Monday, May 31, 2010

Barack Obama thinks you're an idiot...

For anyone who still had questions about Barack Obama’s character and what he thinks of the American people, last week’s press conference should have given them everything they needed to know about both.

During the question and answer period he gave us the most common of the Democratic platitudes about energy: “We can’t drill our way out of this,” and “the easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground.” This of course was supposed to explain to the simpleton American public that the country has essentially run out of easily accessible oil and therefore we’re drilling five miles from shore and a mile deep because that’s the only alternative left that will allow us to sustain our shameful level of energy usage. These comments were intended to bolster what the President hoped would be the primary takeaway from the press conference, which he presented at the end of his prepared remarks: “Let me make one final point. More than anything else, this economic and environmental tragedy, and it’s a tragedy, underscores the urgent need for this nation to develop clean, renewable sources of energy.”

In little more than an hour the President demonstrated 1. That he believes the American people are idiots and 2. That he is willing to manipulate an unprecedented disaster for his own political purposes.

By stating (and expecting us to take as gospel) that we are drilling in mile deep water five miles from shore because there is no oil available anywhere else, he demonstrates the low esteem he holds the American public. He assumes we are too stupid to know that the Democratic / Environmental Industrial Complex has driven oil exploration to where it is today. By shutting down the potential for drilling on land in places like ANWR and severely restricting drilling in much shallower waters on both coasts, they have forced oil companies to drill in these much deeper and more dangerous waters. Perhaps most insidiously, they have continuously hobbled the exploitation of shale oil reserves on federal lands. To put this in perspective, in just three states, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, the United States has at least 1.3 trillion barrels of oil available in the form of oil shale. That is more oil than Libya, Venezuela, Nigeria and the entire Middle East have combined! Imagine, right in the middle of the country is enough oil to fuel the United States economy for the next century. Even more, by tapping those domestic resources we could keep at home much of the $500 billion a year we send overseas each year importing oil from countries whose populations don’t much care for the United States in the first place.

If the President wants to make the argument that we shouldn’t extract oil from shale or drill off our Atlantic and Pacific coasts, that is a debate he can undertake, but to suggest that the country is in the perilous position of having to risk our undersea environment simply because we have no alternative is disingenuous at best and duplicitous at worst. To use this emergency to put forth his environmental agenda suggests the latter.

If the president is able to manipulate this unfortunate situation to further burden the American economy with his green jobs agenda, in the long run this spill will be not be remembered for the tragedy it brought to the people of the Gulf Coast, but rather it will be remembered as the fulcrum upon which Barack Obama foisted economic stagnation on the United States and introduced an unprecedented level of sustained unemployment to the American people. In this tenuous economic environment he will have used a national disaster to implement a policy that the nation doesn’t want and one that will result in abysmal failure. Not sure about that? Check out Spain’s experience with such vaunted green jobs: $750,000 per green job (completely paid for with subsidies from the government), 20% unemployment and a loss of 2.2 jobs for every “green job” created.(more here) California is not far behind, but it might be waking up.

Barack Obama thinks the American people are idiots and they are willing to believe just about anything he tells them, regardless of the facts. Add to this his propensity to manipulate the truth to achieve his ends and this spill has the potential to become a disaster felt far beyond the beaches of the Gulf Coast. The economic train wreck that is Spain is not something most Americans want to experience, but luckily Barack Obama knows what’s good for us so we might just get to anyway. Maybe we can import La Tomatina too. At least that looks fun.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dealing from the bottom of the deck

Sixteen months into the Obama administration and we have a great picture of how they operate. The words that come to mind are Devious (Not straightforward; shifty or crooked: a devious scheme to acquire wealth or power.) and Unctuous: (Characterized by excessive piousness or moralistic fervor, esp. in an affected manner; excessively smooth, suave, or smug.) They make perfect bookends for the Obama playbook. Every administration has certain things it wants to accomplish and uses all of the legal tools at its disposal in order to accomplish them. Those are consequences of elections. This administration however, not only uses all the legal tools at their disposal, beyond that they seek to circumvent any Constitutional roadblocks that might be standing in their way by using the coercive power of the state. Here are just a few of their greatest hits:

General Motors: The first example, and perhaps most egregious of them all, was the forcing of an agreement down the throats of the General Motors (and Chrysler) bondholders so the president could repay his union supporters. For thirty years the UAW (with the support of Uncle Sam and the acquiescence of dunderhead Big Three executives) slowly wrapped their coils around the neck of the American automobile manufacturing, eventually cutting off all air. From contracts that paid workers for not working to platinum health insurance plans (that made GM the number one Viagra customer in the country) to work rules that left manufacturers with no flexibility to adapt to a changing marketplace, the unions are primarily (although not exclusively) responsible for the sorry state of Detroit – both the city and the Big Three. After the unions destroyed the company they went crying to Washington for help, and the Obama administration was only too happy to help. Rather than letting the parties resolve their problems by evenhanded, traditional negotiation, the Obama administration literally stole money from GM bondholders and gave it to the United Auto Workers. Presto! The company flies through bankruptcy and emerges with a new slate of owners (primarily the US & Canadian govts. and the UAW). Heretofore one would have to go to Venezuela or Russia or some banana republic to find such thuggish behavior by a government. Imagine the impact that government shredding of the rule of law has on companies seeking to start businesses or bring jobs to the United States…

One might be inclined to think of this coercive use of government power as an aberration. Alas it’s not even close.

Cap & Trade: Cap & Trade is the left’s top wish for environmental control over every aspect of American life. Fortunately for America, Cap & Trade hit a brick wall in Congress last year. While the House of Representatives passed its bill, it became clear early on that it had almost no chance in the Senate. Rather than shelve the job killing proposal, the Obama administration took a different tact. In December they sought to intimidate the Senate into passing the bill by announcing that in the absence of such a law the EPA might begin regulating CO2 emissions (yes, the stuff we exhale). When it became clear their intimidation would not overcome a Republican filibuster, they carried out their threat. Less than two weeks ago the EPA issued their first regulation. They will begin by regulating only entities emitting 100,000 tons or more a year would be affected. (To put this in some perspective, a ton is equal to 2,000 lbs and humans exhale about 750 lbs of CO2 per year.) That number seems high now, but so did $250,000 when President Obama promised no one under that threshold would see an increase in taxes. Eventually that number will drop so that at some point the EPA will be deciding how cool you can keep your house, how long your driveway can be or how many cookouts you can have a year. Don’t think so? Remember, when the 16th Amendment (income tax) was passed in 1913 the highest tax bracket was 2%. By 1980 it was closer to 90%. This EPA action was another example of the Obama administration using coercion to impose their progressive policies on the country. Here too the impact will be felt by investments not made and jobs not created by individuals and companies who are seeking to do operate without bureaucratic strangulation.

Broadband Regulation: Earlier this year the a federal Appeals Court decided that the Federal Communication Commission did not have the authority to regulate broadband Internet offerings, seemingly dealing a death blow to the left’s Net-Neutrality dreams. Rather than appealing the ruling or seeking explicit powers to do so from Congress, the Obama administration choose to change the rules. The FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski decided the way to proceed was to reclassify broadband from a lightly regulated “information service” to a heavily regulated “telecommunications service”. VoilĂ , magically Net-Neutrality is back on the table. The implications are bleak. Think back where the Internet was in 2002 when the FCC first designated broadband as an “information service”. Ungodly slow dial up access, no Facebook, no YouTube, no Skype and no Netflix on demand. Had the FCC been in charge of broadband for the last decade, AOL would still probably be a viable company. Broadband investment is extraordinarily expensive and there are no guarantees of making a return. The Obama administration has just made investments in the area that much more expensive by making it that much harder for companies to make a profit on those investments.

Financial Regulation: Finally, in only the latest example of the thuggish tactics of this administration, Congress is on the verge of passing a wide ranging financial regulations bill that will cover everything from derivatives to ATM fees. This alone does not exemplify thuggish behavior. What does however is the SEC’s providentially timed indictment of Goldman Sachs for misleading investors in one of its investment vehicles. The indictment was perfectly timed to give the President a spit upon which to roast Wall Street in the eyes of the public. Only by diverting the attention from the primary role he and his fellow Democrats played in the economic meltdown could he hope to pass such a wide ranging piece of legislation that seems to give the government the power to shut down virtually any company with even the most tenuous connection to the finance industry (like taking payment in the form of US currency perhaps?) yet somehow leaves out the biggest criminals in the meltdown story… Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac.

But as bad as the legislation is, it’s not the bill that’s thuggish, it’s the using of the police power of the SEC to create the illusion that this regulation was necessary. To put this amateurish indictment into perspective imagine this: You live in Indianapolis (where we’ll pretend gambling were legal and you own a casino) and a customer named Bob comes up to you and says “You know, I think the Saints are going to win the Super Bowl next week. Do you have anybody who wants to bet against me?” You say “Sure.” You publicize that anyone who wants to bet on the Colts should come and see you. Some customers come in and are so sure the Colts will win that they offer to pay 20:1 if the Colts lose. You set up the bet and the game is played. When the game is over and the Saints are victorious, the Colts fans have to pay $20 for every dollar Bob had bet. In this scenario you and your casino are Goldman Sachs and the SEC has just charged you with somehow cheating the Colts fans. Not for fixing the game, not for implying a Colt’s victory was a sure thing, but because you didn’t tell them Bob’s name.

That was the foundation of the Obama administration’s claim that Wall Street is the cause of the financial meltdown and the country must have its labyrinthine 1,300 page regulatory bill. Many analysts believe that this case will be thrown out before it ever gets to trial or will be handily lost if it ever makes it that far. None of that will really matter because the real purpose of the case was not to punish Goldman Sachs for some bad behavior. Rather it was to set a stage upon which President Obama could decry Wall Street in pursuit of his latest yoke on the backs of American businesses. This will likely end up as just another nail in the coffin of the American marketplace, financial and otherwise.

There are more bad surprises ahead from Obama and company, from the actual implementation of ObamaCare to a plethora of federal judgeships to a new and improved “Fairness Doctrine”. The question one has to ask after 16 months of the Obama administration is not whether the Republicans will make gains in the House and Senate in November, but rather how much of our economy and our freedoms will be left when they do and will it be too late to save the American experiment?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Porn for political types… VSFW (Very Safe For Work)

Speaking of fantasies… I’d like to share some of mine. Now that we are in the midst of primary season I thought it would be fun to talk about what I would do if I accidentally tripped onto a ballot and somehow ended up running things… of course by laying out the actual elements of my platform I’m essentially eliminating any chance of actually ever getting elected to anything short of dog catcher.

The first thing I would do is eliminate the Department of Education. Our republic was founded on the idea that each state would operate as its own testing ground for new ideas and over time the most successful ideas would emerge and be adopted by the other states. What we have now is just about the opposite where there seems to be a DOE directed race to the bottom.

Next I’d give the President a line item veto, via a Constitutional amendment of course.

I’d immediately increase the H-1B visa program to 1 million per year. The people who come to the United States under this program are some of the smartest and most productive people on the planet and I’d just as soon have them working for and starting companies here in the United States as opposed to somewhere else.

I’d sell Amtrak and open the Post Office operations to competitive bidding.

I’d repeal the 16th Amendment (the one that gave us the income tax) and institute the Fair Tax. What a bonanza this would be: we eliminate the IRS, the estate tax, capital gains taxes and free up the hundreds of billions of dollars a year individuals and corporations waste on tax accounting and compliance. Not only that, but trillions of dollars would come flowing into the country in the form investments and repatriated profits. While I was at it I’d repeal the 17th as well.

I’d repeal Executive Order 10988, JFK’s directive that allowed federal employees unionize. This example of Executive hubris is more responsible for the fiscal and financial disasters besetting the federal, state and local governments than perhaps any other single piece of government action in the last 50 years.

I’d begin the process of privatizing Social Security and eventually Medicare and Medicaid as well. Chile did it.

In my kingdom drugs and prostitution would be legal. While I abhor both, adults should be free to do with their bodies what they choose, assuming they are not harming anyone else.

Speaking of individual responsibility… the penalty for drunk driving would be a mandatory one year in prison for the first offense, a decade for the second and life for the third. Causing a fatality due to driving drunk would be a capital offense.

I’d open up ANWR for drilling, increase shale oil extraction throughout the west and dramatically expand nuclear power.

Taking a great idea from Neal Boortz, I’d eliminate food stamps and replace them with a mail order food service where MRE’s are delivered to recipients once a week. If Nutrisystem can run a great a great program profitably, why can’t they be contracted to run this system? Given that they are a diet company, as an added bonus we’d fight the obesity epidemic we’re constantly hearing about.

I’d build a wall from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego California.

I’d put the entire federal government on zero based budgeting. This means that every single department would have to explain exactly why they needed every dollar they requested… every year. This would also apply to our contributions to international organizations such as the United Nations, the IMF and the World Bank. I’d even consider withdrawing from the UN and kicking them out of the country altogether.

I’d eliminate PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts and slash the power of the FCC, EPA, NLRB and dozens of other federal agencies.

There would be no more “too big to fail” doctrine. Companies would live or die on their ability to please customers and make money for their shareholders. I’d also consider eliminating the Federal Reserve, or at a minimum, overhauling it. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be history too.

I would outlaw all federally mandated affirmative action programs and eliminate union hiring or salary requirements in all government contracting.

I’d throw out McCain Feingold and Sarbanes Oxley. I’d allow unlimited political contributions but require crystal clear transparency.

I’d throw out ObamaCare.

I’d eliminate the Department of Energy and institute a 50% cut in the budget of every remaining department except DHS and the Defense Department.

I’d implement a loser pays legal structure so that slip and fall lawyers and “community organizers” could no longer use the court system as a club with which to intimidate or bludgeon American businesses.

I’d work to get the free trade pact with Columbia passed and work to bring about the successful conclusion of the Doha round of trade negotiations.

I’d eliminate every farming subsidy and do away with ethanol requirements.

And then there is the War against Islamo fascism, but that’s a whole different column.

I realize on the titillation scale this fantasy comes in pretty low. Nonetheless I hope to see a few of these items actually implemented when the Tea Party revolution hits the ballot boxes in November. I guess that is what they mean when they say reality is better than fantasy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Red Herring Alert: Arizona immigration law.

The Drudge Report ran a headline on Saturday of a Seattle police officer kicking and cussing at a prone Hispanic man who had been stopped as a potential suspect in a crime. Moments later the officer apparently realized that he had the wrong person and let the young man up. Later the cop tearfully apologized.

Stories like this one demonstrate clearly what everyone in the country knows, that racism does exist and that sometimes bad things happen to good people and innocent people are sometimes suspected of things they didn’t do.

The thing that most people don’t recognize however is that part of the reason it’s so shocking and sensational is that it is so unusual. Although some people would suggest that it is the capturing of the abuse that makes this event unusual, I would suggest that it is the reckless unprofessionalism that is unusual. With the ubiquity of cheap and easy to get video cameras, not to mention video enabled cell phones and police dashboard-cams, if this kind of abuse were rampant, thousands of videos a week would be showing up on the local news and on YouTube. There are almost 1,000,000 million police officers in the United States and they deal with 10 million crimes a year and interact with ten times that number of citizens, criminals and suspects. If this Seattle event were indicative of police conduct in general, we could have 500 channels dedicated solely to police brutality. The fact that we don’t have wall to wall such videos doesn’t condone what went on in Seattle or any other act of police brutality, rather it simply demonstrates the truth of the fact that the vast majority of police are good, honorable public servants who put themselves in harms way every day in order to protect the citizens of their communities. It is when this aberration becomes commonplace that all of us, whites, blacks, Hispanics and everyone else needs to worry.

Nonetheless, this video is particularly painful because it comes amidst the debate over the Arizona immigration law. The law has been decried as giving cover for racist police and government officials to harass, abuse and discriminate against Hispanics. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but this video will only help to amplify the invective being thrown about.

Despite the distraction of a bad acting policeman, the issue of the Arizona law remains. The reality is that the citizens of Arizona are simply looking for a way to deal with a problem the federal government has created. Phoenix has become the kidnapping capital of the country and is second in the world only to Mexico City. The state has become a primary thoroughfare for smuggling of both drugs and illegal aliens while citizens and police often find themselves dealing with the violence that follows both. Arizona’s citizens were simply tired of being the hapless dupes who by geography were forced to pay the price for the federal government’s dereliction of duty.

Given such a dire situation of crime and chaos, what did the citizens of Arizona do? Outlaw Hispanics? Make it a crime to be from Mexico? Decide that Hispanics are no longer allowed to receive government services like emergency healthcare or police protection? No. They simply passed a law stating that they would enforce a heretofore unenforced 1952 federal law which states that resident aliens must carry documentation to demonstrate they are in the country legally. Not only that, the law explicitly states that such documentation is not a primary, but a secondary violation. Similar to laws in some states where seat belt laws are considered a secondary violation… you can’t be stopped for not wearing your seat belt, but if you get pulled over for reckless driving or speeding you get a bonus ticket for not wearing your seat belt. Faced with the same situation, most states would likely travel a similar path as Arizona, and indeed its law is downright inviting when compared to Mexico’s draconian immigrant laws.

The bottom line is that by abdicating its responsibility to police our borders, the federal government has created a situation where states are helpless to deal with problems not of their own making, then when they choose to take matters into their own hands, the federal government wants to slap them down.

The border has been a problem for well over 30 years. While Democrats want it open to increase their voting base, Republicans from Ronald Reagan to George Bush choose to punt the ball down the field rather than deal with the political consequences of taking a principled stand. The result is that there are between 10 and 20 million illegal aliens in the United States, most of whom crossed the virtually unguarded southern border. When conservatives suggested building an actual wall a few years ago in the midst of the last immigration debate, they were pilloried for wanting to build a “Berlin Wall on our southern border.” The fact that the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in seemed to be lost on the open borders crowd…

The Arizona law is not really the problem. Nor is the Seattle cop abusing an innocent man. Both are but sideshows to the real issue: National and border security. Fundamental to the role of government is the protection of its people and the integrity of its territory. Article IV – Section 4 of the Constitution states: “The United States… shall protect each of them (States) against Invasion;” By definition there is simply nothing more important that a government does – or in this case, doesn’t do. As Cinco de Mayo demonstrations, American flag wearing students and high school teachers calling for a La Raza revolution demonstrate, immigration is an issue the government can not sweep under the rug for much longer.

Where does one start? The idea of trying to track down and kick out 20 million illegal immigrants makes for great talk show call in fodder, but it’s not particularly realistic. What can be done however is the building of a 1600 mile or so wall from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California. Even if it cost $15 million a mile, the $25 billion would still be less than the government spent propping up Government Motors. Once the border is closed we can have a discussion on what to do about people who have come here illegally. It’s a lot like arguing about how to arrange the deck chairs on a boat with hole in its hull. If you don’t fix the hole it won’t matter how you arrange the chairs, eventually the whole thing will be lost and all will be moot. The Arizona law may actually begin to put the discussion on the front burner, exactly where it belongs, hopefully the Seattle video will not serve as a catalyst for continuing to do nothing.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Barack Obama exposes the truth

With all of the rancor in the media, online and on main street, it might be easy to forget why we are talking in the first place. The fundamental reason the level of discord has risen to where it is is because the number of people who are recognizing the threats to their liberties from the progressive agenda are growing every day, and they are starting to talk about it. Such conversations rarely occur in a library tone.

The response of the newly aroused polity reminds one of that great scene from the movie “A Few Good Men” where Jack Nicholson is on the stand and responds to a badgering Tom Cruise:

“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom.... You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.”

“I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

While not a perfect segue to the current discussion, it's a great quote and it opens the door in that the success the United States has engendered, both at home and abroad, has provided an umbrella of prosperity under which progressives feel sufficiently secure that they can turn around and attack its very foundations. As a result of that attack, much of the country has awoken to the fact that the success of nations is not preordained and that the unique set of ideas that have made America such a beacon of freedom and prosperity are not set in stone, and are in fact in peril. It's that newly awoken spirit that has fueled the Tea Party movement.

While the media portrays the Tea Party participants as anti-government zealots who don’t want to pay their fair share, there is little to support that caricature. They simply recognize that the continuance of everything that Americans hold dear, from the consequential – such as freedom of speech, economic liberty and a right to property; to the inconsequential – the iPhone, Facebook or the Snuggie, are threatened by the progressive Lt. Weinburgs who assume the wonderful world they live in was created magically out of sugar and spice where everyone plays nice and the planet turns on its happy axis. The discussion we are having today across the country is occurring for the simple reason that much of the citizenry has come to recognize that Ronald Reagan was indeed right “Government is not the solution; Government is the problem.”

It is in that context that Barack Obama has started this firestorm by pulling back the curtain to reveal the true progressive agenda: Government control of the economy, and with it control over its citizens. Content with their 500 cable channels, a bounty of food options, an infrastructure that largely functions and a plethora of government band aids to cover every minor scrape, Americans had largely become a torpid bunch in terms of paying attention to the underpinnings of their prosperity. The progressive agenda had been advancing inch by inch for most of the last century with few people other than Reagan seeking to beat it back. Had McCain won in 2008 we would likely have remained on that same slow train. Instead Barack Obama pulled back the lever and put progressivism into overdrive.

Frankly, it was not the progressive direction that awoke the citizenry, but sudden acceleration. Fortunately for America, Barack Obama is more wedded to his ideology than his legacy. In some respects he’s a lot like the Communist Party USA in the 1970s. If their true agenda was to see socialist parties enacted in the United States, they would have supported the Democratic nominee. Instead they always ran a candidate who stood on their platform and never had a chance to win. Obama of course doesn’t share the problem of never winning, however in the long run he will likely share their record of failure. If he had just governed from the center he would likely have already accomplished many of the things he wanted, without waking the American polity out of their decades long stupor.

Americans are many things, but suicidal is not generally one of them. Although many of us have known for a long time the truth about what makes America great –economic liberty, entrepreneurial fervor, individual freedom and an expectation of exceptionalism – it has taken Barack Obama and his Democratic Oompa Loompas shoveling massive amounts of coal (sic) into the engine of the progressive train to wake much of the rest of the country to what has been going on. As a result, the discussion around the water-cooler on any given morning is no longer about who was kicked off American Idol the night before, the picture of Tiger Wood’s latest paramour or what crazy thing Lindsey Lohan will do next; rather, people are discussing taxes, the Constitution and who’s running for Congress. While I may despise everything that Barack Obama and his minions have done and are trying to do, I’m grateful they have become the catalysts for bringing about the discussions Americans are currently engaging in; conversations we should never have stopped having in the first place.