Conservative Political Commentary

...anti-socialist, anti-globalist, and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top (But Not Necessarily Best) Political News Items of 2009


I write this as the final few minutes of 2009 are ticking away. The year has not been a particularly good one in terms of the American economy and American politics. Rather, it has been a great challenge for many families and individuals, and full of disappointing actions by our federal government. It seems we have been set up for a good deal more suffering in the future in the areas of taxation, inflation, and more importantly, loss of liberty and increased government control over our everyday lives.

Here I am listing, with brief comments, what I consider the top items, organized by category. You can refer to my previous blog posts for comments on most of these items if you are interested.

First, the economy
Double-digit unemployment. This has probably been the top news story of the year, and it continues month after month in spite of the stimulus and increased spending in general. Forecasts suggest high unemployment rates will continue through much of 2010.
Auto company takeovers and bankruptcies. These were more government takeovers of private-sector industry. GM and Chrysler went through bankruptcies anyway. About $110 billion was spent on these items, with more losses to come.
Cash for Clunkers program. This program helped some people get new cars at a substantial cost to taxpayers. It ran out of money at one point and had to have new authorization to continue for a while. Dealers had to wait a long time to get paid by the government. The program was useful in illustrating the fine-tuned efficiency of government management that we can expect in other programs, like health care and cap and trade.
$1.42 trillion budget deficit. Annual deficits of over $1 trillion are projected for the next decade. This is not only disappointing and difficult, but actually dangerous to our economy.
Largest national debt ever. Currently $12.15 trillion [1], not including tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
House passes financial regulatory bill. Really a thinly disguised government takeover, as the bill includes authority to seize failing companies, or force them to split up. Maybe the Senate will have better sense than to repeat this nonsense.
California faces financial crisis. The liberal welfare state policies of California have naturally led to big deficits and near bankruptcy. Yet these same priorities are being pursued in Washington, where it is thought that the ability to print money will protect us, unlike in California. This, however is not true. A day of reckoning is coming if corrections aren’t made, and sooner than people think.

Second, Health Care
House and Senate pass differing health care bills. Harry Reid and friends will work out the differences in conference. Democrats have all the votes they need, and aren’t getting any help from Republicans. This strictly partisan bill is supported by only a minority of American voters. Democrats will see this in the 2010 elections.
Swine flu scare. “Pandemic” or not, this issue has been exploited as another “scare” to encourage people to look to government for help.
States raise constitutional questions about health care bills. Several state attorneys general are preparing to file lawsuits over various features that might show up in the final health care bill, such as mandates to purchase insurance, and special deals for certain states, that were negotiated to obtain votes enough to get to 60 votes in the Senate. The courts will likely rule on several constitutional issues. I hope they consider the Tenth Amendment.
Citizens protest against Obamacare at August town hall meetings. Several members of Congress were startled at the harshness with which many of their constituents received information about Obamacare, and got an earful at their town hall meetings that were supposed to explain the plan to the people and build support. Obama had to call out his SEIU thugs to assault some people.

Third, Climate Change
House passes cap and trade. A far-reaching and costly cap and trade bill was passed by the House, which drew ridicule from conservatives. House Minority Leader John Boehner spent an hour reading from the bill on the House floor, pointing out some of its ridiculous provisions. The billed was passed having been read by few or no members.
President Barack Obama goes to Copenhagen for climate meeting. The conference resulted in a five-party non-binding “agreement” among large nations, including the U.S., but overall was a major failure. But Obama promised tens of billions in aid to other countries, which is what the meeting was all about anyway.
HHS declares carbon dioxide is harmful to health. Thus, if cap and trade does not pass, the government can use HHS regulations to force CO-2 standards on industry and impose draconian regulations.
“Climategate” shows dishonesty of so-called climate science. The so-called science of climate change is severely distorted and is questioned by many scientists. It is a fraud and a hoax which serves as an excuse to seek more government control and power.

Fourth, the Tea Party Movement
Tea Party rallies draw thousands in various locations, a million or more in Washington; media loath to cover them.

Fifth, Foreign Affairs
Obama delays Afghanistan policy decision. Finally, Obama announces a troop increase of about 30,000, but his speech announcing this was halfhearted in tone, with more emphasis on getting out than in fulfilling the mission.
Higher rate of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan than in 2008.
Obama visits China; talks seem unproductive. No specific agreement announced about China financing U.S. debt, or China’s human rights policies, etc.
Talks with Russia seem unproductive. Hillary Clinton and the President have talked to Russian officials at different times. The on-again-off-again missile shield in Eastern Europe is a barrier, in Russia’s view, to the kind of nuclear disarmament Obama wants. In the interest of American security, one may hope it won’t happen soon.
North Korea pushes ahead with nuclear program.
Iran pushes ahead with nuclear program.
Iran experiences substantial internal dissent. Obama has been criticized for not taking a stronger position in support of Iranian dissidents protesting the Iranian presidential election.
Obama apologizes for U.S. in Europe and Latin America. Seemingly never wanting to miss an opportunity to criticize and apologize for America, Obama seems to think that before he came along, America was usually the bad guy.
Israel invades Gaza in response to attacks. The Democrats’ response? Many billions of dollars in aid to the Gaza regime, i.e., the terrorist organization Hamas.
Terrorist airplane bombing averted although security measures failed. According to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, the system worked, then it didn’t. Obama characterized the perpetrator as “isolated” despite his contacts with terrorist groups.

Sixth, Obama’s People
Obama appoints 30+ “czars.” They supposedly wield power like Cabinet officers are supposed to, but don’t need Senate confirmation and report only to Obama. That’s the Chicago way, I suppose.
Ben Bernanke appointed to another term as Fed head, named Time’s Person of the Year. A lot of people are unhappy with these developments.
Several of Obama’s appointments shown to be tax cheats, some have had to withdraw, such as Tom Daschle. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, tax cheat, stays on. He’s over IRS and a good many other things. He worked with Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke in the bank bailouts and other Obama moves to take over the financial sector.
Rep. Charles Rangel in trouble over taxes. He’s chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes and oversees tax laws
Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, who had a significant role in causing the financial crisis, have significant responsibility for dealing with it.

Seventh, the GOP
New Jersey and Virginia elect Republican governors. This is said to portend trouble for the Democrats in 2010. The Democrats probably think the voters will have short memories about Obamacare, etc. Are they right? Not if the Tea Party movement can keep going.
Sarah Palin publishes autobiography/memoir. This rekindles liberals’ fears of her, which they express through ridicule and abuse.

Eighth, Miscellaneous
Obama goes to Copenhagen to promote Chicago for the Olympics. Chicago is then the first city to be rejected by the International Olympic Committee. And after all that trouble.
Obama blames Bush Administration at every opportunity. Ho, hum, what else is new?
Obama’s talk to school children leads to controversy. Liberals don’t seem to know why. Could it be because now he’s the education Indoctrinator-in-Chief?
Obama wants more school days and hours for American students. He wants them to beat these foreign students on math and science tests. Also, he wants the federal government dictating policy to local schools. A better idea is to encourage school districts to expand vocational education.

So that’s briefly how some things happened in 2009. Let’s hope things improve in 2010. Happy New Year, everyone!

[1] U.S. National Debt Clock, 12/31/09, 11:53 PM CST, at http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

Monday, December 28, 2009

“Progressive” Government Is Still the Problem


It’s remarkable how Ronald Reagan’s words apply today as when he spoke them at his inauguration January 20, 1981, and had previously expressed the same idea in his GOP Convention speech in 1964:



The issue is much the same today as it has been throughout American history, especially since the beginning of the twentieth century: the size and power of the federal government. This encompasses many social and economic issues. As far back as the Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist controversies, this issue has been discussed and debated. But even the Federalists, who favored a stronger central government than did the Anti-Federalists, still wanted the government confined to its constitutional limits. They disagreed on the legal mechanisms for accomplishing this.

In the twentieth century, President Woodrow Wilson, an authoritarian ruler, used World War I as an excuse to impose a near-totalitarian administration on America. He was an example of the Progressive movement. Harding and Coolidge represented a much-needed respite from the Wilson tyranny, but soon Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt continued the statist ways, without helping the situation during the state-caused Great Depression.

Liberals today often prefer the term “Progressive,” probably hoping most people won’t know what it means. Historically the Progressives have been in favor of activist government placing “experts” in charge of making decisions for the people that they traditionally have made for themselves. Progressives have been responsible for many developments, some good and some bad.

Progressives attacked the abuses prevalent in some parts of society in business and industry, and strove to improve treatment of people on the lower end of the socio-economic scale. In doing this, they used the press and literature to call attention to outstanding problems, and succeeded in getting many improvements made. They also planted the seeds for the permanent welfare state, eventually creating a permanent dependent underclass that is useful as a source of votes.

Human nature is such that man is prone to yield to temptations to mistreat others and to abuse people and laws for his own benefit. Government had participated in private-sector abuses by passing laws favorable to the robber-baron types. Yet it is a mistake to assume that all wealthy industrialists were equally guilty. From the Progressives’ actions came the growth of labor unions, who soon enough installed abuses of their own when they could get government to side with them.

Progressives in the 1920’s were often admirers of Benito Mussolini, and his seeming success in organizing society through the State. Everyone had to participate in the great fascist program (at the expense of their own self interest) or else. They often also tended to admire the Soviet Union, seeing collectivism as the “wave of the future.” For a discussion of the Progressives’ political similarities with major socialist movements see Jonah Goldberg’s video here, as he discusses his book Liberal Fascism, which I highly recommend.

Progressives also promoted the eugenics movement, hoping to weed out undesirable specimens from society. This they did by getting laws passed to allow involuntary sterilization of individuals deemed less fit. This process appears to have been stopped in the U.S., but has been replaced by the far worse phenomenon of abortion. We haven’t got to forced abortions yet, but there is some pressure in that direction. See eugenics video here.

Today, Progressives are about to get the power to tell every American what kind of medical insurance and care he/she can get and can’t get, how much it will cost, who pays, etc. In addition to the great loss of liberty this would bring, the Right to Life movement is rightly concerned that government will fund abortions and that end-of-life care will contribute to ending lives. Since this happens in other supposedly civilized countries, it is not entirely unlikely to happen here. Most Americans oppose this takeover, but, apparently, raw political power will prevail.

Progressives have also bought into (concocted?) the notion that global warming (or, climate change, if you prefer) is an issue that must be dealt with on a grand scale by government, at great expense. The best and brightest plans that have been suggested will not change the climate to any significant extent, and worldwide cooperation is simply not going to happen. The whole idea is not really related to climate, but rather, is an attempt to shake down wealthier nations, particularly the United States, to transfer wealth to the thugs and tyrants of the third world. It is showing some success in that. Also, it would give the Progressive “experts” more areas of control over citizens’ everyday lives.

Progressivism works politically through defining “victims” and going after people and institutions that have wealth and economic power, using, for example, Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and similar methods that are commonly used by communist agitators, such as demonizing the opponent, repeating a big lie loudly and frequently so that people begin to believe it, and other techniques, for example, suggesting that the opponent is mentally ill or otherwise unsound, or of such character as not to be believed. Debating or otherwise engaging on the issues is to be avoided.

Progressives today also work through community organizers in such groups as ACORN that are not above breaking laws to achieve their goals.

Progressivism is firmly in place in the White House and the Congressional majority. Its appeal consists of promises to “victim” groups of government help in exchange for votes, and, for liberals who are not “victims,” promises of political or bureaucratic jobs to carry out their programs, and thereby feel good about themselves and exercise power. Everyone is entitled to government help, they say. It’s a right, they say. We can see the results of the welfare state economy all around us. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. But good intentions are what we’re supposed to evaluate, not results.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and politically and economically, that’s the road we’re currently on. It could be avoided largely by undoing and not doing what Progressives are doing these days.


Photo: Portrait of President Woodrow Wilson

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Are the Proposed Health Insurance Mandates Constitutional?


The Democrats’ plans to require Americans to purchase health insurance or else be fined or imprisoned is one of those rare issues that gets some government officials questioning it on constitutional grounds. Most issues are not questioned if they can attract enough votes to be passed. But this one is getting some constitutionality attention.

There have been a variety of opinions offered on how this requirement can be constitutionally justified. CNS News features several articles about it, mostly with Democrats claiming that Congress can do just about anything it wants to “promote the general welfare.” This assumes that whatever they decide will do that is OK. They refuse to think that the “general welfare” clause is a statement of purpose, not a blank check.

Others cite the Congress’ responsibility to regulate interstate commerce, but requiring people to buy a certain type of product falls outside that authority.

Here are some items at CNS News [1] (in bold) reflecting the Democrat’s inability to pinpoint where this constitutional authority is specifically found, but expressing the idea that it’s there somewhere (my comments not in bold):

“Sen. Bob Casey [D-Pa.]: Health Care Mandate Constitutional, But Not Sure If There’s ‘Specific Constitutional Provision’” You might try reading the Constitution some time, Senator.

“Sen. Nelson[D-Neb.]: Constitutionally, Congress Can Probably Mandate Health Insurance in ‘Same Place’ States Can Mandate Car Insurance” Three points to consider here:
First, a person can avoid the requirement to purchase auto liability insurance by not driving. Second, The required auto liability insurance covers only people other than the insured. Third, under the Tenth Amendment, states can impose requirements that are not specifically granted to the federal government or prohibited to the states. It is this amendment that calls into serious question the constitutionality of the entire health care legislation.

“Sen. Sanders [I-Vt.]: Constitutional Authority for Congress’ Health Insurance Mandate ‘Probably’ Same as Medicare” He also mentioned Medicaid and VA medical services. Medicare is actually on questionable constitutional grounds, but by now it is entrenched to the point that it is politically unlikely to be questioned very much. Medicaid operates through the states, giving it a little better standing. VA health care can be considered part of the federal government’s authority to provide for the military. But the government takeover under Obamacare has no constitutional warrant itself, and certainly the insurance purchase mandate has none.

As Mark Levin, author of the best-selling book Liberty and Tyranny, pointed out at a Washington rally on November 5, the Democrats aren’t really much concerned with the Constitution:



Fortunately, some of our elected representatives recognize the constitutional shortcomings of the health care proposals. For instance, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) argues against the insurance mandate on constitutional grounds:

“‘Forcing every American to purchase a product is absolutely inconsistent with our Constitution and the freedoms our Founding Fathers hoped to protect,’ he said. ‘This is not at all like car insurance. You can choose not to drive but Americans will have no choice whether to buy government-approved insurance.

“‘This is nothing more than a bailout and takeover of insurance companies,’ said DeMint. ‘We’re forcing Americans to buy insurance under penalty of law and then Washington bureaucrats will then dictate what these companies can sell to Americans.

“‘This is not liberty,’ he said. ‘It is tyranny of good intentions by elites in Washington who think they can plan our lives better than we can.’” [2]

Sen. Nelson said that since he’s not a constitutional scholar, he couldn’t answer the question about the constitutionality of the mandate. [3] I say, the constitution is written in such a way that a person does not have to be a constitutional scholar to understand it. On the other hand, President Barack Obama is supposed to be a constitutional scholar and he doesn’t seem to understand it very well.

[1] CNS News.com, Politics news stories headlines, 12/26/09 at http://www.cnsnews.com/news/categories

[2] Chris Neefus, “Sen. Nelson: Constitutionally, Congress Can 'Probably' Mandate Health Insurance In ‘Same Place’ States Can Mandate Car Insurance,” 12/24/2009,
CNS News.com, at http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/59008

[3] Ibid.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mischief After Midnight


At what point, if any, does disgraceful behavior stop with the current Democratic Administration and Congress? These people claim to want “civility,” but that only means “keep quiet while we install our socialist programs, which we’ll do by hook or crook and under cover of darkness.” They have arm-twisted, threatened and bribed enough Senators in their party to be on the verge of passing their vaunted but manifestly miserable-piece-of-trash health care bill. It is remarkable not only in its bad content, but also (perhaps even more so) in the underhanded and arguably illegal methods they are using in passing their unconstitutional bill.

Investors Business Daily editorials point out some of the features of the process by which this bill has proceeded to its present point, such as:

1. A special deal for Nebraska, thanks to Sen. Ben Nelson’s holdout threat. This includes full federal assistance for additional Medicaid costs, which people of other states will pay for. [1]

2. “The [Monday at 1:00 A.M.] vote was taken without any members having read the main 2,074-page bill, let alone the 383 pages of amendments that were tacked on at the last minute to buy off senators, including Nebraska's Ben Nelson, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu and Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders.” [2] To vote on a bill without having read it, even on a procedural vote is a disgrace. They are looking for a Christmas Eve vote, and when the final Senate vote is taken, no one will have read it. They add insult to injury by desecrating Christmas.

3. The bill includes well over $400 billion in new taxes. [3] Look for a new recession, assuming the current one technically ends. (Aside to working Americans making under $250,000 a year: Keep us posted on Obama’s success at keeping his promise about no increase – “not one dime” – of taxes on you. Not so good, I expect.)

This process represents political corruption even worse than some actual prosecuted crimes. When a congressman was found guilty of misconduct after thousands of dollars in cash turned up in his freezer, that was bad enough. What the Senate majority has done is plain bribery of lawmakers and misappropriation of taxpayer money amounting to billions. And they want civility, after legislatively extending the middle finger to their constituents. [4] Might they not expect some angry responses?

Upon final approval, the new taxes start right away, while the program itself is supposed to start in 2013, after Obama is safely out of office. Many of the bill’s congressional supporters will be out of office sooner. It’s strictly a partisan bill.

Personally, I hope the Republicans and Tea Party voters continue to pressure these guys. Harry Truman said, “I don’t give ’em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.” In that spirit, the Democrats’ political opponents need to stay on their case without letup.

If the Senate actually does pass the bill, there remains some more arm-twisting, intimidation and bribery to be done in conference before it can actually become law. One can only hope it will implode somewhere along the way. Liberals may succeed in getting the public option and abortion funding in the final bill. But it’s a monstrosity, whatever form it may take.

On the positive side, since Mr. Obama’s triumphant success in Copenhagen, we can look for the sea levels to start going down soon, and the penguins and polar bears can then stop worrying. Oh wait, that will be after cap and trade is enacted, and America gets taxation taken to whole new level. Unemployment, anyone?

[1] Investors Business Daily editorial, “Louisiana Purchase and Obama Stakes,” 12/21/2009, at http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=515933

[2] Investors Business Daily editorial, “Socialism Creeps In As America Sleeps,” 12/21/2009, at http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=515934

[3] Ibid.

[4] In similarly profound political analysis, RNC Chairman Michael Steele said, “I’m tired of the Congress flipping the bird to the American people.” See article by Martin Kady II at Politico, 12/21/2009, at
http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/1209/Steele_Dems_flipping_the_bird_to_American_people.html


Photo: Dreamstime.com

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas from Grinch and Company


As I write this, there remains the slenderest possibility that the “health care reform” bill may not pass the Senate. I keep reading that Democratic Party leaders are looking toward a Christmas Eve vote on the measure. The health care bill has less than 40 percent support among the American public (see video in my previous post). President Obama himself has a 41 percent “strong disapproval” rating among likely voters according to Rasmussen (12/20/2009).

But if Sen. Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the President have their way, we’re going to get it come hell or high water. Merry Christmas. Enjoy your “gift.”

Another item under the socialist tree for us is a “meaningful” agreement on climate change. Even China is on board with it, since it is an unenforceable, non-binding “agreement” underwritten with America’s $100 billion pledge to help third world countries deal with the non-existent problem of man-made climate change, although, even if everyone participated fully, there would be produced virtually no measurable change in the earth’s climate. And the Obama Administration and Democrat-controlled Congress want to give us cap and trade as an additional contribution to the cause.

You’ve heard of gifts that break the bank. This one will strain many, many budgets.

Now, if they could only get us to stop driving and flying, stop eating beef and drinking milk, and, preferably, stop breathing, or maybe just kill ourselves off and leave the earth to the more-deserving creatures of nature, that would apparently be their ideal. As ridiculous as that sounds, that is the basic direction the environmental extremists want us to go.

They would like their climate-change religion to replace the traditional religions of the world, especially Christianity. Others might be OK if they don’t interfere with the great environmentalist plan. Before Christians and Christian groups get much more involved in the climate change movement, they should consider the fact that, while the Bible teaches responsible care of things under our stewardship, it also teaches that the earth was created primarily as a home for man. Animals, and indeed all nature, were placed under man’s subjection, and intended for his use, for the glory of God. Although sin has led to various abuses, this intention has not changed.

As we celebrate the birth of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, we might do well to reflect on these things. Every responsible citizen would like to minimize pollution and preserve a safe and human-friendly environment. But it need not be at the cost of our freedom and our economy.

“… [W]here the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). America’s heritage is liberty and individual responsibility, based explicitly on the Judeo-Christian tradition. These are principles now endangered by what used to be called “creeping socialism,” that has now become blatant socialist-fascist power-grabbing government. Obama is quick, and rather enthusiastic, in pointing out his view that America is no longer considered a Christian nation. He himself claims to be a Christian, but if he is in agreement with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, it’s a far-out fringe using the name Christian. I don’t know what Obama’s actual beliefs are, but we know something of his associations, including twenty years as Wright’s church member.

David Barton, in one of Wallbuilders’ periodic emails (12/17/2009), quotes from Harry Truman’s Christmas message in 1952 (near the end of tenure as President):

“Through Jesus Christ the world will yet be a better and a fairer place. This faith sustains us today as it has sustained mankind for centuries past. This is why the Christmas story, with the bright stars shining and the angels singing, moves us to wonder and stirs our hearts to praise. Now, my fellow countrymen, I wish for all of you a Christmas filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and many years of future happiness with the peace of God reigning upon this earth.”

Amen, I say.

Obama can’t bring himself to mention Christmas or Christ on the official Holiday (?) greeting cards. G.K. Chesterton’s words are especially true today: “These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”
(Illustrated London News 08/11/1928)

There are convincing arguments against “health care reform” and cap and trade that do not rely on theological or religious reasons. Economic and political arguments will suffice. But because of the out-of-touch government officials’ attempts at minimizing Christianity and promoting every kind of multi-culturalism and relativism, some defense appears to be needed. More eloquent spokesmen than I can state this better; I just feel I need to say something.

These presents I’ve mentioned, from our beloved federal government, reflect, I think, the political equivalent of the spirit of the pre-repentant Grinch. Unlike Dr. Seuss’s famous character, these politicians aren’t likely to change their ways (politically, I mean). They’ll continue this kind of “giving” to the American people as long as they have the opportunity.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. So far, it’s still America and still comparatively free. Thanks be to God.

Illustration: clipart.christiansunite.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama’s and Democrats’ Debt and Deficit Trade-Off


The ol’ U.S. National Debt clock keeps ticking. It’s now up to $12,139,146,898,976.64 or an estimated $39,479.46 per person as of 12/16/2009, 5:57 PM CST. [1]

The Treasury Department says the debt was $12.079 trillion as of Tuesday 12/15/2009 and should reach its current limit of $12.1 trillion by month-end. The House voted 218 to 214 to raise the debt limit to $12.394 trillion, which should finance the government for about two months. [2]

Reuters quoted Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) as saying, “When will it stop? When will Washington get the message that we can't borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing America.” [3]

House Democrats discarded the proposed debt increase of more than $1.8 trillion. Of course, this is good news. The House is still expected to consider a “jobs” bill of tens of billions, which would add to the deficit. The Senate apparently won’t consider that item until they finish with health care. [4]

“Fiscal conservatives in the Senate, meanwhile, led by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), had been seeking the creation of a bipartisan commission with authority to force spending cuts or tax increases through Congress.” [5]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has rejected this idea as giving up too much congressional authority. I almost agree with her. I would say it gives up too much congressional responsibility. If you (or your staff) can’t do your job, hire consultants or contract it out. That seems to be a frequent response by government officials in general, both parties and all levels. The idea is to avoid accountability and tough decisions.

There seems to be concern among Democrats over the deficit and federal spending, yet they press for the health care “reform” bill which will significantly increase spending and the deficit, as well as taxes. There will be serious tax increases, but these won’t really cover the added expense.

The chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Richard S. Foster, reports that national health care spending will increase by $234 billion over ten years under the Senate bill. The report does not allow for increasing Medicare to cover people aged 55 to 64 years. [6]

Also, public support is decreasing, as Senate Republican Mitch McConnell says:



[Politico video at Examiner.com]

President Obama and Democratic Party leaders are determined to get some kind of health care bill passed soon, regardless of what changes might be needed. If they discard the public option, abortion funding, etc., you can be sure these will be added back later.

The high level of public opposition remains the best reason to think this bill might not pass. But Obama and some others are adamant about nationalizing the health care industry as part of their restructuring of American society. Cap and trade and health care socialization are the cornerstone pieces of Obama’s grand plan to spread and consolidate federal government power. Compared to these items, concerns about jobs, the deficit, and the economy in general are strictly secondary.

If that were not the case, steps to greatly help the economy (including discarding health care “reform” and cap and trade) would already be in progress and we would be seeing good results already. But the economy has a hard time flourishing in an environment of increasing massive deficits with no end in sight, high taxes with more on the way, and a regulatory burden that’s quickly becoming unbearable. Current policies have serious risks. Higher levels of debt are harder and more expensive to finance. Will China cooperate indefinitely? Is high inflation on the way? Can interest rates stay low?

Fat cat bankers aren’t the problem. Government is.

[1] U.S. National Debt Clock, 12/15/2009, 5:57 PM CST, at http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

[2]Andy Sullivan, “House backs $290 billion debt limit increase,” 12/16/2009, Reuters.com, at http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BF58220091216?type=politicsNews

[3] Ibid.

[4] Paul Kane, “House Democrats discard larger debt limit,” 12/15/2009, Washington Post.com, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/14/AR2009121403933.html

[5] Ibid.

[6] Terry Hurlbut, “CMS actuary warns Senate bill will cost more,” 12/11/2009, Examiner.com, at http://www.examiner.com/x-28973-Essex-County-Conservative-Examiner~y2009m12d11-CMS-actuary-warns-Senate-bill-will-cost-more

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bankers Try To Respond to Government’s Mixed Signals


Let’s convince everyone that unemployment is due to fat cat bankers stubbornly refusing to lend money to small business, and also that their deliberately excessive lending is what caused the financial crisis – that and the policies of the Bush Administration. That seems to be part of Obama’s economic strategy. They’ve succeeded in getting many people to think that “fat cat bankers” are the main problem:



Obama didn’t run for office to help out “a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” he says, but that is precisely what he did by supporting the TARP bailouts. He enabled banks that wanted to pursue risky behavior by ameliorating their risk. In other words, as some have noted, allowed them to be “capitalist” with profits, but “socialist” with losses.

Big bankers, looking to position themselves for maximum advantage in whatever the government decides, are making noises to indicate, “Yes, we’re on board with ‘stepping up’ to help with the lending slowdown,” but also, in response to government warnings and what they astutely perceive as threats, they are being very cautious about making any kind of risky loans. They are keeping more reserves, meaning that less money is available to lend. So, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

As video at Wall Street Journal online notes, the President has a style that could create awkwardness, planning a big meeting with bankers so he and they can “work together,” after lambasting them on a 60 Minutes broadcast the previous evening. Some of the bankers probably felt like giving Mr. Obama a less than courteous reply. But, as mentioned, they want to be in an advantageous position somehow.

The “pay czar” is going to see to it that banks that still owe TARP money are going to keep bonuses to a minimum, and those who don’t owe money are to some degree restraining their bonuses. This large reduction in bonuses has hit hard in New York (state and city), since a great deal of tax revenue results from these bonuses. Unintended consequences…

The government wants new financial industry regulations to tell banks how to manage their business when the government’s management of its own financial business is out of control and getting worse. The House has passed a version of a regulatory bill, expanding government power (the theme of the Obama presidency) over risky or failing organizations. In the name of preventing bubbles and meltdowns, they actually will prevent a lot of prosperity by suppressing risk. And they wonder why banks aren’t on board with this.

“Large banks, from J.P. Morgan Chase to Citigroup Inc., lobbied against parts of the measure. They said the bill would penalize them for being large, through tougher capital requirements and higher fees, and would give the government greater authority to either seize large companies or order them to decrease their size.” [1]

American Banking News states:
“But as those in the banking industry rightly say, you have the White House speaking out of one side of its mouth while regulators are speaking out of the other side of their mouths.

“Regulators are telling the banks to strengthen their capital ratios and to be on the lookout for default trends going forward. In those cases the regulators are advising the banks to cut back on lending.

“But we already know that the big hit the banks are going to take on commercial lending hasn’t even arrived yet, and is going to kick in during the second half of 2010. So Obama attempting to pressure them to lend in order to try to get the economy back on track is ignorant at best, and terrible as far as business operations go.” [2]

So, which is it? Be cautious and don’t take risks with your bank’s money, or be open to more risk, possibly leading to more of the mortgage problems that led to the financial crisis? It seems the government wants to be able to blame bankers for whatever economic problems they can blame them for. Just so long as they can deflect criticism from their own policies.


[1] Elizabeth Williamson, “Obama Slams ‘Fat Cat’ Bankers,” 12/14/2009, The Wall Street Journal online, at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126073152465089651.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read

[2] Gary Bourgeault, “Obama Administration Clueless on Banking Issues, Sending Mixed Messages to the Industry,” American Banking News.com, 12/10/2009, at http://www.americanbankingnews.com/2009/12/10/obama-administration-clueless-on-banking-issues-sending-mixed-messages-to-the-industry/

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On to Copenhagen, or Much Ado about Nothing



Looking for control
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, is scheduled for December 7-18 and is supposed to bring together 85 world leaders to discuss the issue. “The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged world leaders to ‘seal a deal’ on climate change when they meet in Copenhagen next month.” He seems optimistic that a deal can be reached. However, there are growing doubts concerning the scientific validity of global warming claims, and whether the conference will result in a significant agreement. [1]

I’ve been writing quite a lot about the costs and loss of liberty associated with Obamacare, but its (also) evil twin, cap and trade (along with the potential EPA regulations) threatens to seriously undercut the U.S. economy and make these double-digit unemployment rates seem permanent. If that’s not bad enough, the Copenhagen conference and events to follow could very well result in a further surrender of U.S. sovereignty, with serious foreign entanglements through bad treaties, etc.

If the climateers have their way, America would be paying to “aid” less-developed countries to improve their “greenhouse gas” emission levels, and be subject to international regulations. This is an attempt (somewhat successful, so far) at a major deception. It is based on the fraud and hoax of “man-made” global warming. No, wait, since global warming is in pause mode, it’s “climate change” now. In their world, everyone who breathes contributes to climate change, and everyone whose activities result in the release of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, is a guilty polluter who must be brought under control and punished.

Science not so hot
Never mind that the data and so-called science on this is deeply flawed, lacking in substantiation, and is seriously challenged by many qualified scientists. There is no way that the so-called “problem” merits anything like the destructive “solutions” being discussed. It is a patent lie that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. It is untrue that man is able to reverse or control climate change. All that could be accomplished by the solutions being proposed is more economic distress and widespread suffering, with some few profiting from carbon-credit trading and others having the satisfaction of exercising control over the citizens around the world, who will be paying heavily for the privilege of producing anything.

Given the revelations of “Climategate,” showing the deliberate manipulation and misrepresentation of data, destruction of evidence, suppression of opposing views, and manipulation of the peer-review process, the whole issue takes on a conspiratorial tone. Here is an attempt to get the most mileage possible out of the least evidence. One wonders how some of these people can call themselves scientists. They’re more like propagandists, trying to support a predetermined conclusion.

Obama Administration seeks more power
Just in time for Copenhagen, the EPA has declared that greenhouse gases “threaten the health and welfare of the American people….

“The action by the EPA, which has been anticipated for months, clearly was timed to add to the momentum toward some sort of agreement on climate change at the Copenhagen conference and try to push Congress to approve climate legislation.” [2]

The EPA’s action constitutes another major government power grab, as discussed by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:
“Don’t kid yourself into thinking the EPA doesn’t understand the scope of its power. By classifying CO2 and methane (among other so-called greenhouse gases), it can inject itself into just about every industry in the US. Energy production will be its primary target, but the EPA has also gone after coal mining on the basis of the Clean Water Act; it will certainly not be shy about using this new authority to kill coal mining altogether. It will also impact agriculture, especially dairies and cattle ranching, as well as transportation. The entire manufacturing sector will have to answer for its output.” [3]

Mark Whittington at Associated Content quotes Morrissey, and writes:
“Obama administration officials are claiming that President Obama still prefers to address carbon emissions through the legislative process. Obama administration officials claim that the EPA announcement and the opening of the Copenhagen Climate Conference are ‘coincidental.’” [4] Sure, it’s just a coincidence.

Religious devotion encouraged
It has been said that climate change is a new religion and it certainly seems to be. At least its proponents want people to regard it with religious devotion. As George Russell points out in a Fox News article, a paper that resulted from a meeting of top environmental bureaucrats, states far-reaching goals for UNEP (UN Environmental Program): “Environmentalism should be regarded on the same level with religion ‘as the only compelling, value-based narrative available to humanity,’ according to a paper written two years ago to influence the future strategy of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the world's would-be environmental watchdog.”
(PDF Text of the paper is linked at Fox News article) [5] Emphasis his

It is unfortunate that President Obama wants an international agreement to come out of this conference. We Americans, and many others, will be paying the price for these useless regulations. It is said that Obama wants Congress to set emission standards through legislation, rather than the EPA doing so through regulations. “‘This is a clear message to Copenhagen of the Obama administration's commitments to address global climate change,’ said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., lead author of a climate bill before the Senate. ‘The message to Congress is crystal clear: get moving.’” [6] If cap and trade doesn’t pass, we’ll get the EPA regulations, and probably will anyway.

Meanwhile, a U.N. report by an investigative unit warns that the U.N.’s own environmental management is “out of control and approaching chaos,” according to another article by George Russell. [7]

Trouble Ahead
Issues to be discussed at Copenhagen include pollution offsets. “As part of the Copenhagen talks, officials will be considering which types of offset programs work and can actually be enforced. (There's a big potential for fraud here.) Countries like Brazil and Indonesia, for example, are pushing hard for a forest program that would handsomely reward them for not cutting down their trees,” reports U.S. News. [8] Emphasis added.

The Copenhagen conference is an attempt to open even further the Pandora’s box of the “climate change” issue. Big businesses and big and small countries are trying to position themselves to be at an advantage under whatever scheme is implemented. Too bad they aren’t resisting with all their might, as we all should be. The elites are meeting, and following the Progressive model, that is, having a few “experts” decide policy for everyone, at the expense of the citizens’ money and freedom.

“Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8,9


[1] Lea Pachta, “Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009: Commentary And Analysis Available, freshbusinessthinking.com, 11/30/2009, at http://www.freshbusinessthinking.com/news.php?CID=&NID=2668&Title=Copenhagen+Climate+Change+Conference+2009%3A+Commentary+And+Analysis+Available

[2] Dina Cappiello and H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press, “EPA says greenhouse gases endanger human health,” 12/07/2009, Yahoo News, at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_epa_climate;_ylt=Au.zF0wVWFdgkb2UbyGT2Pes0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNlcjVhMDZlBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMDkxMjA3L3VzX2VwYV9jbGltYXRlBGNjb2RlA21vc3Rwb3B1bGFyBGNwb3MDMQRwb3MDMgRwdANob21lX2Nva2UEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDZXBhZ3JlZW5ob3Vz

[3] Ed Morrissey, “EPA declares air a danger to human health” 12/07/2009, Hot Air, at
http://hotair.com/archives/2009/12/07/epa-declares-air-a-danger-to-human-health/

[4] Mark Whittington, “Copenhagen Climate Conference Praises EPA Carbon Dioxide Decision,” 12/08/2009, Associated Content, at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2469084/copenhagen_climate_conference_praises.html?cat=9

[5] George Russell, “Document Reveals U.N.’s Goal of Becoming Rule-Maker in Global Environmental Talks,” 11/30/2009, Fox News.com, at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,577827,00.html

[6] Cappiello and Hebert, see [2].

[7] George Russell, “U.N. Says its Own Eco-Management Out of Control,” 02/24/2009, Fox News.com, at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,499244,00.html. This was in February; maybe they’ve cleaned it up a bit by now.

[8] Kent Garber, “Top 5 Issues at the Copenhagen Climate Conference,” 12/08/2009, U.S. News.com, at http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/energy/2009/12/08/top-5-issues-at-the-copenhagen-climate-conference.html

Phot: Dreamstime.com (Danish postage stamp with graphic representing a fuel cell)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Unemployment Problems? Call a “Summit”


“THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION -- NOVEMBER 2009

“The unemployment rate edged down to 10.0 percent in November, and nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged (-11,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. In the prior 3 months, payroll job losses had averaged 135,000 a month. In November, employment fell in construction, manufacturing, and information, while temporary help services and health care added jobs.

“Household Survey Data

“In November, both the number of unemployed persons, at 15.4 million, and the unemployment rate, at 10.0 percent, edged down. At the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons was 7.5 million, and the jobless rate was 4.9 percent. …”

The unemployment rate for teenagers was 26.7 percent.

(Source: U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

In advance of the release of these unemployment figures, President Obama announced a “jobs summit,” for which various business and union leaders, and liberal economists have been invited to “brainstorm” and share new ideas.

Stuart Varney of Fox News explains the guest list:



Ben Stein compared the “jobs summit,” appropriately, I think, to President Gerald Ford’s inflation summit. Obama’s PR move is roughly the equivalent of passing out “WIN” (Whip Inflation Now) buttons from the Ford Administration. The Ford people appeared concerned, which no doubt they were, but seemed at a loss to know what to do.
See Ben Stein on video here.

The summit is more of a “dog and pony show” than a substantive effort to create jobs. It truly rings hollow when the President, Nancy Pelosi and company say the government wants to help create jobs, when at the same time they are introducing major job-killing programs, viz., Obamacare and cap and trade. It’s just mind-numbing if you think about it.

Was the best suggestion a government project to winterize homes? One blogger asks this, and calls it “cash for caulkers.”[1]

Here’s an informative report on CBS News from December 3:


Washington Post economics blogger Frank Ahrens states that the “truer” U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 17.5 percent to 17.2 percent, that being the rate that includes “people who want full-time jobs but can only find part-time ones and the unemployed who have become so discouraged that they have given up looking for work.” This is the rate that can be compared to the 25 percent unemployment rate at the nadir of the Great Depression. [2]

Ahrens held a nationwide discussion on unemployment. One participant from Atlanta had this to say: “I run a small business and we are not hiring due to several reasons, but mainly due to the uncertainty in the economy and where the economy will be in the next several years. We have actually downsized to a core group of employees and may downsize further if needed. We won't hire more people until it is in our best interest to do so….

“It is the small businesses in this country that hire most of the people and taxes are killing us. Take some of the remaining stimulus funds and apply those to permanent tax cuts, get the budget balanced and show the business community that you care about doing something real to stimulate the economy, not sending out pork. ….” [3]

That business owner has a good grasp of the problem. Government officials think they are going to be the answer to unemployment, but in a real sense, they are the problem. As Ben Stein suggests in the video referenced above, they are standing on the oxygen hose of the suffering private sector.

President Obama told USA Today, “I will tell you that I think the most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again.” He dismissed complaints of the Congressional Black Caucus that the Administration is not doing enough to help African-Americans get jobs. [4] OK, but how are you going to do that? Obama is set to depart on a jobs “listening” tour to get public input. He should be going on a tour telling how he’s going to help solve the problem. It appears he doesn’t know what to do.

Of course, the left is calling on Obama to help by increasing government spending on infrastructure and the like, which would help some workers, but add greatly to the deficit. The deficit severely limits what the government can do at this time, and more government spending is not what’s needed. Nancy Pelosi wants to use the remaining TARP money as another “stimulus.” Keep in mind that this is still money that has to be printed, not money from a pile of cash somewhere in the Capitol.

Republicans held their own forum across town, inviting mostly conservative economists (who were not invited to Obama’s event). One participant, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget office, said “that the single best thing Obama could do to create jobs was ‘to reverse course on a dangerous agenda of debt-financed spending, crippling regulation, expensive mandates, and intrusive government expansion.’” [5]

The liberals are ignoring the elephant in the room, and I don’t mean the GOP, but the Democrats’ own laws and plans that continue to sabotage any real improvement in the unemployment rate.


[1] Aaron Crow, “Obama’s job summit didn’t get to the main issue,” 12/04/2009, WalletPop, at http://www.walletpop.com/blog/2009/12/04/obamas-job-summit-didnt-get-to-the-main-issue/

[2] Frank Ahrens, “Truer U.S. unemployment rate drops to 17.2%,” Washington Post.com, at
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/economy-watch/

[3] Frank Ahrens, “Analysis of Obama’s jobs summit,” Washington Post.com, at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/12/01/DI2009120103274.html?wprss=rss_business/personalfinance

[4] Fox News.com, “As Obama Holds Jobs Summit, Frustrated Left Complains About Slow Growth,” 12/03/2009, at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/12/03/frustrated-liberals-plan-protest-obamas-job-summit/

[5] Ibid.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Amendment X


“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.” – Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

It’s X because X is the Roman numeral for ten, but it could be called X because, among members of Congress and the Obama administration, it seems to be largely unknown and certainly ignored.

As the current Congress and Obama Administration extend their tentacles to take in more items and people to control more directly, the Tenth Amendment has become a significant issue. The Constitution clearly limits the authority of the federal government and, just as clearly, the federal government has managed to push the Constitution aside in order to get the power it wants in many instances.

The Tenth Amendment became part of the Bill of Rights because of the concern of some of the Founders, and the states in general, that the federal government, unless specifically restrained, might take over the internal operations of the states, and abuse their authority. Federalists and anti-Federalists agreed that the power of the federal government was limited, but disagreed on the necessity for the Tenth Amendment. [1]

“Thomas Jefferson described the Tenth Amendment as ‘the foundation of the Constitution’ and added, ‘to take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn … is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.’ Jefferson's formulation of this doctrine of ‘strict construction’ was echoed by champions of state sovereignty for many decades.” [2]

States have occasionally succeeded in thwarting federal laws. A recent example is the REAL ID law that, while on the books, is not being implemented due to state resistance. Twenty-five states, led by Maine, have passed laws nullifying it within their states. [3]

Constitutional questions have arisen as to the federal government’s authority to take over health care as described in the House and Senate versions of Obamacare. There is no specific authority for the federal government to do so. Some argue that the Preamble statement of a purpose “to promote the general welfare” covers this, but if it does, it covers a multitude of possible sins of legislation, being so broad and vague. Or, perhaps the Interstate Commerce clause grants the authority? But is refusing to buy insurance an example of interstate commerce? I think not.

If there is a case to be made for constitutional authority for government-run health care for everyone, it probably would arise from the following:

United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 1:
“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
....
Clause 18:
“To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”


Lacking any compelling necessity for such a law, it would seem that the Tenth Amendment is strong enough to override the claim that such a law is constitutional.
But who knows how the courts might decide? If this is ruled acceptable, the whole private sector is in danger, because then the government can think up excuses to take over any industry or sector it wants. They’ve already done some of that with the bailouts.

The Tenth Amendment’s effect has risen and fallen over the years from having some impact, to having virtually none (as in the Reconstruction days following the Civil War). [4] But a good many of the states these days are working to dust it off and claim their own sovereignty through nullification laws. Several such laws have been introduced, but most have yet to become law. . Check www.tenthamendmentcenter.com for updates on these activities.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas expresses the concern and frustration of many with the continuously expanding power of the federal government at the expense of states’ rights:



Thirty-eight states have introduced Tenth Amendment resolutions. The are in various stages of consideration, and two (Tennessee and Alaska) have been signed by governors, according to Tenth Amendment Center.

The Tenth Amendment should be a defense against Obamacare, cap and trade and other intrusive federal laws and proposals. The Tenth Amendment is certainly at the heart of the Tea Party protests. More people are becoming aware of their constitutional protections. We can’t really rely on federal officials to live up to their oath of office. They will have to be held to it by citizens.

“The world needs to be reminded that all human ills are not curable by legislation, and that quantity of statutory enactment and excess of government offer no substitute for quality of citizenship.

“The problems of maintaining civilization are not to be solved by a transfer of responsibility from citizenship to government, and no eminent page in history was ever drafted by the standards of mediocrity....”
— President Warren G. Harding



[1] Forrest McDonald; revised by Robert M. Hardaway and Adisa Hubjer, “Amendment X to the U.S. Constitution,” Answers.com at http://www.answers.com/topic/amendment-x-to-the-u-s-constitution

[2] Ibid.

[3] Tenth Amendment Center at http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com/the-10th-amendment-movement/#realid

[4] “Law Encyclopedia: Tenth Amendment,” Answers.com, see [1].