Conservative Political Commentary

Anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-globalist, pro-Constitution,
and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union: Plus and Minus on Obama’s Talking Points


In President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech of January 27, 2010, he said some noteworthy things, some positive, and others that actions thus far have not supported (earmark reform, for example), or that simply don’t register with many Americans. (Speech transcript [1] words in bold).

Positive

And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting their own costs -- (applause) -- because they, too, have a responsibility to help solve this [high cost of education] problem.

This is probably the first time I have heard any liberal mention that educational institutions have any responsibility for their costs. Because of government and other financial aid, schools have little incentive to keep costs in line. Government likes to send money to colleges and universities, and expects them to indoctrinate students with liberal ideas, and to turn out liberal bureaucrats and politicians. And they expect to exercise some control.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. (Applause.) Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will. (Applause.)

A spending freeze would be welcomed, but, as has been pointed out numerous times, this proposal only covers a relatively small part of total spending. But it’s better than nothing. Note that it takes effect in 2011, after the government has had time to spend a lot more. The proposal is not pleasing to the more leftist side of the Democratic Party, and thus may not be approved, or may be watered down considerably.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. (Applause.) It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. (Applause.) It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. (Applause.) And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. (Applause.)

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. (Applause.) And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. (Applause.)

If the president stays with some these suggestions, significant economic and energy progress can be made. Where have these suggestions been? Except for the parts about climate change and biofuels, I have to agree with this one. Climate change legislation should be scrapped, and hopefully is dead. The role of biofuels should be completely re-evaluated, especially as they relate to food crops.

But we could truly benefit from nuclear power, more domestic oil and gas production and clean coal. These are more urgent than alternative energy, which should be left to the private sector.

Negative

Let’s Blame Bush!
We can't afford another so-called economic "expansion" like the one from the last decade -- what some call the "lost decade" -- where jobs grew more slowly than during any prior expansion; where the income of the average American household declined while the cost of health care and tuition reached record highs; where prosperity was built on a housing bubble and financial speculation.

Well, how does that compare with where we are now? There was an event called “9/11” that contributed to the deficit. Jobs grew rather than shrank. The bubbles were largely brought about by government forcing banks to make bad loans, and Congress failing to allow effective regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, despite obvious and serious misbehavior. Banks issued dangerous derivatives, but government didn’t step in to stop them. For years before the meltdown, liberals criticized the state of the economy, but when they got in power, they pretended that they didn’t know what its actual condition was.

At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. (Applause.) By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door. (Laughter and applause.)

Now -- just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis. And our efforts to prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt. That, too, is a fact.


Just a reminder, there were valid causes of much of the Bush deficits, but the ill-advised bank bailouts, which Obama supported, more than doubled the “inherited” deficit he keeps complaining about.

The recession was caused by various things, including government missteps, but because of the government’s response, it has lasted longer and been worse than it otherwise would have been. If Obama had not tried to take over the financial industry (Bush, too on this one), and much of the economy, while at the same time, proposing massive tax-laden and job-killing projects like “health care reform” and cap and trade, we would have likely been well out of the recession and back to normal employment by now. With these proposals hanging over employers’ heads, how could a quick recovery be expected? Obama’s mistakes are not Bush’s fault (except the bank bailouts).

On “Health Care Reform”
Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, "What's in it for me?"

But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber. (Applause.)


The problem was not a lack of clear explanation. The problem is that the more it was explained, the more obvious it became that this plan was an unacceptable and very costly government takeover that would require large tax increases and a degradation of health care. Its passage was to be achieved by unethical special deals, closed-door negotiations, and plain bribery. Talk of “death panels” hurt the effort, because it rang true. There would be government rationing.

The government should walk away from this effort entirely. It’s a plan that should be killed, not tweaked. Suggestion: If you can’t get the American people on board, and bipartisan support, forget it. The Obamacare plan, House or Senate version, is no good.

From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument -- that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts including those for the wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The problem is that's what we did for eight years. (Applause.) That's what helped us into this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. We can't do it again.

“Investments in our people” means “more government spending.” This increases the deficit. “Extend tax cuts…” Obama tries to maintain the fiction that tax increases on the wealthy don’t hurt people who aren’t wealthy. The “wealthy” means people who could be in a position to hire workers. High taxes discourage economic activity, and workers will suffer from these higher taxes, either through unemployment or lower pay. Lower taxes in the Bush years resulted in record revenues to the government and did not cause the financial crisis.

Supreme Court and Campaign Finance
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

Liberal opposition to this decision seems to be based on the weird notion that unions represent “people,” but corporations and some other organizations do not. The decision actually restores First Amendment rights that McCain-Feingold and other laws have suppressed. Freedom of political speech is protected except under dictatorial regimes.

Other Items
Earmark Reform – The president’s words sound good. We’ve heard a lot about the need for earmark reform before. Nothing significant has been done. Yet.

“Investments” in this or that equals government spending. The government should leave more “investment” situations to the private sector.

New Fees on Big Banks – See my previous article, “Obama: We Want Our Money Back. And We’re Going To Get It,” and my next article, about Obama’s war on Wall Street.

Financial Reform – Look for a big battle over this. The Administration isn’t making any friends among Wall Street bankers. Timothy Geithner reportedly has been working with banks to craft a regulation plan that would do the job and have some support from bankers, but Obama appears to be undermining that effort.

Guantanamo detention facility – not mentioned.

Conclusion

The Massachusetts U.S. Senate election, and the election of Republican governors in Virginia and New Jersey, plus the retirement of several Democrats, and prospects of Republican victories in the November elections, have forced a resetting of Administration priorities. The president is urging Congress to stick with his health care and climate change priorities, but these are doubtful of approval now. I hope.

Obama doesn’t see anything wrong with his proposals, apparently thinking that better PR is what’s needed. What’s really needed is a better program, based on free markets, low taxes, reasonably limited government, and respect for the wishes of the people.

[1] “Obama’s first State of the Union. Transcript,” appearing in Lynn Sweet’s Chicago Sun-Times column The Scoop from Washington, 01/27/2010, at http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2010/01/obamas_first_state_of_the_unio.html


Photo: Official White House photo by Pete Souza. Found at whitehouse.gov.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Double Good News for American Freedom


This has been one of those rare weeks when two noteworthy and favorable political events happened.

I. Scott Brown (R) defeats Martha Coakley (D) in U. S. Senate race in Massachusetts

This defeat ought to at least force the Democrats to consider the fact that people are mostly opposed to their “health-care reform” plans, and are willing to vote accordingly. Democrats want us to believe this election was not a “referendum on Obama,” but it clearly was. It appears the Democrats’ 60-vote super majority is gone, and if they try to ram some form of the health-care legislation through without another Senate vote, they’ll look desperate and dishonest, and lose even more esteem among the public.

Therefore, we are hearing talk about a scaled-back approach to the issue. As you have read in numerous places, the election sent a shock through the Democratic Party, as it now appears many Democrats are vulnerable in the 2010 elections, if a blue state like Massachusetts can choose a Republican over a Democrat – especially, a Republican who campaigned with a conservative message, and presented himself as the candidate of the people, rather than the government.

It remains to be seen how this will play out, but it looks like the Obamacare program may very well be rejected. Certainly the voters across America are rejecting it, and are prepared to punish, at election time, incumbents who voted for it. Despite liberal pundits urging and predicting a full-blown effort to get the program passed, lawmakers who are facing the 2010 elections will probably be cautious. Are they willing to give up their congressional careers in order to give President Obama a face-saving “legacy” in the form of a hated socialist program?

If Obamacare is not passed, look for the economic outlook to quickly improve, especially if taxes associated with it are not somehow enacted. It really would be good news for America if Obamacare is dumped.

II. The Supreme Court overturns key parts of the campaign finance laws

This is a significant victory for the Constitution, as some serious limits on free speech have rightly been found unconstitutional. Now corporations (gasp!) will be permitted to freely advertise for and against candidates, right up to election day. So will unions, although they have been doing that, in effect, all along. All sorts of entities have been freed to express political views for and against specific candidates.

Democrats are in a huff about this, having lost the security of knowing that political speech was basically controlled by the politicians in power. As a matter of free speech, if this is a free country, political speech ought to be especially protected, and especially as elections draw near. The restrictions that were overturned were blatantly aimed at silencing opposition to incumbent politicians. The idea that this has somehow protected Americans from “big money” influence is given the lie by the fact that the Section 527 organizations have helped politicians by raising many millions of dollars to influence elections.

The court left intact the rules prohibiting corporations and unions from giving money directly to campaigns. [1] The main thing changing is that corporations can now spend their money on political ads, if they choose to do so, at any time. The Supreme Court has ruled that free speech applies to corporations and other organizations as well as individuals. The Constitution is pretty clear about prohibiting Congress from making laws abridging freedom of speech or of the press.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), quoted at The Hill praised the decision: “‘For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process. With today’s monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups by ruling that the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day,’ he said.” [2]

Meanwhile, Sen. Schumer (D-NY), supports legislation to restrict the effects of the decision: “‘The bottom line is this: The Supreme Court has just pre-determined the winners of next November's elections,’ Schumer said. ‘It won't be Republicans, it won't be Democrats, it will be corporate America.’” [3]

President Obama is pushing for such legislation [4] Democrats in Iowa, the state where the case arose which resulted in the Supreme Court decision, were critical of the Court’s action. Republicans had less to say, emphasizing their concern for disclosure, which was not affected by the Supreme Court ruling. [5]

Union leaders don’t particularly like the decision. For example, The Wall Street Journal has the following quote from SEIU spokeswoman Lori Lodes: “I don't think working people would ever have as much to spend as corporations. For us, being able to spend a few extra dollars isn't worth allowing decisions to be made from boardrooms instead of the polling booth.” [6]

If Democratic incumbents and their favored client interest groups stand to lose any influence from a decision that widens freedom of political speech (as required by the Constitution), then, by all means, protective measures must be taken. If such laws are passed, I predict that test cases will soon get to the Supreme Court, and the new laws will be struck down, too. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Conclusion
It has been a better-than-usual week for the American people in terms of freedom.

As Bojidar Marinov, at American Vision, points out, in an article citing the fact that British pensioners are buying books from charity stores to burn as fuel, because they can’t afford highly taxed gas, coal, and electricity, then describing, in general, the “gray market,” “Socialism is an ideology that calls for the confiscation of the individual’s life, liberty and property by the state; but whatever resources socialist governments commit to their propaganda, they can never talk the individual people out of loving their life, liberty, and property.” [7] The current socialist-fascist administration in Washington, and the Democratic Congressional leadership are shining examples. But fortunately, America has retained enough freedom to put up some effective resistance. Both of the events mentioned above show that the American spirit will not be defeated by would-be oppressors.

[1] James Oliphant, “Supreme Court's campaign finance ruling could bring flood of ads,”
01/21/2010, Los Angeles Times, at http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-campaign-finance-analysis22-2010jan22,0,7041058.story

[2] Alexander Bolton and Aaron Blake, “Democrats plan to push bill to limit impact of campaign finance decision,” 01/21/2010, The Hill, at http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/77261-supreme-court-strikes-down-campaign-finance-restrictions

[3] and [4] Ibid.

[5] Kathie Obradovich, “Iowa Democratic leaders rake SCOTUS ruling’” blog posting, 01/21/2010, Des Moines Register, at http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2010/01/21/iowa-democratic-leaders-rake-supco-ruling/

[6] Brody Mullins, “Big Donors Plan Boost in Campaign Spending,” 01/22/2010, The Wall Street Journal, at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704423204575017152825109576.html?mod=WSJ-hpp-MIDDLETopStories

[7] Bojidar Marinov, “God’s Rhapsody in Gray,” 01/20/2010. American Vision, at http://www.americanvision.org/article/gods-rhapsody-in-gray/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%253A+AmericanVision+%2528American+Vision%2529&utm_content=Yahoo%2521+Mail

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Monday, January 18, 2010

Special Tax Treatment for Special Taxpayers



Speaking of the “Health Care Reform” legislation:
“‘I guess this bill is only good if it doesn't apply to you,’ GOPAC Chairman Frank Donatelli said…. ‘If this bill is so good, why does everyone need an exemption in order to vote for it? ... We see the drug companies get a special deal. We see what happened in Louisiana and most notoriously Nebraska in the Senate where they got special deals. And now the unions get a special deal….’” [1]

Arm-twisting, bribery, intimidation, and special treatment are required for the Democrats to make progress on getting “health care reform” passed. It appears that the top Democratic leadership doesn’t much care about the specifics of the final bill as long as they can get the votes and satisfy powerful client special interests. The American people should get this kind of consideration, eh? Most are solidly against this “reform.” [2]

To go along with so many other unconstitutional and destructive Obama policies and proposals, they’ve added the little detail of exempting union members’ “Cadillac” health plans from the proposed heavy tax. People whose insurance is covered by a collective-bargaining agreement get an exemption. Not other citizens. Isn’t there something in the Constitution about the “equal protection of the law”? [3] There’s also an item about “titles of nobility,” and while this isn’t a title as such, Obama doesn’t mind treating certain “classes” of people like they’re privileged characters compared to the rest of us. [4]

Specifically, “The deal reached by unions and the White House would tax family insurance plans worth $24,000, up from the $23,000. The average employer-sponsored family plan cost $13,375 in 2009, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The deal also would delay the tax until 2018 for policies covering workers in collective bargaining agreements,” according to an AP article. [5]

Is this a sweetheart deal or what? It’s worth $60 BILLION [6] according to estimates, leaving that much to be made up in other ways (i.e., taxes). This will kill and bury Obama’s “promise” that families earning less than $250,000 a year would get no increase – “not one dime” – in taxes. Of course, that was pretty well gone anyway. What someone said of Clinton may go better for Obama: “He kept all the promises he intended to keep.” “Deficit-neutral”? Are you kidding?

And in typical Obama and Congressional Democrat fashion, this agreement was reached behind closed doors. Obama’s talk of “transparency” in government now has to be regarded as a joke. But not funny.

Meanwhile, as the Obama Administration and Congressional Democratic leadership are busy with this socialist program, complete with more unsustainable entitlements and plenty of new taxes, they claim to be concerned about unemployment – which they want to deal with by more and more spending. When these new taxes come on stream, they will deal a serious blow to employment and likely make for a double-dip recession, with little relief in sight. The deficit will increase as a result of new taxes, not decrease. The mounting deficits could put the dollar itself in serious trouble.

I hate to sound pessimistic. With a common-sense approach to the economy, big improvements could soon be made. But nothing the administration is doing seems to point in that direction. Union bosses needn’t worry, though. The administration will try to protect them, as long as it means union support for their unpopular and misguided policies.

[1] Fox News.com, Major Garret and Trish Turner contributing, “Democrats Hammered for ‘Back-Room’ Deal with Unions on Health Care,” 01/15/2010, at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/01/15/democrats-hammered-room-deal-unions-health-care/

[2] Rasmussen reports that 36 percent of voters favor the plan, while 56 percent oppose it, including 44 percent who are “strongly opposed,”

[3] “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.” Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution.

[4] Ibid, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8: “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States…”

[5] Erica Werner, Associated Press, “Obama, Democrats Make Closed-Door Deal With Labor Unions on Final Health Care Bill,” 10/15/2010, CNS News.com, at http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/59869

[6] See [1] and [5].

Public domain photo from photos8.com

Friday, January 15, 2010

Obama: We Want Our Money Back. And We’re Going To Get It.


When the 2008 bank bailouts took place, led by Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Timothy Geithner, the nine largest banks were forced to take “bailout” money even though some did not believe they needed it and did not want it. [1] Other banks have also received government assistance. Various banks have paid back or are in the process of paying back these TARP loans. The government has sometimes expressed a reluctance to be paid back, but has accepted repayments. Now, they’re demanding repayments and more. On Thursday, January 14, President Obama announced plans for new fees to be paid by large banks.

“‘We want our money back. And we're going to get it,’ Obama stressed. ‘And that's why I'm proposing a financial crisis responsibility fee to be imposed on major financial firms until the American people are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street.’” [2]

The Obama Administration has worked out a scheme of large fees that are supposed to recover “bailout” funds. Striking a populist tone, Obama seeks to demonize the banks and their “obscene” bonuses, when in fact, government, including Obama, bear the main responsibility for the state of affairs that brought about the bank “bailouts” to begin with. It is remarkable hypocrisy, and not good economics.

Economics is not the Administration’s strong point, except in their efforts to damage our economy. The “bailouts” were designed to assist favored big banks (Goldman-Sachs, for example) while some financial institutions, notably Lehman Brothers, were left to die. Foreign banks got a good bit of the money also. The painting of “fat cat” Wall Street executives as great villains serves (at least) the following purposes for the Obama Administration:

1. To deflect blame for the bad economy and financial crisis from themselves


2. To present themselves as protectors of the people from the evil banks
As a Reuters article points out, “Public rage at bankers, whom Mr. Obama chided in December for their ‘fat cat bonuses,’ has taken on a deeper political dimension as Democrats who control Congress weigh sweeping financial regulatory reforms in the face of stiff industry opposition.” [3] The strategy is to make bankers look like the bad guys the Administration is trying to protect us from. It seems to be working to some degree.

Politico notes the following:
“Criticizing Republicans, he [Obama] said financial industry lobbyists are ‘locking arms with the opposition party’ to stand in the way of reform. And he called on banks not to fight the tax with a ‘phalanx of lobbyists’ and lawyers, urging them not to ‘stick it’ to their customers and shareholders by passing on the fee to them.

“‘I suggest you might want to consider simply meeting your responsibility,” he said.” [4]

But the Democrats’ idea of reform is to regulate to the point of micro-managing financial institutions. The banks’ “responsibility” is to obey the law and maximize stockholder value, not to make sure the government likes everything they are doing.

3. To portray the financial crisis as a failure of capitalism, when in fact it was essentially a failure of government.
The fat-cat capitalists are pointed to as the problem, and now they’ve started making money again. To exploit class envy as much as possible, Obama reminds us that the American people are suffering from high unemployment (which Obama isn’t helping) while the bankers are getting big bonuses. The Administration is trying to build on the false notion that “capitalism failed,” so socialist policies are needed.

4. To distract some attention from the dismally corrupt efforts to pass the awful “healthcare reform” which most Americans strongly, and rightly, oppose.

“‘My determination to achieve this goal [recovering ‘every single dime’ of the TARP advances] is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people,’ Obama told reporters at a White House event.” [5]

How dare they make profits? How dare they pay bonuses? How dare they run a successful business in one of the world’s most thoroughly government-regulated environments? The fiends! Of course, substantial taxes, federal, state, and local, are paid on these profits and bonuses. I have written in favor of the government recovering as much of the TARP money as possible, as quickly as possible, and I still think that. But this is not the way. Consider:

(1) The fees of 0.15 percent of balance sheet assets on companies with over $50 billion of assets will also fall on companies that have already repaid their TARP advances or never received TARP money at all. [6] So this, contrary to Obama’s statements, isn’t just a plan to recover TARP, it’s a plan for punishing success. Presumably, the assistance to banks was supposed to allow them to earn a profit. But liberals don’t like private-sector corporate profits.

Apparently, the fees will continue on all affected banks until an amount equal to all the TARP advances is collected (with interest?). So it isn’t a matter of each bank simply repaying what it was advanced. It is not clear (to me, at least) how this affects government’s equity stakes in the affected companies. And, of course, “temporary” taxes and fees often somehow become permanent.

(2) The fees are supposed to recover $90 billion over ten years, but the projected TARP losses are $117 billion.

(3) The fees are, in effect, a tax, the cost of which must, as all costs must, ultimately be recovered from the banks’ customers. So these fees will have ripple effects through the economy, and various unintended consequences.

“AIG [the large insurer taken over by the government] will be subject to the fee, but mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are under government conservatorship, will be excluded, as will still-ailing U.S. automakers that got bailout money.” [7] Of course, being government-sponsored enterprises (GSE’s), Fannie and Freddie haven’t been held to the high standards expected of private companies. This just points out the hypocrisy in Obama’s chiding of big banks.

Carl Horowitz at National Legal and Policy Center writes:
“The troubled secondary mortgage lending giants [Fannie and Freddie], already having received more than $110 billion in federal subsidies since the fall of 2008, are set for another major feed at the public trough. On December 24, the U.S. Treasury Department, facing a December 31 deadline, approved a no-limit hike in the publicly-traded companies' combined $400 billion credit line. Were that not enough, regulators approved an annual compensation package of up to $6 million for each chief executive officer. Welcome to pay for performance, Obama-style - not that the Bush version was a bargain.” [8]

A congressman from Texas makes a good point in his criticism of the bank fees:
“This is the latest proposal in the Obama administration’s failed attempt to borrow, spend and tax their way into economic prosperity,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said earlier on Wednesday. “To think that banks will loan more money if you tax them is beyond economic ignorance.” [9]

The TARP bailouts were an ill-conceived and ill-advised idea to start with. The bailouts should never have been done. But since they were, repayment terms should have been agreed upon at the time the advances were made, and firms that didn’t want the money should not have received it.

And now, Obama should be seeking recovery only from the companies that received funds and still haven’t paid them back. At this point, Obama Administration people should be quietly working out repayment schedules with the banks that still owe money. Mostly, they’re anxious to get it repaid and get government out of their hair about it. But, apparently, we can’t expect this government to think like that. They want to score political points by pretending they’re looking out for us by punishing all the banks that are paying large bonuses.

[1] Matt Cover, “Inspector General: Treasury Secretary Forced Banks to Surrender Ownership Interest to Government,” 10/05/09, CNS News.com, at http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/55017

[2] Tony Romm and Silla Brush, “Obama determined to recover ‘every dime’ the public is owed from bailout,” 01/14/2010, The Hill.com, at http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/75853-obama-to-raise-90b-with-new-financial-fee

[3] Alister Bull and Caren Bohan, Reuters, “‘We want our money back,’ Obama tells bankers,” 01/14/2010 The Financial Post, at http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=2440608#ixzz0ceS0D9pJ

[4] Politico 44 Whiteboard, “Taxing Banks” at http://www.politico.com/politico44/perm/0110/obama_on_bank_fee_bcfec2c8-98a1-4a6d-ac82-cc55df6510b2.html

[5] Caren Bohan and Alister Bull, “Obama proposes bank fee, slams Wall Street,” Reuters.com at http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60D1PA20100114 . This item and [3] appear to be different editions of the same article.

[6] Ibid. Emphasis added.

[7] Bull and Bohan, see [3].

[8] Carl Horowitz, “Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Bailed Out Again; CEO Pay Set for Huge Boost,” 01/06/2010, National Legal and Policy Center, at http://www.nlpc.org/stories/2010/01/06/fannie-maefreddie-mac-bailout-ceo-pay-set-huge-boost

[9] Romm and Brush, see [2].

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Friday, January 8, 2010

Unemployment Numbers: Same Old, Same Old for Months To Come?



If you are looking for a job, no one needs to tell you that the American people, including employers, aren’t seeing much of a recovery from the recession. The “improvements” we’ve seen have been mostly from temporary government programs like “Cash for Clunkers” and various other government money going into the economy. Not really the stuff of healthy recovery. The following words from the Bureau of Labor Statistics give a brief description. Their web site gives more details:

“THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION -- DECEMBER 2009

“Nonfarm payroll employment edged down (-85,000) in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 10.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment fell in construction, manufacturing, and wholesale trade, while temporary help services and health care added jobs.

“Household Survey Data

“In December, both the number of unemployed persons, at 15.3 million, and the unemployment rate, at 10.0 percent, were unchanged. At the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons was 7.7 million, and the unemployment rate was 5.0 percent….

“Unemployment rates for the major worker groups--adult men (10.2 percent), adult women (8.2 percent), teenagers (27.1 percent), whites (9.0 percent), blacks (16.2 percent), and Hispanics (12.9 percent)--showed little change in December. The unemployment rate for Asians was 8.4 percent, not seasonally adjusted….”

“About 2.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in December, an increase of 578,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey....” (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics) (Emphasis added)

The report for December was worse than many analysts expected. According to an AP story giving some analysis of the BLS report, “Counting the people who have given up looking for work and the part-time workers who would rather be working full-time, the so-called underemployment rate edged up to 17.3 percent in December. The record high is 17.4 percent, reached in October.”

“It was the second straight month the unemployment rate came in at 10 percent. The only reason it didn't rise was that 661,000 people stopped looking for jobs and left the work force.” [1]

The 17.3 and 17.4 percent figures compare to the 25 percent unemployment rate during the depths of the Great Depression. The U.S. saw 85,000 jobs lost in December. UPS is planning to lay off 2,000 workers and Lockheed-Martin will cut 1,500 jobs later this year. There are numerous applicants for most jobs that are advertised.

According to the AP article, “But the jobless rate is likely to rise in coming months as more people see signs of an improving economy and start looking for work again. Some economists think it could near 11 percent, which would be the highest since World War II, by June.” [2]

The government’s plans, including the recently-passed House “jobs” bill, call for government funding of programs to create jobs, extend unemployment benefits, and give money to states to help with their budget shortfalls. None of these measures is a substantial attempt to address the problem. Instead, it represents more government debt, and, by increasing the deficit, actually makes matters worse because it discourages more private-sector hiring outside of the specific targets of the legislation. The Senate is reluctant to act on the House bill.

Government policies, and uncertainty about what (or how bad) future policies will be, continue to discourage private-sector employers from expanding and hiring. One must wonder what the priorities of this government are, because they seem obsessed with getting a massive health-care taxing and entitlement program in place as soon as possible, before anything else is done. That is the top priority at the moment. Most people, including employers, and many in health care related industries oppose this legislation. It is an economic downer for everyone, except some insurers, and people who might benefit by getting government subsidies in Obama’s redistribution efforts. Don’t look for it to be any kind of boost to the economy. Just the opposite.

How can banks, manufacturers, and employers in general feel free to expand credit and payrolls when they are under a strong threat of numerous and expensive new taxes and regulations coming from government? It should be fairly obvious that economic recovery is not the government’s current plan, because virtually nothing is being done to encourage private-sector economic activity, and many things are being done to prevent it from increasing.

The government appears to want to control (if not own) every aspect of the economy, and that is largely the problem. Memo to government: It’s not rocket science. Let’s just stop trying to tax and spend our way out of this with more pork projects and entitlements. Get out of the way and let the market work. We’ll see good results fairly quickly.

[1] Jeannine Aversa and Christopher S. Rugaber, “Report suggests a year of high unemployment ahead,” Associated Press, at Yahoo! News, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100108/ap_on_bi_go_ec_fi/us_economy

[2] Ibid.

Photo: Dreamstime.com

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Destructive Environmentalists


The so-called “green” movement is supposedly not the same as environmental extremism. People can have a legitimate and strong desire to preserve the world from environmental pollution, but it is quite easy to turn such an interest into an obsession, and to build alliances with extremist groups for the sake of advancing a supposedly less-extreme agenda. How far apart are, say, the Sierra Club and the Deep Ecology Foundation? Or Earth First!?

I would counsel environmentalists who have the best interests of human beings at heart to look with great caution upon the various participants in the environmental movement. It is the extremists who are most loudly pushing their cause, and trying to become the ones who define environmentalism. Among far-left liberals in government (and at present, there are a good many), some serious distinctions are either lost or blurred. American citizens who do not regard the eco-terrorists or enviro-fascists, etc. as serious threats, may need to look into the matter. These people are beginning to exert some actual political influence, and that is potentially very bad news.

Such groups as the Sierra Club represent the familiar left-of-center environmentalists who emphasize “green” energy, and support the Obama and leftist Democrats’ environmental and anti-oil-company positions. People in sympathy with this group’s positions, with which I disagree strongly, are something of an economic threat, since they would support cap and trade and the EPA anti-CO-2 finding, etc. But they are not overtly anti-human or anti-prosperity as several other groups are.

Mainstreaming of Radical Beliefs
Views that should be regarded as extreme are becoming more common these days. For example, in the United Kingdom:
“Couples who have more than two children are being ‘irresponsible’ by creating an unbearable burden on the environment, the government’s green adviser has warned.
Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the government’s Sustainable Development Commission, says curbing population growth through contraception and abortion must be at the heart of policies to fight global warming. He says political leaders and green campaigners should stop dodging the issue of environmental harm caused by an expanding population.

“‘I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate,’ Porritt said.” [1]

Wesley J. Smith at First Things, posted the video below, explaining,
“…I think the video is worth the ten minutes it takes to view because the facts against the global warming [are] presented powerfully by Lord Monkton – one of the world’s most notable skeptics–demonstrate vividly that there are many good reasons for real doubt about the need for hysteria. Indeed, this is why – no matter how vociferously people like Al Gore and President Obama insist that it is – the debate is far from over. Indeed, the burden of proof remains with the hysterics to demonstrate that they are not, in fact, being hysterical. Enjoy.” [2]



What Is Deep Ecology?
Deep Ecology is the radical idea that all life has the right to exist, that no one species is more important than another.

According to Judi Bari, "Nature does not exist to serve humans. Rather, humans are a part of nature, one species among many. All species have the right to exist for their own sake, regardless of their usefulness to humans". [3]

The “mainstream” environmentalists’ further left counterparts represent views which are truly alarming. To the extent that they gain any influence, they are frightening.

Environmental extremists accept as virtual articles of faith that (1) there are too many humans in the world, (2) prosperity is not sustainable, (3) people need to return to a primitive way of life and eschew consumerism, (4) people are simply animals, with the same rights as other animals, and (5) no living things are to be destroyed except for sustenance and defense, (6) death should take place in a manner that is earth-friendly, and people should be encouraged to die young for the sake of the environment, and (7) these beliefs represent a spiritual religion and actions to support these beliefs constitute worship. People should live more to themselves and minimize travel and social interaction, except to teach others the environmentalist philosophy. [4]

The Sierra Club and similar organizations have been regarded as extremist by various conservatives. According to David Foreman, founder of the undoubtedly extremist group Earth First!, there is a connection between the various groups.

“[C]omments from Foreman himself are revealing. Smithsonian magazine writes:
‘We thought it would have been useful to have a group to take a tougher position than the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society,’ Foreman remembers. ‘It could be
sort of secretly controlled by the mainstream and trotted out at hearings to make the Sierra Club or Wilderness Society look moderate.’

“In his own book, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior, Foreman brags: ‘A major accomplishment of Earth First! … has been to expand the environmental spectrum to where the Sierra Club and other groups are perceived as moderates.’ Foreman made the same point to Audubon magazine in 1982: ‘When I call the Sierra Club 'namby pamby,' that is done consciously to negate what [Secretary of the Interior James] Watt says when he calls them extremists.’” [5]


Putting Extremism into Action
Earth First! Is regarded by the FBI as one of the most dangerous eco-terrorist organizations. [6]

Eco-terrorists believe that destruction of property, and perhaps people, that are not earth-friendly is justified. Such groups as The Church of Deep Ecology consider “destruction of the critical infrastructure of civilization,” an acceptable environmental action. As for mankind, they envision making humanity a feral species. “Re-wilding,” they call it. [7]

The recent U.N. climate conference at Copenhagen seems to point out the possible use of “climate change” as an issue justifying progress toward a one-world government.

Eco-extremists The Church of Deep Ecology claims to recognize “no authority except Nature,” [8] but the various factions of the “green” movement will work together when they can see enough advantage, despite supposedly conflicting beliefs. Politically, the “mainstream” environmentalists tend toward socialism and strong government control.

Often, environmentalist groups regard their brand of environmentalism as the most important issue of all, to which other considerations (such as individual liberty, private property, the economy, and, especially, consumerism and prosperity) can be sacrificed if need be.

I don’t know what connection there really is, if any, between, for example, the Sierra Club and Earth First!-type organizations. But it is plain that environmentalism, strongly enforced by government, goes against normal American beliefs and traditions about individual liberty, having as many children as a couple would like, striving to give our children a better life than we enjoyed, and putting people first. Environmental extremism is the antithesis of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Its worst expressions, and the tendency is toward that, devalue human life and would greatly reduce human population, and lower our standard of living to a third world or possibly Stone Age existence.

Christopher D. Stone's 1972 essay, "Should trees have standing?" addressed the question of whether natural objects themselves should have legal rights. In the essay, Stone suggests that his argument is valid because many current rights-holders (women, children) were once seen as objects. [9]

Environmental extremists often claim that their beliefs justify illegal activities. Members of ELF, for example have been accused of arson. Members of eco-terrorist groups have been convicted, as for example,
“Chelsea Gerlach, who joined the radical-environmental movement as a teenager, was sentenced today in Oregon to nine years in prison for her prominent role in torching a Vail ski lodge in 1998 and five other so-called ‘eco-terror’ attacks.

“Gerlach, 30, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, destruction of an energy facility and 23 counts of arson after being identified by an informant as a major player in a six-year reign of attacks on government, business and research facilities….

“As a member of a small clandestine group that called itself "The Family," Gerlach and others helped cell leader Bill Rodgers in October 1998 haul fuel up Vail ski area. There, under the cloak of darkness, he torched the stately Two Elk Lodge and several other buildings and lifts, causing an estimated $24 million in damage.” [10]

“The eco-terrorists believed that vision could and should be brought to reality by violently attacking the properties of those they saw as enemies. One of the ringleaders of the attacks was Bill Rodgers, who committed suicide after being arrested for his role in the crimes. ‘Certain human cultures have been waging war against the Earth for millennia,’ Rodgers said in a letter he wrote before suffocating himself with a plastic bag. ‘I chose to fight on the side of bears, mountain lions, skunks, bats, saguaros, cliff rose and all things wild. I am just the most recent casualty in that war. But tonight I have made a jail break--I am returning home, to the Earth, to the place of my origins.’” [11]

Other eco-extremists have also been willing to put their beliefs into action. They have destroyed private and public property and made destructive and otherwise serious decisions affecting themselves:
“And see the lengths to which some true believers now go. There’s Toni Vernelli, from animal liberation group PETA, who aborted her baby because ‘it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world.’ There’s Sarah Irving, from Ethical Consumer magazine, who sterilised herself because it ‘was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do’ in a warming world.” [12]

Conclusion
The environmental extremists’ philosophy calls for the destruction of civilization.
“[Journalist Matt] Rasmussen concludes [an article on the motivations of extremist environmentalists] by wondering if the ELF radicals will someday be remembered as symbols of ‘courage and righteousness.’ But that is incomprehensible since they seek nothing less than the destruction of civilization, a la [Professor John] Zerzan. To some that may sound like a lofty ideal, but it means nothing less than the end of modern farming, the end of modern sanitation, the end of modern power generation, the end of modern transport--and the deaths of billions of people.” [13]

The realm of environmental extremism and eco-terrorism is a murky and, to many Americans, little-known fact of our society. The items I have mentioned above are no doubt old news to followers of the environmental movement. But most Americans aren’t aware of this situation. Since we’re seeing our government getting so involved these days in climate change and “green” everything, this is an aspect of the “green” movement that needs to be better known. I suspect that there may be less of a disconnect between “mainstream” environmentalists and extremists than one might think, at least judging by the words of some of the radicals.

The philosophy they espouse is so strange that it’s hard to believe that people actually believe such things. Yet, to the extent that they do, and are willing to act to try to implement these beliefs in our world, it is a very dangerous and disturbing situation. Along with the Climategate revelations and the potential negative impact of government “carbon” programs, these radicals represent another big reason to view “environmental activism” with suspicion.

[1] Sarah-Kate Templeton, “Two children should be limit, says green guru,” 02/01/2009, Times Online, at http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article5627634.ece

[2] Wesley J. Smith, “Global Warming Hysteria: For Some, It’s a Matter of Faith,” 12/28/2009, First Things at
http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/12/28/global-warming-hysteria-for-some-its-a-matter-of-faith/

[3] Church of Deep Ecology, at http://www.churchofdeepecology.org/

[4] Ibid.

[5]“Earth First,!”Activistcash.com, at http://activistcash.com/organization_overview.cfm/o/271-earth-first

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Church of Deep Ecology Primer,” pdf available at http://www.churchofdeepecology.org/

[8] Church of Deep Ecology, see [3]

[9] “Environmental Movement,” Wikipedia.org
at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_movement

[10] Steve Lipsher, “Nine years for Vail eco-terrorist,” Denver Post, 05/25/2007, at http://www.denverpost.com/ci_5988241

[11] “The philosophy of eco-terrorism,” The New American, 02/05/2007, FindArticles.com at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JZS/is_3_23/ai_n25000557/

[12] Andrew Bolt, “Green slayer is after your children,” 06/13/2008, HeraldSun.com.au, at
http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_green_slayer_is_after_your_children/

[13] “The philosophy of eco-terrorism,” see [11]

Further reading:
Paul Taylor, “Ecoterrorism: An overlooked threat to the United States,” Insight on the News, 12/10/2001, FindArticles.com at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1571/is_46_17/ai_80774576/

John Berlau, “Eco-Terrorism: When Violence Becomes an Environmentalist Tactic,” Human Events, 04/02/2007, FindArticles.com at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3827/is_20070402/ai_n19012231/

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