“Five Years Later: How’s that Wreckovery Working Out?” by Michelle Malkin

I read Michelle Malkin’s article today with mild indifference until she describes how Obama admitted to David Brooks of the New York Times that the shovel ready jobs of the Stimulus Bill were, in fact, just a crock of lies. That the Stimulus package was another government boondoggle was something I realized soon after the bill was passed in 2009, because I remember wondering why there weren’t more reports of new infrastructure projects being funded as a result of this massive cash infusion into the economy. Now we know the real reason that Obama later famously remarked that the jobs weren’t as shovel ready as he thought they would be. Obama and his minions were lying to the American public about these jobs in the first place. Unfortunately, Obama’s stimulus deception was the first of many fraudulent schemes foisted upon the hard working citizens of our country by this feckless liar.

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S H U T D O W N

The partial government shut-down seems to have many people quite upset, although I am not one of them. If I did not watch TV, read a newspaper, or go online during these past 3 days, it would be impossible for me to know that the government was partially shut down. I wonder how many other people can the same thing…probably a lot of people. I am not defending the shut-down, at least not yet. The shut-down is only partial, because essential services that protect people and property are still operating, things like the defense department, border patrol agents, customs officials, TSA fondlers, and the like.

The reason the government is operating at reduced levels is because our elected officials cannot agree on the terms of what is called a Continuing Resolution, which is basically just a law that assigns funding levels for the government for a very short period of time, in this case just 6 weeks. The reason the government needs to pass a Continuing Resolution is because our elected officials have chosen not to pass a longer term annual budget measure since April 29, 2009. Consequently, the clowns in Washington – on both sides – lurch from crisis to crisis every few months as they re-visit the same old spending disagreements, over and over.

The dividing issue this time – at least on the surface -is that conservative Republicans want to delay for one year the individual mandate of Obamacare as part of any agreement on a Continuing Resolution. The fact that President Obama already unilaterally delayed the employer mandate for one year seems to be lost on most people in the media. The mainstream media (aka the state-run media) of CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have become Obama’s and Harry Reid’s megaphones, as each one continues to characterize Republican conservatives as crazies, anarchists, hostage takers, extremists, and jihadists. Some commentators like Tom Friedman and EJ Dionne have written that the right wing nut jobs are even threatening our very democracy by behaving in such a way.

I don’t think anyone would argue that the Tea Party is the reason the government is shut down. If it were business as usual in Washington, Congress would have already passed the C.R. and Obama would have signed it. End of story. However, Tea Party supported Members of Congress were elected on a platform of reducing annual budget deficits and the national debt through a combination of lower spending and lower taxes. In Obamacare, we see that many people will pay more in taxes and that spending will continue to increase; job creation will continue to suffer. So, it is not business as usual in Washington anymore. Conservative Republicans are on a mission to reduce spending in order to lower our deficit and our debt. They see Obamacare as a symptom of the larger debt problem, and they want to delay implementation of the other half of the law – the individual mandate – that Obama has not already delayed on his own, in return for passing the C.R.

The fact is that our national debt is $17 trillion. We cannot afford business as usual anymore. We cannot afford to continue running annual budget deficits. We cannot afford to pass debt limit increases as though the government is being run on auto pilot. Someone has to take a stand and say, “no more…we are not going to operate like this anymore…we are going to change.” However, only one caucus of one party in one house of congress is willing to now take this stand. The rest of government has not caught up yet. Until they do, we are going to continue to see Washington function like it does now. Republicans are probably going to lose the battle over the Continuing Resolution, but we cannot afford for them to lose the war.

The stalemate over the C.R. is not as important as the upcoming debt limit fight. The government will breach the statutory debt limit in about 2 weeks. Until the president starts to negotiate some kind of deal with Republicans that paves the way for an increase in the debt limit, I would ask that you not believe everything you hear about crazies and extremists and anarchists. A partial government shut down is basically inconsequential in the long term, but failure to raise the debt limit would have far reaching ramifications well into the future. If no compromise between democrats and  republicans can be reached to raise the debt limit, then all of us should consider both sides utterly crazy, extreme, and anarchist, even if the media and many Obama supporters only point their fingers at the other side.

Without fundamental change that corrects the current trajectory of our national debt, the inheritance that we are passing on to our kids will forever change the standard of living of future generations. If Obama continues to refuse to negotiate with the other party, future generations will likely treat him with the same contempt that many Republicans do today.

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Recommended Reading

I’ve read several news articles today on a variety of issues that really resonate with me. Each author does a great job describing common sense positions in a much more effective way than I could ever convey in a reasonable period of time. Yes, writing a blog post takes time to research, think about, and then formulate in words, and for this reason, I offer the following recommend readings, organized by policy issue so that you can read what interests you and leave the rest. Hopefully, a few of you will find at least one issue that interests you enough to read more!

IMMIGRATION: It turns out that many people are not happy at all with the Gang of Eight’s proposed immigration bill because it grants amnesty without sufficiently securing our borders first. Since the government made this mistake when it granted amnesty to a bunch of illegal aliens back in 1984, how can anyone be in favor of repeating this mistake again? Oh yeah, there is an election coming up in about 18 months! You know what, though? I don’t care about another election, and I am sick and tired of politicians getting away with stupid policy decisions because the right policy choice was too painful politically. Just to clarify, I am in favor of making it a lot easier for foreigners to legally immigrate to our country; I am not in favor of allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens without going to the back of the line first; I support securing our border with Mexico as a pre-condition to any amnesty program; and I am in favor of securing the border by constructing an actual fence the entire distance of the border, because this project would secure the border once and for all and because it would create jobs. Final note: I do not agree with the position that Rubio is wrong to work with the other party on this issue. How else will anything ever get done?

“Rubio hit hard after inviting comments on immigration bill” by Byron York, Washington Examiner.

ISLAMIC JIHAD: The administration has removed from its discourse any mention of the policy formerly known as The War on Terror. An article I read early in the week mentioned that an FBI Training Manual had been revised to exclude any mention of Islamic radicals, apparently in an effort to make the training manual less offensive to Muslims and more politically correct in general. From this same article we learn that in a further attempt to remove the focus on Islamic Jihad, the administration has labeled the massacre at Ford Hood in 2009 “workplace violence” instead of the Islamic jihad it really was. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I reluctantly opened Thomas Friedman’s article in today’s NY Times, in which he asks the Muslim community “what is going on in your community that a critical number of your youth believes that every American military action in the Middle East is intolerable and justifies a violent response, and everything Muslim extremists do to other Muslims is ignorable and calls for mostly silence?” More than anything, I am glad to hear a Times opinion writer actually opine on the Muslim community’s role in doing something about the war being waged against the West and even other Muslims by radical Islamists in the name of Allah.

Along the lines of Islamic Jihad, consider reading “Will Boston Probe Falter Like Benghazi” by Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle.

ECONOMY: The WSJ does a great job calling out the Obama Administration for what is clearly a failed economic plan to grow the economy, in its article this week titled “The Growth Deficit.” The results speak for themselves, and the article does a great job detailing the dismal results in case you haven’t been paying attention. In the event you have paid attention and view things differently, then God help you… and read this article by Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner. We have a jobs killing, mandatory health insurance law that does nothing to address the drivers of medical inflation. We have a real unemployment rate approaching 14%, yet plenty of manufacturing firms cannot find employees because welfare recipients earn, on average, 80% of what they would make if they actually had a job. Disability roles have surged because the hurdle for proving disability has been dramatically reduced by a compliant administration. Worst of all, we have a tax and spend administration intent on creating the mother of all welfare states that will soon dwarf, if it does not already, any of the European welfare states, all in the interest of fairness and  in an effort to stick it to the top 1%-5%.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I have always liked Peggy Noonan, but I am sure many people disagreed with her article in the WSJ this week titled “The Presidential Wheel Turns.” I do not disagree with Ms. Noonan’s article.

Well, that’s all folks. I hope everyone has a great week!

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The wheels on the bus go round and round

There hasn’t been anything too terribly interesting in politics lately, which is the reason several weeks have passed since my last post. Sure, the Senate finally passed a budget after 4 years, and the House passed yet another Ryan budget which has zero chance of ever becoming law. Why do both Houses of Congress waste their time passing such partisan budgets? The Senate voted to raise $1 trillion in new taxes, and the House voted to repeal ObamaCare, again. I get that negotiations typically start by staking out an extreme position in order to be able to give ground during the negotiating process before settling on some compromise, but haven’t Democrats and Republicans already staked out their extreme positions quite clearly? Is it really necessary to start all over again with budget bills that were passed almost entirely along partisan lines? Only in Washington, I suppose, is it necessary to waste more time, more money and more effort pandering to each side’s political base (yet again) instead of advancing the interests of the country as a whole by passing legislation that actually has a chance of becoming law.

Speaking of the interests of our country, President Obama visited Israel this week, setting expectations for the visit so low that managing to land Air Force One safely at Ben Gurion Airport could reasonably be touted as cause for celebration. Yet, just as Obama was preparing to leave Israel for Jordan, we are supposed to believe that our chief yahoo was the impetus for Israel’s Netanyahu placing a call to Turkey’s Erdogan to make amends for the 2010 killing of Turkish aid workers. Please Mr. Yahoo, not everyone is a low information voter who takes everything you say at face value and believes that this arrangement was not already pre-planned and pre-packaged well in advance of your arrival in Israel. Indeed, many of us, well, about 47% of us, don’t believe much of any anything you ever say. It is not hard to believe that Hollywood loves this Administration so much, which is why I think many of Obama’s staffers could enjoy post-political careers in the fantasy and make believe world of the country’s left coast.

If Obama really wanted to get something accomplished in the Middle East, he could start by actually using the power of his position to garner support for a coalition of the willing to finally start to do something about the slaughter of over 70,000 Syrians by the most brutal, serial killing opthamologist the world has ever seen, Bashar Al-Assad. It is wrong to think that we could not get support from the Arab world for such an under-taking. In fact, many Arab people are wondering what we are waiting for. Maybe our chief yahoo is waiting for Putin and the communists in China to give us permission. Guess what? They aren’t ever going to give us permission, and if we continue to let the U.N. have its way, then we are giving Iran de facto permission to continue fighting the opthamologist’s battles, which gives the crazies from Persia a stronger opportunity to gain more power in the region as well as a border with Israel.

I thought the use of chemical weapons was a red line for Obama. Yet, news reports this week of chemical weapons now being used have not gotten any legs, which is eerily familiar to the liberal media largely ignoring the fact that Obama misled the entire world about the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi.

Friends, I may sound partisan, but it’s hard not to sound partisan when using facts and truth in discussion of an Administration that is singularly dedicated to maximizing political expediency.

Lastly, I mentioned in my last post that I would discuss Doha, Qatar in this post. Basically, these guys have so much cash from selling oil and natural gas that the buildings you see below are largely empty, the result of a massive building binge coupled with a society that remains relatively closed to outside investment and outsiders in general. Interesting…but not so interesting that it’s worth writing more about it.

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Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Greece We Go

I visited several customers this month, and along the way I learned some interesting facts about how other countries are handling problems like the ones we face in the United States. In this post, I will discuss Greece, the first stop on my trip. What I wanted to learn in Greece is if their economy is as bad as we hear it is from the U.S. news media.

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It seems they still have money to try to keep the Acropolis from falling down.

I asked several Greeks about the state of their economy, including my customer and some of his employees, two policemen patrolling the street, my hotel concierge, the rental car clerk, and many others. The responses ranged from “our economy is terrible” to “we are in a depression” to “it’s not getting any better.” Just how bad is it? Unemployment surged from 20% in November 2011 to 27% this past November. The Greek economy contracted 6% in the 4th quarter of 2012. Listening to Greeks talk about their economy actually sounded a lot worse than hearing about it from the media.

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I was glad they didn’t shoot me when I asked them about their economy.

When the going gets tough in Athens, what do government employees of the metro system do? They go on strike. The Athens metro system was shut down during my visit, hence my opportunity to talk economics with the Hertz agent. In protest over cuts in their pay imposed as a result of wide ranging austerity measures, the striking metro workers have figured out how they can stay off the job each week but still get paid for 4 days of work.

Here’s how the metro workers game the system: the train operators will go on strike on Monday and forfeit their pay for the day, while all the other metro departments get a paid day off. On Tuesday, another department will return the favor and forfeit a day’s pay by going on strike, allowing the train operators and their other non-striking colleagues to enjoy a paid day off.  The same dynamic occurs each day for the rest of the week, resulting in a rotating system of striking employees who make 80% of their regular pay without ever going to work. This sounds a lot like America’s welfare system, at least the part about getting paid handsomely not to work (for which I fault our government entirely, and not the people who cannot find jobs).

POTUS went into full campaign mode this week to drum up indignation and shock about the reductions in the growth of government spending that are slated to go into effect on March 1. Never mind that he proposed this plan, that congress passed the bill, and that his righteousness signed it into law himself. This student of power and how to use it to for social engineering purposes has been schooled, and now he is creating hysteria among the willing, particularly Chris Matthews of MSNBC, Paul Krugman and his buddies at the New York Times, and the rest of the mainstream media, who believe everything POTUS says, despite a long and still growing record of half-truths and blatant lies that are dividing the country and prolonging our economic malaise, that if left un-opposed, may eventually lead us to the same sorry state as Greece. Certainly, comparisons between the U.S. and Greece, with a population of just 11.3 million and no central bank, are not perfect; however, notwithstanding differences of scale and control over monetary policy, our position as the world’s largest debtor nation makes one wonder how long we can continue down this dangerous path before our debt load creates havoc for us like it has for the Greeks.

If we allow reductions in the growth of government spending to take effect, aren’t we just repeating the same mistakes that the austerity driven countries of Europe have made? Not at all. As the tables below demonstrate, the PIGS of Europe (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) have actually had to make real spending CUTS, and the austerity measures have been very tough medicine, indeed. All the sequester is going to do is reduce the rate of spending growth. Shouldn’t we be willing to accept some small scale spending cuts now instead of increasing the risk that we might one day be forced to make real cuts like the PIGS have had to do?

Krugman would have us believe that we “should just call the whole thing off,” that the government should continue priming the Keynsian pump to avoid hurting the economy. Perhaps, he is right. However, what if this particular viewpoint is wrong? Is this risk something we really want to take, running $1 trillion deficits year after year. Is the $6 trillion debt increase under Obama not enough stimulus to show everyone that this approach isn’t exactly creating the robust growth we need? Why would we want to continue down this path after getting such anemic results so far? The government is a terrible steward of the money it receives from taxpayers, and that is reason enough to forget raising taxes again and let the sequester cuts happen.

The private sector endured enormous pain as a result of the financial crisis, while government payrolls continued to grow. Although the sequester may not target cost reductions in the most optimal way, the geniuses in Washington created it because it was the only compromise they could reach. I hope the president’s ego isn’t so enormous that he won’t direct his cabinet secretaries to minimize the disruption in services, rather than create maximum disruption in the hope of achieving political gain. Then again, his motives are always political, which is why he won’t ever achieve his grandiose expectations of being a transformational leader along the lines of MLK or Lincoln.

The graphs below show what real austerity looks like. Click on each graph for a larger image and hit the back button to return to the post.

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Portugal

Ireland

Spain

This last chart shows what reductions in the rate of spending growth looks like, with the total amount spent continuing to climb into the future.

Sequester

In a future post, I will explain what I learned while in Doha, Qatar, an oil rich nation with so much money they don’t know what to do with it all. Meanwhile, Obama can’t make a decision about the Keystone Pipeline, a project that would create thousands of jobs and boost the economies of many Mid-Western states. Perhaps it is better to continue employing armies of bureaucrats in Washington instead of taking advantage of real economic opportunities in the private sector. At least that’s what Obama wants to do.

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Charge It

It appears that the President’s State of the Union speech will deal in large part on the economy, budget deficit and sequester cuts. Commentators and writers will pontificate on the president’s proposals, and lively debate about what the Left and the Right want to do (or not do) will surely ensure. Do not allow yourself to be hoodwinked if you tune in to the speech or the after-speech analysis. The main thing to keep in mind is that if you ran your household the way politicians run our government, you would have some very serious financial problems.

To put this issue into context, let’s assume that back in 2003 a family of 4 earned $60,000  but spent $72,000, putting their excess household expenditures of $12,000 on a credit card. By using the chart below, you can see how this family would have fared over the last 9 years if they did exactly what our government has done. By continuing to spend well in excess of what it earned, this family has racked up over $200,000 in credit card bills.

Household Income Househould Spending Spending put on Credit Card Each Year Total Credit Card Debt
2003 60,000 72,711 -12,711
2004 63,000 77,219 -14,219 -26,930
2005 72,135 83,242 -11,107 -38,037
2006 80,647 89,402 -8,755 -46,793
2007 86,050 91,905 -5,855 -52,648
2008 84,587 100,453 -15,865 -68,513
2009 70,546 118,434 -47,888 -116,401
2010 72,451 116,420 -43,970 -160,370
2011 77,160 121,310 -44,150 -204,520

This week you will hear politicians and pundits say that we cannot cut our way to prosperity. Do not listen to this nonsense. It is a smokescreen designed to mislead you. There isn’t a single proposal in Washington that proposes to spend less this year than last year. All the proposals deal merely with reducing the growth in spending.

You will hear that we cannot balance the budget off the backs of seniors and poor people. Do not listen to this nonsense. It is a smokescreen designed to mislead you. Government expenditures on means tested programs have skyrocketed in recent years. Some modest reductions in these areas is more than prudent.

You will hear defense hawks speak with alarm about how cuts to the Defense Department will significantly impair the military’s ability to defend us. Do not listen to them. They are deluded by self interest. Just remember this one fact: the United States spends more on defense each year than basically all the other countries in the world combined.

The fact is that our government has borrowed over $1 trillion from China since 2003. Don’t you think we ought to quit doing that?

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Profound Inequality

The most serious, most profound and most pressing example of inequality in our country today is not sexual orientation, gender, or race. It is economic. Poverty begets more poverty, continuing from one generation to the next, as long as government social safety net programs continue to undermine personal responsibility and initiative by creating ever more dependency among our nation’s most disadvantaged. Republicans should quit whining about Obama not mentioning deficits in his inaugural address and instead seize upon the principles in his speech to press even harder for entitlement reform and for returning to the successful welfare work requirements that were signed into law almost 20 years.

We don’t need to raise taxes to keep the promises made to seniors who spent their working years paying into social security and medicare programs. We don’t need to raise taxes to invest more in early childhood programs. We need to reform entitlements so that we can continue to keep our promises to seniors and near seniors, and as important, we need a completely new approach to helping children who are born into poverty. For starters, we need school choice, and we need to dismantle the power of teacher’s unions that perpetuates the wildly unfair, unjust, and amoral program of teacher tenure. The teaching profession must be a meritocracy. Otherwise, we will continue to advance the careers of ill-suited teachers at the expense of our children.

For an interesting article from the NY Times this week on the issue of inequality among children, click here. From the same writer at the NY Times, click here for another article about how government programs often perpetuate poverty rather than fix it.

The meaning behind the title of my blog is as much about doing better by children and by people in poverty as it as about anything else. I just hope a leading Republican like Paul Ryan will soon have a larger voice on these matters and that we will hear a lot less from the Eric Cantor wing of the party (e.g. Amash, Huelskamp and anybody else Speaker Boehner kicked of key committees due to their intransigence.)

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