Monday, May 26, 2014

Barack Obama - the ESPN President

I’m a big fan of Matt Damon movies. I’m not however a big fan of Matt Damon’s politics. But that’s OK with me. It’s a relationship that works well for both of us. He gets my money when I’m watching Bourne Identity or Ocean’s 11 and he uses that money and fame to find a bigger soapbox from which to spout comments that I usually ignore.

In the same respect, if you’re a fan of sports there are probably a couple players in the NFL or the NBA who you enjoy watching and are glad they are on your team, but you wouldn’t let them within a mile of your daughter. That’s OK too. Owners don’t pay them to be great sons in law. They’re paid to perform on the field of play. They can then take that money and fame and do whatever they want without involving you at all. You get entertained and they get multimillion dollar contracts and date women who are not your daughters. Everyone wins.

Not all arrangements work out that well. Sometimes what people get paid to do and what they spend their time doing are two different things. I was reminded of something about Barack Obama this week. When he wants to be, he can be very, very good. The president had a press conference with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. That ten minute conference was outstanding. Although he did have prepared remarks, there was not a teleprompter in sight. While the notes were in front of him, it was obvious he was familiar with the goings on of both the game itself and the team, including Richard Sherman’s post game “conversation”, Russell Wilson’s new hair (or lack thereof) and the lengths to which Paul Allen might go to help his team win. I almost expected him to ask some of the players to come out to the south lawn to play a pickup game. Without a doubt, Barack Obama was very much in his element.

The thing that I was reminded about was the fact that Barack Obama is an incredible sports fan. ESPN even has the annual “Barack-etology” where the president fills out his bracket. The thing that one can’t escape is that Barack knows his basketball. He knows the players, he knows the coaches, the records and the streaks and all of it is done without notes.

Barack Obama was born to be an ESPN host. Unfortunately, however, that’s not what he gets paid for. He gets paid to be the President of the United States. And unlike Matt Damon and lots of players in the NFL and the NBA, he’s not very good at his job.

How does one know that Barack Obama is not very good at his job? Because he never knows what’s going on in the organization he’s paid to lead. Fast and Furious? The president heard about it on the news. The IRS Tea Party targeting scandal? The president heard about it on the news. The DOJ AP snooping scandal? The president heard about it on the news. The VA scandal resulting in the deaths of dozens of veterans? The president heard about it on the news. He must have forgotten about this one as he campaigned on it in 2007 and was formally informed about it by the Bush Administration in 2008.

Then of course there is Benghazi where no one has a clue where the president was while the whole thing was going on... but we know he wasn't in the Situation Room. And Obamacare where the president either lied or didn’t have a clue about the program when he promised Americans they would get lower healthcare costs, they could keep their doctors and they could keep their insurance.

So my question is, is anyone besides me upset that Barack Obama, the guy who is paid to be President of the United States seems to know practically nothing about anything that goes on in his administration until he reads about it on the news, but he could fill in for Colin Coward at the drop of a hat if the ESPN host got hit by a truck? Does it bother anyone else that Barack Obama, the most powerful man in the world seems far more engaged in discussing the potential outcomes of a basketball tournament than he does discussing the outcomes of his disastrous policies? Is it a problem for anyone else that Barack Obama seems more comfortable on a golf course than he does actually running the affairs of the nation?

Sports is a very much an honorable business to be in. As a matter of fact, as a conservative I love the sports business because it is one of the few places left in the economy where hard work, achievement and success are rewarded largely based on merit and without the cancerous concerns of political correctness. As such, I’d like to suggest that Barack Obama leave the White House and begin a new career at ESPN. Americans would be better off as the Biden would fumble the implementation of Obama’s crippling policies and sports fans would have the benefit of a great communicator who knows sports like the back of his hand. That sounds like a win-win for everyone involved…

Monday, May 19, 2014

The dysfunctional Veterans Administration, the fig leaf of Obamacare and the time traveling Omega 13 device...

In one of the greatest and most underrated movies of all time, Galaxy Quest, the story revolves around something called the Omega 13 device. For most of the movie no one really knows what it is or does. We discover near the end that the Omega 13 is a time machine and it can turn back the clock… but only for 13 seconds. That doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes 13 seconds is enough to recognize a problem and go back and fix it. (spoiler alert) In Galaxy Quest the 13 seconds is enough to rescue our heroes and give them time to save the universe from the bad guy.

Today I’m wishing we had an Omega 13, but I might call it the Obama 5… as in five years. While in reality I might wish to go back and erase the existence of the entire Obama presidency itself, that’s obviously not realistic. But much more realistic would be going back to 2009 and erasing Obamacare.

The power of the Omega 13 didn’t come simply from its ability to turn back time, after all, what good would it do to set time back 13 seconds when everyone was busy sleeping? No, rather, the Omega 13’s power came from the ability to strategically turn back time at that critical moment when 13 seconds would make a difference between life and death. With the Obama 5 we may be at just such a moment.

It was in 2009 that Obamacare was passed and signed into law. Since then Obamacare has been nothing but a series of epic failures in every sense of the word empowered by unconstitutional manipulations, obfuscations and outright lies on the part of Barack Obama and his administration. While it was hardly credible, for much of the subsequent five years the administration could simply lie about things like premiums going down $2,500 or keeping your doctor, and since nothing had actually been put in place, there was no “proof” that they were lying. Today, after Obamacare has been rolled out and has been a disaster in every sense of the word, they can’t get away with the lies, although they do keep trying.

What’s more important right now, is not proof that the administration knew that premiums were going to rise and that people could not keep their doctors, rather what is far more important is what’s going on over at the Veterans Administration.

The VA is Obamacare taken to its logical conclusion. Why? Because Obamacare was doomed from the beginning. Even from the mouth of Barack Obama, everyone knew that Obamacare was simply a step on the path to single payer.  Single rulemaker with the fig leaf of private insurance. Once Obamacare failed the government would step in as the provider of last resort. Single payer.  And what is the Veterans Administration other than single payer within its area of responsibility... or irresponsibility as the case might be?

In a piece on Politico Max Cleland helpfully suggests that the target should be taken off the back of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki because, among other reasons “The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), an independent customer service survey, ranks the VA’s customer satisfaction among veteran patients to be the very best in the nation and equal or better then private-sector hospitals.” One wonders if any of the 40 patients who died waiting for service from the VA were among the surveyed… or the thousands of others who were kept on those unofficial waiting lists.

The truth is, the Veterans Administration has a long history of dysfunction, and survives only because a majority of veterans don’t use its services at all or use them as a supplement to their private insurance or use them only after their private resources have been exhausted. Were all eligible veterans to fully engage with the VA to the full extent possible the agency would collapse overnight under the weight.

Essentially the VA survives because there is a relief valve in the form of private insurance. And yet it’s still a perpetually failing enterprise. Now imagine that same structure being responsible for the healthcare of every American from cradle to grave, but without a relief valve. That’s Obamacare. Long waiting lines for care. Substandard care. Severely limited choices. Death panels… and extraordinarily expensive to boot!

Rarely in public policy is it possible to see such a stark representation of the future of a particular piece of legislation. The chaos of the Veterans Administration, the killer waitlists, the duplicitous bureaucracy, the limited choices and much more are on the horizon for every American as Obamacare more fully digests the entire healthcare system.

My guess is that, knowing what Americans now know about the failures of Obamacare, and after watching the fatal consequences of government healthcare play out right in front of them, most Americans would wish we had our own version of the Omega 13, an Obama 5, and would choose to turn back time 5 years, just long enough to correct the error of Obamacare and save hundreds of millions of Americans from a VA style future. Unfortunately we don’t have an Omega 13 or alas Obama 5 for that matter, but we do have an election in November and another in 2016. If there is a litmus test for any candidate, the first question on that test should be their support for a full repeal of Obamacare. It’s not nearly as fun as time travel, but it’s all we’ve got right now…

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The GOP leadership must be using Common Core math to do the calculations on Immigration... and the result is exactly what you'd expect.

Anyone who cares about prosperity has to ask themselves, just how stupid are the people running the Republican Party? One has to wonder, do they even bother to look beyond NBC, the New York Times and TIME magazine for their news and information? Have they ever even bothered to pick up a PEW research paper? You sometimes have to think that if they were around in the 16th century they would have been happy knowing the sun traveled around the earth and ignored the data from Copernicus and Galileo.

In a similar way, today we have GOP leaders have been talking about passing “immigration reform” for years. Just last month House Speaker John Boehner told a group of donors he is “hellbent on getting this (immigration reform) done this year”. Frankly, he might as well put a proverbial gun in the mouth of the Republican Party and pull the trigger – which might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Despite the stories the GOP tells itself while hiding under the covers at night, immigration reform is not the path to success in American politics. And it’s not like there’s not precedent for them to look at. One of Ronald Reagan’s biggest mistakes was when he allowed himself to be hoodwinked by Tip O’Neill into signing Simpson Mazzoli into law. The law allowed 3 million illegal aliens to become citizens and was to be followed by stronger border security. While the citizenship part happened, the border security part never did… and as a result millions more Democrat voters were created. What’s even worse, the amnesty encouraged tens of millions more people from Mexico and Central America to cross the Rio in expectation that they too could be granted amnesty.

The consequence of the failure of creating a strong border has been unambiguously bad for the GOP in general and for the notion of limited government in particular. Coincidentally, as reported by the Center for Immigration Studies, the result of amnesty and our dysfunctional immigration policies has pushed voter support for the GOP down by approximately 6% between 1980 & 2012.

Of course the numbers do tell a story, but the GOP is looking at the wrong numbers. The Republican leadership is concerned that the Hispanic population is the largest minority in the country and they are simultaneously the fastest growing minority. They look at the raw numbers and worry that if they don’t get on the immigration bandwagon that they will get left behind. Their solution is to jump on that wagon despite the fact that it’s heading towards a brick wall.

In this case the brick wall is government control and a lack of economic freedom and prosperity. Some other numbers tell the story. One has only to look at where the immigrants are coming from to understand what numbers really matter.

Over the last 15 years 60% of the legal immigration into the United States has come from six countries: Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and Costa Rica. Fully 45% came from Mexico alone. At the same time 75% of illegal immigrants are from those same countries. To see what numbers are really important, take a look at where those countries rank on the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index – which includes economic freedom and government regulation and taxation. Whereas the United States is today at a discouragingly low 12 and moving down (1 is the best – Hong Kong & 178 is the worst – North Korea), we are still far above those six countries: Mexico -55, El Salvador -59, Guatemala -83, Honduras -112, Panama -71, and Costa Rica -53. Those immigrants are coming from countries where big government reigns supreme and it shows in their economic standing in the world. Per Capita Income on a purchasing power parity basis – which takes into account the differences in costs in different countries – is perhaps the best way to measure their economic standing. According to the IMF, while Per Capita Income in the US ranks 6th in the world, of these six countries Panama is the highest at 61st and Honduras is the worst at 112th.

Of course none of that would matter if those immigrants were coming to the United States to start anew, embrace freedom, private enterprise and pursue the American dream. Unfortunately that’s not what’s happening. They are seeking to replicate the big government dysfunction and disasters of their home countries here in the United States. According to PEW, among the general population (which includes Hispanics) 48% of Americans want smaller government and 41% want bigger government. Among Hispanics only 19% want smaller government while 75% want bigger government and more spending. And the numbers are even worse among first generation Americans 12% are for smaller government while 81% for bigger government and more spending.

And it’s not just their opinions. They are voting that position as well, voting for Democrats over Republicans 2:1 on average since 1980. Despite what the GOP establishment keeps telling itself, immigration reform means more Democrats in office, more big government, more government control, higher taxes and more government redistribution. That growth in government results in less freedom, fewer choices in the marketplace and above all, less prosperity for all Americans, both new and old.

Big, overreaching, stultifying government the issue of our time.  It's opposite, small, limited government is the key to American success and prosperity.  The GOP establishment need look only at the voting record of blacks in America to understand that big government means big problems for Republican survival. But the reality is, the demographic trends are what they are, and if the GOP has any hope of surviving, it will have to learn to stop pandering by demographics. They will have to learn to articulate how small government and free markets are the key drivers of prosperity, not government control and redistribution. They have to demonstrate that limited government and free markets offer all Americans; blacks, Hispanics, whites and everyone else the greatest opportunity to find success and achieve the American dream, regardless of where they came from. So far they have been utter failures in that messaging, save voices like Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin and a few others. While it may take a while for the party to find the right message, if Boehner and Co. ram through immigration reform before the 2014 elections it may no longer matter. Let’s hope Boehner takes a wrong turn somewhere on the campaign trail and ends up lost in Lake Erie for the next six months…

Monday, May 5, 2014

Barack Obama, 2016 and the Burning of the Reichstag

Let’s face it, most Americans expect our politicians to lie. At least about the little things. Typically politicians try to keep things opaque so that they can easily massage the historical record once things don’t work out or the winds change. “I’ll put America back to work”. “I’ll bring home jobs.” “I support a fair tax system.” “I support education & women’s rights.” The less precise that a politician’s statements, the fewer people they will alienate, and in an American political universe of negative campaigns, that often seems to be the road most traveled. We expect them to lie about little things, but be aboveboard about the big, important things.

Then there is Barack Obama. News came out this week that provided confirmation that the Obama administration lied to the American people about Benghazi. On September 16, 2012 Susan Rice made the rounds of five talk shows telling the nation the attack on Benghazi that took the lives of 4 Americans was the result of spontaneous protests in response to an anti Islamic YouTube video. To many people that seemed absurd, but some were unsure and were willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt. When it became clear that that narrative was simply false, the administration claimed that the talking points were directed by the State Department and the CIA. On Tuesday that was proved a lie as an email from the White House addresses Benghazi specifically in terms of blaming the video and not terrorism or policy failures.

This fits a pattern for this White House. And what makes it so perfidious is that it’s not to protect the country, but rather to save Barack Obama’s political skin. Again and again they have lied to the American people about big things, important things. And it’s gotten worse over time. At first it was passing of Obamacare, something sufficiently incomprehensible that Nancy Pelosi said “We have to pass it so we can find out what’s in it.” Barack Obama promised If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor and If you like your insurance, you can keep it despite the fact that the administration knew that to be specifically false.

Then it was using the police power of the government, embodied by the IRS, to seek to shut down the voice of their opponents. Certainly Americans would not be surprised that political opponents of a president sometimes find themselves being audited. But this was much more than auditing. This was the government seeking to use its power to muzzle opponents by limiting their ability to raise funding. And of course Barack Obama assured the American people that there was nothing political going on. In a free nation is there any more pernicious act than a government using its police power to repress its opposition? No. In America where we spend about as much on political campaigns as we do on chewing gum annually, even a modest limitation on the spending of your opponents can pay handsome rewards.

And now the most treacherous if not traitorous thing of all is the abject manipulation of the truth about the death of a US Ambassador in order to sway an election. We now have proof that six weeks before the 2012 election the White House manipulated the media and the message related to Benghazi for the specific purpose of supporting the illusion of Barack Obama’s foreign policy competence and his claim that al Qaeda was on the run and had been “decimated”.

So the question is, now that the election is over, what’s next? We already know from his own message to Putin that he believes he has greater flexibility now. Since there is no pending election through which the American people might put him in the unemployment line, what limits exist? He has pushed the envelope from taking away liberties to oppressing opponents to lying about his administration’s responsibility for the loss of life of a US Ambassador and three others. It’s not likely that he can get a repeal of the 22nd Amendment through, but one has to wonder, could he or would he manufacture some crisis that would cause the election of 2016 to be postponed? Perhaps indefinitely? Is it possible that the DHS might use events like the one down in Nevada with Cliven Bundy and his supporters to implement some sort of unprecedented nationwide emergency powers to battle people the DHS already considers potential terrorists… You know, like veterans or anti-abortion activists or border enforcement types? Is it possible that he could fall back on his community organizing skills to inflame his supporters to occupy government buildings around the country and demand changes as the students did at Columbia in 1968?

Sure, this might sound farfetched, but we’ve covered a lot of ground towards fascism over the last six years. No one gets elected in a democracy saying “I want to take away your rights” although they often do get elected saying they are going to take away someone else’s. Once they have their hands on the reins of power however, particularly of the DOD and DHS, it’s only a president’s integrity and appreciation for America’s greatness above their own that keeps him from seeking to manipulate the levers to extend his stay. (Remember, Nixon left without putting up a fight beyond the courtroom.) With Barack Obama, a man with little compunction about lying, an ego that makes Donald Trump look like a wallflower and who has both a disdain for the Constitution and a love affair with Executive Orders, I find myself a little concerned about the potential for a contrived American version of the burning of the Reichstag.