Conservative Political Commentary

[Under the Radar?] Anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-globalist, pro-Constitution, and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context (This blog was given its name before I decided it was going to be a political blog.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is Obama President Yet?

Candidate Barack Obama spoke like a man who was very confident about solving America’s economic, social, and foreign policy problems. That’s the impression his silver-tongued oratory was trying to leave, and he succeeded enough to get elected by a majority. His speeches were long on platitudes and short on specifics, but, to many, he looked like the man with some answers, and they bought his message of “hope and change.”

When Does It Become Obama’s Presidency?
What we continue to see too much of is Obama’s willingness to blame all present problems on “the mess we inherited” from the previous administration, and to wish his critics would be silent. After all, they are, according to his statements, the ones who created the mess. To him, apparently, they have no right to criticize, or, for that matter, to even speak. George W. Bush is the great villain who caused all the trouble, the president and his people would have us think, and he is the one they continue to campaign and run against.

(See Jay Leno clip here.)

But Obama’s attempts to blame Bush for his (Obama’s) own situation is becoming tiresome to many of the American people, and possibly wearing thin among his supporters – certainly among many of his former supporters.

Every president inherits a situation of some great difficulty. A man who runs for president must accept this as a challenge. It is the height of bad form to blame your predecessor for everything when you’ve based your campaign on claims to understand and accept the challenges that are being faced, and claimed to have the desire and ability to deal effectively with them. Truman’s oft-quoted advice still stands: “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” (Biden explains to George Stephanopoulos how they “misread the economy” in video found here.)

Past Presidents Inherited Troublesome Situations, Too
Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a dire situation in 1933. He didn’t spend his terms of office whining about what a mess Mr. Hoover left him. While (in my opinion) his economic “solutions” prolonged the Depression, he at least took it as his responsibility to deal with it. Did he claim that everyone had “misread the economy”? I don’t think so. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Ronald Reagan inherited quite a mess from Jimmy Carter. But he didn’t repeatedly remind everyone of that fact as a political strategy in his White House. He didn’t waste time and energy blaming others for his troubles. He devoted his efforts to restoring prosperity and winning the Cold War.

Bill Clinton said there couldn’t be a middle-class tax cut because the economy was so much worse than they thought when they came into office. That kind of excuse was lame then, and it’s lame now. Get some competent economic advisers. Still, we didn’t hear Clinton harping on the problems left by the previous administration after he was well into his first term.

Can We Blame Everything on Bush?
Yes, Bush left an economic mess. Liberals would have us believe it was entirely Bush’s fault, when in fact there was plenty of blame to go around, most of which ought to be placed on Democrats. The housing crisis that led to the financial meltdown was anticipated long before it broke open. The warning signs were there. When the Bush Administration tried numerous times to get effective regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they were rebuffed by Congress, who wanted to attack the regulators. How dare they accuse these GSE’s of anything? They were surpassing their goals (after creatively adjusting the books) in providing affordable housing, i.e., buying mortgage loans made by banks under duress to people who were obviously unable to repay them. But the execs, mostly ex-Clinton people, got their huge bonuses. (See video about Congressional hearings here).

Then there’s the deficit. Bush left two wars, as well as “compassionate conservative” programs, such as a Medicare drug benefit, No Child Left Behind, and other costly items. OK. But: “Under President Obama, government will spend more on welfare in a single year than President George W. Bush spent on the war in Iraq during his entire presidency.” [1] Does Bush’s admittedly large deficit justify the astronomical deficits we’re already seeing under Obama, to be followed by even more? How much is too much? We may learn the answer.

Further Reading
I found three good articles on Obama’s insistence on blaming the Bush Administration, one by National Review’s Rich Lowry, one by Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal, and one by William McGurn, also at WSJ. Polls have indicated that many Americans still blame Bush for the continuing economic problems, but they also show Obama’s support, especially among independents, declining. Maybe that reflects some significant reality about a president who obsessively apologizes for America and blames George W. Bush for his own lack of success.

[1] Robert Rector, Katherine Bradley and Rachel Sheffield, “Obama to Spend $10.3 Trillion on Welfare: Uncovering the Full Cost of Means-Tested Welfare or Aid to the Poor,” 09/16/2009, at


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Obama’s Enemies List: Are You on It?

President Barack Obama, in a very un-presidential manner, is going about promoting his political agenda in large measure by criticizing, trying to marginalize, and ultimately bring down those whom he perceives to be his political enemies (rather than “opponents”). Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has cautioned the President that his actions are beginning to look like those of Richard Nixon, who, seemingly in a paranoia mode, made a list of “enemies” he wanted his administration to go after, and some of whom he did actually attack, using the resources of government. This pursuit of “enemies” led to the eventual downfall of his presidency.

“‘An “enemies list” only denigrates the Presidency and the Republic itself,’ Alexander said on the Senate floor. ‘These are unusually difficult times, with plenty of forces encouraging us to disagree. Let’s not start calling people out and compiling an enemies list. Let’s push the street-brawling out of the White House and work together on the truly presidential issues: creating jobs, reducing health care costs, reducing the debt, creating clean energy.’” [1]

Sorry, Senator. You are correct, but you may be too late. The enemies-list operation is in full swing already. Any people or groups of people who have criticized (to any significant effect) some part of the Obama agenda may very well find themselves to be his target, if they aren’t already.

A partial listing of Obama’s “enemies”:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce
– This is yet another example of Obama trying to marginalize and take down a traditionally very influential group. Obama is against any effective lobbying group that tries to benefit the private sector or the American economy. A prosperous people don’t look to government for everything. An impoverished people may.

Fox News – Anita Dunn, David Axelrod and others have been sent out to try to discredit Fox News and even get “mainstream” news outlets to deny that Fox is a legitimate news organization. This will have some effect, perhaps, but Fox News’ ratings are up substantially since this “war on Fox News” broke out.

Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio – The administration will probably try some back-door version of the Fairness Doctrine to silence conservative talk radio (and Fox New as well). Mark Lloyd, the “diversity czar” of the FCC has no respect for freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Rush’s ratings are up.

Health insurance companies
– Democrats in Congress are currently working to deny health insurers the exemption from anti-trust laws that they currently enjoy. The objective is to strip the states of their power to regulate insurance and at the same time put the insurance companies either out of business or directly under the thumb of the federal government, and further obfuscate the costs of their health care plan.

Big oil – All energy-related industries, as well as consumers, are likely to suffer as a result of cap and trade, if it is enacted. This will punish our entire country by bringing on another depression. States that are already suffering the most will likely be hardest hit, but all will be hurt. Are you ready?

Auto manufacturers
– Current CAFE standards and the GM and Chrysler takeovers should be punishment enough, if any were needed (which it isn’t), but Obama is going to tighten CAFE standards further and dictate what kind of cars can be made. Many vehicles currently available will be gone.

Fast food – Federal and some local laws will more strenuously regulate fast food providers as to location, nutritional information disclosure, and allowable menus. This is an area where endless harassment of citizens can and will take place.

Conservatives on the internet – Obama is already pushing for authority to take over private networks on the pretext of “cyber-security” concerns. Proposed “net neutrality” rules will further restrict internet freedom. People have remarked on how the internet has not brought about “Big Brother” controls as some have feared, but we haven’t seen the outcome yet. The technology is there for massive abuse and government control. The FCC “diversity czar” is going after internet conservatives also.

According to Investors’ Business Daily, even though “net neutrality” is advertised as creating more opportunities for internet access, “[t]he issue is not access, but control. In February 2008, FCC diversity czar Mark Lloyd, an admirer of what Hugo Chavez did to silence Venezuela's media, wrote about net neutrality in an article titled ‘Net Neutrality Is A Civil Rights Issue’ and published by

“‘Unfortunately, the powerful cable and telecom industry doesn't value the Internet for its public interest benefits,’ Lloyd wrote. ‘Instead, these companies too often believe that to safeguard their profits, they must control what content you see and how you get it.’ Lloyd feels government should be the voice controlling what you see and hear.” [2]

The Republican Party – The Obama White House is trying to marginalize the Republican Party as a non-factor. The main obstacle to this is the fact that the American people, by a majority, support none of Obama’s main initiatives. Republicans could capitalize on this a lot more than they have been doing. But if they’re afraid of appearing too combative, they will instead appear to have rolled over and capitulated. New candidates will be needed if the GOP is to be revived in 2010, even though most voters want that to happen.

Etc., Etc. – Look for more enemies-list activity in upcoming days. They’re just getting started, and they’ve got to move fast.

Then there are those the Administration and Congress are going after a little less directly, without trying to publicly discredit them specifically. They’re not enemies so much as targets to be dealt with in clearing the way for and financing the Obama program:

Doctors who oppose Obamacare – Doctors are going to find their government reimbursements decreased (to lower “costs”), which will lead to more doctors dropping out of government-reimbursed programs, or out of medical practice entirely. But that’s OK with Obama if he gets his government-dominated program going. However, the attempt to cut reimbursements may well prove politically impossible.

The private sector in general – How many more businesses and industries must be taken over by the government? Apparently many more, will be, not necessarily by ownership, but by numerous new taxes and regulations and zealous enforcement from the growing government sector. Corporate profits are the liberals’ piggy bank, they think. They’ll worry about the economy and jobs (along with Afghanistan) later, time permitting.

The “rich” who aren’t part of his support team
– Hollywood liberal elites, professional athletes, union leaders, rich trial lawyers and other liberal donors can hope to fare well in Obama’s fascist crackdowns. Some large companies are said to be cutting deals to try to gain a favorable position. But the rich taxpayers in general are considered ripe for the picking. Obama does not care about unemployment or the bad economy. It’s all about getting his great fascist program in place before the bottom falls out of his popularity.

American Taxpayers in general (investors, professionals and other workers)
– These will do well to be able to keep their jobs or the better part of their investments in the Obama-depressed economy that we’ll see if Obama’s big agenda items are enacted. Forget about green jobs. A few thousand of those will do little to help the 15-million-plus who are unemployed, not counting those who have given up looking for work, or have taken part-time jobs.

The Obama Administration is probably the most activist freedom-destroying and takeover-minded (i.e., “progressive”) administration in our history. Woodrow Wilson and FDR might come close, but at least they could point to World War I and the Great Depression and World War II as excuses for their activism. Obama still tries to blame George W. Bush long after it’s too late to do so. This is not the change most people thought we were going to get. Soon only the most hardcore leftists and Obama fans (and some others bought off or severely arm-twisted) will be able to willingly support the Obama program.

[1] Politico Staff, “Alexander to Obama: No ‘enemies list,’” via Yahoo News, 10/21/09, at

[2] IBD Editorials, “A Power Grab Called ‘Net Neutrality,’” 10/21/09, at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mao Zedong: Anita Dunn’s Hero?

Here’s part of what Anita Dunn said to a group of high school students at their graduation ceremony in May 2009:

Mao Zedong (or Tse-Tung) was a ruthless dictator responsible for deaths of millions of people, more than Hitler, and more than Stalin. The “Great Leap Forward” and the later “Cultural Revolution” killed millions, and many died in numerous rural and urban purges.

“When questioned last week after a video of her speech surfaced, however, Dunn said she was using ‘irony’ in reference to Mao. A leading expert on China [William Ratliff of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University] told that Dunn’s remarks were ‘pathetic,’ given the human rights atrocities committed under Mao’s reign.

“[Ratliff] said he found Dunn’s comments astonishing regardless of her larger point, and wondered whether Dunn is aware of the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, or if Dunn was trying to look at Mao’s positive accomplishments.” [1]

Irony? I suppose there’s a hint of irony in pairing Mao and Mother Teresa, but there is nothing ironic about her quote of Mao and her expression of admiration for his “political philosophy.” And how would high-schoolers with no memory of Mao perceive any such intended nuances in her speech? But there weren’t any.

During the “Great Leap Forward,” Mao, supposedly in an attempt to bring China into the twentieth century, had peasants working to produce steel, often from back yard blast furnaces. Farm tools were melted down for the steel. Agricultural work was neglected, leading to crop failures. This led to mass starvation, killing 20 to 40 million people. Also, the steel was of such low quality that much of it was not usable.

“Beginning in the spring of 1966, Mao ordered the closing of schools and the formation of ideologically pure Red Guard units, dominated by youths and students. The Red Guards campaigned against ‘old ideas, old culture, old habits, and old customs’ Millions died as a series of violent purges was carried out. By early 1967, the Cultural Revolution had succeeded in bolstering Mao’s position as China’s paramount leader.” [2]

Youqin Wang, at a web site devoted to the memory of victims of the Cultural Revolution, points out in a paper appearing on the site, that many teachers and school officials were tortured and beaten, some to death, by students. What was supposed to be a non-violent campaign of criticizing the education system and “capitalist-roaders,” thought to be leading the Party back toward capitalism, soon became violent:

“The Red Guards espoused an essentially destructive philosophy. At the Girls Middle School attached to Beijing Teachers University, in August 1966, the Red Guards destroyed books and paintings on campus. After the vice-principal, Bian Zhongyun, was beaten to death on campus, three seventh graders beat an eighteen-year-old waitress of a restaurant near the school to death in the chemistry laboratory, merely because she was rumored to be a ‘bad woman.’ These kinds of pointless yet destructive actions were romanticized as ‘revolutionary behavior’ which no one dared to stop. Ironically, these actions, which consisted for the most part in destroying objects and in beating innocent people, were called ‘rebellious actions,’ but they were actually carried out with the support of the highest authorities….” [3] (Emphasis added)

In her paper, Wang also details several examples of the abuse of the teachers and others, with information gained from interviews with people involved at the time. [4]

Just in case you aren’t familiar with things that happened in China under Mao, as many younger people are not, these were some of the things that happened under Mao, and with Mao’s participation. The point is that it is no small thing when White House officials praise Mao, especially to young graduating students.

Manufacturing “czar” Ron Bloom also expressed agreement with Mao, saying there is “no free market,” and quoting his statement “Power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Remember, these people speak for President Barack Obama. In a political sense, when they speak, Obama speaks. He is the one who chose these and other admirers of communism and Marxism for positions of responsibility in our government.

[1] Fred Lucas, “White House Official’s Praise for Mao --Whose Policies Led to Death of 65 Million --Was ‘Pathetic,’ Says China Expert,” CNS at

[2] Borgna Brunner, ed., Time Almanac 2007 with Information Please ®, TIME Inc., 2006, page 709.

[3] Youqin Wang, “Student Attacks Against Teachers: The Revolution of 1966,” Memorial for the Victims of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, at

[4] Ibid. Wang further details some of the atrocities and suicides that followed, in a second paper, “The Second Wave of Violent Persecution of Teachers: the Revolution of 1968,” presented at the 35th International Congress of Asian and North African Studies, Budapest, July 7-12, 1997, and also appearing at the web site.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fox News Guilty of Journalism; This Annoys White House

Fox Stands Out Among News Outlets
In a CNN interview, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn pointed out that Fox News story selection differed significantly from that of CNN, the major broadcast networks and other cable channels. This was done in order to support her contention that Fox News is not a legitimate news organization, but a de facto arm of the Republican Party.

Anyone who’s been paying attention since Barack Obama became a candidate for president could hardly miss the fact that the mainstream media has protected, promoted, covered for, and even idolized him. This is scarcely debatable. Fox News has not. Their coverage of Obama and political stories has differed from the others because they wanted to cover items the others either did not cover or did so in such a manner as to put a positive spin on items that might be seen as critical of Obama, and minimize the airtime devoted to such items.

Fox News doesn’t get much respect from the White House, or mainstream media outlets, because (1) they are not invested in the political success of Obama or his opponents, and (2) they do not ridicule people who have a conservative viewpoint. Conservative opposition to Obama is viewed by the MSM as “divisive,” and basically ill-informed and in need of guidance from themselves.

Political Coverage
In political things Obama-related, Fox is representative of actual journalism, while political journalism in the mainstream media has seemingly become dormant. It is Fox that reported adequately on Obama’s connections with Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and other radicals. Not that the others didn’t report, but they made it clear that there was no cause for concern, in their view; similarly with Obama’s radical, Marxist and Marxist-leaning “czars” who don’t mind exerting their power to take away normal freedoms – such as the right of a business to pay their employees as they have agreed to. Fox reported these items in their news segments, and they were fairly heavily covered in Fox’s opinion shows with Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, etc.

On the issue of “health care reform,” for example, Fox News gave attention to the fact that many Americans oppose Obamacare, covering the tea parties, town halls and march on Washington. The MSM outlets devoted much less airtime and attention to these phenomena and gave more emphasis to their “divisive” and occasionally unruly aspects. Nor did Fox neglect critics of the events or controversies involving them. As for the issue itself, the MSM seems to start with the premise that socialized healthcare is a good idea for America, while most Americans won’t accept this without strong persuasion.

The Role of the Media
Media, by and large should have a thorough understanding and a deep appreciation for our Constitution, particularly the First Amendment protections. Traditionally, newspapers and other media have served as a watchdog over government abuses and corruption, and an advocate and protector of the people. Today, this role is much more often fulfilled in consumer matters and local politics than national political matters.

From an August 2000 article at the Australian Press Council website:
“Fleet Street [1] genius Sol Chandler put it this way: ‘The oldest rule of journalism, and the most forgotten, is to tell the customers what is really going on.’ If it is forgotten, it is because exposure journalism is quite impossible for all but the most financially secure media organisations.

“The reasons lie in the Eighteenth Century. Modern journalism, invented by Defoe in 1704, became what [Press Historian Francis] Williams calls ‘a weapon of freedom, a sword in the hands of those fighting old or new tyrannies, the one indispensable piece of ordnance in the armoury of democracy….’

“[Eighteenth Century British] Judges sent many honest soldiers for truth to prison during the long (and largely unsuccessful) struggle for free speech and democracy. Williams says the privations they endured impose the same obligations on all who come after: to report honestly, to comment fearlessly, and to hold fast to independence.” [2]

This is pointed out only to illustrate that free-press journalism has a rich heritage of an international struggle for freedom that imposes serious responsibilities.

Point and Counterpoint
The White House has excluded Fox News from some events and has hinted at further steps along this line. News organizations have sometimes been known to go out of their way to avoid offending their government sources, so as to preserve access. But what’s the point of having access if you can’t freely report the facts? But presumably, Fox won’t be denied access, they’ll simply find that the White House will “hit back” (twice as hard?). This does not appear to frighten Fox.

To their credit, Fox has responded appropriately (I think) to the criticism. Chris Wallace called the White House group a bunch of “crybabies,” and that got under their skin even further. To which I say, in the words of Harry Truman, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

Two sides of the issue, first from Anita Dunn on CNN, then Neil Cavuto on Fox:

Some Observations
A few things are clear from this:

1. Barack Obama and his White House staff are thin-skinned.

2. Obama’s staff includes people like Dunn and “czars” who are admirers of Communist leaders like Mao Tse-Tung and Marxists like Hugo Chavez, dictators who have not hesitated to shut down media outlets that disagreed with them. Presumably Obama shares some of these characteristics. Liberals often have not hesitated to go after critics and try to silence them, rather than engage on issues with them. We saw this in some of the town hall meetings in August. We have heard in the pronouncements of people like the FCC’s “Diversity Czar” Mark Lloyd. What stands between us and the loss our freedom of speech and freedom of the press is not so much the ethics of government as the First Amendment itself. And these days, that may not be entirely secure.

3. The warning about investigative journalism needing to be backed by financial resources is very appropriate today. Fox News has a billionaire owner. One hopes he will not be moved to change Fox News on account of White House pressure. If Fox stays in the White House crosshairs, they might expect some form of further retaliation.

Fox News has practiced actual journalism in both news reporting and opinion that deserves respect. For not being coddlers of the president, they are on his bad list.

[1] Formerly known as the home of the British press, though that is not the case nowadays.

[2] Evan Whitton, “In Function of the Press,” Australian Press Council News, August 2000, at


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama and Democrats vs. the America We Have Known

Barack Obama, his administration, and his supporters in Congress, who claim to be trying to speed up an economic recovery, are in effect orchestrating a multi-pronged attack on American security and sovereignty, the American economy, and the Constitution. Is this what they meant by “remaking America?” Somehow, the president has persuaded a large number of people that he is going to help them. The liberals have done things to “help” add to the percentage (now about 47) of Americans into the non-income-tax-paying category. More are being added since more people have joined the non-earning category due to layoffs.

1. Sovereignty and Security – Obama is undecided on Afghanistan, or so he seems to indicate, after saying fairly recently that it’s a necessary war. No, he doesn’t want to use the word “victory.” Who, including his top commanders in that country, knows what he’s going to do? Also, the Administration is investigating, with a view to prosecuting, prisoner interrogators under the Bush Administration for simply doing their jobs, and, in the process, protecting America from further terrorist attacks.

And, Obama wants to move America closer and closer to deeper ties (read entanglement) with other countries through world banks, world courts, and world climate-change nonsense. To try to improve things with Russia, Obama abandoned the planned missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. What did he get? No progress on persuading Russia to provide more help with the Iran situation, in recent talks between Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart.

The Obama Administration has in mind cutting various weapons system developments, such as the F-35, and unilaterally reducing our nuclear arsenal. It may save dollars but the money will be/is being spent on doubtful social programs, while defense is weakened.

2. Obama vs. the Economy – The Democrats are spending like there’s no tomorrow, and indeed, by the time they get into gear on their plans, there may be but a bleak tomorrow, economically, for the U.S. With the bank bailouts (yes, started under G.W. Bush), auto company takeovers, and stimulus bill, the federal government is leading us in the same direction as the state of California, and even though the federal government can print money, there is definitely a limit to how much deficit we can stand. In just a few years, we’ll likely be finding out what that limit is.

There is a great spending and tax burden on the American people coming if Obamacare is passed. Over $500 billion in new taxes over ten years, and more than that if the Medicare cuts prove unacceptable. Medicare alone has $43 trillion in unfunded liabilities to people living today.

The Social Security trust fund is just a fictitious accounting device. Its assets are Treasury IOU’s that are non-negotiable government bonds. When net cash flow goes negative in this program, as will happen in a few years, the government will have to do the same things, whether there exists a “trust fund” or not, because the “trust fund” is worthless.

George W. Bush tried to get some action going on dealing with this, only to be laughed to scorn and told that the program was quite all right, thanks. It wasn’t, and isn’t. Time is running out to deal with it. We may see what an actual government bankruptcy looks like. It won’t be pretty.

The Social Security and Medicare ticking time bomb is not President Obama’s fault. The problem with Obama, is that he proposes to add massive new taxes and regulations, via Obamacare and cap and trade, on businesses that are having a hard enough time just trying to keep their doors open, and individuals struggling to get by. These taxes will result in many more foreclosures, personal bankruptcies, lost jobs and business failures, thereby reducing actual revenues to the government. Every economic level will suffer, whether they pay these taxes or not. Rep. Paul Ryan has some thoughts and proposals on these problems, as he discusses in an interesting video:

Speaking of unemployment, the stimulus appears to be working exactly as Obama wants it to, with unemployment rising with a projected peak in 2010, if we’re fortunate. And yet this is a “recovery.” Employment does lag in a recovery, but we are likely to see high unemployment for years, and another recession on the heels of this one. But government has the situation precisely where they want it – to encourage growth in government power and control to deal with continuous “crisis” situations, which government itself is creating.

3. The Constitutional Problem – It hardly needs mentioning that the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress are tearing the Constitution to shreds day by day. Neither Obamacare nor cap and trade can be justified under the Constitution. Nor can the bank bailouts, nor can the auto industry takeovers. The fact that no one was or is (apparently) able to stop any of these things does not make them permissible under our Constitution. Obama, in a constant campaign mode, and unmindful of the Constitution, through his populist demagoguery, has a lot of people convinced he’s on the right track.

The track we are on leads to socialism, decreased freedom, increased poverty, unpayable debt, high inflation, declining health, and eventually, more things influenced by foreign powers, and weakened defense that may invite enemies to try their luck.


Monday, October 12, 2009

On Health Care, White House Can’t Handle the Truth

The White House and Democratic Congressional leaders are apparently trying to “hit back twice as hard” against those who question or criticize their Obamacare plan. And they got a new target to strike at today: A study commissioned by insurance industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and prepared by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, stating that private health insurance costs, instead of decreasing under health care reform, will rise significantly.

The report has sparked great concern in Sen. Baucus’s committee as well as the White House, coming one day before a key vote in the Senate Finance Committee. According to a Washington Post article, “‘Those guys specialize in tax shelters,’ said Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform. ‘Clearly this is not their area of expertise.’” [1]

An Associated Press article quotes as follows: “‘Distorted and flawed,’ said White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass. ‘Fundamentally dishonest,’ said AARP's senior policy strategist, John Rother. ‘A hatchet job,’ said a spokesman for Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.” [2]

Also, “‘The misleading and harmful claims made by the profit-driven insurance companies are politicking for corporate gain at its worst,’ said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.” [3]

Pretty sharp words, but the report is potentially very damaging to President Obama’s plans for a reform that he said in his radio address has “unprecedented consensus” behind it, and those who oppose it are simply doing so for political purposes.

The study cites four provisions of the Baucus bill that would drive insurance costs higher:
“Insurance market reforms coupled with a weak coverage requirement, a new tax on high-cost health care plans, cost-shifting as a result of cuts to Medicare, and new taxes on several health care sectors.” [4]

The “insurance market reforms” refers to the requirement that insurance companies provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions with guaranteed-issue policies, and the “weak coverage requirement” refers to the less-than-desired “mandates and penalties on those who do not buy health insurance.” [5]

The study finds that, on average, because of these four provisions, the cost of private health insurance will increase by 26% between 2009 and 2013 under the current system and 40% if the provisions are implemented; 50% between 2009 and 2016 under the current system and 73% with the four provisions; 79% between 2009 and 2019 under the current system and 111% if the provisions are implemented. [6]

This translates to, for example, the average annual cost of coverage for a family of four, $12,300 today, would increase to $21,900 by 2019 under the current system with current inflation rates but, under the Baucus plan, it would increase to $25,900. [7]

According to the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog, “Lawmakers claim the bill would ‘save’ money, but that’s not true for those who have insurance. The only ‘savings’ would be to those who receive government-paid health care and subsidies at the cost of higher prices for everyone else. (Even if the legislation ‘reduced the deficit,’ it would do so by making citizens pay more, not by controlling government spending.)” [8]

The insurance companies had a tentative understanding with the White House and a willingness to accept the reform until the four provisions they object to became part of the Baucus bill. While the reform plan was disastrously bad anyway, the insurance companies had apparently received enough arm-twisting to agree to its basic provisions – until Baucus’s committee did its work. Anyway, we are fortunate that their commissioned study has pointed out the increased costs that otherwise might not have been mentioned.

Obama mentioned several Republican current and former officials that support his plan, but it’s actually a far cry from “unprecedented consensus.” A majority of the American public, as represented by likely voters, oppose Obamacare. It’s doubtful that any Republicans will support the final bill. State officials who understand the mandated additional costs of Medicare that are to be imposed on them, can’t be enthusiastic about it, especially since most states are not in a strong position financially.

If the Democrats have their way, all these costs are going to be placed on Americans who have been through, and are still in, economic hard times. The Obama Administration does not mind burdening the taxpayers with heavy tax increases. Just think about cap and trade. A McClatchy article states that while the Congressional Budget Office says the $829 billion Baucus bill would reduce the deficit by $81 billion, the [CBO] report “‘masks who pays the bills. This package includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes and fees,’ said Sen. Charles Grassley, R- Iowa, the committee's top Republican.” [9]

As more of the truth emerges, the White House and Congressional Democrats are quite apprehensive if not plain scared. Which shows there’s some hope that Obamacare won’t become law.

[1] Ceci Connolly, “New Bill Would Raise Rates, Says Insurance Group.” The Washington Post online, 10/12/2009, at

[2] Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press, “Dems scramble after warning from health insurers,” 10/12/2009, at;_ylt=AvqIoTjMnIT7NYbtqEfHhsSs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNlbXZvYm5lBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMDkxMDEzL3VzX2hlYWx0aF9jYXJlX292ZXJoYXVsX2luc3VyZXJzBGNwb3MDMQRwb3MDMgRwdANob21lX2Nva2UEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDZGVtc3NjcmFtYmxl

[3] Ibid.

[4] PricewaterhouseCoopers, “Potential Impact of Health Reform on the Cost of Private Health Insurance Coverage,” October 2009, page E-1, at

[5] The Foundry, “‘Reform’ Means You Pay More for Health Care,” The Heritage Foundation, 10/12/2009, at

[6] PricewaterhouseCoopers, see [4].

[7] The Foundry, see [5].

[8] Ibid.

[9] David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers, “Partisan split likely in key Senate health care vote,” 10/12/2009, at

Photo: Dreamstime

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Afghanistan – Obama’s Vietnam?

Differences of Opinion on Strategy
CBS News reports that President Obama is focused on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, rather than the Taliban. Thus he is considered unlikely to fulfill General Stanley McChrystal’s request for up to 40,000 additional troops. [1]

There is a deep difference of opinion among U.S. officials, with Obama leaning toward a “limited war,” and a strategy of reaching out to “moderates” in the Taliban. [2]

As recently as August, before the Afghan elections, Obama was telling the Veterans of Foreign Wars that the Afghanistan war was a war of necessity and not a war of choice, and that it was very important to keep Afghanistan from again becoming a haven for al-Qaeda terrorists.

Is It Like Vietnam?
It seems that the situation is looking too difficult and too complicated for Obama to want to get more involved. General McChrystal has said that without a substantial number of additional troops, we risk failure of the mission. But Obama is looking at the unpopularity of the war as recorded by the polls. So is Congress and they will decide on funding.

Obama’s advisers are downplaying the Taliban threat, according to a McClatchy article.
“One phrase that always comes up in the administration's strategy sessions is ‘public opinion,’ one participant told McClatchy.” [3]
This war has some characteristics seen during the Vietnam War:

1. Decreasing public support
2. Opinion widely split over strategy
3. Substantial danger of involvement by surrounding countries
4. Political leaders leaning toward “limited war” strategy, with no real plan for victory.
5. Political leaders would rather have an exit strategy than a victory.

Risks of Not Going for Victory
1. Steady, if slowed, progress by the Taliban in taking over Afghanistan
2. Anti-Taliban people who have supported America and NATO will likely be murdered.
3. Afghan civil war could reignite and draw in India and Pakistan, both with nuclear weapons, on opposite sides.

CBS News online reports: “‘A Taliban-ruled Afghanistan will be wide open for al Qaeda to expand its current sanctuaries and safe havens and I would argue al Qaeda's nothing without sanctuaries and safe havens,’ said Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University.” [4]

The McClatchy article quotes a senior U.S. intelligence official as follows:
“‘The region right now is as volatile as I have ever seen it. The tension is not waning; it is on the rise,’ another senior U.S. intelligence official said. ‘The Indo-Pakistan issue looms like a dark cloud on a horizon that might look clear blue, but it is actually a tidal wave that is rushing in.’

“Finally, failure in Afghanistan would deal a massive blow to U.S. international standing to the benefit of Iran, Russia and China , and undermine the NATO alliance, [other] U.S. officials said.” [5]

Difficult Choices
So Obama faces a fateful decision. How much consideration should be given to the request of his top commander in Afghanistan? Obama has indicated that he’s uncomfortable with the idea of victory. I hope he won’t be unduly delayed further by concern over domestic matters. What needs to happen is this: Mr. Obama should show actual leadership by taking a firm decision and getting it carried out, and also explaining the realities of the matter to the American people. How will his decision affect our homeland security? How will it affect our relationships in NATO and our interests in the world?

Like Vietnam, we could, at substantial cost in lives and money, be fighting a “limited war” with no real goal of winning. Fortunately, we are not likely to lose as many lives in Afghanistan as in Vietnam, but each death is a tragic loss. Military personnel in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, and as our troops did in Vietnam, are courageously doing a great job in an environment most of us could hardly imagine, much less work effectively in. I think Obama should have victory as his goal. If it’s a “necessary war,” then it’s one that should end with America and NATO winning and the Taliban and al-Qaeda losing.

But it’s Obama’s call. Prayer and wisdom are needed.

[1] CBS, “Obama Focusing on al Qaeda, not Taliban,” 10/08/2009, at

[2] Ibid.

[3] Jonathan S. Landay, John Walcott, and Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers, “Officials: obama advisers are downplaying Afghan dangers,” 10/11/2009, at

[4] CBS, see [1].

[5] Landay, et al, see [3].


Saturday, October 10, 2009

EU Wants U.S. To End Death Penalty

“End death penalty, EU tells U.S.” – Headline
The European Union wants the United States to abolish the death penalty. They cite examples of people wrongly convicted and sentenced to death and maintain that the death penalty is subject to errors and doesn’t help human dignity.

“‘For the EU, it’s a matter of principle,’ said, John Bruton, former Irish prime minister and the EU ambassador to the United States.’” [1]

“‘The EU believes that the elimination of the death penalty is fundamental to the enhancement of human dignity and to the progressive development of human rights,’ [Swedish Ambassador Jonas] Hafstrom said on behalf of the 27-member political union.” [2]

“EU wants death penalty halted; Perry says butt out” – Headline
Governor Rick Perry of Texas, the leading state for executions in the U.S., has been unmoved by the EU’s calls for death penalty abolition. Replying to an EU request to him in August 2007, was the following:
“The governor's spokesman, Robert Black, said in a statement that ‘230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination.

“‘Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.’” [3]

Some Arguments
There have been a few cases of the death penalty being applied in the U.S. in recent years in which DNA evidence did not support the guilt of the person executed, or prosecutors illegally withheld mitigating evidence. These cases are regrettable and actions are being taken to use DNA evidence where possible and judges are likely more sensitive these days to use of evidence against defendants. But these items, unfortunate, tragic, as they are, do not present a convincing case against capital punishment.

Any law can be mistakenly applied. If the death penalty were being illegally or erroneously applied in many cases, there would be an argument for making it illegal. But such is not the case. The philosophical and legal arguments should be the basis of decisions on the death penalty. Here are some reasons I support it:

1. There are cases in which the death penalty represents the only possibility of approaching a just punishment. Many crimes are extremely horrendous and any punishment short of the death penalty appears to almost excuse them.

2. The state does not offend human dignity by properly applying the death penalty. It offends human dignity by not punishing serious crimes sufficiently.

3. The state has every traditional, legal, and moral right to execute perpetrators of very serious crimes, provided they do so in accordance with the law.

4. Some object to the death penalty on biblical grounds. But the Bible indicates that use of the death penalty under strict rules is not only acceptable, but was sometimes mandatory. While we do not have the same laws as ancient Israel, nor should we, the aforementioned fact shows that scripturally, the death penalty is not, ipso facto, wrong, although it can be wrongly used.

People interested in the legality of the death penalty may find the following exchange between Alan Keyes and Barack Obama of interest. This is from a debate when both were candidates for the Illinois Senate seat which Obama won:

President Obama has said that he is in favor of the death penalty in certain extreme cases, such as child rape. He has also said he would support the death penalty for Osama bin Laden. My own views are quite in agreement with Mr. Keyes on both the death penalty and abortion. Dealing with life and death issues stirs emotions on all sides. While I can see an execution as a tragic event, it normally follows an even more tragic crime. Sometimes, justice simply cannot be served with a lesser punishment. But in any case, serious deliberation and careful consideration of the evidence is needed. Otherwise, one crime is compounded by another.

Does the EU Know What’s Best?
The other issue involved in the EU call for ending the death penalty is that of the appropriateness of the EU getting involved with American laws:

“The EU said it was helping capital punishment foes in the U.S. by filing amicus curiae briefs in appellate courts hearing death-penalty appeals. The EU also has funded studies by the American Bar Association to investigate the fairness of specific cases.” [4]

I see this as somewhat inappropriate, similar to the Supreme Court using foreign laws to help them adjudicate cases.

In a prior case, as commented upon by Debra J. Saunders at,

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave Our Betters in Europe a taste of their own bitter medicine. Angry at the governor's refusal to stop the Dec. 13 execution of convicted four-time murderer Stanley Tookie Williams, city leaders of Graz, Austria, mobilized to remove Austria’s most famous son's name from a stadium. Schwarzenegger responded with a ‘Dear Hans’ letter. In it, he revoked the city's permission to use his name on the stadium and promote Graz as a tourist destination. Schwarzenegger also returned a ‘ring of honor’ bestowed by his hometown in 1999....

“It apparently takes a European-born American to see what the Euro-elites are -- so desperate to promote themselves as better than Americans that they kowtow to thugs.

“One ‘human rights’ group, the Association of Christianity and Social Democracy, proposed that the stadium be named after Williams. That makes sense: Flaunt how your opposition to capital punishment makes you superior by honoring a felon who shot an unarmed man in the back, then later shot a father, mother and their adult daughter and left them to die slow, painful deaths.” [5]

Americans are not always fond of being preached to by European authorities, whom many view has having little moral authority to lecture the U.S. We do not need to make pleasing Europeans on this issue a high priority. We have already compromised our national sovereignty in too many other ways.

[1] Alexander Besant, Hearst Newspapers, “End death penalty, EU tells U.S.,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram online, 10/09/2009, at

[2] Ibid.

[3] “EU wants death penalty halted; Perry says butt out,” My SA News 08/21/2007, at

[4] Besant, see [1].

[5] Debra J. Saunders, “The governor strikes back,”, 12/29/2005, at


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cap and Trade Support? It Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

This Won’t Make the Economy Better
We’re apparently still in the recession. Unemployment is up again, now 9.8% for the U.S. with some states well into double digits. And yet we’re expected to believe that somehow cap and trade is a good idea. It’s a bad idea in the best of times, but in the current economy, it’s the gateway to a real depression if enacted. If both cap and trade and Obamacare are enacted, a depression will be unavoidable, and cap and trade alone could bring one.

Why, oh, why are we willing to even entertain the idea of cap and trade? Do we really need our whole energy economy to be restructured for the purpose of trying to deal with a problem, man-made global warming, that likely does not exist, and to the miniscule extent that it might exist, nothing can be done that would produce any measurable effect on the climate. The idea is to regulate “greenhouse gases,” especially carbon dioxide, which in fact is neither a pollutant nor a problem.

The environmentalist activists are in support of this legislation. So is the Obama government and Democratic Congress, because it will provide greatly increased government power to regulate just about everything to do with any aspect of energy, and supposedly provide billions of taxpayer dollars in new taxes, which would allegedly be used to create “green jobs.” If this wasn’t so deadly serious, it would be laughable for its ridiculousness.

Obama Explains Some of the Effects of Cap and Trade
Just to refresh your memory, here’s Barack Obama discussing his ideal cap and trade plan:

This same government that does basically nothing to encourage off-shore drilling, nuclear power development, domestic oil refining capacity, i.e., things that would actually help our energy situation, now wants to place a heavy tax on all users of fossil fuels or producers of more-than-average CO-2 emissions. And they want to reward their Wall Street pals (think Goldman-Sachs) with a lucrative new carbon-emission permit trading industry.

Where’s the Compassion?
Legislators who support this bill will demonstrate conclusively that they are not interested in the well-being of the American taxpayer or the unemployed. They are about as “compassionate” as the pre-haunted Ebenezer Scrooge, if not worse. When House Minority Leader John Boehner read for an hour on the House floor some of the strange things that were in the House bill, it should have been enough of an embarrassment to kill the whole thing right there – but not to these shameless Democrats.

Economic Damage
According to Heritage Foundation analyses, the Waxman-Markey bill would reduce GDP by $9.4 trillion (adjusted for inflation) from 2012 to 2035. Also there would be no net new jobs, but rather, millions of jobs lost. Consumers would suffer from having to pay higher prices for many goods and services. [1]

“In addition to the direct impact on consumers' budgets through higher electric bills and gasoline prices, the resultant increase in energy costs will reverberate throughout the economy and inject unnecessary inefficiencies at virtually every stage of production. It would suppress economic activity and reduce employment, especially in the manufacturing sector. Virtually all costs would eventually filter down to the American people.” [2]

There are so many costs to American taxpayers and so much freedom given up, it is difficult to see how Americans could be willing to give up so much and receive so little in exchange. The emissions effect would be almost unmeasurable. Even if one accepted the environmentalists’ ideas about CO-2, etc., there would be no net global decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, because growing economies such as China and India will not adopt anything like this to restrict their own emissions. Not only does this not help the emissions “problem,” the bill would put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage in world markets, since our prices would have to increase due to higher energy costs.

No Help from Other Countries
President Obama told the UN that climate change is so serious that everyone needs to cooperate to deal with it. That is simply not going to happen. Even the signers of the Kyoto protocol have not decreased their emissions and are doing worse now. Several countries are seeing the negative economic impact of laws restricting carbon emissions and are pulling back on them. Of course, Obama and company wouldn’t consider economic destruction a problem, since their main concern is government control and power. Otherwise, they would see that cap and trade makes no sense.

Another drawback is that the cap and trade bill relies on technology that does not yet exist, in order to meet the tightening emissions targets of future years. This is presumption in the extreme. Don’t be surprised if they pass laws relying on the development of time travel. The development of clean, renewable energy industries should follow market forces. When it’s profitable, private industry goes into action and puts it on the market.

The premise of cap and trade is that energy costs would increase to the point that there would be more demand for “green” energy development and fossil fuels would be conserved. Never mind that economic activity in general would be depressed even more than it is at present. A lot more. We would have less disposable income, i.e., we’d become poorer and have a lower standard of living.

It’s also odd that the government is no longer so much interested in real pollution (smog, carbon monoxide, etc.) in favor of worry over greenhouse gases, particularly the non-pollutant CO-2.

Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) committee is handling the Senate version of cap and trade, which is not expected to be much different from Waxman-Markey. I wonder if Boxer’s bill also has the provision that before a person can sell a house, it must be updated according to a new federal building code for energy efficiency. If the usual pattern is followed, the bill will be voted upon without having been read or perhaps seen, let alone put on the internet for public viewing.

Do You “Feel” the Need for This Bill?
I suppose that with the help of Al Gore’s efforts and stirring up fears of bad things happening to polar bears, baby seals, and those cute little penguins, proponents of this legislation have got some people supporting it so they will feel better. Meanwhile, ski resorts in the Western U.S. are starting their season earlier than usual this year.

[1] David Kzeutzer, Ph.D., Karen Campbell, Ph.D., William W. Beach, Ben Lieberman, and Nicolas Loris, “The Economic Consequences of Waxman-Markey: An Analysis of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” 08/06/09, The Heritage Foundation, at

[2] Ibid.

Photo: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cutting America Down to Size

Warren Court Wasn’t Radical Enough
Lest we forget, President Barack Obama wants to redistribute income and wealth. He regrets that the Warren Supreme Court didn’t do enough in reinterpreting the Constitution to require forced redistribution:

Nothing suggests he has changed his view on this; he just can’t say it so plainly now. This is understood better by Joe the Plumber than by most citizens. For the Obama Administration, the purpose of taxation is less to raise revenue for the government and more to control behavior and redistribute wealth. It's about government control of the private sector through direct ownership or taxes and regulations, making resources available for redistribution as desired.

We’ll Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse

CNS News reports on the Inspector General’s investigation of TARP bailouts. It was found that the government made it clear to the nine largest banks that they had no choice but to accept bailout money and allow the government to take equity positions in their banks. The pressure put on banks by Fed and Treasury officials was reported at the time, but the IG report confirms and details it.

“The inspector general’s report also found that federal officials, including then-Secretary [Henry] Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and current-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner all viewed the plan as an offer the banks could not refuse.

“‘Officials at Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and other federal regulators felt strongly that the nine institutions should not be permitted to reject the government’s capital infusions,’ the report says.” [1]

Also, banks and other companies that received bailout funds or were taken over by the government will be under the watchful eye of the “pay czar” to make sure executive pay is what Obama thinks it should be.

Automakers GM and Chrysler received bailout funds of at least $110 billion and the government converted their debt to equity. The federal government is now the majority owner of GM, and they arranged for Obama’s pals the United Auto Workers union to own a majority share of Chrysler. This apparently is legal only because no one could stop it. For all the “help,” both companies went through bankruptcy, with the Administration guiding the proceedings. So much for checks and balances.

Spending into Oblivion
But these may be just fairly minor items in the big Obama plan. With the multi-trillion-dollar deficits being created, and the truly mind-boggling takeovers involved in Obamacare and cap and trade, the private sector will be severely squeezed, and companies that are not actually taken over will be taxed and regulated to the point of de facto government control. Many will go out of business or relocate overseas. These are the things that will lead to a depression.

Obama’s obvious plan is to weaken the U.S. economy to make it easier for him to control. People who are unemployed and companies that are on the verge of collapse will tend to look to government for help. And the “help” they get will bring, if not bankruptcy, even more government control. The “rich” will be taxed more aggressively, and this will exacerbate the current economic problems and create more. We will soon be experiencing massive inflation as more spending comes on stream.

A prosperous people are harder to control than a dependent people. Once a majority of voters are government-dependent non-payers of income tax, Obama hopes to have majority support for ever-increasing taxation of those who do pay, thus redistributing their wealth to the non-earners, and especially, to the government. “Immigration reform” will help him with this, since it should add millions of new Democratic votes. Never mind that all this reduces revenues to the government, increases the deficit even more, generally ruins the economy, and brings more human misery. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, right?

Anyone Can See the Dangers; Obama Accepts Them
I said it’s an obvious plan. Anyone who successfully completed Economics 101 should be able to see that increased deficits and increased taxes cannot bring prosperity to our economy in its current condition. The problem was characterized by over-spending and high deficits. It can’t be solved by the same measures.

This is known and understood by the Administration. The goal is not prosperity but dependency. Obama thinks America has been too prosperous for too long and deserves a humbling dressing down. And he’s just the guy to bring it. It’s either that or he is truly clueless. I don’t think he’s clueless. His plan is consistent: Stop the initiatives and programs that really could help. Like domestic energy production, lower taxes, less regulation, less control over everything in sight.

Foreign Policy Can Wait
Obamacare, the Olympics and various domestic considerations appear to be the reason the president cannot get to a decision on Afghanistan in a reasonable amount of time. As recently as August, Afghanistan was a “necessary” war, and we needed to prevent Afghanistan from becoming again a haven for al-Qaeda terrorists with the Taliban in power. Now, that’s just one option among several.

So far, Obama’s top foreign policy accomplishments include closer friendships with Ortega, Chavez and others, apologizing for America numerous times, trying to get Honduras’ deposed president back in power, and giving up on the Poland-Czech missile defense to curry favor with Putin.

The main focus has to be on domestic policy and Obama’s great fascist program of nanny-state regulation, statist corporatism, and the traditional liberal tax-and-spend, but on a greater scale. He may be a lot nicer than the Big Brother of Orwell’s 1984, but he still wants government to be the center of America’s world, running as much of it as possible. Given the history of government running things domestically, it’s not a promising prospect.

[1] Matt Cover, “Inspector General: Treasury Secretary Forced Banks to Surrender Ownership Interest to Government,” 10/05/09, CNS, at

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Unemployment Continues To Increase Despite Stimulus


“Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in September (-263,000), and the unemployment rate (9.8 percent) continued to trend up, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The largest job losses were in construction, manufacturing, retail trade, and government.

“Household Survey Data

“Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 7.6 million to 15.1 million, and the unemployment rate has doubled to 9.8 percent….”

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10/02/09)

Forecasts: Joblessness To Increase
Unemployment continues to worsen in the U.S., with increasing unemployment expected through 2010 and beyond.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, appearing on the ABC-TV program This Week, said the United States is likely to see 10% employment levels “for a while.” [1]

“The [BLS] report shows that the worst recession since the 1930s is still inflicting widespread pain and underscores one of the biggest threats to the nascent economic recovery: that consumers, worried about job losses and stagnant wages, will restrain spending. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's economy.” [2]

“The uncertainty that surrounds the recovery has made employers reluctant to hire. The Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs from large corporations, said earlier this week that only 13 percent of its members expect to increase hiring over the next six months.” [3]

Even top presidential adviser Larry Summers has predicted that we are facing years of “unacceptably high” rates of unemployment. [4]

Political Problems for Mr. Obama
It is widely agreed that continued high unemployment will not help President Obama’s political situation. For example:
“Persistent joblessness could pose political problems for President Barack Obama, who pushed through an ambitious $787 billion stimulus package in February intended to "save or create" 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010.” [5]

Robert Kuttner noted the political difficulty that President Obama may experience as a result of the unemployment situation: “If the unemployment numbers keep rising into 2010, the Republicans are primed to pick up dozens of seats in the House, crippling the Obama administration's capacity to recoup in the second half of the president's first term.” [6]

The $787 billion stimulus is not showing job-creation results. It is mainly a political pork program designed to reward Obama’s political allies. Only a small percentage has been spent thus far, with the rest to be spread over several years, with most spending to be in the out years. While the stimulus may be of some benefit to direct recipients, it cannot stimulate the economy in general, and will contribute significantly to the federal deficit.

Liberal Prescriptions Won’t Solve the Problems
Robert Kuttner’s liberal suggestion: “The president should be making the case for increased deficit spending on job-creation in 2010 and 2011, followed by a program of deficit reduction financed by progressive taxation.” [7]

Liberals rely on a Keynesian approach of deficit spending, while conservatives recognize that such a program would only put us into a deeper hole. The solution to unemployment is to encourage economic activity in the private sector. This should be done by cutting taxes and increasing tax deductions for those who are paying income taxes. Liberals would have us believe that “progressive” tax increases affecting the “rich” would not affect those who aren’t “rich,” but in fact such increases would cause even greater suffering. Workers would feel the most pain, and the “rich,” i.e., those who could create jobs if the economic environment was encouraging, would refrain from doing so, seeing no opportunity for a good return on investment in the current economic climate.

Experience has shown, in the Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush tax cuts, that reduced tax rates will yield increased revenues to the government, which will reduce deficits if spending isn’t increased.

More Trouble Looms If Obamacare and/or Cap and Trade Are Passed
The outlook at present is rather bleak, since deficits would likely increase if Obamacare or cap and trade is passed, Passage of both will assure us of years of double-digit unemployment.

It should be acknowledged that the current government program is not going to help the unemployment rate, and that increasing taxes and deficits won’t either. Perhaps some actual constructive steps will be taken before we see Great Depression II.

Still, There Is Some Hope for Improvement
A hopeful aspect of the current situation is that the market is strong and resilient and self correcting, if its mechanisms aren’t destroyed or stopped by government. Also, Americans have always found ways to work around bad laws to some extent. And, the 2010 elections could very well take away Obama’s Democratic majority in Congress. People are more inclined, I think, to vote for prosperity rather than a program of increased government controls that might fit some liberal-socialist theory, but not citizens’ real life needs.

We are now seeing something of the results of a comprehensive government program: increasing unemployment and continued economic stagnation, when we should have already been in a strong recovery mode. It doesn’t look very promising through 2010. But maybe after that ….

[1] “Greenspan sees 10 percent unemployment,” 10/04/09 at

[2] Christopher S. Rugaber, Associated Press, “Jobless Rate Reaches 9.8 Percent in September,” 10/02/09, CNS at

[3] Ibid.

[4] Eamon Javers, “Adviser: High unemployment for years,”, 09/12/09 at

[5] Rugaber, see [2].

[6] Robert Kuttner, “It’s the Unemployment, Stupid,” 10/04/09, The Huffington Post, at

[7] Ibid.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Nanny State Goes After States Over Distracted Drivers

From a Fox News article by Nina Donaghy, 10/01/09: “Texting, using hand-held and hands-free cell phones, talking to passengers and even programming your GPS while driving can all be life-threatening distractions on the road, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and others said at a national Distracted Driving Summit Thursday.” [1]

LaHood said President Obama has just signed an executive order forbidding texting while driving for federal employees driving on government business. The administration wants to crack down on the aforementioned distractions for all drivers. The article reports that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) wants the auto and phone industries to support his bill requiring states to either forbid texting while driving or face the loss of one-fourth of their federal highway funding [2]

OK, we shouldn’t be texting while driving, and shouldn’t be distracted by other things. But where does the federal government draw the line on what is a federal issue and what isn’t? Apparently seizing any opportunity to regulate the lives of the American people, the Senator is promoting this bill, and has even given it a cute acronym/name, ALERT, for Avoiding Life Endangering and Reckless Texting, according to the article. That should make people want to support it.

This is right in line with the liberal, nanny-state mentality that believes that if anyone points out a serious problem of some kind, it’s the federal government’s responsibility to “do something about it.” This is an example of how the federal government gets involved in so many things that are properly and traditionally the domain of state and local authorities. The statistics on accidents and deaths caused by texting while driving (cited in the article) are available to and studied by all state departments of public safety, and numerous other agencies, non-profit organizations, insurance companies, etc., etc.

It seems that state and local authorities are quite aware of the problems and are at work on dealing with them. Various localities have restricted cell phone use by drivers and more rules are being considered. But that is not enough to suit Sen. Schumer, who thinks the federal government, specifically himself, should determine who may do what, and what the (serious) consequences will be for a state’s failure to comply. And he has them, in general, over a barrel, because most states can’t afford to give up a cent of federal money.

They don’t need Schumer’s bill to force them into anything. The federal government seems to have no respect for the state authorities and views them as subordinate units of the federal government, which they are not. Someone should be reading the Tenth Amendment, of which Schumer’s bill would be a gross violation.

It’s hard to question the motives of people who just want to “save lives” by whatever means. But, as usual, the U.S. Constitution is being trampled underfoot by power-seeking federal officials. What about chewing gum while driving? It’s just a matter of time, I suppose, until we get a law prohibiting that, too, on penalty of giving up another fourth of highway money.

I may have to send a text message to my congresswoman about this

[1] Nina Donaghy, “LaHood Pledges to Crack Down on Distracted Driving, Warns of Fatal Consequences,” Fox at

[2] Ibid.


Obama Hits Snooze Button on Afghanistan

Barack Obama met with his war council on September 30 for a three-hour discussion of strategy for Afghanistan. An official who attended said anonymously that the meeting highlighted differences among Obama’s top advisers, according to an Associated Press article by Steven R. Hurst and Philip Elliott. Appearing to favor a troop increase are Hillary Clinton, and Pakistan envoy Richard Holbrooke. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. David Petraeus support the request of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, top commander in Afghanistan. [1]

But other advisers are skeptical of the idea: Rahm Emanuel, National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, and Vice President Joe Biden. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is “on the fence.” Several more meetings are planned and it may take weeks for President Obama to make a decision. [2]

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan military operation languishes for lack of resources. Gen. McChrystal (who, it was reported, has talked to Obama one time, as contrasted with commanders under G. W. Bush, who frequently spoke to him) has reported that our forces cannot meet their objectives without a substantial number of additional troops.

August, the AP article reports, has been the deadliest month of the war for American troops, with 51 deaths. [3]

Why is the President so indecisive about a war that he has proclaimed we must win? He was going to track down Obama bin Laden. He was going to invade Pakistan if necessary to accomplish his goals. Now, he seems to be dawdling as American troops are dying. He is sensitive to the fact that American support for the war has decreased. His left wing base is not supportive. Of course, now he doesn’t want to use the word “victory.” How about “defeat”? Is that better?

Not long ago, Obama was adamant about success in Afghanistan:

As reported by Bob Woodward from Gen. McChrystal’s leaked 66-page report to the Pentagon, the commander wrote, “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” [4]

Woodward also reports that Obama is considering several options in addition to the general’s request. “Obama said last week that he will not decide whether to send more troops until he has ‘absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be.’” [5]

It is reported that Obama has scheduled a teleconference with Gen. McChrystal, his second (!) direct conversation with the general.

It is disappointing that although Obama, who, as a candidate, seemed to have supreme confidence about what to do regarding Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo cannot now decide in a reasonable amount of time about Afghanistan. Gen. McChrystal’s request is not exactly new as of today.

Apparently Mr. Obama needs more time, so he can go overseas to promote Chicago for the Olympics, and perhaps to take a few more polls about Afghanistan, or consult with George Soros or whoever. The delay is needed because Obama’s decision will impact his own political future. Meanwhile, American and allied troops must wait a while as danger increases. Decisions, decisions.

[1] Steven R. Hurst and Philip Elliott, “Obama’s war council divided on Afghanistan,” 10/01/09, Associated Press, at

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bob Woodward, “McChrystal: More Forces or ‘Mission Failure’”, 09/20/09, The Washington Post (online) at

[5] Ibid.

Photo: (Soldier at border checkpoint in Afghanistan)