Archive for August, 2010
August 17th, 2010 at 11:54 am
Bell City Council Illegally Raised Taxes; Increases Tea Party Sentiment

The Tea Party movement is going viral.  As reported earlier, the City of Bell, CA is now Exhibit A in corrupt government.  Thousands of the majority Hispanic population in Bell protested outside city hall after it was revealed that the city council raised local property taxes 50% beyond the legal limit.

Here’s a spot-on analysis of how the Tea Party movement’s call for limited – and constitutional – government is starting to bubble up in a growing number of communities.

When people wonder why the Tea Party and other grassroots political movements start, this is a great example.  Government at any level that grows haughty, insular, and corrupt generates a reaction towards accountability and more modest models of governance.  I’m certain that the protesters in Bell don’t see themselves as part of the Tea Party movement, but the two have more similarities than differences.  They’re angry at the local model of big government arrogance and at having their pockets picked — especially considering the relatively low average household income in this Southern California community, at just under $30,000.

H/T: Hot Air Blog

August 17th, 2010 at 11:47 am
Video: “Those Voices Don’t Speak For the Rest of Us”

Below is the latest video from the Republican Study Committee, which contrasts Ronald Reagan with the “leadership” in Washington, D.C. today. 


August 17th, 2010 at 10:03 am
Ramirez Cartoon: “It’s a Freedom of Religion Thing”
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

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

August 16th, 2010 at 5:41 pm
Liberals Turning on Obama

The New Republic’s John Judis is out today with a feature-length article titled, “The Unnecessary Fall,” a blow-by-blow recounting of how Barack Obama missed his opportunity to define his presidency in populist terms.  To Judis, the greatest betrayal of liberal America’s would-be Messiah is the latter’s failure to engage in confrontational politics.

Why has the White House failed to convince the public that it is fighting effectively on its behalf? The principal culprit is clearly Barack Obama. He has a strange aversion to confrontational politics. His aversion is strange because he was schooled in it, working as a community organizer in the 1980s, under the tutelage of activists who subscribed to teachings of the radical Saul Alinsky. But, when Obama departed for Harvard Law School in 1988, he left Alinsky and adversarial tactics behind.

The young lawyer who returned to Chicago and won a seat in the Illinois state Senate in 1996 practiced a very different style of politics. Obama’s principal accomplishments in Springfield were bills restricting lobbying and requiring videotaping of confessions in potential death penalty cases. He was not a typical blue-collar, bread-and-butter Chicago Democrat, but the kind of good government liberal that represents the upscale districts of the city, seeing in politics a higher calling and ill at ease with (although not in open opposition to) the city’s Democratic machine. He was also a post-racial politician who eschewed the hard-edged, angry rhetoric of Jesse Jackson. (That, too, is oddly reminiscent of Carter, who partly campaigned in 1976 as the white Southern antidote to George Wallace’s angry racial populism.)

Obama carried this outlook into the U.S. Senate, into his campaign for the presidency, and then, into the presidency itself. He is a cerebral, dispassionate, post-partisan; he wants to “end the political strategy that has been based on division,” to “turn the page” on the culture wars of the 1960s and the partisan battles of the 1990s. During the campaign, his aides jokingly referred to him as the “black Jesus.” While he can tolerate and even brush aside conflict, he is reluctant to actively foment it. “In a time of crisis, we can’t afford to govern out of anger,” he declared in February 2009. During his campaign and his first year in office, he held to a blind faith in bipartisanship, even as the Republicans voted as a bloc against his legislation. He is, perhaps, ill-suited in these respects for an era of bruising political warfare.

Ignoring Judis’ laughable attempt to paint Obama as a disappointed bipartisan, there’s nothing special about this era that makes politics any more or less “bruising.”  Leading is always tough.  As Judis indicates, maybe Obama isn’t.

August 16th, 2010 at 5:06 pm
More Money, More Gold?

With the Federal Reserve announcing it will increase the supply of paper money (i.e. dollars), it is once again time to consider the merits of (re)adopting the Gold Standard to help regulate the value of our nation’s currency.  Gold Standard 2012, a project of the American Principles Project, has a helpful video:

August 16th, 2010 at 1:59 pm
The Unstoppable Bomb
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I’ve been writing in this space for months now that Western policymakers who believe Iran can be contained or deterred by conventional methods once it goes nuclear are deluding themselves. As I wrote in a commentary nearly a year ago:

In the 1930s, Winston Churchill – virtually alone – called for swift action to remove Hitler before he could wreak havoc.  What was the source of his clarity? Churchill simply understood that Hitler meant what he said in “Mein Kampf” and was developing the capacity to act on it. Meanwhile, the rest of Europe’s political sophisticates believed that Hitler’s rhetoric was purely for domestic consumption – a tool used to exploit the grievances of the demoralized Weimar Republic.
Today, a similar debate rages over Ahmadinejad and the mullahs whose regime he leads.  But the sincerity of their beliefs should be in doubt to no one.  The Iranian President is a man who, during his tenure as the mayor of Tehran, ordered the city’s streets widened in anticipation of the return of the Twelfth Imam, a figure who accompanies the apocalypse in Shiite Islamic theology. The American left would call for the head of any mayor in the United States who wanted to widen Main Street to prepare for the return of the Christ. Yet they apparently think a similar figure in the world’s biggest hotbed of religious fundamentalism can be expected to be a benign wielder of nuclear launch codes.

In the new issue of Commentary, the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, in a piece entitled “Iran Cannot be Contained”, comes to the same conclusion from a different angle, rebutting those who think that because containment worked on the Soviet Union it can work on the Iranian regime:

… The most important difference between the Soviet Union and Iran may be ideological. A credible case can be made that Communism is no less a faith than Islam and that Iran’s current leadership, like Soviet leaders of yore, knows how to temper true belief with pragmatic considerations. But Communism was also a materialist and (by its own lights) rationalist creed, with a belief in the inevitability of history but not in the afterlife. Marxist-Leninist regimes may be unmatched in their record of murderousness, but they were never great believers in the virtues of martyrdom.

That is not the case with Shiism, which has been decisively shaped by a cult of suffering and martyrdom dating to the murder of Imam Husayn—the Sayyed al-Shuhada, or Prince of Martyrs—in Karbala in the seventh century. The emphasis on martyrdom became all the more pronounced in Iran during its war with Iraq, when Tehran sent waves of child soldiers, some as young as 10, to clear out Iraqi minefields. As Hooman Majd writes in his book The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, the boys were often led by a soldier mounted on a white horse in imitation of Husayn: “the hero who would lead them into their fateful battle before they met their God.” Tens of thousands of children died this way.

The martyrdom mentality factors into Iran’s nuclear calculus as well. In December 2001, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—a man often described as a moderate and a pragmatist in the Western press—noted in his Qods (Jerusalem) Day speech that “if one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.”

We are, quite simply, running out of time.  We can try to ignore reality, but reality won’t return the favor.

August 16th, 2010 at 10:32 am
Latest Survey of Economists: No More “Stimulus,” Extend Tax Cuts for Everyone
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The latest survey of 53 economists by The Wall Street Journal offers a clear message.  Namely, no more government “stimulus,” and extend the soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts for everyone, not just those earning under $250,000 annually.

Of 48 polled economists, 30 flatly rejected calls for any form of additional fiscal or monetary “stimulus.”  Only 6 economists encouraged more Obama-Reid-Pelosi style fiscal stimulus, only 5 suggested additional monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve and just 7 suggested both.  On the issue of taxes, fully 32 of the polled economists called for extending all of the current lower tax rates, in a sharp rebuke to Obamanomics.  Only 3 economists supported an end to the Bush-era tax cuts, and only 11 agreed with Obama and Timothy Geithner in their campaign to raise taxes on those individuals and small businesses reporting income over $250,000.  Unlike Obama and Geithner, economists recognize the destructive effect that raising taxes on individuals and small businesses in the top income segments will have.

As Stephen Stanley of Pierpoint Securities summarized, “the economy needs government to get out of the way.”  Well said.

August 13th, 2010 at 3:44 pm
From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” File: Maxine Waters Blames Bush for Ethics Charges
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At some point, Americans’ outrage over the nonsense spewed upon us by desperate Washington, D.C. liberals becomes twisted amusement.  Today, Representative Maxine Waters (D – California) managed to pull the “race card” and “blame Bush” card in one preposterous swoop.

Representative Waters now finds herself the defendant against Congressional ethics charges that she improperly offered special assistance to OneUnited, a bank on whose board her husband had served.  At the time, her husband owned $350,000 in OneUnited stock, which was threatened by the financial downturn and would stand to benefit from federal dollars.  Speaking to reporters to rationalize her behavior, Waters claimed that she was compelled to do what she did because the Bush Treasury Department wasn’t responding to her satisfaction:

The question at this point should not be why I called Secretary [Henry] Paulson, but why I had to.  The question at this point should be why a trade association representing over one hundred minority banks could not get a meeting at the height of the crisis.”

Waters apparently hasn’t received the memo that “the race card is maxed out.”

August 13th, 2010 at 2:19 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: The Jobs Numbers Still Look Bad…
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

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

August 13th, 2010 at 12:13 pm
This Week’s Liberty Update
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This week’s edition of the Liberty Update, CFIF’s weekly e-newsletter, is out.  Below is a summary of its contents:

Lee:  Why We’re Boiling Over: Federal Salaries Now Twice That of Private Sector
Senik:  Message to Congress: Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!
Ellis:  Investment Fund Shows That Betting Against Congress is a Great Way to Make Money

Freedom Minute Video:  A Volt Out of the Blue
Podcast:  CFIF Contributing Editor Discusses “Field Guide for Patriot Activists”
Jester’s Courtroom:  Seven-Year-Old’s Lemonade Stand Shut Down for License Violation

Editorial Cartoons:  Latest Cartoons of Michael Ramirez
Quiz:  Question of the Week
Notable Quotes:  Quotes of the Week

If you are not already signed up to receive CFIF’s Liberty Update by e-mail, sign up here.

August 13th, 2010 at 11:21 am
August 13, 1981: President Reagan Signs Tax Reduction Act
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On this date in 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 at his Rancho del Cielo property in Santa Barbara, California.  Sponsored by Congressman Jack Kemp (R – New York) and Senator William Roth (R – Delaware), the bill amended the Internal Revenue Code in order “to encourage economic growth through reductions in individual income tax rates, the expensing of depreciable property, incentives for small businesses, and incentives for savings.”

Did it ever.

By reducing tax rates and unleashing American dynamism, the U.S. witnessed two consecutive years of remarkable growth.  For the eight quarters spanning 1982 and 1983, we saw gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 5.1%, 9.3%, 8.1%, 8.5%, 8.0%, 7.1%, 3.9% and 3.3%.  Compare that to our current cyclical recovery, in which the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda of higher spending, regulation and taxation has subdued our rebound to 1.6%, 5.0%, 3.7% and 2.4% (soon to be revised downward to an estimated 1%).  Obama, Pelosi and Reid like to claim credit for our inevitable cyclical recovery from the last downturn, but the truth is that they’ve only managed to stifle it while adding trillions to our debt.

They should instead take a trip down memory lane and correct course according to the crystal clear Regan example.

August 13th, 2010 at 9:55 am
Video: A Volt Out of the Blue
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses President Obama’s recent praise of Chevrolet’s new taxpayer-subsidized electric car – the Chevy Volt – as the first step towards realizing his vision for a clean energy economy.  Calling it “the perfect metaphor for the Obama Administration,”  Giachino says the Volt “costs too much, does too little, and can’t live up to the media hype.”


August 12th, 2010 at 9:15 pm
White House Aides Should Learn This Is Not the Time to Complain About Too Much Work

Victor Davis Hanson has some terrific commentary at National Review Online drawing out the distinctions between the well-paid, over-worked White House aides recently profiled by the New York Times, and the everyday Americans grinding it out during the Great Recession.

The Times wants to draw a sympathetic portrait of the heroic Obama cadre that suffers so much on our behalf. These are six-figure jobs that wear out one’s hands on the Blackberry, true, but serve as valuable stepping-stones to even higher-paying corporate jobs. And this is still a recession. This raise-the-bar griping will not go down well with the coal worker in Montana, the welder on a 30-story scaffold, or the oil worker offshore (e.g., it is not as if a Blackberry is going to blow up in one’s hands, or an acoustical tile is going to fall and crush one in the West Wing). It is all too reminiscent of the various explanations we’ve heard for why Michelle’s Costa del Sol sojourn was an understandable and much-needed refresher before the more arduous odyssey ahead on Martha’s Vineyard.

August 12th, 2010 at 8:58 pm
Defense Secretary Gates Taking Heat for Proposing Common Sense Military Cuts

Maybe this was one of the reasons Robert Gates decided to stay on as Defense Secretary when Barack Obama became president.  Faced with budget deficits and needing funding for two wars, Gates is setting his sights on reducing the waste, fraud and abuse in military bureaucracy and contracting.

Rest assured, the Gates cuts will not imperil soldiers in the field.  In an eye-opening column by Ralph Peters, the Defense Secretary’s war on waste is an admirable contribution to the government-wide belt-tightening that needs to be done.  Peters highlights five key targets:

  1. A reduction in the amount of overpaid contractors currently making up 39% of the Defense Department workforce
  2. Pink slips for an overabundance of senior brass and staff
  3. Eliminating redundant information technology offices
  4. Curbing expensive self-studies that provide little value
  5. Closing the Joint Forces Command, an ineffective inter-branch agency with no mission

According to Peters, Gates can prove there’s bite to his bark if he can get JFCOM closed despite the howls from its Virginia-based congressional delegation.

Stay tuned.

August 12th, 2010 at 7:17 pm
Bibi Redux
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Back in March, after his speech to AIPAC, I offered the notion that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the last statesman left in the Western world.

Unfortunately, nearly six months later, nothing much has changed. Iran continues to develop its nuclear capacity, the United States continues to toothlessly chide the mullahs, and Israel continues to gird itself for a task that is only palatable in light of the alternative: to attack the regime in Tehran rather than to risk annihilation at its hands. Throughout all the world, only one man is treating this threat with the gravity it deserves. That man is the Prime Minister of Israel.

Netanyahu is tough, smart, and morally courageous: three things that you don’t see much of in politics these days. He deserves your respect and should gain even more of it in light of George Will’s profile of him in today’s Washington Post. From the coda of a piece that begs to be read in its entirety:

Arguably the most left-wing administration in American history is trying to knead and soften the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history. The former shows no understanding of the latter, which thinks it understands the former all too well.

The prime minister honors Churchill, who spoke of “the confirmed unteachability of mankind.” Nevertheless, a display case in Netanyahu’s office could teach the Obama administration something about this leader. It contains a small signet stone that was part of a ring found near the Western Wall. It is about 2,800 years old — 200 years younger than Jerusalem’s role as the Jewish people’s capital. The ring was the seal of a Jewish official, whose name is inscribed on it: Netanyahu.

No one is less a transnational progressive, less a post-nationalist, than Binyamin Netanyahu, whose first name is that of a son of Jacob, who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago. Netanyahu, whom no one ever called cuddly, once said to a U.S. diplomat 10 words that should warn U.S. policymakers who hope to make Netanyahu malleable: “You live in Chevy Chase. Don’t play with our future.”

August 12th, 2010 at 6:23 pm
Podcast: CFIF Contributing Editor Discusses “Field Guide for Patriot Activists”
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Interview with Ashton Ellis, co-author of “Refounding America: A Field Guide for Patriot Activists.”  Ashton discusses the all-in-one guidebook for American first principles, successful activist strategies and how to peacefully change the federal and state governments throughout America to restore values, principles, honor and integrity.

Listen to the interview here.

August 12th, 2010 at 5:56 pm
Census Data: One of Every Twelve Births to Illegal Immigrants
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Amid the national debate over whether to amend the 14th Amendment to prohibit automatic birthright citizenship for “anchor babies” of illegal immigrants, we receive startling data from a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data.  In 2008, according to the numbers, illegal immigrant parents accounted for some 8% of births in America – one out of every twelve.

Although illegal immigrants constitute 4% of the American adult population, the Census data indicates that they account for twice that percentage of newborns.  The terms of the 14th Amendment grant citizenship to”all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” and courts have interpreted that to grant birthright citizenship.  Amendment proponents, however, argue that those terms fairly aimed to protect freed slaves from attempts to deny them equal rights under the law, not to confer automatic U.S. citizenship to illegal immigrants’ offspring.

Regardless of the legal and constitutional merits for or against the amendment, the new data adds startling new practical, real-world, objective perspective to the debate.

August 12th, 2010 at 11:09 am
Obama to Business: Dive In! The Recovery Is Fine.
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

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

August 11th, 2010 at 8:54 pm
Paul Ryan, Barack Obama & Triangulation

Here’s Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) take on President Barack Obama’s Clintonian ability to triangulate:

Looking ahead, Ryan says “a lot of people speculate on whether [President Obama] will triangulate like [Bill] Clinton did” after the GOP sweep in 1994. The Wisconsin Republican isn’t holding his breath. “I don’t know whether that’s really who [Obama] is,” Ryan says. “First, the economy is not going to be like it was in 1995 or 1996. Second, the president is a liberal and Clinton was arguably a centrist. And third, I just don’t think that [Obama] is willing to admit that all the things he did during the first two years of his presidency were wrong, because I don’t think he believes that. I don’t see a big triangulation happening.”

As summer traipses towards fall, the president’s persistence in his agenda is making it more and more likely that he will force his 2012 reelection campaign to be a referendum on him and his ideas.  Hopefully, Republicans will nominate someone who can not only define those deficiencies, but also articulate a better way forward.

H/T: The Corner at National Review Online

August 11th, 2010 at 8:28 pm
Conservative Quandry on the Link Between Unemployment Benefits and Job Creation

Everyone except Paul Krugman at least acknowledges that paying for the recently extended unemployment benefits Congress just authorized is a serious issue; even if some consider it outweighed by other concerns.

In addition to increasing the national debt, extending unemployment benefits may also increase unemployment itself.  As Thomas Cooley explains in Forbes, studies show that unemployment benefits can reduce the urgency to find a new job.  However, Cooley mentions another phenomenon that bears further meditation:

Economists Lawrence Katz and Bruce Meyer, in a 1990 study, showed that an increase of one week of benefits increased the duration of unemployment by about 0.2 weeks. Note that some benefits have been extended up to 99 weeks. A back-of-the-envelope calculation means that going from 26 weeks of benefits to 99 would increase unemployment duration by about 14 weeks very close to the increase in duration shown in Figure 3. Recently, however, in a testimony to the Joint Economic Committee (April 29, 2010) the very same Katz said that the effects are small. The difference between the 1990 study and his current finding is that, according to his research, permanent job losses as opposed to temporary layoffs have played a bigger part in this recession. (Emphasis mine)

Unlike Krugman, I’m not one to quibble with logic and empirical data.  But the current unemployment situation is different from the usual circumstance of entities within a sector reshuffling the staff rosters.  Such events cause minor displacements – though not to individual workers and their families – and can be smoothed out when laid off workers find comparable employment in the same or similar industry.

This recession is different.  As the bolded text above shows there appears to be an economy-wide reduction in workforce afoot.  Employers are discovering unknown efficiencies with contingency workers.  In many cases, former full-time, full-benefit workers are being hired back as independent contractors for project work with no benefits.

Once employers get used to getting more production for less compensation, those former full-time, full-benefit jobs won’t be coming back.  That poses a serious quandary for limited government conservatives.  Should government provide a benefits supplement for those working multiple jobs, but still failing to pay the bills, even if it means adding to the deficit?  On the other hand, should benefits be cut to stop the fiscal bleeding with the hope that the former recipients find a way to make ends meet?

Whatever path is chosen, conservatives need to think hard about how to combine stopping the government spending with policies that enable sustainable private sector job creation.