Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Dark Side of America's Growing Social Safety Net

The Dark Side of America's Growing Social Safety Net - The Atlantic
By Jordan Weissmann

A University of Chicago professor argues that help for the poor might be worsening unemployment


By now, we've all gotten used to the fights on Capitol Hill about extending unemployment benefits. Each time they're about to expire, Democrats line up to renew them. Meanwhile, at least a few Republicans rise up to object. Their argument: By writing checks to the jobless, we're making it less likely that they'll go out and find work.

This strikes many of us as ludicrous. Who, after all, would elect to stay unemployed? Who would rely on this dysfunctional government for a meal ticket? Still it's worth questioning assumptions. And a new working paper from University of Chicago economics professor Casey Mulligan is a good place to start.

According to Mulligan's research, the portion of America's social safety net devoted to working-age adults has swelled over the past few years. From 2007 to 2010 -- roughly the start of the recession through the early the recovery -- total spending has grown from $10,000 per needy adult, to $15,000. Unemployment isn't the only reason. Programs now have looser eligibility rules, opening them up to more folks. That jump has likely kept at least some people from going back to work, Mulligan writes.

But what is the "safety net"? It's not just the government. It's a patchwork of both public assistance -- like state and federal spending on Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment benefits -- and private help -- like mortgage loan write-downs and credit card debt discharges by banks. These are all primarily available to low-income Americans, even if something like bank welfare represents a significant departure from how most of us think about "the social safety net."

The graph below summarizes the paper's findings. On the left, you see benefits available ($) to the underemployed. On the right, Mulligan introduces a nifty stat called the "self-reliance rate." That's the share of a household's old income that the safety net won't cover. At a self-reliance rate of 0.0, the safety net covers everything. At 1.0, the safety net covers nothing. For this chart, he assumes an income of about $36,000 a year. That's the average income for the bottom 90% of Americans, or roughly 132 million families.
615_Self_Reliance_Chart.jpgThe gist is that safety net spending is way up. Spending on unemployment insurance has quadrupled. Spending on food stamps (included in the "other" section) has doubled. Banks have forgiven more and more debt -- $140 billion worth in 2010. Medicaid, interestingly, has stayed about level, largely because its eligibility rules haven't changed.

What does this mean for a typical worker? Take somebody who made $36,000 in 2006. In 2007, he lost his job. That year, the safety net covered $10,000 of his former salary. In 2010, it covered $15,000. This individual saw the safety net "grow" by about $5,000 in three years.

That's a good thing. The U.S. needs more consumer demand, and this extra money is probably going straight back into the economy. But there is a downside to subsidizing underemployment: You encourage more people to stay underemployed.

"In a labor force as big as ours, it takes only a small fraction of people who react to a generous safety net by working less to create millions of unemployed," Mulligan wrote for The New York Times. "I suspect that employment cannot return to pre-recession levels until safety-net generosity does, too."
Maybe so. But as Mulligan acknowledges, there is a powerful moral argument for the safety net. A study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that the number of Americans living in poverty grew just 0.6% from 2007 to 2010. Without the government's help, it would have grown by 4.2%. That's millions of Americans saved from going sick and hungry.

Remember that 3 a.m. Phone Call?

Remember that 3 a.m. Phone Call?

by John Hinderaker in Obama administrationThe phone has been ringing for quite a while now–I would say since President Obama took office in January 2009. Mr. President, there are millions of unemployed on the line, and they think it’s an emergency. But Obama is still snoozing. Michael Ramirez illustrates the point:
Michael Ramirez illustrates the point:

Is Obama Preparing to Surrender Afghanistan?

Is Obama Preparing to Surrender Afghanistan?

by John Hinderaker in Afghanistan, Obama Administration Scandals

That is what Andrew McCarthy thinks. He notes the significance of President Obama’s recruiting Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi to mediate secret negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban:
The surrender is complete now. The Hindu reports that the Obama administration has turned to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading jurist, to mediate secret negotiations between the United States and the Taliban. …
For those who may be unfamiliar with him, he is the most influential Sunni Islamist in the world, thanks to such ventures as his al-Jazeera TV program (Sharia and Life) and website ( In 2003, he issued a fatwa calling for the killing of American troops in Iraq. …
Qaradawi urges that Islam must dominate the world, under a global caliphate governed by sharia. He maintains that Islam “will conquer Europe [and] will conquer America.” …
Thus does Sheikh Qaradawi champion Hamas, mass-murder attacks, and suicide bombings. “They are not suicide operations,” he brays. “These are heroic martyrdom operations.” Indeed, he elaborates, “The martyr operations is [sic] the greatest of all sorts of jihad in the cause of Allah.”
You get the drift. So, what sort of deal is Qaradawi charge with negotiating?
After thousands of young Americans have laid down their lives to protect the United States from jihadist terror, President Obama apparently seeks to end the war by asking Qaradawi, a jihad-stoking enemy of the United States, to help him strike a deal that will install our Taliban enemies as part of the sharia state we have been building in Afghanistan. If the Hindu report is accurate, the price tag will include the release of Taliban prisoners from Gitmo — an element of the deal Reuters has also reported. The administration will also agree to the lifting of U.N. sanctions against the Taliban, and recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political party (yes, just like the Muslim Brotherhood!). In return, the Taliban will pretend to forswear violence, to sever ties with al-Qaeda, and to cooperate with the rival Karzai regime.
It would mark one of the most shameful chapters in American history.
Yes, it would. But the Afghanistan war is deeply unpopular, and Obama wants to run for re-election next November on the boast that he “ended two wars.” The baleful consequences of re-installing the Taliban in Afghanistan will not appear until long after the next election campaign, which is all that Obama cares about. So if the outcome foreseen by Hindu and McCarthy comes to pass, it will be shameful indeed.
UPDATE: This AP news story of just a few hours ago appears relevant:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday welcomed remarks from the Obama administration saying that Taliban insurgents were not America’s enemies.
Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview with Newsweek magazine that the Islamist militants did not represent a threat to U.S. interests unless they continued to shelter al-Qaida.
Biden’s comments came amid reports that the Obama administration and other governments are trying to establish a peace process with the Taliban to help end the 10-year war.
“I am very happy that the American government has announced that the Taliban are not their enemies,” Karzai said in a speech to the Afghan Academy of Sciences. “We hope that this message will help the Afghans reach peace and stability.”
A senior U.S. official has told The Associated Press that Washington plans to continue a series of secret meetings with Taliban representatives in Europe and the Persian Gulf region next year.
The U.S. outreach this year had progressed to the point that there was active discussion of two steps the Taliban seeks as precursors to negotiations, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Trust-building measures under discussion involve setting up a Taliban headquarters office and the release from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of about five Afghan prisoners believed affiliated with the Taliban.
If we have to negotiate with the Taliban, couldn’t we appoint John Bolton to do it? But then, what point could such negotiations have other than to sugarcoat a surrender?

Harvard prof flunks economics--Should just pipe down over Keystone

Harvard prof flunks economics -

Should just pipe down over Keystone
By Michael Graham 
Ready for your Massachusetts IQ test? Which sounds smarter to you:

A) Building a pipeline to bring oil from Canada, or B) Continuing to import oil from terror-sponsoring nations like Saudi Arabia.

A) Killing jobs in the middle of a recession, or B) Putting 20,000 blue-collar American workers to work.
Running for U.S. Senate as, A) The candidate in favor of American jobs and energy independence, or B) As the candidate who opposes them.

If you picked A on all of the above, congratulations. You’re smarter than a Harvard professor! And her supporters.

Yesterday afternoon, while you were at the job you are ever more thankful to have, Liz Warren’s political allies were marching around Sen. Scott Brown’s office, protesting the Keystone pipeline project. Keystone would bring millions of barrels of oil from our friend and ally Canada, oil we would no longer have to buy from Arab sheiks or South American thugs.

Keystone would also create “20,000 direct high-wage jobs,” according to Thomas Pyle of the Institute for Energy Research, and “an additional $5.2 billion in property tax revenue and thousands of indirect jobs relating to the project.”

So why do Liz’s kids oppose it? Because, they claim, getting our oil from Canada means “Massachusetts can expect higher rates of climate disasters.”

Really? As opposed to getting the same amount of oil from Venezuela or the UAE? Not to be mean-spirited, but how dumb is that?

Oh, and as to their claim that alleged “global warming” is leading to more disasters in Massachusetts — sorry. As Dr. William Gray, America’s leading expert on hurricanes, has repeatedly noted, “global [hurricane] activity has shown a distinct decrease over the last 20 years when CO2 amounts were increasing.”

Yes, it’s true that 2011 has been the costliest year on record for natural dis-asters, but earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand were, by themselves, about two-thirds of that. So unless you believe that global warming causes shifts in Earth’s tectonic plates (and a frightening number of enviro-kooks do) — pretty dumb.

It’s interesting. As political maven Michael Barone points out, “Democrats like to think of themselves as the party of smart people.” And that’s doubly true of Warren’s supporters, who refer to her Harvard curriculum vitae in tones of hushed reverence.

How striking it is then to hear the utter vacuousness of their proposed policies and positions. For example, her attacks on Brown for not raising taxes on “millionaires and billionaires” to pay for the payroll tax cut.

Giving workers earning $50,000 a year a tax cut of $20 a week may be a good issue to whip up the Occupods, but as a fiscal strategy to get unemployed people working again, it flunks Econ 101. Ask any economist not working for the White House and they’ll tell you the same thing.

This isn’t about partisan debate. There are legitimate points to debate on the economy and energy policy. But just shouting “No war for oil!” isn’t a debate. It’s adamant stupidity.
By the way, why aren’t we shouting “No war for oil!” anymore? If you really believed that, you’d support domestic drilling and the Canadian pipeline, right?

Instead, the Liz Warren left starts with “No war for oil,” then “No oil from Canada,” “No nukes,” “No coal” and then the inevitable, “Hey — wait! My iPad just died and there’s no electricity to charge it.

Where’s my oil?!”

Remember: They’re the smart ones.

Michael Graham hosts an afternoon drive time talk show on 96.9 WTKK.
Article URL:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Little Change in Public's Response to 'Capitalism,' 'Socialism'

Little Change in Public's Response to 'Capitalism,' 'Socialism'

A Political Rhetoric Test


The recent Occupy Wall Street protests have focused public attention on what organizers see as the excesses of America’s free market system, but perceptions of capitalism – and even of socialism – have changed little since early 2010 despite the recent tumult.

The American public’s take on capitalism remains mixed, with just slightly more saying they have a positive (50%) than a negative (40%) reaction to the term. That’s largely


unchanged from a 52% to 37% balance of opinion in April 2010.
Socialism is a negative for most Americans, but certainly not all. Six-in-ten (60%) say they have a negative reaction to the word; 31% have a positive reaction. Those numbers are little changed from when the question was last asked in April 2010.

Of these terms, socialism is the more politically polarizing – the reaction is almost universally negative among conservatives, while generally positive among liberals. While there are substantial differences in how liberals and conservatives think of capitalism, the gaps are far narrower. Most notably, liberal Democrats and Occupy Wall Street supporters are as likely to view capitalism positively as negatively. And even among conservative Republicans and Tea Party supporters there is a significant minority who react negatively to capitalism.

These are among the findings of the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 7-11, 2011 among 1,521 adults that tests reactions to words frequently used in current political discourse. Another term in the news, libertarian, continues to receive a mixed public reaction: 38% have a positive view, 37% negative, and nearly a quarter (24%) have no opinion either way. Interestingly, some of the most positive views of libertarianism come from groups on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. People who agree with the Tea Party movement see libertarianism positively by a 51% to 36% margin, as do liberal Democrats by a 47% to 32% margin. And while the word libertarian receives a very positive reaction from younger Americans, older people tend to view it negatively.

Both of the ideological descriptions used most frequently in American politics – conservative and liberal – receive more positive than negative reactions from the American public. But the positives for conservative (62%) are higher than for liberal (50%). This gap mainly reflects the balance of what people call themselves; more people consistently call themselves conservative than liberal in public opinion polling. Those who think of themselves as politically “moderate” give similarly positive assessments to both words.

As many Democratic strategists have argued, the term progressive receives a far more positive reaction from the American public than the term liberal (67% vs 50%), though the difference is primarily among Republicans.

‘Socialism’ and ‘Capitalism’

The term capitalism elicits more positive (50%) than negative (40%) reactions from the American public, but not by much. And while Americans of different incomes and ideological perspectives offer different opinions on capitalism, the divides are not as wide as on other terms measured.

More affluent Americans, as well as conservative Republicans, are more likely to offer positive than negative reactions to capitalism by two-to-one. And among people who agree with the Tea Party movement, 71% view capitalism positively.  Yet within each of these groups, a quarter or more say they have a negative reaction to capitalism.

Notably, liberal Democrats and supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement are not overtly critical of capitalism. In fact, as many offer positive as negative reactions in each of these groups.

By contrast, socialism is a far more divisive word, with wide differences of opinion along racial, generational, socioeconomic and political lines. Fully nine-in-ten conservative Republicans (90%) view socialism negatively, while nearly six-in-ten liberal Democrats (59%) react positively. Low-income Americans are twice as likely as higher-income Americans to offer a positive assessment of socialism (43% among those with incomes under $30,000, 22% among those earning $75,000 or more).

People under age 30 are divided in their views of both capitalism and socialism. But to Americans age 65 and older, socialism is clearly a negative (72%), not a positive (13%), term.

Mixed Views of ‘Libertarian’

(for the rest):

Keystone Blue-Collar Blues--Obama’s clean-energy obsession is alienating American hard hats.

Keystone Blue-Collar Blues - Larry Kudlow - National Review Online

Obama’s clean-energy obsession is alienating American hard hats.
The payroll-tax-cut debate is not really about the payroll tax, which is a very weak-kneed economic stimulant and a lackluster job creator because of its temporary nature. Without permanent incentives at lower tax rates, these rebates don’t do anything for growth and jobs.

Instead, the key to understanding the payroll-tax debate is to grasp Pres. Barack Obama’s leftist vision of taxing successful earners (the millionaire surtax) and his obsession with clean energy at the expense of fossil fuels. These are ideological positions. They support the Obama vision of class warfare and his attachment to radical environmentalism.

And the key to understanding this state of affairs is the disposition of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, which Republicans cleverly threw into the payroll-tax debate as the only real job creator.

By siding with the radical greenies and standing against the Keystone pipeline, Obama has turned his back on the most traditional voting bloc in the Democratic party: blue-collar, hard-hat workers.

Manufacturing workers. Construction workers. Truckers. Pipefitters. Plumbers. The Keystone opposition coming out of the White House is completely alienating all these people, the folks who work with their hands. And it’s these workers who have been decimated in the recession far more than any other group in the economy.

David Barnett, the head of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, told me on CNBC that unemployment is currently running at 20 to 25 percent in this blue-collar sector. He has repeatedly lobbied the White House to allow the Keystone pipeline to go through, and he notes high environmental standards in the work his men do. And yet even now, three years after the initial Keystone reviews began, the issue is still not resolved.

How can you have a jobs bill without putting blue-collar workers back to work? Answer: stubborn ideological insistence.

The Teamsters support the Keystone. So does the AFL-CIO. So do the machinists. And along with the plumbers and pipefitters, so does the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
And we’re not just talking about the 20,000 jobs that would accrue directly from the pipeline, but the secondary and tertiary jobs from a long supply chain that total well over 100,000.

As of this writing, the White House may dump the millionaire surtax. But that’s not much of a concession, since it never would have passed anyway. Republicans are adamant. It’s a nonstarter in the House, and probably the Senate too. Meanwhile, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell told me the Keystone pipeline is the key to the payroll-tax-cut deal.

Both practically and symbolically, Obama’s obsessive stance against the pipeline rips a huge split in the Democratic party, and in the country as a whole. His manic support of clean energy — just think Solyndra — has blocked out any rational evaluation of the ongoing importance of oil and natural gas — including the oil-and-gas-shale fracking revolution that has become a huge jobs creator in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and elsewhere.

The Obama administration recently shut down the Utica shale field in Ohio because of an Agriculture Department objection. Two-hundred-thousand jobs are at stake. A field in Wyoming may be shut down. New York State desperately needs jobs and growth, but is wavering because of EPA actions elsewhere.

And with the Keystone ruling delay now extending for another year, the Keystone folks might give the whole project up in the U.S., in favor of a Pacific Ocean pipeline in Canada that will sell oil to the Chinese.

While the U.S. dithers, the Canadians are taking action. As a shot across the unbalanced environmental bow, the Canadian government is opting out of the Kyoto global-warming treaty. As energy analyst Daniel Yergin writes, while the unstable Persian Gulf countries represent 16 percent of U.S. oil imports, Canada represents 25 percent. Yergin also writes that by the beginning of the next decade, Canadian oil sands could double production to three million barrels per day. That means an even higher share of U.S. imports coming from our friendly neighbor and largest trading partner.

So in addition to being an economic-stability issue, this becomes and energy-independence issue, and even a national-security issue.

Obama’s decisions on the pipeline and other new energy breakthroughs are inimical to U.S. interests.

They also are hostile to Democratic-party hard hats who may desert the president in droves come next November.

On top of all that, what may be America’s leading new source of job creation will be stifled.
– Larry Kudlow, NRO’s economics editor, is host of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report and author of the daily web log, Kudlow’s Money Politic$.

Hayek Vindicated Again--gov't incapable of what O'care mandates

Hayek Vindicated Again

by Steven Hayward in Economy, Health Care

Way back on the Federal Page of today’s Washington Post is an article that ought to be on the front page above the fold, and its deep placement on the boutique page of the bureaucracy shows how the Post, like most everyone else, doesn’t understand what a big story it is.  And it is a clinical study of Hayek’s “knowledge problem”—the impossibility of centralizing fundamentally dispersed knowledge in a timely and accurate way—that we’ve discussed at various times here over the past few months.

The headline is “Concern growing over deadlines for health care exchanges,” and it discusses the difficulties of one of the main pillars of Obamacare—the mandate that the states set up insurance “exchanges” where people and businesses can do one-stop shopping for their mandated health insurance policies.  But this is no simple exchange; because of the mix of federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, and the various regulations pertaining to eligibility, guaranteed issue, and other features of Obamacare, the states are having a hard time figuring out how they are going to do it. 

And time is running out.  As the Post explains, “the exchanges will need to incorporate state and federal data on income, employment and residency. Enrollment through the state and federal exchanges is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013.”

Obamacare has a fallback position: if states can’t (or won’t) make the deadline, the federal government will step in and run the exchange out of Washington.  I’ve heard rumors for months now that the Dept. of Health and Human Services is terrified of having to do this, and doubts it can be done by the deadline.  The Post story would seem to lend some credence to these rumors:
It’s hard to know how far along the federal government is because the Obama administration has “been very reluctant to provide any updates on progress,” said Dan Schuyler, a director at the consulting firm Leavitt Partners in Salt Lake City, which is advising states on the exchanges.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to requests for comment.  Those designing a federal exchange face enormous technical, political and financial challenges.
Technically, data from a host of federal agencies need to be collected into one system, which then must be linked with computer systems in 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of State Medicaid Directors, said computer systems in some states are old and may need substantial upgrading. There is some doubt, he said, about whether there is enough “physical capacity in the IT systems world” to get it all done in time.
Another Obama high-speed train wreck to nowhere.

The New York Times Paints Holder As A Victim Of Fast And Furious

The hypocrisy at The New York Times is too much to take. I’ve read The New York Times articles on Mr. Gonzales over and over. I never once saw an article that was sympathetic to Mr. Gonzales. My favorite piece is an editorial titled, “Why This Scandal Matters.” What a great title! The Times covered every single detail in the Gonzales “scandal” someone had to write an editorial to justify it. You could fit the first paragraph with Operation Fast and Furious. [Bold my emphasis.]
It (the administration) has offered up implausible excuses, hidden the most damaging evidence and feigned memory lapses, while hoping that the public’s attention moves on. But this scandal is too important for the public or Congress to move on. This story should not end until Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is gone, and the serious damage that has been done to the Justice Department is repaired.
This “scandal” involved the firing of eight US Attorneys. No one died. Not a single person. Three hundred-plus Mexicans have died because of Operation Fast and Furious. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered with a gun from the operation on American soil. I wonder if The New York Times and Mr. Savage could explain to me why Mr. Gonzales’s scandal mattered and Fast and Furious does not?

The best part, though, was Mr. Holder taking a jab at people like Sharyl Attkisson, Cam Edwards, Katie Pavlich, Matthew Boyle, and myself. [Bold my emphasis.]
But Mr. Holder contended that many of his other critics — not only elected Republicans but also a broader universe of conservative commentators and bloggers — were instead playing “Washington gotcha” games, portraying them as frequently “conflating things, conveniently leaving some stuff out, construing things to make it seem not quite what it was” to paint him and other department figures in the worst possible light.
Of that group of critics, Mr. Holder said he believed that a few — the “more extreme segment” — were motivated by animus against Mr. Obama and that he served as a stand-in for him. “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” he said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”
Conflating things? How do we “conflate things” when we provide the documents PROVING our points? Plus if we are leaving out things it’s because Mr. Holder and the Department of Justice aren’t providing us with all the details.

This is what angers me the most. Basically Mr. Holder says that people like Ms. Attkisson, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Boyle, Ms. Pavlich, and I are staying on top of Operation Fast and Furious and asking you questions is because we’re racist? Let’s return to the Times editorial “Why This Scandal Matters” shall we? Whoever wrote this editorial (I cannot find the author) said, as I stated above, “This story should not end until Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is gone, and the serious damage that has been done to the Justice Department is repaired.”

So was The New York Times being racist? After all, Mr. Gonzales is Hispanic. Think about it Mr. Savage and Mr. Holder.

How about members of the Congressional Black Caucus Mr. Holder and Mr. Savage? As Mr. Boyle and Michelle Fields report the feeling in the caucus is that the congressional investigation is warranted. So do they feel this way because Mr. Holder is an African American? Are they racists against their own race?

Of course Mr. Holder says he thinks it has more to do with his political ideology. No Mr. Holder. We don’t care you’re a Democrat. If you didn’t know about Operation Fast and Furious then why aren’t you outraged? Why aren’t you firing those who are responsible for the operation? Why aren’t you cleaning house? Why aren’t you outraged that the people who started this operation haven’t been identified?

Why aren’t you outraged that when people found out about Operation Fast and Furious (including your second in command) did nothing to stop it and more importantly did not tell you? I can’t speak for the others, but the fact it appears you don’t care something like this happened bothers me a lot.
Mr. Savage has not done his research because he says (bold my emphasis):
“Some accused him of perjury; others floated theories that the operation was intended to go bad so as to build a case for stronger gun-control laws and called the Holder Justice Department an accessory to murder.”
Um, Mr. Savage, on December 7th Ms. Attkisson released a story about documents showing the ATF was using this operation to get stronger gun control laws. But I’m not shocked he doesn’t know about this. After all it seems the only time a mainstream media outlet writes on anything about Fast and Furious is when the AP writes about it. The AP has not written about these documents. By the way, Ms. Attkisson provides these emails in her article so Mr. Holder cannot say she conflated anything or left anything out.

Mr. Holder also thinks our “attacks” are payback because of Mr. Gonzales and John Ashcroft, George Bush’s other attorney general. No Mr. Holder. We’re holding you and the DOJ accountable for your actions the same way we did for Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Ashcroft. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is or your political leanings. When you do something wrong you should be held accountable. It’s that simple.

Again, it’s awful Mr. Savage just says a Border Patrol agent. Mr. Savage, that agent had a name. His name was Brian Terry. He was a son, brother, nephew, uncle, and godfather. He was a Marine veteran. More importantly he was an American citizen murdered with a gun from this operation on American soil.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Obama Places Himself on the Continuum of Greatness

Obama Places Himself on the Continuum of Greatness

by John Hinderaker in Obama administration

There was an initially-overlooked moment in President Obama’s recent interview with 60 Minutes. Excerpts from the interview were played on television, and CBS posted the interview in its entirety on its web site. Left on the cutting-room floor, it turned out, was a revealing moment when Obama judged himself against the greats of past eras:
The “60 Minutes Overtime” video shows Obama telling correspondent Steve Kroft:
“The issue here is not going be a list of accomplishments. As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history. But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
So Obama thinks his record so far–nearly three years, not just two–stacks up favorably against any president with the “possible exceptions” of Lyndon Johnson, FDR, and Abraham Lincoln. The man is simply delusional. This is a game one could play for a long time, but let’s just compare President Obama’s record in his first three years (almost) in office with that of Ronald Reagan over the same time. Reagan inherited a worse crisis than Obama: interest rates and inflation at unprecedented levels; our national defenses in a state of near collapse, with the Soviet Union advancing aggressively around the world; recession, high unemployment and a stratospheric cost of living. His solutions to these problems, of course, were quite different from Obama’s approach. Let’s compare how they did.


President Reagan took office in January 1981 with unemployment at 7.5%. As of December 1983–nearly three years into his term–unemployment was at 8.3%. But by that time, unemployment was dropping fast as a result of the rapidly growing economy. By the summer of 1984, it was down to 5.4%.

President Obama took office in January 2009 with unemployment at almost exactly the same level, 7.6%. As of December 2011, it is 8.6%–a worse performance than Reagan’s, although not greatly so. The difference is that in 1983, Reagan had in place pro-growth policies that were quickly putting people back to work. No one thinks that, with Obama’s anti-growth bias dominating the federal government, unemployment will drop to anywhere near 5.4% in the next six or seven months.

Economic Growth

President Reagan inherited a slow- or no-growth economy from Jimmy Carter. It didn’t take long for Reagan’s pro-growth policies to turn things around. Between 1980 and 1983, America’s GDP increased by 27%. That is the reason, of course, for the plummeting unemployment rate.

President Obama, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to get economic growth moving at all. To be fair, he hasn’t tried to do so, so his failure may be intentional. Over the same period of time in which GDP increased 27% under President Reagan, it has risen by only 2% under President Obama–less than one-thirteenth the rate of growth.


It is hard to imagine if you didn’t live through it, but at the beginning of 1981, most people thought that inflation posed a bigger threat to America’s future than its 8.3% unemployment rate. President Reagan inherited that problem because of the lax monetary policies of the Carter administration. The inflation rate was a stunning 13.58 in Carter’s last year. Reagan fixed it faster than anyone had thought possible, through monetarist policies. By December 1983–the equivalent of where we are now in the Obama administration–the inflation rate had dropped all the way down to 3.8%, stunning accomplishment that was foreseen by almost no one, other than President Reagan and Milton Friedman.

Times are different now. President Obama assumed office at a time of zero inflation and fears of deflation. One can, however, compare changes in the cost of living in the two eras; specifically, the cost of gasoline. President Reagan came to the presidency at a time when there was a severe shortage of oil. Cars would line up at gas stations, sometimes for hours, and it was widely predicted that the world was running out of oil and we would have to transition to “green” energy. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. President Reagan removed the foolish price controls on oil that had been imposed by Jimmy Carter, and the price of energy almost immediately began to plummet. Sure enough: when President Reagan took office, the price of a gallon of gasoline at the pump was $1.25 (much more in today’s dollars). By April 1986, the price of gas had dropped 34%, to $.82. The Democrats of the time were so ignorant of economics that they predicted that lifting price controls would cause the price of gasoline to skyrocket!

When Barack Obama became president in January 2009, there was no energy crisis in progress. The price of gasoline was a manageable $1.83 at the pump. Usually, when gas prices rise it is because the economy is booming and demand for energy therefore increases. During the Obama administration, the economy has cratered and gas prices have risen anyway–a double whammy that many would have believed impossible until they saw how Obama’s “green” cronyism suppressed energy development. Thus, while Reagan’s policies led to a 34% decline in the price of gasoline at the pump, by December 2011 the average price was up to $3.29, an 80% increase in the price of gas, even though the economy was in the tank, and recoverable gasoline in the ground was more plentiful than at any time in world history! One wonders whether any other administration could have produced such an inept result.

This is, as I said, a game that one could play for a long time–compare Barack Obama’s first three years in office with those of other presidents. Obama has repeatedly shown himself to be ignorant of history, so his claim to be the fourth best president, thus far into his term–giving the benefit of the doubt to Abe Lincoln, FDR and Lyndon Johnson–can best be forgiven. The man has no idea what he is talking about. Those who have time to spare could do some research and do a similar comparison of Obama’s “achievements” with those of Ulysses Grant, William McKinley, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower and George W. Bush, to name just a few.

Ode to the Welfare State--sound a little current?

Ode to the Welfare State

by Steven Hayward in Liberals, Obama administration

A friend in Texas (where else) sent me the following item, which appeared in the New York Daily News on November 4, 1949,  and since it has a Minnesota connection, as well as reminding us that some things about liberals never change, I thought it worth sharing with Power Line’s home town readers:

I added this one on my own:

Want Answers About Fast and Furious? You're a Racist

When in doubt, pull the race card. Attorney General Eric Holder has been under a lot of pressure lately about his role in Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice program that put 2000 high powered weapons into the hands of ruthless Mexican drug cartels. Two federal agents and more than 300 Mexican citizens have been killed as a result. Holder claims he didn't know about gunwalking techniques being used in the operation until the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, telling House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa on May 3, 2011 he had known about Fast and Furious for "a couple of weeks." However, five memos addressed directly to Holder, detailing Operation Fast and Furious, are dated July and August 2010, nearly a year before Holder admitted he knew under oath. The Justice Department continues to stonewall the investigation into the lethal operation and still hasn't given the Terry family details about their son's murder one year later.
Now, as the possibility of a Holder impeachment looms, he's pulling the race card as the New York Times' Charlie Savage adamantly defends him.
For nearly three years, Republicans have attacked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on national security and civil rights issues. For months, they have criticized him over a gun-trafficking investigation gone awry, with dozens of leaders calling for his resignation. Last week, more than 75 members of Congress co-sponsored a House resolution expressing “no confidence” in his leadership.

As Mr. Holder’s third year as attorney general draws to a close, no member of President Obama’s cabinet has drawn more partisan criticism. In an interview last week, Mr. Holder said he had no intention of resigning before the administration’s term was up, although he said he had made no decision about whether he would continue after 2012 should the president win re-election.

“I think that what I’m doing is right,” Mr. Holder said. “And election-year politics, which intensifies everything, is not going to drive me off that course.”

But Mr. Holder contended that many of his other critics — not only elected Republicans but also a broader universe of conservative commentators and bloggers — were instead playing “Washington gotcha” games, portraying them as frequently “conflating things, conveniently leaving some stuff out, construing things to make it seem not quite what it was” to paint him and other department figures in the worst possible light.

Of that group of critics, Mr. Holder said he believed that a few — the “more extreme segment” — were motivated by animus against Mr. Obama and that he served as a stand-in for him. “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” he said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”
There you have it folks. If you want answers to why the federal government under Barack Obama and Eric Holder's leadership would deliberately arm the most ruthless criminals in the Western Hemisphere, you're obviously a racist. I have a feeling I know which "bloggers" Charlie Savage is referring to and no, we aren't racists and we won't stop writing or talking about Fast and Furious/MurderGate until we get answers. It is convenient Savage, a journalist at the New York Times, fails to mention Brian Terry by name and blatantly leaves out the death toll of Fast and Furious in Mexico.

Mary Chastain at Big Journalism has more, pointing out the NYT's hypocrisy when it comes to defending Holder after chastizing President Bush's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:
Charlie Savage’s newest piece at The New York Times is, as my friend Sean Arthur on Twitter says, a shameless PR drivel and allows Mr. Holder to make ludicrous statements without challenge and pulls the race card. The New York Times and Charlie Savage are really going to do this after all the articles they published during Attorney General Alberto Gonzales scandals? Give me a break.

The hypocrisy at The New York Times is too much to take. I’ve read The New York Times articles on Mr. Gonzales over and over. I never once saw an article that was sympathetic to Mr. Gonzales. My favorite piece is an editorial titled, “Why This Scandal Matters.” What a great title! The Times covered every single detail in the Gonzales “scandal” someone had to write an editorial to justify it.

This “scandal” involved the firing of eight US Attorneys. No one died. Not a single person. Three hundred-plus Mexicans have died because of Operation Fast and Furious. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered with a gun from the operation on American soil. I wonder if The New York Times and Mr. Savage could explain to me why Mr. Gonzales’s scandal mattered and Fast and Furious does not?
 Katie Pavlich the News Editor at Follow her on Twitter @katiepavlich.

Texas Cities Won the Recession, and They're Winning the Recovery

Texas Cities Won the Recession, and They're Winning the Recovery

By Derek Thompson

Lone Star metros have dominated every phase of the Great Recession, but there's trouble on the horizon for some of Texas' strongest cities
570 texas rcbodden.jpg

Welcome to the third phase of the Great Recession. Phase One was the housing collapse, felt most heavily in those cities along the Sun Belt that rode the real estate wave in the 2000s.
Phase Two was the stimulus recovery. Cities with large government presences saw slow but steady growth when federal dollars flowed through state governments. As a result, state capitals and military centers saw the most dependable growth.

This is Phase Three: the post-stimulus recovery. For the last year, total government spending has become a drag on the national economy. State and local government employment has steadily lost jobs every month this year. As a result, cities that rode out the second phase -- e.g. San Antonio, Augusta, Jackson, Little Rock, Richmond, and Virginia Beach -- began to slide when Uncle Sam tightened his belt.
Five of the six cities that have regained all the jobs lost in the recession are in Texas
But in all three phases, there has been one constant: Texas cities have outperformed the national average. They entered the recession later, thanks to high energy prices and low housing inflation throughout the state. They rode out the second phase successfully, thanks to military bases in Houston El Paso and plenty of government support for San Antonio across its medical, education, and local government sectors. And they've (mostly) thrived in this third phase, thanks the bounce-back in oil and gas activity in Houston and a strong high-tech performance out of Austin.

Last week, two reports again put Texas cities at the top of a national survey. Houston, Dallas, and McAllen were named among the 20 top-performing large U.S. metros, according to a survey out of the Brookings Institution that measures housing prices, employment and economic growth. Another report from the Milken Institute named San Antonio and El Paso the best performing cities in all of 2011. (Last year, Austin and McAllen finished in the top five.)

"Texas metros continued to dominate the rankings, taking four of the Top 5 positions and nine of the Top 25," according to the Milken Institute report, which found Texas added one in every five new jobs in 2011.
One statistic to rule them all: By September of this year, only six major cities had recovered all of the jobs they had lost in the Great Recession. Five of them -- Austin, El Paso, Houston, McAllen, and San Antonio -- are in Texas.

Don't look now, but Texas' fortune might be fading. The reason why comes down to one thing some of its residents -- and certainly its governor, Rick Perry -- would prefer not to talk about: The U.S. Congress.

If you haven't heard of the Base Realignment and Consolidation (i.e.: BRAC), odds are you don't live in El Paso or San Antonio, where the congressional deal moved billions in military resources over the last few years. In San Antonio, the growing military is at the heart of the stable recovery. The city's air force bases and Fort Sam Houston employ 77,100 people, and their medical training facilities employ up to another 100,000. But that doesn't even compare with El Paso, which "has benefited more from the military base realignment than any other metro," according to the Milken Institute. After the doubling of Fort Bliss, this one El Paso base now employs nearly 10 percent of the city's population. Not employed population. Total population.

Relying on military spending has generally been a good bet for the last ten years. But when the 2011 supercommittee failed to come to an agreement on cutting the deficit, it triggered a sequester that would cut total defense spending by a whopping $700 billion, starting in 2013. You can bet those cuts will be felt harder in San Antonio and El Paso than almost any other city.
But even before these cuts take place, Texas' strongest cities are showing signs of weakness. Despite leading the nation in employment resilience for the last two years, they're among the worst performing cities in the country right now, according to the Brookings report, which focused on data from the third quarter of 2011.

What's happening? Once again, it comes back to government spending, which is tightening at every level. In order to understand why shrinking total government would hurt some Texas cities' growth, you have to understand what was behind their resilience in the first place.

One out of every five jobs were created in Texas in 2011. Some of this was, no doubt, the result of the state's business climate. Regulations are lax. Unions are non-existent. Land is plentiful, and office space is relatively cheap. But when you drill down into the jobs-added figures by sector, you see something surprising. Most of the jobs added aren't in the private/services sector. They're in government and government-supported industries like education and health services.

With help from Alan Berube at the Brookings Institution, these graphs break down jobs won and lost in Texas versus the entire U.S. since 2007. The first compares percent-change within industries. The second compares total jobs gained/lost by industry. (Click the graphs to make them bigger).
% Change by Industry
June 2007-June 2011

us texas jobs1.png
Jobs Added by Industry (thousands)
June 2007-June 2011

us texas jobs2.png
As you can see, most of the jobs added in Texas since 2007 have come from government and education. But both sectors have shrunk nationally in 2011 and could continue to shrink in 2012. That doesn't bode well for cities like San Antonio and El Paso, which rely on steady government spending to keep their education, medical, and military jobs -- especially as the state fights off the impact of freak drought, fires and other surprises.

In the third phase of the recession, the strongest three metros in Texas -- Austin, Houston, and Dallas -- have found their own respective engines of growth away from the federal government, especially in energy production and high tech. But for cities like El Paso and San Antonio that lean on government spending to support their biggest industries -- military and medical spending -- what gets cut in Washington is felt in Texas.

Like I said, welcome to the third phase of the Great Recession.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

EPA Ponders Expanded Regulatory Power In Name of 'Sustainable Development'--HERE'S HOW THE CONTROL-ALL-PEOPLE-THINGS AGENDA ADVANCES

EXCLUSIVE: EPA Ponders Expanded Regulatory Power In Name of 'Sustainable Development'

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to change how it analyzes problems and makes decisions, in a way that would give it vastly expanded power to regulate businesses, communities and ecosystems in the name of “sustainable development,” the centerpiece of a global United Nations conference slated for Rio de Janeiro next June.

The major focus of the EPA thinking is a weighty study the agency commissioned last year from the National Academies of Science. Published in August, the study, entitled “Sustainability and the U.S. EPA,” cost nearly $700,000 and involved a team of a dozen outside experts and about half as many National Academies staff.
Its aim: how to integrate sustainability “as one of the key drivers within the regulatory responsibilities of EPA.” The panel who wrote the study declares part of its job to be “providing guidance to EPA on how it might implement its existing statutory authority to contribute more fully to a more sustainable-development trajectory for the United States.”

Or, in other words, how to use existing laws to new ends.

According to the Academies, the sustainability study “both incorporates and goes beyond an approach based on assessing and managing the risks posed by pollutants that has largely shaped environmental policy since the 1980s.”

It is already known in EPA circles as the “Green Book,” and is frequently compared by insiders to the “Red Book,” a study on using risk management techniques to guide evaluation of carcinogenic chemicals that the agency touts as the basis of its overall approach to environmental issues for the past 30 years.

At the time that the “Green Book” study was commissioned, in August, 2010, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson termed it “the next phase of environmental protection,” and asserted that it will be “fundamental to the future of the EPA.”

Jackson compared the new approach, it would articulate to “the difference between treating disease and pursuing wellness.” It was, she said, “a new opportunity to show how environmentally protective and sustainable we can be,” and would affect “every aspect” of EPA’s work.

According to the study itself, the adoption of the new “sustainability framework” will make the EPA more “anticipatory” in its approach to environmental issues, broaden its focus to include both social and economic as well as environmental “pillars,” and “strengthen EPA as an organization and a leader in the nation’s progress toward a sustainable future.”

Whatever EPA does with its suggestions, the study emphasizes, will be “discretionary.” But the study urges EPA to “create a new culture among all EPA employees,” and hire an array of new experts in order to bring the sustainability focus to every corner of the agency and its operations. Changes will move faster “as EPA’s intentions and goals in sustainability become clear to employees,” the study says.

The National Academies and the EPA held a meeting last week in Washington to begin public discussion of the study.

Even as it begins to go public, EPA, which has come under renewed fire for its recent rulings on new auto emissions standards and limits on coal-fueled power plant emissions, is being determinedly low-key about the study.

Initially questioned about the document by Fox News weeks ago, an EPA spokesman eventually declared that “we are currently reviewing the recommendations and have not yet made any decisions on implementation.” During the deliberations, he said, “the agency will seek a wide range of perspectives on the recommendations from the business community, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community, and others.”

The spokesman also said that EPA had “no current plans” for the so-called “Rio + 20” environmental summit next summer “that pertains to the Green Book’s recommendations.”

The U.N. summit meeting, however, is mentioned in the Green Book itself as an instance where “sustainability is gaining increasing recognition as a useful framework for addressing otherwise intractable problems. The framework can be applied at any scale of governance, in nearly any situation, and anywhere in the world.”

When it comes to applying the framework via EPA, the study says it is likely to happen only “over time.” The Red Book risk assessment approach now in use, it notes, “was not immediately adopted within EPA or elsewhere. It required several years for its general acceptance at EPA and its diffusion to state and local agencies.”

What is “sustainability” in the first place? That is a question the study ducks, noting that it is only advising EPA on how to bring it within the agency’s canon.

The experts take their definition from an Obama Administration executive order of October, 2009, entitled Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance. It defines sustainability in sweeping fashion as the ability “to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.”

The study specifically notes that “although addressing economic issues is not a core part of EPA’s mission, it is explicitly part of the definition of sustainability.”

The experience of the European Union is deemed “particularly relevant” to achieving the sustainability goal.

That European strategy involves a virtually all-encompassing regulatory vision. The study notes that its priorities include “climate change and clean energy; sustainable transport; sustainable consumption and production; conservation and management of natural resources; public health; social inclusion, demography, and migration; and global poverty and sustainable development challenges.”

In an American context, the study says sustainable development “raises questions that are not fully or directly addressed in U.S. law or policy.” Among them: “how to define and control unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and how to encourage the development of sustainable communities, biodiversity protection, clean energy, environmentally sustainable economic development, and climate change controls.”

The study notes that sustainable development is “broader than the sum of U.S. environmental and conservation laws.”

It adds that “a great deal more needs to be done to achieve sustainability in the United States.”

The experts say they found the legal authority for EPA to foster sustainable development without further congressional approval in the wording of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, or NEPA.

The study says the law, the cornerstone of U.S. environmental policy, declared that the “continuing policy of the Federal Government” is to “create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.”

(In fact, the study quotes selectively from that portion of NEPA. What that section of the Act says in full is that “it is the continuing policy of the Federal Government, in cooperation with State and local governments, and other concerned public and private organizations, to use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.)

What ends that tacit authority should be used for are far less clear, because the study asserts that they need to be made up and codified as EPA goes along.

“EPA needs to formally develop and specify its vision for sustainability,” the study says. “Vision, in the sense discussed here, is a future state that EPA is trying to reach or is trying to help the country or the world to reach.”

The study offers up new tools for EPA to do the job. As opposed to environmental impact assessment, the study encourages the use of “sustainability impact assessment” in the evaluation of the hundreds and thousands of projects that come under EPA scrutiny to see whether they are moving in the proper direction

“Environmental impact assessment tends to focus primarily on the projected environmental effects of a particular action and alternatives to that action,” the study says. Sustainability impact assessment examines “the probable effects of a particular project or proposal on the social, environmental, and economic pillars of sustainability”—a greatly expanded approach.

One outcome: “The culture change being proposed here will require EPA to conduct an expanding number of assessments.”

As a result, “The agency can become more anticipatory, making greater use of new science and of forecasting.”

The catch, the study recognizes, is that under the new approach the EPA becomes more involved than ever in predicting the future.

“Forecasting is unavoidable when dealing with sustainability, but our ability to do forecasting is limited,” the document says.

One forecast it is safe to make: the study shows whatever else the new sustainability mission does for EPA, it aims to be a much, much more important—and powerful-- federal agency than it is, even now.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News and can be found on Twitter@GeorgeRussell

Read more:

Government statistical agency helping NC Democrat

The Carolina Journal, published by the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation (for which I’ve given paid speeches on occasion) reports that staffers in North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue’s office have been getting advance word on monthly unemployment statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is highly illegal under federal law and violates what I have understood to be a strong tradition in the BLS and other government statistics that no one—no one at all, not even in the White House—gets advanced word ahead of the public announcement of government statistics.

There’s obviously good reason for this: someone with advanced word could place bets in financial and community markets and make lots of money. That’s why Congress provided for penalties of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for early release of this data. And there’s another excellent reason: government statistical agencies should be free of political influence to insure the integrity of the numbers on which many people depend. My understanding is that an important part of the bureaucratic culture of federal statistical agencies is a pride in their independence and integrity; this is something not to be lightly squandered. Maintaining that culture is vital if the government wants to get highly competent people to dedicate their careers to this important work.

It doesn’t appear from the Carolina Journal story that Perdue tried to or indeed could have influenced the numbers; rather her staffers used the heads-up to craft their press releases, presumably to make Perdue look better. That probably hasn’t been very effective; her poll numbers have been dreadful and she seems to be behind Republican Pat McCrory (48%-39% in a PPP poll released last week) in her 2012 race for reelection. It is quite shocking to think that someone at the BLS is squandering the agency’s integrity just to give a Democratic governor a little edge in writing press releases.

The Carolina Journal also reports that someone in the BLS was giving advance word of statistics to someone in the office of Perdue’s predecessor Democratic Governor Mike Easley in 2003 and 2004.

This suggests that the culprit is someone at the BLS who is not a political appointee (since Republicans were in power back then) but with Tarheel Democratic connections or sympathies, and it may not be difficult to identify who that might be. There’s nothing in the Carolina Journal report to suggest that something like this is happening in other states. But it is something the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee should look into.

60% Favor Building Keystone XL Pipeline

60% Favor Building Keystone XL Pipeline

Related Articles
Most voters support the building of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas and believe it can be built without harming the environment.

Sixty percent (60%) of Likely U.S. Voters at least somewhat favor building the pipeline which President Obama has delayed until at least 2013 because of environmental concerns. Just 24% are opposed. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls).  Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The national survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on November 21-22, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Obama/Holder DoJ Blinds Itself to Voter Fraud Concerns

Obama/Holder DoJ Blinds Itself to Voter Fraud Concerns

 by Patterico

A couple of things happened recently that deserve to be noticed in the same place. First, some Democrats pled guilty to felonies involving voter fraud — just another example of an increasing number of similar cases around the country.
A total of four Democratic officials and political operatives have now pleaded guilty to voter fraud-related felony charges in an alleged scheme to steal a New York election.
The latest guilty pleas expose the ease with which political insiders can apparently manipulate the electoral system and throw an election their way, by the forging of signatures of unsuspecting voters that are then cast as real votes.
. . . .
Former Troy Democratic City Clerk William McInerney, Democratic Councilman John Brown, and Democratic political operatives Anthony Renna and Anthony DeFiglio have entered guilty pleas in the case, in which numerous signatures were allegedly forged on absentee ballots in the 2009 Working Families Party primary, the political party that was associated with the now-defunct community group, ACORN. 
Funny how ACORN always seems to come up whenever we hear about voter fraud.
One way you might combat phony registrations like the kind described above would be to demand voters present proper identification at the time of registration and/or voting. And guess what? The Obama administration is invalidating a voter ID law in South Carolina, a move which seems to signal that DoJ will nix a similar effort in Texas. And Eric Holder seems to think the only reason to demand voter IDs is to keep minorities from voting:
At a high-profile speech in Austin earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder echoed Democratic critics in arguing that in-person voter fraud is not a common problem and that photo identification measures may do nothing but suppress turnout of minority and low-income voters.
I guess if you’re not looking hard for voter fraud, you’re not going to see it. But in the story about the Democrats pleading guilty to voter fraud — interestingly, in a case investigated and prosecuted by state officials and not Holder’s DoJ — we are told that a Democrat operative believes such devious practices are a “commonplace and accepted practice.” (On both sides of the aisle, he claims, though no evidence is offered to support this claim.) Granted, the fraud in that instance was absentee ballot fraud and not in-person fraud — but that’s just a reason to tighten controls on absentee voting, not to shrug our shoulders at potential in-person voting fraud.

In addition, forging signatures on absentee ballots is only one source of potential fraud . . .

As I noted in 2010:
[L]et’s just take one likely rich vein of illegal votes: votes cast by illegal immigrants. What’s that, you say? Votes cast by illegal immigrants? Yes. Estimates say that there are anywhere from 10 million to 18 million illegal immigrants in the country. This means millions are of voting age. What’s more, many of them are experts at obtaining false documents, allowing them to work, drive, and participate in all other aspects of civic life. Do we really think that none of them vote? None? Let’s go with a conservative estimate of 10,000,000 illegal immigrants. If only one percent of them vote — just one percent! — that’s 100,000 illegal votes. That is voter fraud on a massive scale — certainly enough to tip a close election. This sort of thing dilutes your vote.
Now, I’m “bipartisan” about the issue of voter fraud, in the sense that I take up causes advanced by both sides. I want voter ID laws and greater investigation of voter fraud (causes typically pushed by Republicans) — but I also want to eliminate e-voting machines that are subject to hacking (a cause typically pushed by Democrats). In 2000, I was initally all for letting Al Gore do a full manual recount of all counties — but opposed the travesty that ensued when he sought a partial recount in Democrat-controlled counties whose officials manipulated the standards to achieve their partisan ends.

To me, it’s a matter of fairness. If your vote can be cancelled by an illegal immigrant, or an ACORN scammer, or an Anonymous hacker, then we might as well be a Soviet bloc style satellite state. It is unfortunate that election integrity, an issue of fundamental fairness, should become the province of partisans, scammers, and criminals. If our vote doesn’t mean anything, what does?
UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit for the link. For those who have missed me, I am back blogging regularly — or at least trying my best! Please bookmark the main page and come back!