Saturday, September 24, 2011

Obama's Austerity Plan

From Mark Steyn's latest column (NRO).

"As its own contribution to the end of the world as we know it, the Obama administration has just released a document called “Living Within Our Means and Investing in the Future: The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction.” If you’re curious about the first part of the title — “Living Within Our Means” — Veronique de Rugy pointed out at National Review that under this plan debt held by the public will grow from just over $10 trillion to $17.7 trillion by 2021. In other words, the president’s definition of “Living Within Our Means” is to burn through the equivalent of the entire German, French, and British economies in new debt between now and the end of the decade. You can try this yourself next time your bank manager politely suggests you should try “living within your means”: Tell him you’ve got an ingenious plan to get your spending under control by near doubling your present debt in the course of a mere decade. He’s sure to be impressed."

Saturday, September 17, 2011


One aim of the Obama administration, and its allies in Congress, has been to drive up the costs of the nation's traditional energy sources - oil, gas and electricity - in order to advance its goal of a "green" driven economy. The idea is to make new technologies - wind, solar, and biomass - which are presently costly, inefficient and unreliable, appear attractive relative to cheaper, efficient and reliable older technologies. The strategy has yielded mixed results. While renewable sources have failed to make much of a contribution to the nation's energy needs, some progress has been made in fleecing consumers. Oil and gas prices have risen, in part, due to the administration's reluctance to issue new drilling permits. Obama's proposal to remove tax incentives for oil exploration, if enacted, will also have an inflationary effect. Passage of "cap and trade" legislation would have caused electricity prices to soar. The bill made it through the Pelosi House before failing in the Senate. Democrats still hope that they can achieve similar results by regulatory fiat - the EPA has passed rules limiting CO2 emissions from factories, oil refineries and electric utilities.

The government hasn't always been intrusive in matters best left to private initiative. In the late 19th century there was a recognized need to replace horses as the chief mode of transportation. As a New York Times article points out,

Back then, 100,000 to 200,000 horses lived in the city (New York). A typical horse produced from 15 to 30 pounds of manure (with the average output about 22 pounds) and about a quart of urine a day, usually distributed along the course of its route or deposited in the stable…

…The manure piles attracted huge numbers of flies, and one journalist writing in Appleton Magazine in 1908, charged that each year 20,000 New Yorkers died from “maladies that fly in the dust, created mainly by horse manure.”

…The horses posed another sanitation problem when they dropped dead — sometimes from overwork, sometimes from disease (like horse distemper and other maladies that caused horses to swell overnight). In 1880, New York City removed 15,000 dead horses from its streets. But sometimes a big carcass would simply be left to rot until it had disintegrated enough for someone to pick up the pieces.

Yet the federal government didn’t plow taxpayer money into the production of primitive, yet pricey gasoline powered motor vehicles. The market was allowed to respond to the problem and the result was Henry Ford’s assembly line. In our time, a “green” Henry Ford has yet to emerge.

Common sense dictates that new technologies should be well developed before being put into large scale practice. For Obama, politics will trump common sense every time. And politics was the impetus behind the Solyndra scandal. The loan guarantee to a company clearly headed toward bankruptcy was just a small part of the first "stimulus" bill but it exemplifies the bill’s true focus, not job creation, but payouts to Democratic constituency groups and campaign contributors. However, there's more to the affair than just logrolling.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy (NRO) has written a lengthy review of the facts of the case. I've excerpted some passages.

McCarthy describes the Solyndra scandal as

...not just Obama-style crony socialism as usual. It is a criminal fraud. That is the theory that would be guiding any competent prosecutor’s office in the investigation of a scheme that cost victims — in this case, American taxpayers — a fortune.

In 2003… the Justice Department famously charged Martha Stewart with securities fraud. Among other allegations, prosecutors cited public statements she had made in press releases and at a conference for securities analysts — statements in which she withheld damaging information in an effort to inflate the value of her corporation and its stock.

That’s exactly what President Obama did on May 26, 2010, with his Solyndra friends about to launch their initial public offering of stock.
The solar-panel company’s California factory was selected as the fitting site for a presidential speech on the virtues of confiscating taxpayer billions to prop up pie-in-the-sky clean-energy businesses.

...the company was hemorrhaging money and, even with the loan, would lack the necessary working capital to turn that equation around. Yet they caved under White House pressure to sign off in time for Vice President Joe Biden to make a ballyhooed announcement of the loan in September 2009. An OMB e-mail laments that the timing of the loan approval was driven by the politics of the announcement “rather than the other way around.”

[An aside - Timing is a major tactic of Obama politics. Two examples. Troop levels will be reduced in Afghanistan on September 15, 2012, during the thick of the fighting season, but just before the election. The pernicious effects of the tax rate increase and full Obamacare implementation will be felt in 2013 and 2014, after the election].

Continuing with McCarthy's column -

Why so much pressure to give half a billion dollars to a doomed venture? The administration insists it had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Solyndra’s big backers include the George Kaiser Family Foundation. No, of course not. George Kaiser, an Oklahoma oil magnate, just happens to be a major Obama fundraiser who bundled oodles in contributions for the president’s 2008 campaign. Solyndra officers and investors are said to have visited the White House no fewer than 20 times while the loan guarantee was being considered and, later, revised. Kaiser, too, made several visits — but not to worry: Both he and administration officials deny any impropriety. You’re to believe that the White House was just turning up the heat on OMB and DOE because Solyndra seemed like such a swell investment.

Solyndra’s backers disclosed the auditors’ bleak diagnosis in March 2010. The government had thus been aware of it for two months when President Obama made his May 26 Solyndra speech — the speech Solyndra backers were clearly hoping would mitigate the damage.

As president, Obama had a fiduciary responsibility to be forthright about Solyndra’s grim prospects — in speaking to the American taxpayers whose money he had redistributed, and to the American investors who were about to be solicited for even more funding. Instead, he pulled a Martha Stewart.

The president looked us in the eye and averred that, when it came to channeling public funds into private hands, “We can see the positive impacts right here at Solyndra.”
He bragged that the $535 million loan had enabled the company to build the state-of-the-art factory in which he was then speaking. He said nothing about how Solyndra was continuing to lose money — public money — at a catastrophic pace. Instead, he painted the brightest of pictures: 3,000 construction workers to build the thriving plant; manufacturers in 22 states building an endless stream of supplies; technicians in a dozen states constructing the advanced equipment that would make the factory hum; and Solyndra fully “expect[ing] to hire a thousand workers to manufacture solar panels and sell them across America and around the world.”

Not content with that rosy portrait, the president further predicted a “ripple effect”: Solyndra would “generate business for companies throughout our country who will create jobs supplying this factory with parts and materials.” Sure it would. The auditors had scrutinized Solyndra and found it to have, from its inception, a fatally flawed business model that was hurtling toward collapse. Obama touted it as a redistribution success story that would be rippling jobs, growth, and spectacular success for the foreseeable future.

...with numbing predictability, the Obama administration proceeded with an unjustifiable restructuring. In exchange for lending some of their own money and thus buying more time, Solyndra officials were given priority over taxpayers with respect to the first $75 million in the event of a bankruptcy — the event all the insiders and government officials could see coming from the start, and that hit the rest of us like a $535 million thunderbolt last week.

(My emphases)

Will Obama will receive the same punishment meted out to Martha Stewart?
Certainly. As soon as Bill Clinton is jailed for lying to a grand jury.
Apparently, Democratic presidents committing felonies face no consequences for their actions.

At least Obama and friends have learned their lesson, no?
No. Michelle Malkin writes that the money continues to flow into the green sinkhole.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dr. K In 2012

If I had the authority to appoint a president, the decision would be easy - Charles Krauthammer. Here is the clearest, most sensible analysis of the Social Security problem and how to fix it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Here again is the passage from a column by Victor Davis Hanson that I posted last week.

If one had collated everything candidate Obama declaimed about the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies from autumn of 2007 to November 2008, then one would have expected a President Obama to dismantle the entire Bush-Cheney national-security apparatus upon entering office, to pull out of Iraq (he originally said this should be done by March 2008, no less), and to keep our military out of the Middle East. Instead, Obama retained Secretary of Defense Gates, stuck to the Bush-Petraeus withdrawal plan in Iraq, expanded Predator-drone attacks in Waziristan, surged into Afghanistan, bombed Libya, and embraced everything from Guantanamo to renditions. That about-face, I think, was the most radical political development of the last quarter-century, and was treated with near silence by the media. It was as if, Code Pink, and Michael Moore had simply vanished from the face of the earth sometime around January 2009.

The question is, Why? Why did President Obama so casually and thoroughly discard Candidate Obama’s firmly stated (if not firmly held) belief that his predecessor’s antiterrorism policies were needless, ineffective and damaging? A belief shared nearly unanimously by his liberal-left base and by much of the sycophantic media.

The answer is (or should be) obvious. Candidate Obama, being Obama, didn’t know what he was talking about. He was ignorant, as were (are) his supporters, of the seriousness of the threat facing the U.S. from Islamic extremism. That threat isn’t just some concoction of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz neo-con cabal. It’s real. Bush’s final Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, is one of the most passionate and convincing spokesmen warning of the dangers we face. He notes that as a federal judge, the bench did little to prepare him to deal with the daily briefing he received as AG about the threat to America. “It is way beyond, way beyond anything that I knew or believed”.

Once Obama learned the details of the threat, he had no choice but to maintain the elaborate and highly successful anti-terrorism architecture that Bush had put in place. After all, as Mark Steyn points out, Obama can’t have a terrorist attack interfering with his plan to impose his socialist vision on the country.

As I saw it in November, 2008, there would be three beneficial consequences to Obama’s election. 1) The U.S. would have its first black president; 2) Democrats would be forced to accept the reality of the War against Radical Islam; and 3) We would be spared the calamity of a President Hillary Clinton. The first two have been realized. There’s a better than even chance the third will be.

A couple of good 9/11 columns –

Charles Krauthammer castigates those who deny the success of our reaction to the 9/11 attacks.

Our current difficulties and gloom are almost entirely economic in origin, the bitter fruit of misguided fiscal, regulatory, and monetary policies that had nothing to do with 9/11. America’s current demoralization is not a result of the War on Terror. On the contrary. The denigration of the War on Terror is the result of our current demoralization, of retroactively reading today’s malaise into the real — and successful — history of our 9/11 response.

And Mark Steyn writes what you would expect him to write for this anniversary, deriding the touchy-feely commemorations that completely miss the true significance of 9/11.

Upon arrival at the foot of the towers, two firemen were hit by falling bodies. “There is no other way to put it,” one of their colleagues explained. “They exploded.”
Any room for that on the Metropolitan Museum’s “Peace Quilt”? Sadly not. We’re all out of squares.

Mayor Bloomberg’s office has patiently explained, there’s “not enough room” at the official Ground Zero commemoration to accommodate any firemen. “Which is kind of weird,” wrote the Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle, “since 343 of them managed to fit into the exact same space ten years ago.”

343 NYFD firemen died that day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


One of my favorite scenes in the movie Amadeus has the composer Antonio Salieri conducting the ending of his latest Opera (Axur, re d'Ormus). At the conclusion of the piece, the (mostly musically illiterate) audience gives him a rousing ovation. The Austrian Emperor (Joseph ll) makes his way to the stage to proclaim that what was just heard was the greatest opera ever composed. After the Emperor leaves, Mozart approaches Salieri. Salieri, who idolizes Mozart as a composer (while detesting him personally), asks him if he was pleased by the opera. Mozart responds with sarcasm, which the clueless Salieri fails to detect.

Mozart - "I never knew music like that was possible".

Salieri – "You flatter me."

Mozart – "No no. One hears such sounds and what can one say but… Salieri!"

So it was with President Obama’s latest campaign speech Thursday night, badly disguised as a fix for the economy. “When one hears such words what can one say but…Obama!"

It’s been said – quite frequently nowadays – that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This actually seems more like stupidity to me. Whichever way you label it, liberals are clearly afflicted. I read recently that government stimulus packages have three effects – two of which are negative. There’s the initial temporary positive jolt to the economy – the sugar rush after eating a candy bar. This is followed by a depressive reaction as the stimulus passes through the system and flickers out – the sugar hangover. Then, finally the bill comes due – the candy bar needs to be paid for, with interest.
The first stimulus package, passed by a Democratic Congress (without a single Republican assenting vote – good for them), and signed by the president, cost roughly $850 billion. It caused a brief, minor uptick in growth, which then faded. We’re now suffering through the second phase – slow growth, high unemployment – which will worsen as the economy is further burdened with the expectation of higher taxes to pay the bill.

Liberals (notably, Paul Krugman) speculate that the stimulus didn’t work because it wasn’t big enough. (That’s what she said). Even if that were true, and it isn't, tacking on a smaller one ($450 billion) after the small beneficial effect of the first has died away, is certain to fail. For Obama, that doesn’t matter so much as the campaign imperative to show that he’s “doing something”.

Holman Jenkins has a perceptive column in the WSJ today which captures Obama’s true sentiments. Jenkins’ piece is written as a satirical first draft of Obama's Thursday speech. A few excerpts –

Jobs are the No. 1 priority of the American people. Jobs are the No. 1 priority of my administration's rhetoric. Jobs have not been the No. 1 priority of my administration's policies, however.

Consider my background. I don't know much about business and, frankly, don't care to. You see, I have a self-reinforcing image of Barack Obama. I am high-minded. Business people are greedy and, somehow, lesser. I stay focused on that.
Some might say, "Had I known this I never would have voted for you." A) You weren't listening carefully; and B) that was my intention, my art. To conceal—for instance, by dropping one's Gs—is what it means to be an effective left-wing ideologue in America these days.

In closing, let us recognize that an election is approaching. The time is upon us when my administration must ratchet up its rhetoric to make it sound like your agenda (jobs, growth) is my agenda.
Indeed, I will begin tonight by junking the more revealing passages of this draft speech and pretending that I place a higher value on job-creating pragmatism than on my progressive shibboleths.
This, I hope, will cause you to re-elect me. Thank you for listening.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ten Years After

Excerpts from Historian Victor Davis Hanson's column on NRO today.

"Someone somewhere did something that kept us safe, but we were strangely afraid to acknowledge that there was any utility in the very protocols and foreign operations that had weakened our enemies to the point of an inability to replicate 9/11."

"If one had collated everything candidate Obama declaimed about the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies from autumn of 2007 to November 2008, then one would have expected a President Obama to dismantle the entire Bush-Cheney national-security apparatus upon entering office, to pull out of Iraq (he originally said this should be done by March 2008, no less), and to keep our military out of the Middle East. Instead, Obama retained Secretary of Defense Gates, stuck to the Bush-Petraeus withdrawal plan in Iraq, expanded Predator-drone attacks in Waziristan, surged into Afghanistan, bombed Libya, and embraced everything from Guantanamo to renditions. That about-face, I think, was the most radical political development of the last quarter-century, and was treated with near silence by the media. It was as if, Code Pink, and Michael Moore had simply vanished from the face of the earth sometime around January 2009."

"The age-old idea that killing die-hard enemies wins wars and ensures the peace is for some antithetical to the spirit of counterinsurgency doctrine, at least superficially so…Tens of thousands of hard-core jihadists from as far away as Algeria, Chechnya, Egypt, the Gulf monarchies, Libya, Syria, and Yemen obeyed the calls for jihad issued by the likes of Osama bin Laden, Dr. Zawahiri, and Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi. They flocked to al-Qaeda’s “main theater” of jihad in Iraq — and in Baghdad and throughout Anbar Province were killed in droves by the U.S. military and its Iraqi allies. Only off the record will military officers confess that the eventual American success in Iraq was due in some part to doing away with murderous jihadists and impressing the local population with our martial superiority. And even off the record, few will suggest that the absence of such killers from the world’s pool of hard-core terrorists may well have made life safer at home. We are in a new age when we “beat” or “subdue” the enemy but do not admit that we do that often through killing him. The Iraq War has become a story about troop levels, hearts and minds, and training the Iraqis, but not much about a shooting war in which thousands of jihadists lost."

"Conventional wisdom about our various responses to 9/11, and especially during the depression that followed from the Iraqi insurgency, dictated that the entire Arab Middle East would be set afire by U.S. intervention and retaliation…But in fact, while there were a few terrorist incidents, there were no oil embargoes, no mass uprisings, no concentrated attacks on U.S. bases."

"…for nearly 30 years Dick Cheney was a centrist fixer, praised by liberals as fair-minded, bipartisan, and sober and judicious in his rhetoric. He supported Ford over Reagan, tried to cut lavish weapons systems at the Pentagon, and brought a Wyoming humbleness to his Washington power-brokering. Then suddenly this all vanished with cries of “war criminal,” as the puerile Ronald Reagan Jr. recently exclaimed on MSNBC…Somehow bloggers and op-ed writers have established by their selective outrage a narrative that it was immoral of Cheney to approve the waterboarding of three confessed terrorists like KSM, but quite moral of Obama to expand fivefold the Predator targeted-assassination program that served as judge, jury, and executioner of suspected terrorists — and of any living thing in their vicinity when the Hellfire missiles obliterated their compounds."