Thursday, September 08, 2011

Cruising the Web

Before I go forth with my usual survey of interesting entries I've noted on the web, I'd like to link to what looks like a great new series from C-Span. They're going to in-depth look at prominent American politicians who ran for the presidency and lost. I loved their series on the American presidents and American writers. Now I'm eagerly anticipating tuning in to learn more about such men as Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, James G. Blaine ("the Continental Liar from the state of Maine"), Barry Goldwater, Hubert Humphrey, and quite a few others. C-Span is a national treasure!

The Washington Post gives Barack Obama the dreaded Four Pinocchios for his claim that he put in place the biggest middle-class tax cut in history." The White House is now claiming that he signed a tax cut going to the broadest section of the American people, but their source is a report that quoted a White House fact sheet. Nice how that works. As Timothy Carney adds on, this is why it's so hard to trust Barack Obama.
You might think this is a nitpick -- Obama meant "broadest" and he said "biggest." But it reflects a pattern.

This is often President Obama's way of misleading. He uses words in ways that nobody else uses them. In other words, he says some words, intending to mean one thing, presumably knowing his audience will hear something else.

He did this on lobbying. In his State of the Union Address, Obama said, "We have excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs." But I counted fifty ex-lobbyists in policymaking jobs. So I asked the White House about this. The response: "As the President said, we have turned away lobbyists for many, many positions."

America heard "we haven't hired lobbyists." Obama had to know that's how it would sound. But he meant "there are some lobbyists who didn't get the job in our administration for which they applied."
For people appalled that Rick Perry would call Social Security a Ponzi scheme, just pay attention to the facts. Jeff Jacoby unpacks the ridiculous way the government has been borrowing the money from the supposed trust fund so that now all that we have our government IOU's.
But the trust fund's assets are an illusion. Social Security doesn't own $2.6 trillion in gold bars or real estate or shares of Google. All it has are Treasury IOUs. Those IOUs represent $2.6 trillion that the government has already spent and promises to spend again. But in order to spend it again -- to redeem those IOUs -- Congress will have to raise taxes, cut spending, or go deeper into debt. Which is exactly what Congress would have to do if the Social Security trust fund didn't exist.

A US government bond is a sound and valuable asset -- for anyone but the US government. Just as you don't increase your wealth when you write yourself a check, the government cannot sock away $2.6 trillion by promising to pay itself $2.6 trillion. "The assets of the Social Security trust fund," the Congressional Budget Office has explained, "do not represent any real stock of resources set aside to pay for benefits in the future." The trust fund is a ledger entry, nothing more.
As usual, Jonah Goldberg is exactly right about the opportunity that MSNBC missed by following the GOP debate with commentary of a panel of their usual lefites.
They’re professionally dumb. MSNBC gets terrible ratings. Some of Fox’s repeats beat MSNBC’s prime time fare. This debate offered the network a golden opportunity to reintroduce themselves to many viewers (including me) who’ve come to ignore them for all the obvious reasons. Instead of offering something like an interesting, balanced, panel. They went with Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, Eugene Robinson and Ed Schultz, moderated by Rachel Maddow — with extra commentary from a seemingly drooling Chris Matthews (I particularly liked Al Sharpton sharing his insights on what turns off moderates and independents). In other words they doubled-down on their MSNBCness. Anyone who was thinking that maybe they should give the network a second chance probably turned within 5 minutes. Liberals might respond that Fox does the same thing, except it really doesn’t. They always have at least one Democrat or liberal, particularly for something like a Democratic debate. MSNBC couldn’t even rustle up Joe Scarborough? But even if Fox did, so what? From a business perspective Fox can afford to go with their strengths because they are a ratings juggernaut. MSNBC isn’t. It’s like they’re happy being a runt network.
Josh Kroshaar argues that Rick Perry will, contrary to Democrats' expectations, be Obama's worst nightmare. I'm not so sure, but the Perry team would probably like to send that headline around to every GOP primary voter.

A pair of new studies provide evidence
to explain why the Democrats' original stimulus package didn't work.
The lesson of such on-the-ground knowledge is that the stimulus was a lost opportunity. In practice it became a shotgun marriage between an economic theory justified by computer models and 40 years of liberal social priorities (clean energy, Medicaid expansions and the rest). This produced the 9.1% unemployment we now have.

The economy would have benefitted far more if the government had instead improved the incentives for people and businesses to invest, produce and grow. The President probably won't mention any of this, but it does explain why he has to give his latest speech.
ABC reports that, not only did the Obama administration ignored warnings about the viability of giving a loan guarantee to Solyndra, they arranged for the company, led by a big Obama donor, to get a lower interest rate than other energy companies.
The $535 million loan to Solyndra Inc., issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Federal Financing Bank, included a quarterly interest rate of 1.025 percent, the government bank reported in July. Of 18 Energy Department loans cited in the bank's report, Solyndra's rate was lowest. Eight other Energy Department projects, each also backed by the Federal Financing Bank, came with rates three or four times higher, the report shows.

That treatment is in keeping with the history of the loan to the California solar panel maker, an arrangement inked in September 2009 with great fanfare -- and touted, not long after, during a factory visit from the president. Monthly government bank reports filed since then reveal Solyndra's rate as the lowest for any energy-related project in nearly every report; in every case its rate was well below that of most energy projects, which ranged from cutting-edge electric car makers to wind and solar ventures. ...Analysts say there were warning signs about the deal from the start, when Obama's Department of Energy pitched its first energy loan guarantee as a symbol of the expanding green tech movement. Yet the administration repeatedly took steps that would seem to benefit Solyndra: the Department of Energy announced its loan commitment before all due diligence was completed -- later raising concerns from auditors; the president made a personal visit to tout the company's prospects; and the department agreed to grant Solyndra fast-track approval.
Then they arranged for the Obama bundler, George Kaiser to get repaid out of the bankruptcy ahead of the federal government. How very convenient.

A group of 13 historians have examined
the whole Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings controversy and concluded that Thomas Jefferson was not the Jefferson who fathered Heming's child.

Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski examine
how President Obama is expanding the powers of the executive branch to usurp the powers of Congress far beyond any previous president.

Apparently, the new plan from the Democrats to stimulate the economy is to avoid using the word "stimulus."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats have dropped the word "stimulus" from their vocabulary.

Though the House minority leader and her caucus are still pushing an economic stimulus agenda to save the economy, they’ve radically changed their rhetoric with the hope of winning over voters who saw "stimulus" as close to a dirty word.

Democrats are now being careful to frame their job-creation agenda in language excluding references to any stimulus, even though their favored policies for ending the deepest recession since the Great Depression are largely the same.
Yeah, changing their terminology will make their policies more successful.

Isn't Claire McCaskill sweet? She has a proposal for saving the Post Office.
Noting that some great books have been written based on letters sent by the Founding Fathers and by soldiers, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, urged the postmaster general to run an advertising campaign urging Americans to send more letters to each other.

“There is something special about receiving a piece of first-class mail, knowing that it comes from someone you care about,” she said. “I really believe that if someone would begin to market the value of sending a written letter to someone you love, you might be surprised what it will do for your Christmas season.”
Doesn't that sound like the kind of idea that a middle-school girl would come up with? Just run an ad and people will slap their heads and shut off their email to write those letters and then the Post Office meanies won't have to lay off any workers and will be able to fund their generous pensions. Why hasn't anyone thought off that before?

Jay Cost explains why
emulating Harry Truman won't be the solution for Barack Obama.
In fact, the party’s only substantial domestic achievement since the Beatles broke up is Obamacare, which is massively unpopular. The RealClearPolitics average has the bill pulling in just 36 percent support, while the recent Fox News poll found approval for Obama on the health care issue at a measly 41 percent. So, Truman could tour the country saying that a vote for Dewey would destroy the New Deal, but Obama can’t go around saying that a vote for Perry or Romney will destroy Obamacare because that might actually help the GOP nominee!

Broadly speaking, Truman could win amid tough times in 1948 because the country had confidence in the Democratic party’s ability to govern. That simply does not exist today, which is why the Truman model won’t work for Obama.
Businessman Mike Whalen explains that even Keynes wouldn't have agreed with today's Keynesians.

Michael Boskin casts President Obama's task in convincing the American people that he has the right ideas to improve the economy. Unfortunately for us, Obama would first have to acknowledge that his whole approach to the economy has been totally wrong.
Can Mr. Obama change course, given the evidence that the economy responded poorly to top-down direction from Washington rather than the bottom-up individual initiative that is the key to strong growth? Is he willing to rein in the entitlement state erected under radically different economic and demographic conditions? And will he reform the corporate and personal income taxes with much lower rates on a broader base? Or is he going to propose the same failed policies—more spending, social engineering, temporary tax cuts and permanent tax hikes?
Of course, he won't do any of that. Doing so would mean that he has altered his entire understanding of how the economy works. And his approach has piled up quite a miserable record.