Saturday, December 4, 2010

Political Digest for December 4, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Help your friends and relatives stay informed by passing the digest on.

The Deficit
Fixing the problem requires politicians to spend less and tax more. But politicians get elected by spending more and taxing less, and the fiscally-responsible have a tough time beating the irresponsible in elections. Back when I was a State Senator, the longest-serving member of the Massachusetts Senate, re-elected election after election, was a Democrat who voted against every tax bill, but voted for every spending bill or budget increase amendment, every year….with two exceptions. She always voted against pay raises for judges and pay raises for legislators (but accepted her salary at the full level). Then she would make a big noise in the press about how she was fighting to save the taxpayers money, based on those votes. The press was far too lazy, even then, to do in-depth research or to expose her. Regardless of what you might think of the merits of those votes, they were a very tiny bit of the budget she kept increasing. When you vote to spend money, you make the folks who benefit happy. This is why since WWII, every $1.00 in tax increases by the federal government has been followed by $1.17 in new spending. When you vote to raise taxes, you make the folks who are taxed unhappy. I counted one two-year period when I voted against increasing the budget more than any other Senator. That made me no friends and lots of enemies. Thank God for charm and the good looks that got me re-elected!

The problem is now so vast, and goes through every level of government, that no politician can be for truly fixing it and survive politically, as the pain is too great. So all they can do is try to postpone the pain to get re-elected next time. In the not too distant future, it will no longer be possible to postpone the disaster. Then comes the collapse. ~Bob.

Deficit panel's plan goes down to defeat
Excerpt: In an 11-7 vote, President Obama's fiscal commission on Friday failed to adopt a sweeping plan for reining in the federal budget deficit. The panel had been working since February on a plan that would cut nearly $4 trillion in deficit spending over the next nine years and reduce the federal debt to 40 percent of gross domestic product by 2035. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had agreed to bring the deficit recommendations up for a floor vote in Congress, but only if the proposal had the support of 14 members. The commission came up three votes short.

The Biggest Threat to America: It's bankruptcy
Excerpt: Whenever you go to an airport, you hear an announcement about the “terror alert”: it’s yellow, it’s red, it’s orange, whatever. The color code is linked to “intelligence” flowing into Washington at the moment, whatever alleged plot is being hatched by our enemies abroad. But the reality is that America’s deadliest enemies aren’t hunkered down in some cave in Afghanistan: they’re right here in our midst, in the Imperial capital itself, Washington, D. C. Because the biggest threat to our national security isn’t military – it’s economic. Our economic terror alert, if such a thing existed, ought to be at the brightest red, because what we’re facing is the biggest threat to our national security ever: I’m talking about the spiraling national debt, and the ongoing destruction of the dollar. People realize this, albeit in an indirect way: that’s what all this “tea party” noise is about, although the tea partiers themselves, for the most part, don’t realize the enormity and immediacy of the threat. Somewhere in the background, just below the level of consciousness, a time-bomb is tick-ticking away. Some people hear it, in various degrees of loudness, while others are deaf to this ominous sound. (Not quite. Yes, the fiscal mess threatens fiscal collapse as I’ve said. But it combines with the threat of Islamism and Jihad, illegal immigration and the drug cartel war spilling over into the US and the rise of China and their puppet North Korea. Each of these three major challenges require a strong military to ward off—just at a time when we can no longer afford a strong military, because it adds to the threat of fiscal collapse. ~Bob.)

Important—read the whole article: Why the Spending Stimulus Failed: New economic research shows why lower tax rates do far more to spur growth.
Problem is, lower tax rates go to the productive citizens, not to the non-productive who form the Demo-corrupt base where they direct stimulus spending. ~Bob. Excerpt: By contrast, the last two major tax cuts—President Reagan's in 1981-83 and President George W. Bush's in 2003—boosted growth. They lowered marginal tax rates and were longer lasting, both keys to success. In a survey of fiscal policy changes in the OECD over the past four decades, Harvard's Albert Alesina and Silvia Ardagna conclude that tax cuts have been far more likely to increase growth than has more spending. Former Obama adviser Christina Romer and David Romer of the University of California, Berkeley, estimate a tax-cut multiplier of 3.0, meaning $1 of lower taxes raises short-run output by $3. Messrs. Mountford and Uhlig show that substantial tax cuts had a far larger impact on output and employment than spending increases, with a multiplier up to 5.0.Conversely, a tax increase is very damaging. Mr. Barro and Bain Capital's Charles Redlick estimate large negative effects of increased marginal tax rates on GDP. The best stimulus now is to stop the impending tax hikes. Mr. Alesina and Ms. Ardagna also conclude that spending cuts are more likely to reduce deficits and debt-to-GDP ratios, and less likely to cause recessions, than are tax increases. These empirical studies leave many leading economists dubious about the ability of government spending to boost the economy in the short run. Worse, the large long-term costs of debt-financed spending are ignored in most studies of short-run fiscal stimulus and even more so in the political debate. Mr. Uhlig estimates that a dollar of deficit-financed spending costs the economy a present value of $3.40.

House passes legislation to extend only some Bush-era tax cuts
The House voted 234-188 Thursday to pass legislation that would extend only some of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, sending the bill to the Senate. Twenty Democrats broke with their party and voted against the bill after 33 had defected in a previous test vote. Most of those who voted with Republicans on the first ballot were members of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, and many lost their bids to be reelected last month. (Dems determined to raise job killing taxes on the Rich/Small Businesses—take your pick. Time to dust this one off. ~Bob. Why the Rich Should be Taxed More:

Senate Democrats to force GOP to vote on tax cuts this Saturday
Excerpt: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to schedule two votes on Saturday on Democratic plans to end Bush-era tax breaks for the nation’s highest income earners. One plan sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would extend current tax rates only for families that earn less than $250,000. The second plan offered by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would extend tax rates only for families that earn less than $1 million.

Larry Elder: It's not just the debt and deficit
great plan, would work, thus has zero chance. ~Bob. Excerpt: President Obama's fiscal commission supposedly offers an "aggressive prescription" to reduce the federal deficit.
It's not just the debt and deficit, stupid. It's the size, scope and bloat of the federal government. Here's my plan: 1) Accept the political reality that a) taxes cannot be raised, and b) entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) cannot be cut for current or near-future beneficiaries. Voters will not vote to raise their taxes. Voters will not vote to cut off their money. And politicians want votes.

Jobless Rate Rises to 9.8 Percent, Highest Since April
Gee. I wonder why businesses are sitting on cash and afraid to invest? In other news, tax rates still uncertain, may go up, EPA imposing new costs and regulations on business, ObamaCare driving businesses’ costs up, trade agreements languishing in behest to big labor. All unrelated to the jobless mystery, of course. ~Bob. Excerpt: The nation's jobless rate rose to 9.8 percent in November, the highest since April, as the latest data showed employers hiring at a slower pace and the number of long-term unemployed staying about constant. The worse-than-expected report from the Labor Department comes in the middle of a tense debate on Capitol Hill over how to extend the Bush tax cuts and whether to extend federal jobless benefits to millions. President Obama is expected to discuss the numbers at the White House late Friday morning. Many economists had predicted the addition of nearly 150,000 jobs in November. But the report showed employers added just 39,000, a sharp decline from the 172,000 created in October. The weakness was widespread. Retailers, factories, construction companies, financial firms and the government all cut jobs last month. 

Pelosi rips 'grossly unfair' GOP approach to taxes, jobless benefits
Anything in your paycheck is a gift from the government, which could have taxed it away from you. Be grateful, subjects! ~Bob. Excerpt: "Now, I think we should use a measure for everything we do: 'What does it do to create jobs?'" Pelosi said. "Giving $700 billion to the wealthiest people in America increases the deficit, and the record shows that it does not create jobs."

'Pelosi-nomics' requires willing suspension of reason
Excerpt: It's difficult to conceive of a liberal myth more out of touch with economic reality than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's oft-repeated claim that tax cuts must be "paid for." Over and over this week, Pelosi has insisted that any extension of the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts should be restricted to the "middle class." If the cuts are extended to couples making more than $250,000 -- the rich, in Pelosi's view -- then, she claims, Republicans are saying "we should not pay for it, we should add that $700 billion to the deficit." Variations of Pelosi's claim -- like the assertion that tax cuts "cost" the government -- are the conventional wisdom among congressional Democrats and their allies in the liberal media and nonprofit activist communities. The stakes in this debate are immense: If all of the tax cuts expire as scheduled at midnight on Dec. 31, 2010, it will result in the largest tax increase in American history.

House censures Rangel for ethics violations on 333-79 vote
Should have been expelled, IMHO. But the Black Caucus would have charged racism, a charge any Democrat will do anything—anything—to avoid. ~Bob. Excerpt: The House has voted to censure Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the once-powerful chairman of the Ways and Means panel, for a string of ethics violations. In a vote of 333-79, the House handed down its steepest form of punishment short of expulsion to one of the most senior and beloved members of the House.

The Bourgeoisie, Egalitarianism and the Death of Culture
Excerpt: Equality before the law is a concept that stretches far back in time. Leviticus 19:15 calls for equal judgment between the rich and the poor. It does not declare the rich and the poor equal in any status -- except before God's law. In fact, the scripture relies on the given of economic inequality to make the case for legal equality. But egalitarianism, the concept of absolute equality among human beings, did not exist until about the sixteenth century. This truth, as Stove reminds us, is hard for most of us to grasp: Most of the elements of the Enlightenment can be traced back to classical antiquity, but its egalitarianism cannot...

Winning Candidate Arrested in New Jersey Voter Fraud Case
Excerpt: In what has become a topsy-turvy city council election in Paterson, N.J., the candidate who was declared the winner in May was arrested Thursday on a charge of witness tampering in a voter-fraud investigation being conducted by the state attorney general and the state criminal justice director. The candidate, Rigo Rodriguez, 38, was arrested at his home in Paterson on Thursday morning along with his wife, Lissette, 31. His campaign manager, Juan Jimenez, 45, was also arrested. They were taken into custody by the New Jersey State Police and issued summonses before being released. They were ordered to appear at the Passaic County Superior Court, but a date has yet to be scheduled.

How the Government is Creating Another Housing Bubble
Excerpt: It is hard to believe, but it looks like the government will soon use the taxpayers' checkbook again to create a vast market for mortgages with low or no down payments and for overstretched borrowers with blemished credit. As in the period leading to the 2008 financial crisis, these loans will again contribute to a housing bubble, which will feed on government funding and grow to enormous size. When it collapses, housing prices will drop and a financial crisis will ensue. And, once again, the taxpayers will have to bear the costs. In doing this, Congress is repeating the same policy mistake it made in 1992. Back then, it mandated that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac compete with the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) for high-risk loans. Unhappily for both their shareholders and the taxpayers, Fannie and Freddie won that battle. Now the Dodd-Frank Act, which imposed far-reaching new regulation on the financial system after the meltdown, allows the administration to substitute the FHA for Fannie and Freddie as the principal and essentially unlimited buyer of low-quality home mortgages. There is little doubt what will happen then. (Why is it hard to believe? Politicians—both parties—will always screw up the economy long term to buy votes from favored constituencies short term. Elections are short term, every two years. ~Bob.)

READ THIS: Local Governments Told to Buy New Street Signs
Great bureaucratic use of tax dollars when we have huge deficits at every level. The most feared words: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” ~Bob. Excerpt: The federal government says THIS is harder to read than This. It's just one reason the Federal Highway Administration is ordering all local governments -- from the tiniest towns to the largest cities -- to go out and buy new street signs that federal bureaucrats say are easier to read, says Jonathan Karl. The rules are part of a tangle of regulations included in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The 800-plus page manual tells local government they:

AGs in six states put under microscope in ATRA report
Excerpt: A tort reform group says, in a new report, that some plaintiffs attorneys have used their relationships with state attorneys general as "a litigious cash cow." The American Tort Reform Association study -- titled "Beyond Reproach? Fostering Integrity and Public Trust in the Offices of State Attorneys General" -- says it is no coincidence that some of the biggest contributors to attorney general campaigns end up being awarded state contracts. The report focuses on six states -- Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York and West Virginia.

Alaska's legal climate far from harsh
Excerpt: Obamacare has been passed with great fanfare, but many Americans, unsure how the massive government program will work for them, are taking to the streets voicing their protests. Personal injury lawyers, on the other hand, are drinking champagne and voicing their approval, because they know Obamacare will work well for them. The American Association for Justice (AAJ), formerly and more accurately called the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, is ecstatic that the health care bill lacks any provisions to protect doctors and hospitals from abusive lawsuits. One AAJ boss bragged about defeating tort-reform measures and blocking a cap on attorneys' fees. Americans can thank the AAJ for thus explaining why health care is expensive and complicated now, and is certain to get more so under Obamacare, while lawyers' profits are certain to rise. For a better path to reform, consider Alaska, a state that appreciates and welcomes doctors, instead of targeting them with predatory lawsuits.

Radical Quote
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." (We have to find people who think like this and put them in re-education camps before they destroy the purpose of the state! ~Bob.)

What's Wrong With Airport Security? -- Four Views
Excerpt: Invasive full-body scans, intrusive pat-downs, and the occasional abusive TSA agents have combined to generate a heated debate over what exactly is the best way to keep air travelers safe from terrorists without unduly invading travelers' privacy. To help readers get a better understanding of the issue, we reached out to four experts from various fields and viewpoints to share their thoughts on what's wrong, what's right and what should be done about airport security. (Three of these are good, especially Rubin's (the first link). The last one took off on its own path and has nothing to do with airports or security; the author seems more worried about traffic safety than either prosecuting or defending in the war that has been declared on us. Perhaps he doesn't understand the difference between individual stupidity/bad luck and active malice aforethought. Ron P.)

China and Russia Abandon Dollar
With little fanfare, China and Russia last week announced their intent to drop the U.S. dollar as their currency of choice for bilateral trade and instead use their own currencies. "About trade settlement," said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, "we have decided to use our own currencies." China Daily reports that Chinese experts think the decision "reflected closer relations between Beijing and Moscow and is not aimed at challenging the dollar, but to protect their domestic economies." While experts seem quick to assure that no challenge to the dollar is in the offing, they point to the "faults of a dollar-dominated world financial system" and the "risks the dollar represents." There is no doubt that the financial crisis played no small part in the Russian-Chinese decision. The duo's departure from the dollar should hardly come as a surprise. After all, it's the consequence of our piling on astronomical debt -- and then piling on still more. The U.S. is no longer the stable trading partner it has always been. Although Russia and China may not be declaring war on the dollar just yet, when the world's largest Communist gulags realize that their currencies are more stable than ours, it threatens the dollar's reserve currency status. Those Obama deficits are taking his intended toll. The Patriot Post

Jerry Brown's Last Hurrah
Excerpt: The most interesting current political question is not whether Barack Obama will triangulate after his party's midterm shellacking -- he probably won't -- but what in the world California's new/old governor, Jerry Brown, will do in January 2011. At 72, Brown is returning to a third term as California governor after a hiatus of 28 years to face a $26 billion budget deficit and an unemployment rate above 12 percent. So is it to be more taxes, more government, both or neither? Both conservatives and liberals agree that Brown will probably do what California's progressive voters elected him to do: keep government and its services big and find the necessary revenue from corporations and more affluent individuals to pay for it. The real debate is over whether he can pull that off in recessionary times.

Cali Approves $4.15 bil "train to nowhere"
Gee, can’t understand why California is failing. It’s a puzzle. ~Bob. Excerpt: Costing at least $4.15 billion, the segment would run from the tiny town of Borden to Corcoran, an area hit so hard by the recession and agriculture declines that it has been dubbed the New Appalachia. Stations would be built in Fresno and Hanford. Included in the plan are tracks, station platforms, bridges and viaducts, which would elevate the line through urban areas. The initial section, however, would not be equipped with maintenance facilities, locomotives, passenger cars or an electrical system necessary to power high-speed trains. Critics of the initial segment selection, including Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced), have dubbed it a “train to nowhere.”

US, Japan Begin War Games; China Denounces Drills
China knows BO is bluffing, but think a little counter-bluff won’t hurt. ~Bob. Excerpt: In an ongoing show of force following a deadly North Korean attack on a front-line island, the U.S. and Japan began one of their biggest-ever military exercises Friday, mobilizing more than 44,000 troops, hundreds of aircraft and a U.S. supercarrier. The drills come just after the U.S. and South Korea concluded maneuvers in the Yellow Sea. The exercises brought immediate criticism from China, which is wary of having foreign navies off its shores and has been increasingly assertive over large swaths of waters in the south and east China seas, where some of the drills would take place. "At present, there are already enough of these kinds of military exercises. Under the present conditions, all relevant parties ought to do more to benefit the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region, and not the opposite," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. (...) The drills in and around Japan are part of the annual "Keen Sword" maneuvers and involve tens of thousands of troops from both sides, including the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and its battle group. For the first time, the exercises also have observers from South Korea.

The Senate’s Secret Santa Agenda
Excerpt: Today the Labor Department released its monthly jobs report, which showed that the U.S. economy added an anemic 39,000 jobs this month and that the nation’s unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent. That marks the 19th month in a row that the unemployment has been over 9 percent, a post–World War II record. So how is this lame duck Congress, a Congress that was thoroughly rejected at the polls just last month, greeting this news? By raising taxes on the American people by $700 billion. Is this what the American people want? Not at all. According to Gallup, only 31 percent of Americans believe the best approach for dealing with the economy is raising taxes. The vast majority of Americans (62 percent) believe that the best way to fix the economy is either through deficit reduction (39 percent) or lower taxes (23 percent). But neither of those items is on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D–NV) agenda.

La Jefa: Mexican Drug Cartel Murders Female Police Chief, 38
You had to know this was coming. Mexico will be ruled by thugs, one way or the other, as the only way forward is for the government to become as thuggish, hunt them down and kill them, no trials, no questions. It’s coming. ~Bob. Excerpt: On October 9 of this year the town of Meoqui hired 38 year-old lawyer Hermila Garcia to head their police department. Hermila Garcia was a remarkable young lady who chose to accept the position as Chief of Police despite the inherent danger that accompanied the high-profile job. Her legal training and commitment to the safety of her community made Garcia an excellent choice.

Ah, who rigged it, Mike? Your party controls the Senate. ~Bob. Excerpt: A hot mic left on during a Senate vote Tuesday morning on the Food Safety Act caught a senator complaining that process of setting the agenda during the lame-duck session is “rigged.” “It’s all rigged. The whole conversation is rigged,” said Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. “The fact that we don’t get to a discussion before the break about what we’re going to do in the lame duck. It’s just rigged.” The remark was picked up live on C-SPAN 2, although microphones are usually turned down during voting times. An aide quickly realized the mistake, jumped up and had the sound cut off.

Celtic Woman-Carol Of The Bells
Merry Christmas.

Excerpt: Spending the winter of his discontent grasping at the hope he once thought he embodied, Barack Obama seems to be flirting with the prospect of historical vindication. Sympathetic members of the intelligentsia and the Beltway establishment, finding no silver lining in the cloud currently hanging over the White House, still mention the “historic nature” of his presidency. Obama has even flirted with the notion aloud, telling Diane Sawyer that he’d rather be “a really good one-term president” than a “mediocre two-term president.” Unfortunately for him, the former phrase is virtually always oxymoronic. Yet the case for Obama’s historical relevance is thus far gossamer thin. First, there’s the problem of insufficient data. (Actually, I have thought since September of 2008, when it was clear he would win, that his legacy will be huge. It will include financial collapse and economic disaster, and the loss of freedom as the country comes apart and people turn to local authoritarians to restore order in the face of Islamist, illegal immigrant criminals and the rise of China. Not that Obama caused all that, but his weak and statist-minded leadership certainly accelerated the coming disaster. ~Bob. )

Great Cartoon on Earmarks

Ethiopia Imprisons Christian Accused of Defacing Quran
Excerpt: A Christian in Ethiopia’s southern town of Moyale who languished in jail for more than three months after he was accused of desecrating the Quran has been sentenced to three years of prison, church leaders said. Tamirat Woldegorgis, a member of the Full Gospel Church in his early 30s, was arrested in early August after a Muslim co-worker in the clothes-making business the two operated out of a rented home discovered Woldegorgis had inscribed “Jesus is Lord” on some cloth, area Christians said. His business partner later accused him of writing “Jesus is Lord” in a copy of the Quran, although no evidence of that ever surfaced. (American multiculturalists, inured to sacrificing freedom in an endless chase not to offend Muslims, will see nothing wrong here. ~Bob.)

Extremists see 'Islamic Caliphate' for 2022 World Cup
Excerpt: Extremists welcomed FIFA's decision Thursday to have Qatar host the 2022 World Cup, predicting Al-Qaeda will establish an "Islamic State" in the Gulf region in the coming years, monitors said. "You fools, know that Al-Qaeda is on the threshold of establishing the shariah (Islamic law) of Allah the Almighty," a user who went by the name Hafeed al-Hussein posted on the Shumukh al-Islam online forum, according to the US-based SITE Intelligence Group. “And who knows, Allah may empower al-Qaeda so that it takes control of matters after a year or two, or five years at most. "In 2022, there is no country with the name Qatar, and there is no province called Kuwait and there is no Saudi (Arabia). Instead, there is an emirate called the Islamic State," the post added

Obama to troops in Afghanistan: 'You will succeed in your mission'
Excerpt: President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Friday where he thanked U.S. troops and praised their efforts in the country. With the war in its ninth year and Obama's year-end review of the war strategy he put in place just days away, the president flew through the night to say thank you to the troops during the holiday season.

Muslim imam who lectures on non-violence in Germany is arrested for beating up his wife
A worthy cleric of the Religion of Peace. ~Bob. Excerpt: A Muslim imam who lectures on non-violence and advises the German government on interfaith issues has been arrested in Germany for beating up his wife…..Adam is alleged to have shouted a verse from the Koran at his wife as he beat her. The line said: 'Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. 'As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.'

Senior Turkey official says Israel behind WikiLeaks release
Huh. Turns out it was them damn Joos again. Who would have guessed the Muslims would figure it out? ~Bob. Excerpt: A senior Turkish official blamed Israel for the WikiLeaks release, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported on Wednesday.

NH is among many states that could boost manufacturing with lawsuit reform
Excerpt: THE UNEMPLOYMENT rate in manufacturing is 10 percent, above the overall national level. If state lawmakers are serious about putting nearly 1.6 million people back to work in manufacturing, they should enact desperately needed lawsuit reforms.

So now paying your bills on time is racist?
Excerpt: Banks will be accused of employing discriminatory credit standards when making mortgages in a series of fair housing complaints that a national consumer coalition plans to file beginning next week. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition plans to challenge the widespread practice of requiring borrowers asking for FHA-backed loans to have higher FICO scores than the minimum required by the FHA, according to a report from Ken Harney at New Times.

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