Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tax Rates and Share of Tax Revenues from Top 1%

Tax Rates and Share of Tax Revenues from Top 1%
  The chart above shows the relationship over time (from 1979 to 2007) between: a) the top marginal income tax rate, and b) the share of total income taxes paid by the top 1% (data). In 1979 the top marginal income tax rate was 70% and 18.3% of the total taxes paid were collected from the top 1% of taxpayers. By 2007 the top tax rate was 35% (half of the 1979 rate), and the tax share of the top 1% had more than doubled to 39.5% (from 18.3% in 1979).

The historical record shows an inverse relationship between the highest marginal income tax rate and the share of taxes collected from "the wealthy." It's a relationship to keep in mind during the current tax policy debate, where Obama wants to increase tax revenues by raising tax rates for "the rich," and Rep. Ryan alternatively suggests a cut in the top marginal rate to stimulate economic growth, which would likely increase tax revenues from the wealthy, and increase overall tax revenue.

Thanks to Steve Moore for the idea for the graph.

What happens when the great fantasies, like wind power, collide with reality?

What happens when the great fantasies, like wind power or European Union, collide with reality?
There's a pattern in the unravelling of make-believe projects, whether it's wind power or the euro, says Christopher Booker.

By Christopher Booker

It might seem strange to link global warming and the futility of wind farms with the ongoing collapse of the euro. But in several directions at the moment we can see the unfolding of one of the hidden patterns shaping human affairs, which years ago I called “the fantasy cycle”. It is a pattern that recurs in personal lives, in politics, in history – and in storytelling.

When we embark on a course of action which is unconsciously driven by wishful thinking, all may seem to go well for a time, in what may be called the “dream stage”. But because this make-believe can never be reconciled with reality, it leads to a “frustration stage” as things start to go wrong, prompting a more determined effort to keep the fantasy in being. As reality presses in, it leads to a “nightmare stage” as everything goes wrong, culminating in an “explosion into reality”, when the fantasy finally falls apart.

Recent events show us two huge examples of this cycle moving to its final stages. One is the belief, which took hold 20 years ago, that the world was in the grip of runaway global warming, caused by our emissions of greenhouse gases. The planet could only be saved by abandoning fossil fuels and drawing our energy from wind and sun. For a while (the dream stage), all seemed to go according to the theory. As CO2 levels rose and the Earth continued to warm, our politicians started to propose every kind of drastic measure to reduce our emissions, such as building thousands of wind turbines. But in all sorts of ways, in the past few years, this dream and the theory behind it have begun colliding with reality.

Carbon dioxide levels continued to rise, but global temperatures failed to follow. Three times in the past 13 years – in 1998, 2006 and 2010 – they spiked upwards, thanks to periodic shifts in a major Pacific ocean current – the phenomenon known as “El Niño” – which brings warm water to the surface and boosts temperatures across the world. Each time it was trumpeted as “the hottest year ever”. But each time, as the ocean current reversed into “La Niña”, the spike was followed by an equally sharp cooling.

In 2007, temperatures fell by 0.75C, more than the entire net rise recorded through the whole of the 20th century. After they rose again to a new El Niño peak in 2010, we were told, only three months ago, by the compilers of the two chief surface-temperature records – the UK Met Office, in association with Phil Jones of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, and James Hansen of NASA – that 2010 was the “equal warmest” or “second warmest” year ever. 
09 Dec 2006 Last week, however, with a new La Niña, it was reported that global temperatures, as measured by satellites, had fallen by 0.65C since March 2010, making the world cooler now than its mean over the past 30 years. Yet again the computer models, predicting that, thanks to rising CO2, the world should have warmed in the past decade by 0.3C, have proved hopelessly wrong.

If it hasn’t looked too hot for the theory on which our politicians base their plans to change the world, then last week it looked equally dodgy for what has been one of the most grandiose of their responses to this supposed crisis. Two sets of figures exposed more than ever the degree of delusion which surrounds the wish of our governments, in Brussels and in Westminster, that the centrepiece of our energy policy must now be to build even more windmills.

The report that drew most media attention was that from a Scottish environmental charity which focused on the fact that last year, despite our building yet more turbines, the lack of wind meant that they operated, on average, at only 21 per cent of their capacity – the lowest percentage ever. Several times, when demand was at record levels, the contribution of wind to our electricity supply was virtually zero.

Less attention was given, however, to figures put out by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, showing that the 3,168 turbines we have built, at a cost of billions of pounds, contributed on average, if very irregularly, only 1,141 megawatts to the national grid last year – less than the output of a single large coal-fired power station. From the DECC figures it is possible to work out that, for this derisory contribution, we paid through our electricity bills a subsidy of nearly £1.2 billion, on top of the price of the electricity itself.

Thus, in return for less than 3 per cent of our electricity, nearly 7 per cent of our billls were made up of hidden subsidies to the wind developers, a percentage due to treble and quadruple in coming years as the Government strives to meet EU “renewables” target by building up to 10,000 more turbines, at a cost of £100 billion. The dream of using the wind to keep our lights on is being shown by reality to be one of the most absurd fantasies of our time.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Shameful U.S. inaction on Syria’s massacres

Shameful U.S. inaction on Syria’s massacres

FOR THE PAST five weeks, growing numbers of Syrians have been gathering in cities and towns across the country to demand political freedom — and the security forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad have been responding by opening fire on them. According to Syrian human rights groups, more than 220 people had been killed by Friday. And Friday may e been the worst day yet: According to Western news organizations, which mostly have had to gather information from outside the country, at least 75 people were gunned down in places that included the suburbs of Damascus, the city of Homs and a village near the southern town of Daraa, where the protests began.

Massacres on this scale usually prompt a strong response from Western democracies, as they should. Ambassadors are withdrawn; resolutions are introduced at the U.N. Security Council; international investigations are mounted and sanctions applied. In Syria’s case, none of this has happened. The Obama administration has denounced the violence — a presidential statement called Friday’s acts of repression “outrageous” — but otherwise remained passive. Even the ambassador it dispatched to Damascus during a congressional recess last year remains on post.

Syrian security forces fired bullets and tear gas on pro-democracy demonstrators Friday, killing at least 49 people in the bloodiest day of the uprising against the current regime. (April 22)

The administration has sat on its hands despite the fact that the Assad regime is one of the most implacable U.S. adversaries in the Middle East. It is Iran’s closest ally; it supplies Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip for use against Israel. Since 2003 it has helped thousands of jihadists from across the Arab world travel to Iraq to attack American soldiers. It sought to build a secret nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea and destabilized the pro-Western government of neighboring Lebanon by sponsoring a series of assassinations.

Like people across the Middle East, the protesters in Syria say that they are seeking the establishment of a democratic system. A statement issued by organizers of the protests Friday called for an end to torture and killings by security forces; the release of all political prisoners; an investigation into the deaths of those killed so far; and reform of the constitution, including a limit on presidential terms. The mass demonstrations on Good Friday were called to show that the cause is neither Islamic nor sectarian.

Yet the Obama administration has effectively sided with the regime against the protesters. Rather than repudiate Mr. Assad and take tangible steps to weaken his regime, it has proposed, with increasing implausibility, that his government “implement meaningful reforms,” as the president’s latest statement put it. As The Post’s Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson reported Friday, the administration, which made the “engagement” of Syria a key part of its Middle East policy, still clings to the belief that Mr. Assad could be part of a Middle East peace process; and it would rather not trade “a known quantity in Assad for an unknown future.”

As a practical matter, these considerations are misguided. Even if his massacres allow him to survive in power, Mr. Assad will hardly be a credible partner for Israel. And no matter what happens, Syria will not return to the police-state stability it has known during the past several decades.

As a moral matter, the stance of the United States is shameful. To stand by passively while hundreds of people seeking freedom are gunned down by their government makes a mockery of the U.S. commitment to human rights. In recent months President Obama has pledged repeatedly that he would support the aspiration of Arabs for greater freedom. In Syria, he has not kept his word.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The young cons--Obama, Reid, Pelosi

Large Tax Increases Are Not a Semantic Question--huge hurt

Large Tax Increases Are Not a Semantic Question - The Atlantic

Yesterday I argued that simply covering our medium-term fiscal problems with tax hikes was not going to be easy or relatively painless; we'd have to go back to the Clinton-era tax rates, and then hike rates again by at least a third, possibly more. Today Kevin Drum responds that this doesn't seem so bad:

Page 65 of this CBO document provides estimates for how much income tax various people pay. The median family gets dinged for 3% of its income. A one-third increase means their income taxes would go up by....1% of their income. That's not so much.

How about a family with twice the median income? That is, someone who's pretty well off. They pay 13% of their income. A one-third increase means their taxes would go by 4% of their income. Again, this is far from catastrophic, especially since we're talking about an increase phasing in over the course of many years.

Are these numbers the right ones? I don't know. It all depends on what happens to spending and on how we decide to allocate the burden of higher taxes. If payroll taxes go up, it might hit the middle class a little harder. If we choose to increase capital gains taxes or institute a financial transaction tax, it would hurt them less. Or maybe we'll choose a consumption tax or a carbon tax instead. Who knows? Still, it's likely that more than three-quarters of all taxpayers would end up paying no more than an additional 5% of their income in taxes. That's not painless, and no one will enjoy it. But over the course of a decade or two it's just not a "huge change."

Of course it depends on how we implement such a hike. But looking just at the federal income tax makes no sense. In order to raise taxes to the 25% of GDP that Kevin wants, all taxes need to rise by at least a third, not just income taxes: excise taxes, corporate income taxes, payroll taxes. And we're talking about rising from the Clinton level, not from the current effective tax rate level. That's going to be a lot more than 5%.

Here's a chart showing effective tax rates on the various quintiles over the past thirty years, using data from the invaluable Tax Policy Center:

This data imputes all taxes (including corporate and excise taxes) to various income cohorts, which I think is sensible; ultimately, all taxes are borne by some person, and in the case of corporations, that person is mostly a shareholder. If you take out corporate income taxes, the gap between the top two quintiles would narrow slightly, but it would not go away. As you can see from the dotted red line, the share of taxes as a percentage of GDP does not correspond neatly with changes in the tax code, especially on the upside.

So our baseline would be returning effective tax rates on the top quintile to around 28%; effective tax rates on the middle quintile to 17%; and effective tax rates on the bottom quintile to 6%. Then we raise each tax rate by a third to 37%, 23%, and 8%, respectively. The current tax rates? We don't know exactly (the data only go up to 2007), but a rough estimate is 25%, 14%, and 4%.

In other words, for the poorest 20% of Americans (who make less than $20,000 a year, with an average income of $11,500), taxes go from about $460 to about $920. For the middle quintile (making an average of $50,000 a year), taxes go from around $7,000 to over $12,000. For those in the top quintile, with an average income of $167,000, taxes jump from a $41,000 to $62,000.

Turn it around and look at the effect on incomes: after tax incomes drop from $11,040 to $10,580**, in the lowest quintile; from $43,000 to $38,500 in the middle quintile; and from$125,000 to $105,000. And the higher you go, the stronger the effect is; for the top 1% (which starts at AGI of $400,000), you reduce their minimum income from a bottom of roughly $275,000 to perhaps $210,000, either through taxes, or through lower capital income as a result of higher corporate income taxes*.

Can this be done? Maybe. Probably, at least on the lower tiers, who don't respond to tax rates the way the wealthy can. But it won't be easy or moderate. I'm sure there are a number of people in my readership where two spouses take home $125,000 between them. How easily can you guys chop $20,000 out of your budget? And though the percentages are lower, in practical effect it's even worse for the bottom: if you're making minimum wage, $460 is several weeks worth of paychecks.

Now, if you don't want to take more money from the lower quintiles, you have to take even more from the top quintiles. But the effective tax rate on the top 1% is already almost 50% if we raise all taxes by the same amount. Those people also pay other taxes: property taxes, state income taxes, sales taxes. How much of their income do we think the state can claim? How much do we think it should claim?

Kevin and I probably differ on that question, but I don't think that most Americans would peg the answer at 60% or more, which is easily what it could be in the high-tax states where high-earners tend to cluster.

Does this mean we shouldn't raise taxes? Not at all; I was a pretty staunch advocate of letting the Bush tax cuts expire last year, and I certainly hope we'll do so in 2012, though I very much fear we won't. But raising taxes by another third beyond that? I think that's too stiff a bite. Politically, reducing paychecks by that much would be extraordinarily painful, even if done slowly. The size of the burden on the rich would probably slow investment and economic growth. And beyond that, I don't think it's just that someone should have to work longer for the government than they do for themselves.

The divide for 2012--hold hands for nanny state or be free

The divide for 2012 - By MICHAEL A. WALSH

The stakes for 2012 couldn't have been set out more clearly than two recent speeches by a pair of women who aren't making the decisions these days in Washington.

Speaking at Tufts University -- right in the midst of the negotiations over the 2011 budget -- ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi whined: "To my Republican friends: Take back your party, so that it doesn't matter so much who wins the election -- because we have shared values about the education of our children, the growth of our economy, how we defend our country, our security and civil liberties, how we respect our seniors.

"Elections shouldn't matter as much as they do."

There you have it: an authentic, unscripted window into the mind of a professional politician. For this is how the members of the permanent political class (Pelosi first went to Congress after a special election in 1987) view the messy -- to their minds -- business of politicking.

Elections shouldn't really matter -- because after all we agree on pretty much everything about the Nanny State: The federal government needs to take care of our nation's kids, micromanage all economic activity under the Commerce Clause, and tend to the elderly -- because if it doesn't, who will? All this messy, let's-pretend fighting at election time is just a distraction from the real business of snaking our tentacles into every facet of American life because, let's face it, the American people cannot be left to their own devices. They're too stupid and untrustworthy to make their own best decisions. That's what politicians are for.

As Tammany Hall Democratic leader George Washington Plunkitt, famously said: "Me and the Republicans are enemies just one day in the year -- Election Day. The rest of the time, it's live and let live with us."

Pelosi's frustration is understandable. Her party was turned out of power in the House last fall in a landslide, and she's now the minority leader. Worst of all, a grassroots group of citizens concerned about the untrammeled growth of government called the Tea Party rose up against both parties to deliver that electoral rebuke -- and to demand further changes in the post-Great Society relationship of the federal government to the citizenry.

By contrast, consider Sarah Palin's appearance in Madison, Wisc., last weekend. The former Alaska governor has been keeping a relatively low profile. But in a brief, fiery speech to supporters of Gov. Scott Walker -- delivered while being heckled and shouted at by pro-union activists -- Palin laid down some markers for the coming campaign.

She began by congratulating the people of Wisconsin for staring down the left's thuggish attempt to overturn the results of the 2010 elections, which installed Republicans in the governorship and both houses of the Legislature.

Then, taking on her own party's leadership, she lit into the Republicans over the recent budget deal. "If you stand on the platform, if you stand by your pledges, we will stand with you. We will fight with you, GOP. We have your back. We didn't elect you just to rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic . . . What we need is for you to stand up, GOP, and fight . . . fight like a girl!"

Palin also hammered President Obama and the Democrats, directly challenging their tactics of "conservatives want to kill granny" class warfare and their relentless tax-and-spend policies. "The Tea Party movement," she said, "wouldn't exist without Barack Obama."

Conventional wisdom says that Americans don't like partisan "bickering," that we want our politicians to just get along. Principled combat and loyal -- but vehement -- opposition, the thinking goes, make Main Street uncomfortable.

Baloney. Disputation is as American as apple pie. It's what made our country great -- vigorous disagreement, not cringing servility. So let the battle begin.

On one side is the business-as-usual, the bipartisan, rigged Washington poker game in which the media act as the bouncers and the rubes are the taxpayers, being fleeced as surely as the hapless mark in "The Sting." There is only one way for government to go -- up.

On the other side are the disparaged Tea Partiers -- vilified by the Washington Republicrat-media complex as unlettered and unwashed rabble from flyover country, bitter clingers with a touching belief in the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

As we head into the 2012 election, which side would you rather be on?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The charts and numbers that prove that those who tout O's reelect prospects are blowing smoke, are political shills

Hurdles Confront Obama's Campaign (read article at link)

Youth sees diminished prospects, thanks to Obama.

The Virginian: Youth sees diminished prospects, thanks to Obama.

Youth sees diminished prospects, thanks to Obama.

They drank the Kool-Aid and voted to make Obama the President. What did they get for their support? The bill for the government employee’s retirement. The bill for Medicare and Medicaid for the “Baby Boomers.” They are going to see their taxes rise about 80% to pay for my benefits. And as they graduate from college with staggering loans to pay, they face bleak prospects. One recent engineering graduate finally got a job, ten months after graduation ... as a waiter.

From Harvard:

Thirty-three percent of Harvard’s graduating seniors had accepted a job as of commencement last year, down from 51 percent the year before. The survey results for this year’s class haven’t been released.

33% means that two-thirds of last year's Harvard's graduates don't have a job yet.

The "populist Left" characterizes Western youth this way:

Many feel like there is no hope. Many feel like their countries have either betrayed them or simply become too old and infirm to care.

But Obama believes that he can still fool enough of the people enough of the time. To hear him talk, and lie, to his audiences, there is always some rich guy to pay for all this. And because youth are woefully financially ignorant, many of them believe it.

But Obama’s not really talking to young people, he’s talking to the national media. He’s giving them sound bites about not spending more than you take in. This is laughable coming from the most profligate spender in American history, but it will be part of the TV news shows tonight and will be part of the effort to convince people that Obama’s actually cares about the level of spending. It is chutzpah on the level of the guy who murders his parents claiming for clemency because he’s an orphan.

This is not a serious proposal from a serious president. This is a campaign speech whose words are totally divorced from reality.

(See original for all links):

Monday, April 25, 2011

Scary graph shows the abominable growth of gov't

That's how much the U.S. government spends, in inflation-adjusted dollars, per capita. Which means it's adjusted for both inflation and population increase. And note that that graph has a logarithmic scale.

A hundred years ago, federal spending for each person was the equivalent of $200 in today's dollars. After FDR, with all of his massive public spending, it was $1,000. This year, it's over $12,000. How long can this continue?

A Very Good Question about Our National Debt

A Very Good Question about Our National Debt - By Jim Manzi - The Corner - National Review Online

On Friday, I published a blog post on the national debt with key points that can be summarized as:

(1) The idea that we will have anything like currently anticipated entitlement payouts plus currently anticipated tax rates is a fantasy;

(2) This gap is enormous, and represents the “mother of all bubbles”;

(3) Our debt situation means that we need to address it quite soon or face a funding crisis; and therefore

(4) The correct primary metric for evaluating anybody’s plan to do this is what practical measures it puts in place now and how much additional time this creates for us prior to this crisis, rather than theoretical and unenforceable promises about the distant future.

A very smart commenter at the American Scene called “cw,” who almost always disagrees with me in a highly productive way, asked what I think is an excellent question:

So here is a technical question for Jim or whoever else can answer it: how much would taxes need to be raised to maintain our current entitlement regime?

The total present value of payments expected under Social Security and Medicare beyond what is expected to be collected under current tax laws is about $100 trillion. One way to put that amount of money in context is to note that it is about twice the amount of all the net private assets that exist in America today.

To answer cw’s question directly, the best back-of-envelope estimate is that meeting this unfunded portion of our Social Security and Medicare commitments would require roughly an immediate 80 percent increase in federal income taxes, sustained forever.

That is one end of a spectrum. The other is to cut out $100 trillion of present value of anticipated entitlement spending.

I was at a dinner last year with about 15 well-known Washington think-tankers, academics, journalists, bloggers and budget experts, entirely focused on the question of where on this spectrum we will end up. What was striking to me was that as we went around the table, the majority of these people asserted confidently what would be politically feasible or infeasible positions. Many of these equally confident-sounding assertions were contradictory and, not shockingly, tended to line up roughly with each speaker’s political inclinations.

It would be simple for me as an economic conservative to dismiss the idea of a tax increase equal to an 80 percent increase in income taxes as politically unrealistic, but I’m not so sure about that. In the event of a crisis, I could easily imagine “emergency” income taxes on the “most fortunate among us” plus some increases in middle-class tax rates, plus the introduction of a VAT, amounting to something like that.

If you had asked me at a New Year’s Eve party in 2006 what I thought the odds were of the U.S. government taking a controlling interest in the largest bank, the largest car company, and the largest insurance company in America, I would probably have laughed at you. Yet within 36 months, this is exactly what had happened.

My friends who are more liberal than I probably should not make the analogous mistake of imagining that benefit reductions that seem absurd politically right now might come to seem less absurd, and surprisingly quickly.

If you think about it, any real solution to the federal deficit problem is currently politically impossible; yet we know mathematically that, barring a productivity miracle, the situation cannot persist indefinitely. Therefore, we know that some change that currently seems politically impossible is all-but-certain to happen sooner or later. I have no idea what change will become politically feasible in the future, but then again, I don’t think anybody else does either, because it is not written in the stars — it will depend on some combination of events and political leadership.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Unions as paymasters for "flee-bagger" Dems

Thy master’s voice by Don Surber

Indiana’s government unions paid for Democrats to flee-bag their constituents.

If I were a voter in Indiana, I would be very, very angry.

From Mike O’Brien:

The Indiana Democratic Party’s first quarter campaign finance report was filed last Friday and confirms what everyone already suspected but Democrats denied: their “We Are Indiana” walkout was bought and paid for national unions. Read the report here: Dem Finance Report.

During the period of the walkout that began on February 22 and ended on March 28, Democrat-backed unions contributed nearly $140,000 to the Indiana Democratic Party. Their goal: stop the legislative session in its tracks, kill anti-union bills, and pay whatever it took to keep Democrats holed up in an Illinois hotel.

The Democratic Party’s largest benefactor was the Comfort Inn Urbana, which received $84,953.70 by April 6 to pay for hotel rooms occupied by Democrat legislators. Because the Indiana Democratic Party began the year with a measly $40,000 in the bank, they needed help from the deep pockets of national unions to pay the hefty hotel bill. And that’s exactly what they got.

I am not well-versed in Indiana’s lobbyist laws but it seems as if those truant legislators could be indicted for bribery.

They took a thing of value in exchange for changing the outcome of proposed legislation.

We shall see if any of those “non-partisan” self-professed watchdogs and promoters of “good government demandd justice.

Tag, you’re It, Common Cause.

Email from Tricia Willoughby, the 14-year-old girl...screamed at by union goons

Althouse: Email from Tricia Willoughby, the 14-year-old girl...:

As I've shown in other posts — here, here, and here — there were anti-Tea Party protesters who were shouting and noisemaking throughout her speech. She writes:

First off, I’d like to thank Ms. Althouse for giving me the opportunity to write about my experience at the tea party. Also, before another word is spoken, I’d like to clarify that I was most certainly NOT forced to speak at the tea party by my parents or anyone else. My parents would never force me to do that. I did it completely out of my own free will and wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else, doing anything else that day.

Here are my (“14 year old, Tricia Willoughby”) views and opinions of what occurred on that extraordinary day…

Little did I know that throughout my entire speech, an immature, grown man, was shouting profanities at me, nor that I was getting booed and yelled at by many other opposers. The leftists, you see, were just getting warmed up, and had not yet made their big push to try to completely drown out the speakers.

The next couple speakers spoke, and it wasn’t until they spoke, that I began to actually hear the union protesters and their annoying shouting. I also saw a heckler come to the front of the crowd and yell throughout the majority of the speeches.

However, despite all of those incidents that I saw that day, the rest of that day was an INCREDIBLE experience. From meeting THE Sarah Palin, to speaking to my fellow Tea Party patriots, to showing the Unionistas what Democracy really looks like, last Saturday was a day that I will hold in my memory forever.
It wasn’t until the next day (Sunday, the 19th) that I watched the video of some particularly hate- filled people. (You know who I’m talking about) When I first watched the video of that particularly distasteful man, my first reaction was actually to laugh! I couldn’t believe it! This grown man was soo immature and so small to be calling me those things. I was thinking “That is what you want to say to me? Really? You’re not even listening to what I’m saying, or criticizing my actual logic. You are simply just calling me names because I am on the opposite side.”

I can truly say that I am not offended in the least by that man’s comments. He obviously was not saying what he said to my speech (since he wasn’t listening at all to it), nor was he saying it to me. He was saying it to a member of the opposing side and couldn’t even string together an intelligent piece of criticism.

I wish I could say this man surprised me, but I cannot. I do not reject or hold prejudice toward their rude and mean protesting, in fact I welcome it. I am actually thankful towards this man and his distasteful comments. He, along with the other protesters, just makes us (the Tea Partiers/Conservatives) look even better.

During the weeks of union protests, did you see any conservatives, tea partiers, or Republicans down at our capitol heckling and trying to drown out the other side? I was actually there, at our Wisconsin Capitol throughout that whole first week of protest. I was there taking a week long class on government with a wonderful organization called TeenPact (check it out at, and the unionistas were so loud, and so bothersome with their drums, symbols, bagpipes, and constant chanting, that by the end of the class we were extremely annoyed. However, not once, NOT ONCE, did I see any conservative person harassing, or heckling, or yelling violently at any protester. In fact, I only saw the opposite being done, and the conservatives in the capitol got the same special treatment that was given to me by that particular man.

Be proud, my fellow conservatives, tea partiers, and Republicans. We believe in persuasion, not intimidation!

Even in the face of adversity we must stay strong no matter how hard our urge is to yell and harass back. We must remain the kinder and gentler party, who represents the morals and principals that this great nation was founded on.

However, just because we let our gentleness be evident to all, that does not mean that we are weak. Because when it comes to protecting and defending our morals, values, freedoms and rights, we are strong. Let us keep our position as the kind giant and keep on fighting for America.

Thank you for reading this and God bless!

Keep loving and defending this land of the free and home of the brave,

~A Fellow Patriot-Tricia Willoughby

Saturday, April 23, 2011

WELL, LET’S HOPE: Cuban Communists Headed For Oblivion

WELL, LET’S HOPE: Cuban Communists Headed For Oblivion. “Although Cubans continue to repeat slogans, almost no one believes in Marxism-Leninism, while the government tries to escape from the system’s chronic failures by creating a few spaces that might allow private initiative to alleviate the disaster of collectivism. While they applaud revolutionary mottos, young people call Marx ‘the little old man who invented hunger.’ The adults, in confidence, acknowledge this outlook. After 52 years of dictatorship, without a hostile parliament or an opposition that could hinder the government’s work, the six basic elements that determine the quality of life of any modern society have decayed into nightmares: food, potable water, housing, electricity, communications and transport.”

 by Glenn Reynolds

Obama crafts an executive order to get around the Citizens United ruling--Don't expect outrage over such authoritarian steps from liberals that bashed Bush as "unitary executive"

Obama crafts an executive order to get around the Citizens United ruling The Daily Caller - Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment
by Mike Riggs -

Pres. Obama wanted a campaign finance bill that would take the teeth out of the Citizens United ruling before the 2010 election. Congressional Democrats wrote such a bill, and then watched it slip into a coma. But that wasn’t the end of it. According to a leaked White House memo, Obama plans to create new campaign finance rules via fiat by signing an executive order.

As the Washington Examiner reported yesterday, the EO “would require all companies that sign contracts with the federal government to report on the personal political activities of their officers and directors.”

And by “political activities,” Obama means: “all contributions or expenditures to or on behalf of federal candidates, parties or party committees made by the bidding entity, its directors or officers, or any affiliates within its control; and any contributions made to third party entities with the intention or reasonable expectation that parties would use those contributions to make independent expenditures or electioneering communications.”

All of that information must be disclosed, according to the leaked executive order, so that the government can “ensure that its contracting decisions are merit-based in order to deliver the best value for the taxpayer.” While that may sound like the order is intended to expose sweetheart deals, it’ll also make it that much easier for federal agencies to deny contracts to firms that donated big bucks to Republican candidates.

The pro-DISCLOSE Act Sunlight Foundation, which posted a leaked copy of the order, suggests that “if the White House is going to pursue remedies through an Executive Order, though, the public should be included…[and] some public scrutiny and discussion of any CU EO should precede its issuance.”

Gee, you think?

Read more:

Friday, April 22, 2011

You really don't think America can go the way of PIIGS?

Matt's Meditations, Rants and Reviews

Economic Storm Warning by Matt Holzmann

Today’s Telegraph informs us that the yields on Greek, Spanish, Irish, and Portuguese debt climbed to record levels today, and that Irish bank debt has been cut to junk status. In the meantime, Finland’s political tilt rightwards in yesterday’s elections portend a possible veto of any plans by the European Central Bank to bail out these economies on terms unfavorable to the EC member countries paying the bills.

Greece is now paying 19.7% on 2 year bonds and there is a real fear of government default. This will put even more pressure on the other PIIGS, who are either on or already over the edge. The question then becomes which economies are triaged. Greece, Iceland, and Ireland are all moribund. Portugal is in the middle of a political crisis, and Spain is teetering on the edge. We are seeing the slow motion destruction of the economic and social programs that helped these economies enter the 21st century. It is hard to believe where these countries ranked economically and demographically even 25 years ago.

The Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt is, in my opinion, similar to their downgrade of subprime debt in 2007. Too late and out of touch.

Meanwhile, our government reported that inflation remained stable last month. Core inflation, rose only 0.1% to 1.2%, we are told. The gross inflation rate was 2.7% year over year. And yet anyone who has been to the market in the past 4 months has seen the steady rise of prices. While food and oil are not calculated in the core inflation rate because of their volatility, what then explains the rise in air fares, used car prices, imports, industrial goods, etc, etc, etc.? As Churchill once said “lies; damned lies, and statistics”. Our government is not being on the up and up with us.

China’s currency has risen 25% in the past 4 years and wages are skyrocketing. Commodities prices across the board have been rising for the past 3 years and many are at or near all time highs.

All of these numbers and trends have been well documented. It just doesn’t seem as if too many of the people in charge are paying close attention. Or perhaps they are and are simply waiting for the tidal wave to hit. The discussion in Washington dithers and is hijacked by petty political agendas. And yet the warnings cannot be more clear. When S&P warns you and the ICB warns you and the IMF warns you and the Chinese are getting together with the Russians and Brazilians and Venezuelans and Iranians to create alternative global financial structures, it doesn’t get clearer.

The crisis is by no means limited to the United States, but what happens here will have a massive impact worldwide. After all, we live in a truly global economy. Almost every country in the world will face serious repercussions from any of the potential negative financial scenarios outlined above. There is no such thing as a free lunch; a fact which has been forgotten by the economists and politicians. The options are not especially palatable, but just like with castor oil we must swallow our medicine now or face a dire future.

President Whatever finds things not going his way

President Whatever finds things not going his way Michael Barone Politics Washington Examiner
By: Michael Barone
Barack Obama is a politician who likes to follow through on long-term strategies and avoid making course corrections. That's how he believes he won in 2008 and since then he's shown that he's not much into details.

So he was happy to let congressional appropriators fill in the blanks in the 2009 stimulus package, and to let congressional leaders know he would be happy whether there was or wasn't a public option in the 2010 health insurance legislation. Whatever. In the long run the big things would work out his way.

Except right now they aren't. And his partisan and petulant speech last Wednesday is unlikely to move things in the direction he wants.

Even as he was speaking, Congress was moving toward passing the fiscal 2011 appropriations agreed to by congressional negotiators with only occasional input from the White House. The deal will substantially reduce spending below levels that he and leading Democrats used to call unacceptable.

Speaker John Boehner was criticized by some on the right for not pressing for deeper and more permanent cuts in spending than the $38 billion he claimed. But the deal nonetheless passed both houses by wide margins, and it contains some details that threaten to undermine the policies of the Obama Democrats in the future.

Most important, it requires the General Accountability Office to conduct an audit of the waivers from the Democrats' health care bill that are being issued in large numbers by the secretary of Health and Human Services Department.

This will raise an uncomfortable question. If Obamacare is so great, why are so many trying to get out from under it? And, more specifically, why are so many Democratic groups trying to get out from under it?
The fact is that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has granted more than 1,000 waivers from Obamacare. Many have been granted to labor unions. Some have been granted to giant corporations like McDonald's. One was granted to the entire state of Maine.

By what criteria is this relief being granted? That's unclear, and the GAO audit should produce some answers. But what it looks like to an outsider is that waivers are being granted to constituencies that have coughed up money (or in the case of Maine, four electoral votes) to the Democrats.

If so, what we're looking at is another example of gangster government in this administration. The law in its majesty applies to everyone except those who get special favors.

The GAO has also been ordered to produce audits on the effect of Obamacare on health insurance premiums. This is likely to reveal that the president did not keep his promise that you could keep your current health insurance if you want to.

And there will be an audit of the comparative effectiveness bureaucracy established in the 2009 stimulus package. Comparative effectiveness is supposedly an objective study of which medical techniques are most effective. But anyone who looks closely finds that the experts are constantly changing their minds, which suggests that this is more alchemy than science -- and maybe political favoritism as well.

All of which tends to undercut the thrust of Obama's obviously-aimed-at-the-2012-campaign message: We can continue to fund Medicare and Medicaid indefinitely if we just tax rich people a little more.

Serious budget experts of all stripes know this is fantasy. Obama's fiscal commission, which issued its report last December, recognized this clearly, and recommended a package of spending cuts, program changes and tax increases to address the long-term fiscal dilemma.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, in his budget resolution that passed the House Friday, put forward a package of changes that included giving the states block grants for Medicaid and replacing the current Medicare fee-for-service with the kind of premium support recommended by the bipartisan Medicare commission more than a decade ago -- all without tax increases.

The voters, in current polls as well as in the elections last November, sent the policymakers down these paths. Obama on the one hand allows congressional Democrats to negotiate packages like the 2011 budget deal that go in that direction -- and at the same time says, incoherently and without detail, that we don't need to go there at all.

In all this he is acting on the assumptions that Americans will accept a permanently enlarged and more expensive government and that the details don't much matter.

The 2010 elections refuted the first assumption. Now we'll see about the second.

Michael Barone,The Examiner's senior political analyst, can be contacted at His column appears Wednesday and Sunday, and his stories and blog posts appear on

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The left demonstrates "new tone of civility" by racially taunting, insulting black Tea Party member--classy/sick

6 in 10 Americans want spending cuts, not tax hikes

AP poll shows 6 in 10 Americans want spending cuts, not tax hikes by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama tried to make the case for tax hikes yesterday as a means to close the budget deficit and reduce debt, but a new poll from the Associated Press shows that new taxes will be a tough sale. Voters prefer spending cuts to tax hikes by a 62/29 margin, a much more significant divide than between those who believe their tax levels to be fair or not:

Not that they’re cheering. Fewer people expect refunds this year than in previous years, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. But as Monday’s filing deadline approaches, the poll shows that 54 percent believe their tax bills are either somewhat fair or very fair, compared with 46 percent who say they are unfair.

Should taxes be raised to eat into huge federal deficits? Among the public, 62 percent say they favor cutting government services to sop up the red ink. Just 29 percent say raise taxes.

The fairness issue breaks about where one would expect. Liberals and moderates are more likely to think their tax levels are fair than conservatives; same for Democrats and independents as opposed to Republicans. Women were more approving than men, but one result was a little more surprising: whites were more likely to approve of the fairness of taxes than non-whites.

The level of approval on fairness hasn’t changed much over the last four years of polling on the subject, and it’s not difficult to see why. First, tax rates haven’t changed in that period, nor have they changed in any direction since 2003. If they generally moved in any direction, taxpayers may have slid into lower tax brackets in the recession thanks to unemployment or underemployment. Also, income tax rates are relatively low in their history, and most Americans support paying some taxes to the federal government.

Obama asserted that the people like to talk about cuts in services until it’s their services that get cut. This appears to be more of a case of a dawning realization that all services are “our” services in the sense that we’re all footing the bill, and we’re all looking at massive balloon payments in the near future unless we cut soon. Paying a fair level of taxes is one thing, but few people will want to pay the level of tax required to fund the massive entitlement programs on their current trajectory, or even with the ambiguous tweaking that Obama suggested yesterday.

Speaking of taxes, Reason TV came up with a new video to celebrate the upcoming IRS deadline by running through a series of PG-rated new names for the IRS. It’s silly and sophomoric, but it’s also fun. For some reason (heh), it’s not embeddable, but clock over and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Obama’s Approval Drops Below 50 Percent Among Poorest Americans; No Longer Enjoys Majority Approval In Any Income Class

Gallup: Obama’s Approval Drops Below 50 Percent Among Poorest Americans; No Longer Enjoys Majority Approval In Any Income Class

By Terence P. Jeffrey

( - President Barack Obama’s approval among the poorest Americans dropped to an all-time low of 48 percent last week, according to the Gallup poll, leaving the president with less-than-majority approval among all income brackets reported in Gallup's presidential approval surveys.

Each week, Gallup publishes the president’s average approval rating for the previous week among four income brackets: those who earn $2,000 per month or less, those who earn between $2,000 and $4,999 per month, those who earn between $5,000 and $7,499 per month, and those who earn $7,500 per month or more.

For the week of April 4-10, Obama’s approval rating was 48 percent among those making $2,000 or less per month, and 46 percent among those in each of the three higher income brackets.

This was only the second time in his presidency that Obama’s average weekly approval rating among the poorest Americans had dropped below 50 percent. The first time was three weeks ago—in the week of March 21-27—when his approval dropped to 49 percent among Americans who earn $2,000 per month or less. (Two weeks ago, the president's approval among this income bracket rebounded to 52 percent before dropping to 48 percent last week.)

The last time Obama had majority approval in all four income brackets in the Gallup poll was the week of Oct. 19-25, 2009. The first time he had less than majority approval in all four income brackets was March 21-27.

Gallup’s latest weekly presidential approval numbers, showing Obama’s approval at 48 percent among the poorest Americans, were released one day before Obama gave a speech on a new economic plan in which he repeatedly vowed to increase taxes on "millionaires and billionaires."

Gallup also released a poll this week indicating that public optimism about the future of the U.S. economy has declined sharply since the beginning of the year.

“Americans' optimism about the future direction of the U.S. economy plunged in March for the second month in a row, as the percentage of Americans saying the economy is ‘getting better’ fell to 33% --down from 41% in January,” Gallup said in its analysis of the polling numbers.

Sarah Palin Goes Where The Battle Is

Sarah Palin Goes Where The Battle Is by Dan Riehl/Riehl World View

It's ironic to watch so many so called establishment Republicans who seem to want to be leader of the free world dance their way around the more serious political battles of our time. They criticize, they pontificate, or editorialize, yet from ObamaCare to a budget deal, they're also careful to not too directly engage. The same can be said of them for what has played out in Madison, Wisconsin over the past month.

Whether it's talking about death panels, or blood libel, to now showing up in Madison - that's not former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. As I said to a friend and colleague tonight, wherever the current battle is, that's very often where you can find Palin. One of the first requirements for leadership is to show up out front. No one will ever accuse Palin of not doing that. Doing so also has an interesting side benefit for any would be leader. When you lead, people tend to follow and support you, even if not at first.

Until now, I've never ventured a guess as to whether, or not Palin is running in 2012. Tonight, for the first time, I think I can. It's going to be one hell of a fight, so why would Sarah Palin not show up?

Sarah Palin rides to the sound of the guns. It was a chilly, wet and blustery afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin — one more appropriate for a late-season Packers game than a springtime political rally. The stirring NFL Films theme, “The Classic Battle,” would’ve been a more apt musical choice than Van Halen’s “Right Now” to accompany Palin as she entered the stage outside the state capital building to address thousands of Tea Party members, along with a good number of extremely hostile, expletive-hurling government union rowdies.

So MSM, keep obsessing over the shiny new Trump toy if you must. But better keep an eye on a certain sharpshooting, grizzly mama. She’s back.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Debt: S&P Affirms US AAA Rating, Cuts Outlook to Negative

Debt: S&P Affirms US AAA Rating, Cuts Outlook to Negative - CNBC

Standard & Poor's on Monday downgraded the outlook for the United States to negative, saying it believes there's a risk U.S. policymakers may not reach agreement on how to address the country's long-term fiscal pressures.

"Because the U.S. has, relative to its 'AAA' peers, what we consider to be very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness and the path to addressing these is not clear to us, we have revised our outlook on the long-term rating to negative from stable," the agency said in a statement.

In an interview with CNBC, David Beers, S&P's global head of sovereign ratings, said the agency has been "struck increasingly by the difference in how other governments are dealing with fiscal consolidation."

"The U.S. to us looks to be an increasing outlier in that context," Beers added.

Rival ratings agencies Fitch and Moody's [MCO 35.50 -0.36 (-1%) ] maintained their respective outlooks on the United States, according to statements made to CNBC.

"Moody’s is not reacting to S&P's move. Moody’s outlook for the US Aaa rating remains stable," Moody's spokesman Eduardo Barker said in an email.

The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled more than 200 points on word of the revision, while gold prices hit a new record above $1,496 an ounce before paring some gains. The dollar index moved higher in New York trade.

The S&P said the move signals there's at least a one-in-three likelihood that it could lower its long-term rating on the United States within two years.

In an interview with CNBC, Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, characterized the S&P move as a "political judgement."

"What the S&P is doing is making a political judgement and it's one we don't agree with, and it appeared to me that Moody's and some others don't agree with that judgement," Goolsbee said.

The U.S. Treasury also voiced disagreement with the S&P revision.

"...We believe S&P's negative outlook underestimates the ability of America's leaders to come together to address the difficult fiscal challenges facing the nation," Treasury Assistant Secretary Mary Miller said in a statement.

The last time the United States was placed on a negative watch was in January 1996. Moody's made the call at that time, after congressional Republicans refused a vote on the U.S. debt ceiling, a topic that is once again at the center of debate in Washington.

Speaking Truth to Power--Ryan vs. Obama

Speaking Truth to Power - By Michael Walsh - The Corner - National Review Online

Speaking Truth to Power By Michael Walsh

If you want to understand why Paul Ryan has suddenly become the de facto leader of the sad, pathetic, shriveled thing known as the Republican party, you need look no farther than his response to the classless sandbagging he got from the Bringer of Kinetic Military Action and Vacationer-in-Chief:

“I thought the president’s invitation…was an olive branch. Instead, what we got was a speech that was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate to address our country’s fiscal challenges… What we heard today was a political broadside from our campaigner in chief. This is very sad and very unfortunate. Rather than building bridges, he’s poisoning wells.”

As I said on the radio yesterday, if anyone had spoken like this to the princeling earlier in his life, he very likely never would have become president. Instead, Obama has been coddled and cosseted throughout his glide-path trajectory — maverick Democrat Mickey Kaus just called him “the biggest affirmative action baby in history,” and said he was a lousy politician to boot. No one, it seems, has ever sat him down and explained to him how thoroughly mediocre he really is. Call it the audacity of mope.

And yet there he is, partying it up in the White House and launching his billion-dollar reelection bid with a speech that would have made Rosa Luxemburg proud, so maybe believing your own myth can take you all the way from Punahou to the presidency without every having to accomplish a damn thing. As the saying goes, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Which is why it’s important that the handful of Republicans with spine speak sternly to Obama the way Ryan did. Pace all the number-crunchers and crystal-ball-gazers, he won’t be defeated by conventional means, or by hopeful comparisons to Jimmy Carter, or by competing programs, and certainly not by the weak-tea “collegiality” of Boehner & Co. Playing by the rules doesn’t work when the other team is playing a different game entirely.

There’s no there there with Obama, just the legend of his own invincibility. The sooner the Republicans come to grips with that, the sooner they’ll figure out how to beat him.

That is, if they really want to

Monday, April 18, 2011


There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap

There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap

A study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 found that women earned 8% more than men. By CARRIE LUKAS

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day—so dubbed by the National Committee for Pay Equity, which represents feminist groups including the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, the National Council of Women's Organizations and others. The day falls on April 12 because, according to feminist logic, women have to work that far into a calendar year before they earn what men already earned the year before.

In years past, feminist leaders marked the occasion by rallying outside the U.S. Capitol to decry the pernicious wage gap and call for government action to address systematic discrimination against women. This year will be relatively quiet. Perhaps feminists feel awkward protesting a liberal-dominated government—or perhaps they know that the recent economic downturn has exposed as ridiculous their claims that our economy is ruled by a sexist patriarchy.

The unemployment rate is consistently higher among men than among women. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 9.3% of men over the age of 16 are currently out of work. The figure for women is 8.3%. Unemployment fell for both sexes over the past year, but labor force participation (the percentage of working age people employed) also dropped. The participation rate fell more among men (to 70.4% today from 71.4% in March 2010) than women (to 58.3% from 58.8%). That means much of the improvement in unemployment numbers comes from discouraged workers—particularly male ones—giving up their job searches entirely.

Men have been hit harder by this recession because they tend to work in fields like construction, manufacturing and trucking, which are disproportionately affected by bad economic conditions. Women cluster in more insulated occupations, such as teaching, health care and service industries.

Yet if you can accept that the job choices of men and women lead to different unemployment rates, then you shouldn't be surprised by other differences—like differences in average pay.

Feminist hand-wringing about the wage gap relies on the assumption that the differences in average earnings stem from discrimination. Thus the mantra that women make only 77% of what men earn for equal work. But even a cursory review of the data proves this assumption false.

The Department of Labor's Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.

Choice of occupation also plays an important role in earnings. While feminists suggest that women are coerced into lower-paying job sectors, most women know that something else is often at work. Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility. Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.

Men, by contrast, often take on jobs that involve physical labor, outdoor work, overnight shifts and dangerous conditions (which is also why men suffer the overwhelming majority of injuries and deaths at the workplace). They put up with these unpleasant factors so that they can earn more.

Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women's earnings are going up compared to men's.

Should we celebrate the closing of the wage gap? Certainly it's good news that women are increasingly productive workers, but women whose husbands and sons are out of work or under-employed are likely to have a different perspective. After all, many American women wish they could work less, and that they weren't the primary earners for their families.

Few Americans see the economy as a battle between the sexes. They want opportunity to abound so that men and women can find satisfying work situations that meet their unique needs. That—not a day dedicated to manufactured feminist grievances—would be something to celebrate.

Ms. Lukas is executive director of the Independent Women's Forum

The Razor’s Edge--California hanging by thread

Works and Days » The Razor’s Edge

California in the Balance.

We calibrate California’s decline by its myriad of paradoxes. The nation’s highest bundle of gas, sales, and income taxes cannot close the nation’s largest annual deficit at $25 billion. Test scores are at the country’s near bottom; teachers’ salaries at the very top. Scores of the affluent are leaving each week; scores of the indigent are arriving. The nation’s most richly endowed state is also the most regulated; the most liberal of our residents are also the most ready to practice apartheid in their Bel Air or Palo Alto enclaves.

We now see highway patrolmen and city police, in the manner of South American law enforcement, out in force. Everywhere they are monitoring, watching, ticketing — no warnings, no margins of error — desperate to earn traffic fines that might feed the state that feeds them. I could go on. But you get the picture that we are living on the fumes of a rich state that our forefathers brilliantly exploited, and now there is not much energy left in the fading exhaust to keep us going.

I see California in terms now of the razor’s edge with disaster not far in either direction. A postmodern affluent lifestyle hangs in the balance here without a margin of error. Let me give some examples.

I drive a lot on the 99 Freeway both northward and southward. (What follows would apply to the 101 as well, or, in fact, to most state “freeways.”) In vast stretches of the 99 it is unchanged from the two lanes when I first began driving in 1969, but now with worse pavement, larger potholes, and treacherous shoulders. Yet the state then had about 20, not 37 million people, and around 12 million licensed drivers, not well over 25 million (and who knows how many unlicensed drivers?). Nonetheless, our ancestors were brilliant sorts, and left us a well-engineered and planned grid that can still handle all sorts of the minor challenges. So on a day of perfect weather, with good drivers, at low traffic hours between 9 and 2, and without ongoing road maintenance or construction, I can make the 190 miles to either Sacramento or Los Angeles in three hours — just as I used to in far older, less reliable cars of thirty years past.

But that is rare these days. You see, there are too many proverbial ifs now. Tamper with just one variable — leave too early or return too late; have some rain or fog; have one of the two lanes shut down for anything from tree trimming to pothole filling; experience one idiot whose lawn-mower or paint sprayer fell out of his open flatbed truck — and the fragile system shuts completely down, creating paralysis for thousands of backed-up drivers. For our generation’s grid to work as it should, we would need three lanes, in good condition, perhaps four — and a pool of drivers who were all trained, licensed, registered, and insured. But you see, we had other priorities and values the last twenty years and so we took for granted the freeways we inherited. So we indulged and as the proverbially obese clogged our arteries.

Consider also regulation. In a vast state of 20 million in 1970 few cared that there were new building code rules and mounting new labor statutes. All sorts of innovative bureaucracies came on line. I remember the mosquito abatement jeeps spraying pools suddenly everywhere to stop mosquito-born disease; the country dog people were out in force checking for licenses and shots on your farm to eradicate even the rumor of rabies. Now fast forward to 37 million residents, with a vast new government superstructure. and we have become both the most and the least regulated. The poor broke highway patrolman sits on the corner, straining his neck to find a cell-phone user who is a sure thing for a $200 hit. Yet he would hardly wish to drive two miles away along a rural pond where a dishwasher is tossed in open daylight — the former involves money and the law-abiding, the latter nothing but all sorts of unimaginable costs and trouble. So the message for the Californian is to toss the refrigerator out in the pond, but don’t dare use that cell phone while waiting for the green light. I rode my bike (idiocy, of course, being defined by doing the same thing as led to catastrophe a month ago) by a cluster of trailers and shacks the other day and quickly surmised that it would take about 10 bureaucratic divisions — EPA, building permit regulators, law enforcement, child protective services, health department, animal control, hazardous waste — to deal with the pathologies apparent to the passing naked eye, and so understood that we must grant the new homesteaders de facto freedom by virtue of their lawlessness, and as compensation try to make more unfree the lawful, whose transgressions are rare as they are lucrative.

Water is the same. Give California two wet, snow-filled years, as we have had between 2010-2011, and we look like Ireland. This year the gleeful environmentalists will watch the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers run unimpeded from the Sierra, in all their 19th-century glory. The 1920s-era reservoirs are full; the 1960s canals brimming with water. Those who damn Henry Huntington’s wondrous 1912 Big Creek Hydroelectric Project as ecologically hurtful will be out in force sailing all summer on his beautiful manmade eponymous 1912 lake. Even the cut-off West Side farmers may get a sort of irrigation reprieve: there is too much rather than too little water this year, as even the park benches at the lower rivers’ edges are now underwater.

But again there is no margin of error as we will soon learn again when the dry times come as they always do. We haven’t built a big new dam or a new major canal in decades as the population and its appetites soared, and the postmodern cynicism about “building things” became entrenched. So the huge snowpack this year will melt and with it millions of acre feet will flow to the ocean rather than be stored for next year. California can export $15 billion in food, and support 37 million — but only every third year on average when the snow and rain reach 125% of their yearly averages. We forget that when there is water here, there is usually money in California — more crops, more tax revenue; less pumping, less costs; more recreation, more tourist dollars. And when there is not, there is not so much.

Illegal immigration enjoys the same precariousness. I remember the days when we had somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 illegal immigrants. They were surrounded by Mexican-Americans, Asians, whites, and blacks (and by a confident culture), and so by needs learned English and assimilated, intermarried, and integrated. It was rare to find an abandoned car in your vineyard that had swerved the night before and taken out 20 vines. I heard Spanish spoken, but rarely heard indigenous languages from Oaxaca or encountered those illiterate in both Spanish and English, who asked for translation help at a government office despite bilingual documentation.

But up that number of illegal immigrants (and with them commensurate disrespect for the federal immigration laws) to 4, 5, or perhaps even 6 million illegals, and then factor in a beleaguered second generation, whose parents were not legal, did not speak English, and did not have high-school diplomas, and we reach the proverbial tipping point. What would that look like superficially in an average week? A bag of trash stuffed with Spanish-language bills and ads tossed beside your mailbox; going to the store and hearing one English speaker among ten non-English speakers, while waiting, waiting, waiting in line as the poor checker struggles with all sorts of multiple and expired plastic food stamp cards; seeing dozens of the unemployed milling around Wal-Mart or Home Depot dour and looking for cash work; or preferring to wait for a Monday doctor visit rather than dare go to an emergency room (the last time I tried I was considered a veritable freak for speaking English, having health insurance, and a more serious condition of a broken arm). Give California 200,000 illegals, and it assimilates them; give it over 4 million and a new ideology, and it begins to become overwhelmed.

Let us end with development. We did not object to growing to 37 million, but most certainly to accommodating them. So let us limit nasty oil pumping off shore. Let us curb awful timber cutting. Why not save the noble smelt and idle superfluous acreage? There is surely no more need for more neanderthal hydroelectric projects of the old blast-away sort. New nuclear plants would be even worse. Tasteful open spaces are great along the coastal corridor, so let us stop most new ugly housing construction there and all that it brings. Who is to say you should still live in California when someone in Oaxaca, someone far needier, cannot? I could go on, but right here, I fear, is a recipe for an energy hungry, food hungry, wood hungry, power hungry, overtaxed and undereducated state, where one cannot find an affordable house on the coast, and not sell a cheap one in the interior.

I leave on a note of optimism. All this is self-correcting. Jerry Brown cannot hike the income and sales tax much or hire legions of new SEIU employees or up dramatically the salaries of state workers or lower the standards at the UC or CSU university systems or open wide the border or cut off more water, because we know where it all leads — to pushing us either onto or over the razor’s edge.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

'I thought it was a disgrace'--Dr K on Obama's speech

Krauthammer Obama's budget address 'I thought it was a disgrace' The Daily Caller - Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment

It’s been just a few hours since President Barack Obama has finished his budget address at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and there already been significant pushback from the right.

First, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan lashed out at Obama and shared his disappointment in a press conference earlier today. However, Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer took it to the next step on Wednesday’s broadcast of “Special Report” and criticized the speech as being focused on politics and not policy.

“I thought it was a disgrace,” he said. “I rarely heard a speech by a president so shallow, so hyper-partisan and so intellectually dishonest, outside the last couple of weeks of a presidential election where you are allowed to call your opponent anything short of a traitor. But, we’re a year-and-a-half away from Election Day and it was supposed to be a speech about policy. He didn’t even get to his own alternative until more than halfway through the speech. And when he did, he threw out numbers suspended in mid-air with nothing under them with all kinds of goals and guidelines and triggers that mean nothing. The speech was really about and entirely an attack on the [Rep. Paul] Ryan plan.”

Krauthammer offered up an example and showed in one scenario, the tax rates in Ryan’s plan were higher than what Obama’s own deficit commission had recommended.

“I’m going to give you one example of how dishonest it was – he went on and on how the Republicans want to steal from your grandma to lower taxes on the rich,” Krauthammer continued. “And he talked about the Bush tax cuts and how much he is going to stand on the bridge and oppose any extension which is what he knows how to do. He has done it over and over for the last six years. The Ryan plan is not about the Bush tax cuts. It transcends them. It’s about the deficit — what Obama’s own commission recommended, strip out loopholes and lower rates for everyone. It’s not about whether it’s the Bush rates or Clinton rates. It’s a whole new approach by which the Simpson-Bowles Commission recommended itself. In fact, Bowles had recommended in one of its scenarios of a high rate of 23 percent. Ryan is at 25 percent. Obama did this knowing that this is a way to play to his base. It was a speech that was quite remarkable in how demagogic it was and I say that with all due respect.”

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World Finance Chiefs Chastise US on Budget Gap - CNBC

World Finance Chiefs Chastise US on Budget Gap - CNBC (use link to read how Obama's and Dem's spending are what threaten the world recovery--not budget-cutting by Republicans)

"World finance leaders Saturday chastised the United States for not doing enough to shrink its massive overspending and warned that budget strainsin rich nations threaten the global recovery."

The Tea Party's First Victory

The Tea Party's First Victory Obama opposes spending cuts right up to the time he calls them historic..
 This is getting to be a habit. President Obama ferociously resists tax cuts, trade agreements and spending cuts—right up to the moment he strikes a deal with Republicans and hails the tax cuts, trade agreements and spending cuts as his idea. What a difference an election makes.

This is the larger political meaning of Friday's last minute budget deal for fiscal 2011 that averted a government shutdown. Mr. Obama has now agreed to a pair of tax cut and spending deals that repudiate his core economic philosophy and his agenda of the last two years—and has then hailed both as great achievements. Republicans in Washington have reversed the nation's fiscal debate and are slowly repairing the harm done since the Nancy Pelosi Congress began to set the direction of government in 2007.


Yes, we know, $39 billion in spending cuts for 2011 is less than the $61 billion passed by the House and shrinks the overall federal budget by only a little more than 1%. The compromise also doesn't repeal ObamaCare, kill the EPA's anticarbon rules, defund Planned Parenthood, reform the entitlement state, or part the Red Sea.

On the other hand, the Obama-Pelosi Leviathan wasn't built in a day, and it won't be cut down to size in one budget. Especially not in a fiscal year that only has six months left and with Democrats running the Senate and White House. Friday's deal cuts more spending in any single year than we can remember, $78 billion more than President Obama first proposed. Domestic discretionary spending grew by 6% in 2008, 11% in 2009 and 14% in 2010, but this year will fall by 4%. That's no small reversal.

The budget does this while holding the line against defense cuts that Democrats wanted and restoring the school voucher program for Washington, D.C. for thousands of poor children. Tom DeLay—the talk radio hero when he ran the House—never passed a budget close to this good.
The political gains are also considerable. When Mr. Obama introduced his 2012 budget in February, he proposed more spending on his priorities in return for essentially no cuts. Two months later, the debate is entirely about how much spending to cut and which part of government to reform. Democrats were forced to play defense nearly across the board, obliged to defend programs (National Public Radio) that were once thought to be untouchable shrines of modern liberalism.

Republicans also showed they are able to make the compromises required to govern. We realize that "governing" can often be an excuse for incumbent self-interest. But this early show of political maturity will demonstrate to independents that the freshmen and tea party Republicans they elected in November aren't the yahoos of media lore. A government shutdown over a spending difference of $7 billion and some policy riders would have made the GOP look reckless for little return.

Now the battle moves to the debt ceiling increase and Paul Ryan's new 2012 budget later this year, and there are lessons from this fight to keep in mind. One is to focus on spending and budget issues, not extraneous policy fights. Republicans have the advantage when they are talking about the overall level of spending and ways to control it. They lose that edge when the debate veers off into a battle over social issues.

We certainly agree that, amid a $1.5 trillion deficit, taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is preposterous. Let George Soros or Peter Lewis spend their private fortunes to support the group's abortion counseling. But Mr. Boehner was wise to drop the provision on Friday rather than let Mr. Obama portray a shutdown as a fight over abortion rights. If Republicans want to win this fight in the coming months, they need to convince voters that Planned Parenthood funding is a low fiscal priority, not make it seem as if they want to use the budget to stage a cultural brawl.

This point is especially crucial in the looming showdown over increasing the debt limit. Mr. Obama will marshal a parade of Wall Street and Federal Reserve worthies predicting Armageddon if the debt limit isn't raised as early as mid-May. Republicans will play into his hands of they seek to load up any debt limit increase with policies unrelated to spending and debt reduction.

The best advice we've heard is from former Senator Phil Gramm, who says Republicans should agree that families and nations should always honor their debts. But in doing so they should also make sure they won't pile up new debt. For a family, that means cutting up the credit cards. For Congress, it means passing budget reforms that impose hard and enforceable limits on new spending and debt.

We are not talking here about that hardy perennial, a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, that would easily become a lever for Democrats to push for higher taxes. Far better would be statutory limits on spending increases and debt as a share of GDP, sequesters that automatically cut spending if Congress exceeds those limits, supermajority rules for replacing those limits, and revisions of the budget baseline so that each year's budget begins at last year's spending levels, not with automatic increases.

This is the kind of reform the public will understand is directly related to the debt limit, and one that Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama will find hard to oppose. Republicans should waste no time starting to explain their debt-limit terms, so voters also understand the GOP isn't toying with default as a political ploy.


One of the ironies of Friday's budget deal is that it is being criticized both by Ms. Pelosi and some conservative Republicans. We can understand Ms. Pelosi's angst. But conservatives are misguided if they think they could have done much better than Mr. Boehner, or that a shutdown would have helped their cause. Republicans need to stay united for the bigger fights to come this year, and for now they and the tea party can take credit for spending cuts that even Mr. Obama feels politically obliged to sell as historic.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Barack Obama not serious on budget cutting

Barack Obama not serious on budget cutting--Michael A. Walsh -
Bam's fiscal feint


Well, that didn't take long: Less than two days after President Obama reluc tantly agreed to accept a less-than-whopping $38.5 billion in cuts from this year's spending, the White House announced that Obama will take to the airwaves Wednesday to announce his new plan to deal with the deficit.

Paul Ryan, take a bow. With the release last week of his dramatic "Path to Prosperity" proposal to trim $6 trillion from the bloated federal budget over the next 10 years, a mere congressman from Wisconsin has finally obliged the president to get serious about spending. Or at least do a somewhat better job of pretending to.

Making the rounds of the Sunday shows yesterday, White House adviser David Plouffe announced that Obama will do what he does best in times of crisis -- make a speech, this one about deficit reduction and what he intends to do about Medicare and Medicaid.

Plouffe has just given us a new definition of "chutzpah." After two years of runaway spending and after proposing even more borrowing as recently as his February $3.7 trillion budget proposal -- Obama now wants us to think that he's seen the light and is serious about getting the country's financial house in order.

Please. This is all about 1) the 2012 election and 2) blunting any GOP momentum toward serious budgetary reform -- nothing more.

Obama, who's always keenly attuned to the shifting political winds, knows he has to change course and doesn't care how many fellow Democrats he has to jettison in order to do it. Thus his pirouette on the current year's spending plan -- in which he finally went along with the "draconian" cuts that the parade of talking-point donkeys like Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi had insisted would lead to the starvation of the elderly, the defenestration of children, the death of millions of women and the impoverishment of our soldiers.

Some principled Democrats are squawking over the president's sellout on Friday. "The right held the US govt hostage, and O paid most of the ransom -- inviting more hostage-taking," wrote former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on Twitter. "Next is raising debt ceiling."

Yet there was the president on Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial, the park-ranger-in-chief, blithely telling tourists at the feet of the Great Emancipator that "this [the unclosed memorial] is what America is all about, everybody from different places enjoying those things that bind us together."
After weeks of warning of the apocalypse, the leader of the Democratic Party, who never met imaginary or borrowed money that he didn't want to spend, is now celebrating fiscal sobriety?

This about-face should surprise no one. As National Review's Jim Geraghty is fond of reminding us, all Obama statements come with an expiration date. They are things said in the heat of political battle, not deeply held principles or beliefs.

Consider Sen. Obama's comments in 2006 as he opposed raising the debt ceiling -- the next big fight brewing on Capitol Hill:

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government's reckless fiscal policies . . . Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

That year, President George W. Bush sought a debt limit of $8.96 trillion. Half a decade later, the limit -- which has been raised 10 times in 10 years and by more than $2 trillion during the Obama presidency -- must exceed the current $14.3 trillion by May 16, or the country faces either default on its bonds or dramatic (by 40 percent, in some estimates) cuts in federal spending,

With the Tea Party's just having won a minor but important victory, and cutting spending now Job One in the public mind, it looks like we've come full circle.

If the president is serious about spending cuts, he'll make common cause with Ryan -- whose proposal may get a vote in the House as early as this week -- and Speaker John Boehner.

Because the best thing anybody can say about the 11th-hour budget deal struck Friday night is that it's just a barely adequate first step. In the eight days preceding the vote to cut $38.5 billion, our national debt jumped $54.1 billion.

Michael Walsh, a former asso ciate editor of Time, is the author (as David Kahane) of "Rules for Radical Conservatives."

THE NEW TONE: Unions In Michigan Bring New Meaning to “Adult Conversation.”

Progressives ponder why tea party is kicking their butts

Progressives ponder why tea party is kicking their butts by Jazz Shaw

printer-friendly By the time I finished reading this lengthy, plaintive missive by Richard Esko at the Huffington Post, I will confess that I’d actually begun feeling sorry for him. Observing the conclusion of the recent budget battles and viewing them as a disastrous loss for the progressive movement, Mr. Esko casts about for an answer to what seems to be the question of the day: How does the evil Tea Party keep kicking our butts when our ideas are so wildly popular and clearly superior? And he thinks he’s found some answers.

Once again the unpopular views of a minority have been imposed on the majority. Others will rant and rave about the Democratic leadership, and in fact that process has already begun. But progressives in this country should be asking themselves a serious question: Why does the Tea Party seem to be so much more effective than the left as a movement?

It’s a complicated question that deserves in-depth discussion, but some of the things that may be impeding progressives include excessive party loyalty, the desire for a charismatic leader (the “XFK phenomenon”), and the urge to prematurely celebrate accomplishments that are flawed and incomplete.

My head was beginning to spin just reading that last portion, but trust me… you’ll want to push on and read the rest. The first conclusion Richard reaches is one of the usual suspects. It’s all about the Benjamins.

Why did Tea Partiers win such a major victory? Money, for starters. The Tea Party’s generously funded by billionaires like the Koch Brothers, and ultra-conservative policies are given “nonpartisan” ideological cover by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson and his network of allies and paid savants. Corporate campaign financing, now made limitless by the GOP’s ideological packing of the Supreme Court, allows the mega-corporations of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to impose policies that crush the middle class and smaller businesses.

Ignoring completely the immediately obvious – and in some cases vastly better funded – parallels on the Left, the author quickly concludes that the only way to beat the nasty fiscal conservatives is to implement even more aggressive “campaign finance reform” efforts than those attempted in the past. He also seems oblivious to the fact this his fellow progressives managed to fund the most expensive presidential election in history when putting Barack Obama in office and that they are already crowing over the likely target of spending more than a billion next year.

But Esko isn’t done spreading around the blame. He goes on to blame Obama for not delivering the bill of goods his supporters were sold and Democrats in general for being just too darned optimistic and settling for any victory they can get when they should demand so much more. But he does latch on to one idea where progressives might actually have something to learn from the Tea Party.

I didn’t vote for Ralph Nader in 2000 or 2008. I’ve always believed that political change is best effected in this country through the two-party system. But that idea can be taken too far. The Democratic Party is a tool, a means to an end and not an end in itself.

And there’s a world of difference between supporting the Democratic Party and supporting incumbents in the Democratic Party. The Tea Party did a very smart thing last year: They kicked out a few independents who didn’t support them politically. Too many progressives followed the President’s lead and pledged their fealty to Democratic incumbents who had devoted themselves to undermining causes supported both by progressives and the majority of Americans across the political spectrum.

Actually I’d thought that the Democrats had done a fairly thorough job of chasing out the Blue Dogs, but I suppose it’s true that they were never as aggressive in challenging incumbents during the primaries as Republicans have been of late. The case can be made that the results of those challenges were rather hit and miss, but it certainly stirred up the pool of candidates.

There’s plenty more, so if you’d like a look into the rather morbid thoughts of a pro-spending progressive on the sad decline of his movement, check out the entire article. And try not to smirk. Grace in victory is an honorable trait.