are willing to tell Obama that the lore created by him, Axelrod, Plouffe, and Gibbs during the campaign has given way to reality, that cockiness is not the same as wisdom, and that spin is no substitute for substantive achievements. And Obama needs someone who has standing in his life to tell him that the presidency is a revered institution that should not be treated as if it were a ward in Chicago.

The last line is the most telling because it goes to the nub of the problem facing every president: you go with what you know.  For top level politics, that means once you assume high office the learning is over; all you have time for is applying your principles and experiences to the situation of the moment.  For Obama, that means two things: rallying the troops for an us-vs.-them campaign, and treating every political decision as though being president is the same as being the mayor of Chicago – which is to say, a distributor of political patronage.

The criminal silliness of the Sestak Scandal can only be understood in the context of brash, Illinois-style horse trading.  That it happened isn’t much of a surprise.  That it happened without much subtlety and discretion is – to me – much more troubling.  Like Obama’s naïve approach to America’s enemies and his self-indulgent speeches, this is yet another example of his immaturity.

May 28th, 2010 at 11:52 am
Is the “Obama Recovery” Really the “Obama Malaise?”
Posted by Print

Regardless of one’s political preference, no patriotic American welcomes economic misfortune.  With this week’s news, however, one wonders whether we’re witnessing the onset of “Obama Malaise.”

Yesterday, the Commerce Department revised its already-sluggish initial 3.2% first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) estimate downward to 3.0%.  Additionally, the Commerce Department reported that corporate profits slowed to 5.5% in the first quarter of 2010, down from the 8% growth rate of the 2009 fourth quarter.

These numbers are disturbing because our economic recovery should be much stronger at this point, and gaining steam rather than slowing.  Coming out of the 1981-1982 recession, the last downturn comparable to the 2008-2009 recession, the U.S. logged remarkable GDP quarterly growth rates of 5.1%, 9.3%, 8.1% and 8.5% for 1983.  America’s torrid Reagan Recovery continued into 1984, with 8.0% and 7.1% growth rates in the first two quarters.  That constituted impressive growth, on the heels of Reagan’s tax-cutting and deregulatory platform.

In contrast, we’ve now witnessed GDP growth rates of 2.2%, 5.6% and now a deceleration to 3.0%.  Obama and Democrats take joy in claiming credit for our natural cyclical recovery, but what they should instead be doing is explaining why their policies are tossing a wet blanket over what should be stronger growth.

May 28th, 2010 at 10:12 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Katrina Comparisons Multiply
Posted by Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

May 27th, 2010 at 1:39 pm
Are Americans Pro-(Effective) Government?

That’s the point made by Daniel Henninger in today’s Wall Street Journal.

I would argue that the Reform wave building in the land is not antigovernment, but pro-government. When people call themselves Americans, Californians, New Yorkers, Illinoisans, Texans or, yes, New Jerseyans, they aren’t just talking about a place name, but a fought-for legal entity with a grand political history. Anger at Albany, Sacramento, Springfield, Trenton and Washington, D.C., isn’t antigovernment. It’s rightful rage at years of misgovernance.

I think Henninger’s argument is the best description of the anger roiling supporters and critics of the Obama Administration’s handling of the Gulf Oil Spill.  It may very be that there are limited options for “plugging the hole,” but the fact remains that people expect leaders to show they know how to prioritize problems, and work towards a solution.  Even James Carville is apoplectic at Obama’s seeming inability to do either during this crisis.

For the president who promised competence, we’re getting an awful lot of failing grades in Leadership 101.

May 27th, 2010 at 1:14 pm
Obama-Sestak Offer Now in Issa’s Crosshairs

Since the Obama Administration and newly minted Senate candidate Joe Sestak (D-PA) won’t discuss Sestak’s February allegation that a White House official offered him a job not to primary party-switching Arlen Specter, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is looking into the matter.  As CFIF readers remember, Issa’s interest is not desired by most people in public life.  The conservative foil to liberal Investigator-in-Chief Henry Waxman (D-CA), Issa is now comparing the Obama-Sestak offer to the Watergate fiasco.

That may be going a bit far, but the facts – and the stonewalling – are at least as important to uncover as the Valerie Plame Affair.  In that case, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff was convicted of four felonies for lying to federal agents and obstructing their investigation.  Notice any similarities with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ refusal to comment, and the White House declining to appoint an independent investigator?

It sounds old to keep comparing how the media would be covering Obama’s actions if done by Bush, but the contrasts are still striking.  This is now the second time potentially illegal negotiations over a United States Senate seat have been linked to Obama’s White House.  The first instance cost Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich his job and may yet lead to a prison sentence.  Now, another round of Chicago-style deal making may imperil Joe Sestak’s senate campaign.  At some point, you’d think lower level Democrats would start reconsidering their allegiance to a president who clearly favors backroom deals to open electoral processes.

May 27th, 2010 at 11:23 am
Obama to Europe: Borrow and Spend Even More
Posted by Print

One of the pillars of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was that America had become too didactic toward the rest of the world, particularly toward the more anti-American elements of Europe.  A kinder, gentler Obama would be the ointment to soothe all international discord, they promised.

But the Obama Administration has proven even more didactic than the Bush Administration.  The primary difference is that Obama bows to antagonists like Russia and the Palestinians, while disrespecting friends like Israel.

Now, Obama is even reneging on his “reset” stance toward Europe and self-righteously instructing them on how to pilot their economies.  Consider this opening paragraph from today’s Wall Street Journal front-page article entitled “U.S. Chides Europe’s Crisis Response:”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner landed in Europe and reasserted a traditional American role of dispenser of financial advice to the world, telling European governments to get their fiscal houses in order.”

That’s pretty amusing stuff from an administration that quadrupled America’s deficit in its very first year.  What’s worse, his administration is insisting on more of the very policies that caused Europe’s economic and budgetary maladies.  Greece’s welfare spending required a $1 trillion bailout, and Portugal, Spain and England may not be far behind. Despite this self-evident reality, the Obama Administration instructs them to pursue more of the same.  According to the report, Geithner admonished European leaders “to keep pumping stimulus into their economies.”

This prompts the question of whether there exists any remaining tether whatsoever between the Obama Administration and reality.  The euro has plummeted following Greece’s bailout, and even the American Dow Jones Industrial Average fell below 10,000 yesterday on fears that the contagion will spread.

A word of advice to Europe:  reconsider your love affair with Obama before he steers you toward even greater catastrophe.

May 27th, 2010 at 9:29 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Married to Chicago Politics
Posted by Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

May 26th, 2010 at 10:23 pm
At This Rate, We’re Going to Need a Blog Just for Chris Christie Updates
Posted by Print

More from America’s best governor:

May 26th, 2010 at 7:36 pm
Obama Taps Self-Proclaimed Rationing Enthusiast to Run Medicare
Posted by Print

In an absolutely chilling piece at RealClearPolitics today, Dr. Hal Scherz examines an Obama nominee who otherwise may have escaped public scrutiny: Dr. Donald Berwick, who’s been tapped by 44 to run the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The picture that emerges is of an individual who makes even the most wall-eyed health care fears seem credible. Here’s Scherz, quoting Berwick in the first and third paragraphs:

“Any healthcare funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent healthcare is by definition redistributional”.

Indeed, lest there be any doubt about the range of Dr Berwick’s schemes for “redistribution” – code for transferring power to the government — he makes clear how grand his vision for statist health care.

“There needs to be global budget caps on total healthcare spending for designated populations (ie-rationing)” Dr. Berwick says. “The simplest way to reach these goals is with a single payer system.”

The whole thing has to be read to be believed, but Scherz wraps it up with a nice injection of humanity:

But if Dr Berwick leaves little doubt who is going to be in charge of the redistribution, global caps, and the single payer systems, he shows with his use of words like “politically accountable” or “democratic”, the sort of verbal tic that betrays his own understanding. He seeks not broad-based, bottom-up decision-making but top-own edicts from elite panels of enlightened and, of course, “global” thinkers like himself that preempt decisions now made by doctors and their patients.

And that is what those of us who are practicing physicians find so troubling about Dr. Berwick’s nomination. We see him as a White House Rose Garden, photo-op doctor with a borrowed white coat; an academic who runs a $58 million institute, who analyzes numbers and reports and theories about populations but is now totally out of touch with his former peers and the patients that they treat every day. And this is the sobering point– Dr Berwick will not be there with us at the patient’s bedside looking them in the eye and telling them that the life saving treatment that they need is not approved because they don’t fit into the right demographic.

May 26th, 2010 at 5:12 pm
Obama Propels Debt Past $13 Trillion Milestone
Posted by Print

This was Barack Obama’s official campaign website on September 9, 2008:

Today, we learned that Washington has run up a record budget deficit of $407 billion this year…  Obama will bring real change by cutting taxes for middle-class families and small businesses, paying for all his proposals to reduce the deficit, and will put America on a path towards fiscal responsibility and a stronger economy.”

Pretty bold stuff.  Reasonable minds knew then that an Obama victory would only exacerbate the nation’s deficit, even if the fawning mainstream media was refusing to press him on tough questions.  But even skeptics didn’t foresee just how bad and how rapidly he would do so.  Today, we received sobering news that the national debt surpassed the $13 trillion mark overnight.  That’s now $42,000 per American citizen, and $118,000 per American taxpayer.

And that $407 billion deficit that Obama cavalierly promised to reduce in September 2008?  He’s now raised it from $400 billion to $1.4 trillion.

That’s the type of change for which only America’s enemies could have hoped.

May 26th, 2010 at 12:33 pm
Will Obama Blame Bush for America’s Popularity?

It’s become a bit of a cliché in the Obama Administration to blame George W. Bush for…well, just about everything wrong with the country.  Job numbers are down because of the previous administration’s mismanagement of the economy.  The deficit is exploding because Bush & Co. started two allegedly needless wars.  Even the Gulf Oil Spill catastrophe is being laid at the feet of alleged coziness between Bush Era regulators and BP management.  If nothing else, the Obama White House knows how to trace problems occurring on its watch to other people.

Will it do the same with success?  According to Gallup polls of foreign nations, America is most popular in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The fact that President Obama’s ancestry touches the region doesn’t explain fully the reason.

So you might be asking yourself, “why Africa?”

It’s a good question, one our friends over at Gallup have given some consideration in past surveys. Since 2008, Sub-Saharan Africa may be the one region of the world where the United States has reaped the highest benefits of what has been termed “The Obama Effect.” Being of Kenyan descent, Obama enjoys high approval ratings throughout much of Africa. More substantively, 5 out of the 7 listed nations have been targeted in the president’s $3.5 billion Feed the Future initiative.

And let’s not give the 44th president all of the credit. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, invested American aid and resources into Africa at a record pace. President Bush’s PEPFAR program was a groundbreaking policy endeavor, and while Bush’s domestic approval numbers were low upon leaving office, U.S. approval throughout much of Africa remained rather strong.

As with much of his social spending, the most recent President Bush doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the good – and goodwill – many of his initiatives achieved.  Still, it must give W some sort of quiet pride to know that America’s popularity in Africa can be traced directly to his policy decisions.

H/T: RealClearWorld

May 26th, 2010 at 11:24 am
Fire the Census Worker, Hire the Postman?

For my fellow limited government types out there, here’s an idea to save money and get the decennial census done competently: hire postal workers to count heads.  The suggestion comes from one of the Census Bureau’s “seasonal” workers quoted in the New York Post.

I am totally convinced that the Census work could be very easily done by the US Postal Service.

“When I was trying to look for an address or had a question about a building, I would ask the postman on the beat. They knew the history of the route and can expand in detail who moved in or out etc. I have found it interesting that if someone works one hour, they are included in the labor statistics as a new job being full.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.  Whenever the Census Bureau hires a person for at least one hour of work, they can report to the Labor Department that a new job has been created.  And that’s true even if the one-hour worker gets fired and rehired multiple times – multiple hires equal multiple “jobs.”  Our tax dollars at work.  (Or, is it play?)

With these facts, it seems like the census could be achieved much more efficiently by getting the postal worker on the street to knock on the door, deliver some mail, and casually ask how many people live in the unit.  Since people are already comfortable with their usual postal worker, having them ask the questions would be much more likely to guarantee a response.  And, it would save taxpayers the indignity of funding inflated job creation numbers.

May 25th, 2010 at 3:10 pm
The Simplest Explanation for Everything That’s Wrong with the American Economy…
Posted by Print

… can be found in the pages of today’s USA Today. Behold four of the clearest, most incontrovertible, and most horrifying paragraphs you’ll ever read in print:

Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds.

At the same time, government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.

Those records reflect a long-term trend accelerated by the recession and the federal stimulus program to counteract the downturn. The result is a major shift in the source of personal income from private wages to government programs.

The trend is not sustainable, says University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes. Reason: The federal government depends on private wages to generate income taxes to pay for its ever-more-expensive programs. Government-generated income is taxed at lower rates or not at all, he says. “This is really important,” Grimes says.

Let’s review: you cannot have a welfare state without a private sector vibrant enough to fund it. You cannot have a private sector vibrant enough to fund it unless government allows the market to function relatively unimpeded. And the market can’t function relatively unimpeded unless the welfare state stays modest in scope. What exactly don’t the folks in Washington, Sacramento, and Athens understand?

May 25th, 2010 at 11:14 am
Congress to FCC: Abandon Plans to Take Over the Internet

In an effort to circumvent a unanimous federal appeals court ruling, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) announced earlier this month that it will pursue a “third way” to obtain regulatory control over the Internet.  Specifically, lacking the straightforward authority to impose burdensome and unnecessary regulations on the World Wide Web, the FCC is now seeking “to shoehorn Internet service into regulations drafted in the 1930s for old-fashioned landline telephones” in an effort to dramatically expand its regulatory reach.

CFIF and others have written extensively about how such an unprecedented power grab threatens to suffocate private broadband investment, jobs and Internet innovation.  And, in a rare display of bipartisanship, Congress is now adding its voice of opposition, too.

In a letter sent yesterday to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, 74 Congressional Democrats expressed “serious concerns” about the FCC’s actions.  “The significant regulatory impact of reclassifying broadband service is not something that should be taken lightly and should not be done without additional direction from Congress,” the letter reads.  “We urge you not to move forward with a proposal that undermines critically important investment in broadband and the jobs that come with it.”

Also released yesterday was a similar letter to the FCC Chairman signed by 37 Senate Republicans.  The Senators wrote:

We are deeply disappointed by your recent announcement that you intend to reclassify broadband Internet access services as telecommunications services subject to Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.  This move will deter further private sector investment in broadband networks, will negatively impact innovation, and ultimately harm consumers.  We strongly encourage you to abandon this drastic action, and to continue the successful policy of leaving the Internet free from common carrier regulations.”

The people have spoken.  The courts have spoken.  And now, a bipartisan and sizable group of elected officials in Congress have spoken.  Will Obama’s FCC finally listen?

May 25th, 2010 at 9:47 am
White House Self-Investigates; Pronounces Itself Innocent
Posted by Print

For three months, the White House has refused to say whether it offered a job to Representative Joe Sestak to get him to drop his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania Democratic primary, as Mr. Sestak has asserted.

“But the White House wants everyone who suspects that something untoward, or even illegal, might have happened to rest easy; though it still will not reveal what happened, the White House is reassuring skeptics that it has examined its own actions and decided it did nothing wrong.  Whatever it was that it did.” — Peter Baker, The New York Times

That’s about as succinct an explanation of a growing kerfuffle as can be written.  The kerfuffle is growing because the second worst White House Press Secretary in living memory, Robert Gibbs, decided to run a cutesy stonewall when Sestak first made his allegation (when the White House was against his candidacy before it was for his candidacy), and now has escalated it into the annals of political kerfuffledom.

It would take a Special Prosecutor longer to get an office set up than it would to resolve this. 

Someone (maybe multiple someones) carrying a White House briefcase said something to Sestak about a job,  seemingly linked to him abandoning his candidacy.  Couldn’t have been a very long conversation. 

Interview Sestak.  Interview the someone (or someones).  Conclude whether or not there is reason to believe the conversation crossed the legal line.  Conclude whether or not any party interviewed committed perjury during the really brief investigation.  Proceed to grand jury or issue a report.

But hey.  Summer’s here.  Let’s instead have yet another spittle-spewing Washington circus.

May 24th, 2010 at 4:15 pm
Nearly 2/3 of Americans Now Want Obamacare Repealed
Posted by Print

That’s the result of a new Rasmussen poll out today that shows 63 percent of voters would like to see the crown jewel of the Obama legacy relegated to the ash heap of history. Per Rasmussen:

Prior to today, weekly polling had shown support for repeal ranging from 54% to 58%.

Currently, just 32% oppose repeal.

The new findings include 46% who Strongly Favor repeal of the health care bill and 25% who Strongly Oppose it.

While opposition to the bill has remained as consistent since its passage as it was beforehand, this marks the first time that support for repeal has climbed into the 60s. It will be interesting to see whether this marks a brief bounce or indicates a trend of growing opposition.

Perhaps this owes to the growing public awareness of some of the facts that Peter Suderman points out at Reason:

Already, businesses small and large are warning of the ill effects of the law’s changes to the tax code. In order to generate the nearly $1 trillion necessary to pay for the law, its authors scoured the tax code looking to squeeze out more money whereever possible. And sure enough, within a few days of its passage, a handful of big companies took tax write downs in response to changes in the tax treatment of an existing drug subsidy. An estimate by Credit Suisse puts the total damage across the economy at around $4.5 billion—with $1 billion coming from AT&T alone.

The change involved the tax treatment of a subsidy that never should have existed, but it suggests the extent to which America’s health care system is already reliant on government meddling, and how costly expanding the government’s role in the system can be. And, perhaps more importantly, a planned investigation into the write-downs revealed that many big corporations are considering dropping their health care coverage and dumping employees onto the public dole.

When Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) heard about the write-downs, he called a hearing with AT&T and other companies claiming big hits. But soon after the subpoenaed corporate documents were turned in, the hearing was canceled. Why? Likely because, as Fortune magazine reported, the documents showed that the companies were considering dropping coverage for many employees—directly contradicting one of the president’s key promises, that, under ObamaCare, “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” Even with penalties in place for employers who decline to provide health insurance, documents showed that Caterpillar could reduce its health care costs by as much as 70 percent and AT&T could save as much as $1.8 billion by shifting their employees into public programs.

If this sounds like a plan that only a bureaucrat could love, that’s because it is. Check out this underreported nugget from the Rasmussen poll:

The Political Class continues to be a strong supporter of the plan, however. While 67% of Mainstream voters believe the plan will be bad for America, 77% of the Political Class disagree and think it be good for the country.

The political class is about to get knocked on their heels. And to show how it can happen (warning: incoming teaser) , later this week I’ll be looking at a couple of little known-provisions in the health care bill that could prove its ultimate undoing.

May 24th, 2010 at 12:40 pm
Toxicity of the Feds’ Alphabet Soup More Harmful than BP’s Oil

The most toxic substance floating around Louisiana’s coastline isn’t oil – it’s the confusion that comes with the federal government’s alphabet soup of bureaucracy.  Click on any article describing the feds’ response, and you get a myriad of people and institutions allegedly “in charge” of directing the cleanup activity.  So far, the heads of the EPA, Interior Department, Homeland Security, and Coast Guard have all visited the state and personally weighed in on what should be done.  Now, they are contradicting each other.

In a news conference on Sunday outside the BP headquarters in Houston, Mr. Salazar repeated the phrase that the government would keep its “boot on BP’s neck” for results. He also said the company had repeatedly missed deadlines and had not been open with the public.

Mr. Salazar added, “If we find they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately.”

That statement, however, conflicted with comments made only hours earlier by the Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Thad W. Allen, who said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that the access BP has to the mile-deep well site meant that the government could not take over the lead in efforts to stop the leak.

“They are necessarily the modality by which this is going to get solved,” he said.

One of the consequences of bloated bureaucracies is overlapping areas of responsibility.  Coupled with a politician’s aversion to risk (an element of bold decision making), and the result is many people responsible, but no one is ultimately in charge.

And while they dither, 65 miles of Louisiana coastline are “oiled.”

May 24th, 2010 at 11:47 am
Djou In, Paul Out?

The last few days offered a study in contrasts.  Charles Djou won a plurality special election becoming just the third Republican to represent Hawaii in Congress.  He did so by sticking relentlessly to a pro-growth, low tax message that resonated in a heavily Democratic district.  While Djou won’t vote with the GOP on every issue, his commitment to fiscal conservatism will be a huge factor in whether he gets reelected to a full term in November.

Contrast Djou’s steady drum beat approach to Rand Paul’s improvisational jazz.  The Kentucky GOP senate nominee erased the euphoria of a double digit beat down of the establishment candidate last Tuesday by questioning the constitutionality of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a federal law mandating racial equality.  His points aside, Paul took his eye off the ball by engaging the issue.  The 2010 midterm election results – and Rand Paul’s popularity – are not the product of a national rethink on the scope of Congress’s power to enforce the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

It’s about the economy, Rand.  The safest ground for limited government types this cycle is to stay on message that tax-and-spend must end.  Just Djou it.

May 24th, 2010 at 9:28 am
Ramirez Cartoon: It’s America’s Fault…
Posted by Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.