Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

02/10/2010 (7:19 am)

Miss Me Yet?

missmeyet

By way of PowerLine Blog:

This is not a photoshopped image; the sign appears beside I-35 in Wyoming, MN. It’s existence has been confirmed by eyewitnesses. A reporter from Minnesota Public Radio called the billboard company, which confirms that the ad was purchased by some local businessmen who wish to remain anonymous. These businessmen have apparently noticed that the Obama administration’s policies are routinely anti-small-business, favoring large, well-established businesses against smaller ones. Hilarious.

I was no great fan of big-government conservatism, which is really just progressivism on the installment plan, but I do miss him.

What these small businessmen have noticed is something that’s changed in my own thinking over the past year. I used to think that neo-Marxism was anti-business. I still do, but it has become apparent that President Obama’s form of progressivism actually favors the largest, best-established businesses against their competitors, and favors those who employ union members against those who don’t. There’s a place for big corporations in Obama’s America: anyone who pours money into Obama’s coffers gets to survive. He’s running a very large protection racket. Too bad the President is immune from RICO prosecution.

Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism confirms that this has been characteristic of every government run by progressives in the 20th century, including FDR’s and Woodrow Wilson’s. They use strong anti-corporatist rhetoric, but in practice what they oppose is competition; government intrusion favors whoever happens to control the market at the time regulation begins, and progressive policies always favor those businesses who support progressive candidates.

02/09/2010 (8:56 am)

Congressional Republicans' Response

With a hat tip to reader John Cooper, here is the letter sent by Rep John Boehner (R, OH) and Rep Eric Cantor (R, VA) to Rahm Emmanuel in response to President Obama’s invitation to televised, bipartisan talks regarding the health care bill:

We welcome President Obama’s announcement of forthcoming bipartisan health care talks. In fact, you may remember that last May, Republicans asked President Obama to hold bipartisan discussions on health care in an attempt to find common ground on health care, but he declined and instead chose to work with only Democrats. Since then, the President has given dozens of speeches on health care reform, operating under the premise that the more the American people learn about his plan, the more they will come to like it. Just the opposite has occurred: a majority of Americans oppose the House and Senate health care bills and want them scrapped so we can start over with a step-by-step approach focused on lowering costs for families and small businesses.

Just as important, scrapping the House and Senate health care bills would help end the uncertainty they are creating for workers and businesses and thus strengthen our shared commitment to focusing on creating jobs. Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward on health care in a bipartisan way, does that mean he will agree to start over so that we can develop a bill that is truly worthy of the support and confidence of the American people? Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today that the President is “absolutely not” resetting the legislative process for health care.

If the starting point for this meeting is the job-killing bills the American people have already soundly rejected, Republicans would rightly be reluctant to participate. Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward in a bipartisan way, does that mean he has taken off the table the idea of relying solely on Democratic votes and jamming through health care reform by way of reconciliation? As the President has noted recently, Democrats continue to hold large majorities in the House and Senate, which means they can attempt to pass a health care bill at any time through the reconciliation process.

Eliminating the possibility of reconciliation would represent an important show of good faith to Republicans and the American people.If the President intends to present any kind of legislative proposal at this discussion, will he make it available to members of Congress and the American people at least 72 hours beforehand? Our ability to move forward in a bipartisan way through this discussion rests on openness and transparency. Will the President include in this discussion congressional Democrats who have opposed the House and Senate health care bills? This bipartisan discussion should reflect the bipartisan opposition to both the House bill and the kickbacks and sweetheart deals in the Senate bill. Will the President be inviting officials and lawmakers from the states to participate in this discussion?

As you may know, legislation has been introduced in at least 36 state legislatures, similar to the proposal just passed by the Democratic-controlled Virginia State Senate, providing that no individual may be compelled to purchase health insurance. Additionally, governors of both parties have raised concerns about the additional costs that will be passed along to states under both the House and Senate bills. The President has also mentioned his commitment to have “experts” participate in health care discussions.

Will the Feb. 25 discussion involve such “experts?” Will those experts include the actuaries at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who have determined that the both the House and Senate health care bill raise costs – just the opposite of their intended effect – and jeopardize seniors’ access to high-quality care by imposing massive Medicare cuts? Will those experts include the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which has stated that the GOP alternative would reduce premiums by up to 10 percent? Also, will Republicans be permitted to invite health care experts to participate? Finally, as you know, this is the first televised White House health care meeting involving the President since last March.

Many health care meetings of the closed-door variety have been held at the White House since then, including one where a sweetheart deal was worked out with union leaders. Will the special interest groups that the Obama Administration has cut deals with be included in this televised discussion?Of course, Americans have been dismayed by the fact that the President has broken his own pledge to hold televised health care talks. We can only hope this televised discussion is the beginning, not the end, of attempting to correct that mistake. Will the President require that any and all future health care discussions, including those held on Capitol Hill, meet this common-sense standard of transparency and openness?

Your answers to these critical questions will help determine whether this will be a truly open, bipartisan discussion or merely an intramural exercise before Democrats attempt to jam through a job-killing health care bill that the American people can’t afford and don’t support. ‘Bipartisanship’ is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support. Bipartisan ends require bipartisan means.These questions are also designed to try and make sense of the widening gap between the President’s rhetoric on bipartisanship and the reality. We cannot help but notice that each of the President’s recent bipartisan overtures has been coupled with harsh, misleading partisan attacks. For instance, the President decries Republican ‘obstruction’ when it was Republicans who first proposed bipartisan health care talks last May.

The President says Republicans are ‘sitting on the sidelines’ just days after holding up our health care alternative and reading from it word for word. The President has every right to use his bully pulpit as he sees fit, but this is the kind of credibility gap that has the American people so fed up with business as usual in Washington.We look forward to receiving your answers and continuing to discuss ways we can move forward in a bipartisan manner to address the challenges facing the American people.

Sincerely,

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH)

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA)

Not bad. It’s got the recognition that “bipartisan” requires a bipartisan process, not just talks after the fact. It also has the recognition that Obama has spoken disingenuously, accusing the Republicans of having no plan just days after reading their plan. And, it has the recognition that the proposed plan does not address the alleged core justification of reducing costs, while the Republican counter-proposal does. But the core of the response seems to be “Why are you still trying to resurrect a bill that nearly everybody has said they don’t want?”

Me, I hope there’s no bipartisan bill, because the Democrats don’t really want to solve health care, they want government domination of the economy, and I don’t think there’s any valid compromise with that. Health care was not on anybody’s “most pressing issues” list before the Democrats ratcheted up the spin machine for their pet government takeover wedge issue; there is no health care crisis, and there never was. Improving American health care pretty much consists of fixing what Democrats have broken. Two of the chief reasons for high medical costs are government price-fixing and rampant fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, two of Democrats’ Great Society failures (and also the leading cause of our very real fiscal crisis.) Democrats financed by tort lawyers have been the chief impediment to tort reform, which is required in order to fix another main component in our outlandish medical costs, namely frivolous lawsuits. The remaining major cost-inflater is government regulation of insurance, also favored by Democrats. It appears to me that if the Democrats really want to fix health care in America, their best move would be to vanish.

But if the Democrats really want to fix health care using their favorite bludgeon, an oversized Nanny State, they could do it without a complete takeover. A comment I read at Blue Crab Boulevard yesterday pointed out that food stamps solved the food problem for the poor without disturbing the food industry, and health stamps could likewise solve the health insurance problem for the mythical 30 million uninsured in America without disturbing the medical industry. The bill to accomplish this would be about 30 pages long, and the cost would be less than 1/3 of the cost of the Democrats’ current monstrosity. There are sound reasons why this is not a good plan, but it’s far, far better than the Democrats’ current plan, and it’s been mentioned by lots of Democrats. That they’re not pursuing it is the proof that their goal is not solving health care, nor caring for the poor, but extending the reach of government.

02/08/2010 (9:41 am)

Into the Valley of Death Rode the 600

CatonWoodvilleLightBrigadeBarack Obama wants to host a televised meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to discuss health care reform. He made it clear that he does not intend to start over from scratch as the Republicans demanded. This means that he intends to correct the public relations train wreck this bill has become by embarrassing the Republicans, making them appear backwards and obstructionist in front of a television audience.

The title of this post comes from a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson entitled “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” recalling a famous massacre of British soldiers sent to make a gallant but impossible assault on an entrenched position during the Crimean War, in 1854. I used it because it would be suicide for the Republicans to attend this meeting, which is being called solely for the purpose of embarrassing them. The boys over at Blue Crab Boulevard used “The Little Big Horn,” a reference more accessible to 21st century Americans, but we’re saying the same thing.

This is clearly a follow-up on the strategy pursued last week, when the President brazenly accused Republicans at their retreat of creating the impasse that he, himself created by bullying, extremism, and Chicago-style politics. Democrats have been uniformly coached to proclaim total victory, and their echo chamber is in full throat.

I’m certain the Republicans know they’re being invited to an ambush. I’m not certain they’ll discover what they consider an acceptable strategy to avoid it.

It would be good if they could simply refuse to act in a bipartisan manner, but they can’t. The problem is that bipartisanship is like Mom: in politics, there’s no such thing as a bad one.

But bipartisanship is not going to fix what’s wrong with the health care bill. The dollar is in crisis because of grotesquely irresponsible spending; spending a single, red cent on any new program at this moment, no matter how good the program is, is criminal. Subsuming health care into a government program is not a good program, no matter how well crafted. This particular bill is not well crafted. Three strikes.

If I were among the Republican delegation, I might refuse the meeting with a statement like this:

“Though they promised cooperation and transparency, the Democrats crafted this bill themselves, in secluded rooms behind closed doors, in the dark of night. This is The Secret Bill. Now that they wrote it in the dark, they want to discuss The Secret Bill openly with us, and they want to call this bipartisanship. Bipartisanship would be allowing us to participate in the construction of a bill from the start. We’re not going to come to discuss The Secret One, in which we had no part. Mr. President, if you really want to reach across the aisle, prove it by allowing us to participate in writing a new bill.”

Pray, and hold your breath. This is the President’s last gasp at saving the health care bill, a bill that very badly needs to die, be buried, and be forgotten. If the Republicans handle it correctly, it’s dead. If they don’t, God help us.

PresidentQuestionsFromRepublicans

01/30/2010 (11:17 am)

Bipartisan Job Creation, My Posterior

Yesterday Democrats went into a screeching frenzy of glee when Obama mouthed a few Democrat talking points at a Republican Congressional retreat. The sum of the talk was, “Let’s pretend that my hard-left policies and bullying tactics are really moderate, and you guys are really, really naughty for not bending over when I say ‘Bend over.’ Now lets create jobs together.”

I’ve been listening to this blather about government job creation for more than a year, and it’s worn me down. The Republicans are not responding properly at all. The fact that the government’s job creation statistics are fictional does not address the core fallacy. The point is not just that they’re frequently lying when they say the money has created a job, nor that there’s no way to say when a job has been “saved”; it’s that a job created by government spending is always, always, a job that would have been created by private spending if the government had not taken the money. Even if they can show a policeman in Weewau, WI who got a job based on a government grant, the fact is that a machinist in Illinois can’t find a job because the money that would have started a business there was yanked by the government and sent to Wisconsin. Government spending stimulates nothing. It just makes the government bigger, and the private sector smaller.

So, today, while the big news is Obama seducing Republicans to go along with yet another expansion of government, let’s review just how silly Keynesian economic theory really is — the theory that says government borrowing and spending can stimulate an economy. I wrote about this almost exactly a year ago, and here’s the video again — Dan Mitchell from the Cato Institute explaining why Keynesian economics fails to stimulate economies. You might want to go back and read last year’s version, since I did have a few minor quibbles with the video. And then, you get to see a second video by the same guy, explaining why the administration is so interested in concocting a second stimulus when it’s clear that the first stimulus did nothing. Enjoy.

01/29/2010 (6:45 pm)

State of the Union

DeepImpactDeficit

End of discussion.

12/30/2009 (11:24 am)

Democrats Feign TSA Outrage

The latest in the endless string of disingenuous Democratic posturings involves Senate Democrats huffing and puffing over Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R, SC) objection to confirming Errol Southers to be Director of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) by acclamation. They’re predictably getting help from the press: McClatchy newspapers and Huffington Post ran a story on Dec 28 entitled “Who’s Running the TSA? No one, thanks to Sen. Jim DeMint.” It’s a lie — there is an acting Director named Gale Rossides — but it’s an attack.

So let’s put the whole affair in perspective, shall we?

It’s Dec 30, 2009. The President has been President since Jan 21, 2009. There has not been a permanent head of TSA for almost a full year… and yet, McClatchy and Co. are blaming Sen. Jim DeMint for that. Has DeMint been stalling the Senate for a full year? Of course not. It took President Obama 8 months even to nominate somebody to the position. It took a Senate committee 3 and a half months to vote him out of committee. De Mint raised a single objection, based on the nominee’s failure to commit to a position regarding collective bargaining.

But now, Sen. Harry Reid is complaining that DeMint is “politicizing” national security. The Democrats mosied along at a yawn-inducing pace for a full year, then a miscreant tried to bring down an airplane with a bomb in his underwear, and suddenly it’s imperative that we replace the acting TSA director with a permanent director right now. Who’s politicizing what, here? If this is not a knee-jerk, ass-covering impulse on Reid’s part, what is it? And what kind of person jumps into action and points the finger at others after a full year of inaction?

Democrats are holding a debate over how they can best respond to the Republicans over the Flight 253 incident. Not about how best to secure the nation, mind you… how best to answer Republicans. If there was ever a starker contrast between the parties, I don’t remember it. One party actually cares about stopping terrorists. The other cares about how it looks, and how to retain power. And predictably, the party that cares about how it looks, automatically accuses the other party of caring about how it looks — because that’s the only motive they’re capable of imagining, being caught in that narcissistic mode themselves. Classic projection.

One of my favorite quotes observes that “ego is the anesthetic provided by kindly Nature to ease the pain of being a damned fool.” I’m not sure who said it, but he must have been thinking of Democrats avoiding the fact that they are moral vacuums.

The real issue regarding the TSA appoinment appears to be over unionization. Current TSA regulations allow TSA employees to join a union, but does not permit the union to bargain for the employees. This regulation has been upheld by the first 5 directors of TSA. Sen. DeMint asked nominee Erroll Southers whether he was going to uphold that regulation as well, and did not receive an answer. He wants to know before he allows the man to step into the role; the Obama administration, ever union-friendly, has stated that it favors union bargaining for TSA. Harry Reid objects because DeMint would not allow the nomination to be accepted by acclamation, nor to go through without debating the collective bargaining issue, meaning that the Democrats have to go on record supporting it. They could have held this debate at any time during the past 12 months — if they felt that national security was more important than, say, federal funding of abortions, or scuttling auto dealerships that contributed to Republicans.

Meanwhile, perhaps we should ask anybody who’s been through a transit strike, a teacher’s strike, or a policeman’s strike, whether permitting collective bargaining for the nation’s anti-terrorist security gate-keepers might possibly affect airport security.

12/29/2009 (8:40 pm)

Interpol Gets Full Diplomatic Immunity. Beware.

BlackHoleTextBoxTonight’s story begins in 1983, with Ronald Reagan signing Executive Order 12425, making Interpol, the international cooperative between national police forces, a recognized international organization under the International Organization Immunities Act, with a couple of limitations: representatives of Interpol were to be treated as foreign diplomats, but were subject to taxes, import duties, and customs duties, and were refused diplomatic privacy — the files and papers of Interpol here in the US were subject to FBI inspection, inspection by other law enforcement agencies, and Freedom of Information requests.

Here is the original Executive Order, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1983:

By virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and statutes of the United States, including Section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (59 Stat. 669, 22 U.S.C. 288), it is hereby ordered that the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), in which the United States participates pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 263a, is hereby designated as a public international organization entitled to enjoy the privileges, exemptions and immunities conferred by the International Organizations Immunities Act; except those provided by Section 2(c), the portions of Section 2(d) and Section 3 relating to customs duties and federal internal-revenue importation taxes, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act. This designation is not intended to abridge in any respect the privileges, exemptions or immunities which such organization may have acquired or may acquire by international agreement or by Congressional action.

The limits were in Sections 2(c), 3, 4, and 5 of the International Organizations Immunties Act (IOIA). You can read the text of the act here.

On December 17, 2009, President Barack Obama modified Executive Order 12425 to remove those limits. Here is the new Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288), and in order to extend the appropriate privileges, exemptions, and immunities to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), it is hereby ordered that Executive Order 12425 of June 16, 1983, as amended, is further amended by deleting from the first sentence the words “except those provided by Section 2(c), Section 3, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act” and the semicolon that immediately precedes them.

I have been warning since the 90s, after watching President Clinton’s moves at Kyoto and his testing of the waters using NATO to interfere in Yugoslavia’s internal affairs, that the next Democrat to be elected President would cede US sovereignty on several fronts, including environmental oversight, elections, and world courts. We’ve already seen President Obama’s aims regarding internationalizing carbon taxes. Now we’re seeing a genuine incursion into US sovereignty regarding law enforcement and international law.

In a word, this action gives Interpol authority over the US Constitution. They are already free, via diplomatic status, to conduct investigations here in the US. Now their activities can be carried out behind an impenetrable veil of secrecy. Neither the courts, nor the FBI, nor the military, nor private citizens can force access to their work. Section 2(c) of the IOIA reads as follows:

Property and assets of international organizations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, unless such immunity be expressly waived, and from confiscation. The archives of international organizations shall be inviolable.

This actually does more than give Inspector Clouseau the right to keep his papers secret while flatfooting around the United States. There is no uniformed police force called “Interpol.” It’s actually a cooperative venture of law enforcement officials of each of the signatory nations, of which we are one. The US connection to Interpol exists within the Justice Department. As of December 17, the President has created a Black Hole in the middle of the Justice Department. Any activity carried out under auspices of Interpol by Justice Department personnel can be hidden behind that same, impenetrable wall of secrecy. By calling any action of theirs “international,” they create a wall of secrecy that no citizen, no law enforcement agency, no court can penetrate.

InternationalTextBoxIf you think they won’t finagle things to make them “international,” just recall what’s been done to make any commerce “interstate,” so it can be regulated by the federal government under the auspices of the Commerce clause.

Diplomatic immunity makes sense for diplomats. If diplomats were subject to the laws of the nations to which they were sent, they would be at risk from any hostile government that wanted to pass a law targeting them. Diplomats are not in the countries where they’re stationed because they want to be citizens; they’re there representing their own nations. Therefore, nations have agreed to treat diplomatic missions as though they were the territory of the nation being represented, and granted the representatives immunity from their laws.

Interpol is a different story. It’s an investigative body, investigating international crimes. It needs cooperation from member nations, and it needs access, but it does not need immunity. Quite the contrary; it is the limits on police powers that protect US citizens from tyranny. Police within the US have unusual access, but are not immune from laws, and are properly subject to scrutiny. International investigators should be treated the same. With full diplomatic immunity, US investigators operating under the auspices of Interpol can do whatever they like, and nobody has any recourse.

I’ll state this as plainly as I can: what consent I have granted to the United States government to operate in my behalf, as a citizen of the United States, I remove in its entirety as soon as the United States government cedes sovereignty in any manner to any international organization, agency, board, or group. I am not a citizen of the world; I am a citizen of the United States. No international organization has any right to threaten my life, liberty, or property, and any actions I take against individuals representing international organizations are to be considered acts of self-defense, not lawless acts against a properly constituted government. I grant not the slightest authority to any international organization over my liberties.

Andy McCarthy, the former US Attorney who prosecuted the Blind Sheik, explains the act clearly on NRO, and asks the appropriate question: why does Interpol need immunity from American law? Steve Schippert and Clyde Middleton examine the action very throughly at ThreatsWatch; read it all. Schippert also discusses the matter at some length on his radio program, which is available as streaming audio, in which attorney Melissa Clothier asks another question that badly needs an answer: What, exactly, did President Obama need that prompted this unacceptable action? Teresa Monroe-Hamilton adds some ugly facts about the history of Interpol at NoisyRoom.net.

Read all of it, then start the email circuit and get this out to your friends. This needs a very bright searchlight trained on it, and a very loud loudspeaker shouting the question “With what authority do you give away our sovereignty?” This is too far, and we must not permit it to stand.

Toldja. We are so screwed…

12/28/2009 (12:45 pm)

Trickle-Down Obama (Updated Twice)

Non-partisan analysis of recipients from the Obama administration’s first round of stimulus spending indicates that the President and the Democrats in Congress appear to favor a partisan form of trickle-down economics. It seems that 38% of the stimulus spending went to the wealthiest districts, most notably wealthy districts represented by Democrats.

The same analysis could find no correlation between stimulus spending and unemployment. There was no apparent targeting of areas hit hardest by the economic downturn.

RichMoreTextBoxThe analysis, a working paper entitled “Stimulus Facts” published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, was prepared by senior research fellows Veronique De Rugy and Jerry Brito. The Mercatus Center is a think tank researching economic policy issues.

The study took districts reporting having received stimulus funds and broke them into Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) by zip code, then grouped them into quintiles by the median income of each MSA as reported by the Census Bureau. It was determined that districts within the highest-income MSA’s received 38.16% of the stimulus funds reported in the 4th quarter of 2009, or roughly $55 billion. Only about $2 billion, or 1.43%, went to districts in the lowest quintile. Considering all the stimulus money allocated, about $114 billion, or 78%, went to districts with above-average median incomes, whereas only about $32 billion, or 22%, went to districts with below-average median incomes.

The working paper also analyzed stimulus spending by political indicators, including which of the presidential candidates the district voted for in 2008, the party affiliation of the Congressperson representing the district, the Congressperson’s tenure in office, whether the Congressperson chaired a major committee, and whether the Congressperson sat on the Appropriations Committee. Of these, only one variable showed a significant effect on the distribution of stimulus dollars: districts represented by Democrats received 1.8 times as many dollars as districts represented by Republicans, on 1.6 times as many individual awards of funds. It didn’t matter who the district voted for for president, nor did it matter what committee the district’s representative sat on. Only party affiliation mattered. Predictably, Democrats received almost twice as much money.

Non-political variables considered by the researchers included unemployment levels, average income, and affiliation with the construction industry. Of these, the only variable that indicated a group that received disproportionate funds was income; the highest-income areas received by far the most funds. Democrats in Congress touted their focus specifically on the construction industry during the debates in Congress, but apparently did not direct funds disproportionately to areas hosting construction companies.

One more thing — more than half of the stimulus dollars went to governmental entities rather than private ones, according to the Washington Examiner’s article discussing the findings.

DemMoreTextBoxSo, the stimulus money was taken by a Democratic Congress and sent to the richest districts represented by Democrats. So much for the myth that Democrats care about the poor, eh? This distribution is far more uneven than as uneven as any spending by any free-market Republican could ever be. In fact, it appears that the primary criterion determining which district would receive stimulus funds was that district’s ability to supply contributions to the nearest Congressman — and most emphatically the nearest Democratic Congressman.

This illustrates the core fallacy of the liberal mindset. Their arguments always begin and end by identifying an inequality produced by free markets. They supply no argument or evidence whatsoever regarding what a government-run solution will produce instead. The entire argument consists solely of the existence of the inequality. It is a fact that government-run solutions invariably produce worse inequalities, but inequalities along partisan lines, favoring the wealthy friends of those who are handing out favors.

Leftists think — or want you to think — that self-interested systems will be replaced by systems run by the wholly Good and Righteous, meaning themselves. What occurs in reality is very different from what they imagine in their fantasies. Leftists hold a completely political view of man (or sometimes an economic, gender-centric, or race-centric view of man), and consequently seldom focus on reforming the weaknesses in their own character, except as they relate to politics (economics, gender, race, or what have you). They are thus at the mercy of their own foibles when they come to power, and behave abominably. Everybody suffers due to policies based on incorrect principles — except those closest to the power centers, who apportion wealth and protection to themselves and their friends. Welcome to the nest-feathering autocracy of the Left.

Remember this statistic the next time any leftist sneers about “trickle-down economics” from Republican policies. When given absolute power, leftists give far more to the wealthy than do conservatives. Only, they don’t do it thinking that it will actually help the economy; they do it thinking they’ll help their friends.

A caveat about the survey: for the analysis the researchers used data retrieved from Recovery.gov, the Obama administration’s site reporting the effects of stimulus spending. The numbers on Recovery.gov are self-reported by recipients. It is possible that there were reporting biases in the data; that is, it is possible that a greater number of Democratic recipients of stimulus funds reported their grants than did Republicans. It is also possible that wealthier districts reported more faithfully than did less wealthy districts. I saw no indication that the researchers assessed this possibility, and can offer only conjecture regarding the possible impact on the data. My gut tells me that correcting for reporting bias could affect the Democrat/Republican statistic a little, but would not change the statistic about the wealth of the districts receiving funds. But that’s just a guess. YMMV.


UPDATE 12/29: Another caveat about the data, this one pretty big. I noticed that in the table from the working paper that contains the primary statistic reported in this piece, namely the one claiming that 96.4% of the stimulus money went to districts in the top quintile of median incomes, that the percentages in the top and bottom quintiles total to 100%. That would mean there were no districts in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th quintiles. This does not sound correct, so I’m trying to contact the authors. In the meantime, please consider that 96.4% figure suspect. I’ll give you the facts as soon as I’ve verified them. Thanks.


UPDATE 12/30: I contacted the researchers, who acknowledged that there was an error in the white paper at the place I noticed. They are adjusting their figures, and send me appropriate adjustments. I’ll note here that the original report claimed that 96.39% of stimulus funds went to the top quintile, when in actuality it was 38.16%. They also reported originally that 3.61% of stimulus funds went to the bottom quintile, when it was actually 1.43%. I have changed the numbers in the article proper, but not the analysis — I think the disparity between what was received by the districts in the top and bottom quintiles speaks for itself. Whatever Democrats said about trickle-down economics, what they have produced with their back-scratching corruptocracy is worse.

12/10/2009 (6:49 pm)

The Coming Permanent Oligarchy

obamablackboard

It’s not every day that Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake and I even appear to agree on anything, so we should mark this occasion somehow.

Jane posted an email that she sent to subscribers to FDL’s Action Memos regarding her opinion that President Obama has utterly failed to address the pressing needs of health care reform, opting instead to satisfy the desires of huge corporations and cronies. And I agree, that’s exactly what he’s done, and the bill is a failure. Read:

When Barack Obama announced his health care plan in 2007, he said insurance premiums for a family of 4 would be cut by $2500. This plan will see premiums increase $1000 each year.

Obama said “coverage without cost containment will only shift our burdens, not relieve them.” This plan does nothing to meaningfully contain spiraling health care costs.

Obama said “it’s time to let the drug and insurance industries know that while they’ll get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair.” This plan includes a deal between the White House and PhRMA that guarantees there will be no negotiation for Medicare prescription drug prices.

Obama said he’d go after the drug companies who “sell the same exact drugs here in America for double the price of what they charge in Europe and Canada.” But the White House deal not only doesn’t do that, it bans the reimportation of cheaper drugs from Canada.

What does this deal do? It forces Americans to buy the products of large corporations, then the IRS penalizes them if they refuse.

Now, Jane’s object was to get people to sign a petition demanding a true public option. This, of course, I won’t support, because the public option is nothing but a Trojan Horse to produce a full-blown, government-run health system, which will bankrupt the nation, shrink the US health system to 2nd-world size, and leave even more Americans without health care.

But I find it encouraging that Ms. Hamsher at least may be beginning to realize that she’s been a useful idiot in the construction of an oligarchy that includes the largest corporate players, along with the unions and permanent, “Democratic” party oligarchs like The One.

I was surprised at first by Obama’s willingness to include the most powerful corporations in his power grab, but I should not have been. Remember the image of Obama teaching an ACORN class that I scared up during the campaign, the one that appears at the top of this column? He was lecturing on power relationships. I’ve never attended any of his classes, but based on what I know of Saul Alinsky and the tactics of community organizers, I can imagine that he’s actually teaching how the greed of various players can be tapped to get them to cooperate in schemes that you might think they’d avoid like the plague.

This seems to be a powerful part of Mr. Obama’s power strategy. He’s been negotiating with the largest corporate players all along, not to get them to agree to their own demolition, but to ensure monopoly power for them within the new, permanent power regime. In return, they apparently promise to support his power grab, and they fail to engage their marketing muscle into the sort of publicity that might defeat the administration’s proposals in public.

Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner noted from the right what Jane Hamsher noted from the left: that Obama’s commitment seems to be to a permanent power position for the largest players:

But this facade of Democrats-versus-industry is crumbling now that the final bill is being crafted. The measure still contains the insurers’ grand prize, the individual mandate — a federal requirement that every individual buy sufficiently comprehensive health insurance.

By late Tuesday, all signs pointed to Democratic abandonment of the one major “reform” policy that the insurers’ hated: a government-run insurer, known as the “public option.” Sen. Joe Lieberman said that in Senate negotiations, Obama didn’t even bring up the public option as a bargaining point, which shows it’s not a White House priority.

Liberal and moderate Democrats early this week were lining up behind an alternative “public option” that is not public at all, but just another government program to funnel Americans into private health insurance. As the Associated Press put it, “instead of Medicare-for-the-masses, it would be Blue Cross Blue Shield or Kaiser Permanente, albeit with a government seal of approval.”

And the drug makers? They cut their deal with the White House early. Obama promised not to go after their government favors such as the ban on reimportation of drugs and high Medicare payments and, in exchange, the drug makers offered $150 million in “Harry & Louise” ads rallying the public behind “reform” together with some discounts for Medicare patients.

Even outside of this deal between White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and top drug lobbyist Billy Tauzin, the drug companies stand to profit from Obama’s plan, which subsidizes prescription drug purchases and will likely mandate prescription drug insurance.

The heads of the largest corporations are not stupid men. I’m sure they realize that President Obama is not their friend. However, I’m sure they also see that economic liberty is no longer part of the landscape, and they see their best available deal as becoming corporate partners to Big Brother. If democracy will not protect their right to engage in business freely, they will serve whatever master permits them the best return for the longest time, regardless of the ism represented by that master. They may favor liberty personally, but their corporations will not become martyrs.

In addition to striking deals with the largest corporations, the Obama administration has also been extremely friendly to unions, and in particular the Service Employees International Union (SEIU.) SEIU President Andy Stern was the most frequent visitor to the White House during the Obama administration’s first 6 months, and the SEIU perpetuates President Obama’s intention to incorporate ACORN into American government somehow. Administration policy has rolled back union disclosure guidelines, slashed budget for the union watchdog arm of the Dept of Labor, and written pro-union guidelines into the stimulus bill and the auto industry bailout. Union representatives (and other major contributors to Obama’s perpetual campaign) continue to get seated at the head of the table at official White House functions. And one of the most obvious beneficiaries of national health care reform would be those unions whose retiree pension plans are approaching bankruptcy.

So the Obama administration is no better for progressives, ultimately, than it is for conservatives. We were wrong to assert that Obama is a pure socialist. He’s far more cynical than that, and seems to be operating more along the lines of the Soviet Communist Party, which was anything but communist. He apparently intends to establish an oligarchy of mutual interest, merging the common aims of the unions, the largest businesses, and the heads of the Democratic party. And have no doubt: we know by the persistent stacking of the deck that he fully intends for this oligarchy to become permanent.

A final word to ardent capitalists and free marketeers: huge corporations are not your friend, and never have been. The market thrives on competition, and the largest players tend to operate anti-competitively. The real losers in the coming permanent oligarchy will be small businessmen, whose insignificance is being guaranteed by the new rules favoring the largest players. And, of course, those citizens whose personal fortunes might have been secured by engaging in successful small businesses are the losers as well, as are those hourly wage-earners those businesses might have hired. In fact, the entire economy will shrink as a result of the oligarchic power of the largest players. But Obama will have formed his power circle, and that’s what matters. The good of The One is the good of the nation. Don’t you know that?

12/02/2009 (2:29 pm)

And the Least Realistic Part of His Speech

There are some serious factual errors in Obama’s speech, but this one, I think, constitutes the largest bending of the facts:

I am mindful of the words of President Eisenhower, who – in discussing our national security – said, “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.”

Over the past several years, we have lost that balance, and failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy. In the wake of an economic crisis, too many of our friends and neighbors are out of work and struggle to pay the bills, and too many Americans are worried about the future facing our children.

The claim here is that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the reasons for the sour economy. This is the expected “It’s the Bush Administration’s fault” part of the speech, carefully disguised as expected. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been expensive, yes, but they have very little to do with the sour economy. The economic troubles are the result of the confluence of a dozen different elements, including the loosening of loan standards (something to which Mr. Obama contributed personally,) errant Fed policy, Democrats committing fraud at FNMA, short-sighted bond-rating agencies, and much more. The alleged “fix” for the economy has been much, much more damaging than these wars, and in fact attempted to spend in just two or three years considerably more than the wars cost in their entirety.

In fact, Democrats usually attempt to claim that WWII is what ended the Great Depression. For President Obama to claim in this instance that war spending is what caused the recession flies in the face of consistent Democratic posturing, and demonstrates yet again that Democrats don’t have principles, they just pick up whatever is nearby and handy to smack whatever target they’re aiming at today. If you ask him, I feel certain President Obama would also say that WWII ended the Great Depression, and would feel no sense of irony or embarrassment if the conflict were pointed out to him.

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