Friday, April 17, 2015

Cruising the Web

So what does the first week of Hillary's campaign tell us about her? Charles Krauthammer has some thoughts.
This quality of purposeful abstractness makes everything sound and seem contrived. It’s not really her fault. True, she’s got enough genuine inauthenticity to go around — decades of positioning, framing, parsing, dodging — but the perception is compounded by the obvious staginess of the gigantic political apparatus that surrounds her and directs her movements.

Why is she running in the first place? Because it’s the next inevitable step in her career path. But that’s not as damning as it seems. It can be said of practically every presidential candidate. The number of conviction politicians — those who run not to be someone but to do something — is exceedingly small. In our lifetime: Ronald Reagan. And arguably, Barack Obama, although with him (as opposed to Reagan) a heavy dose of narcissistic self-fulfillment is admixed with genuine ideological conviction.

Hillary Clinton’s problem is age, not chronological but political. She’s been around for so long that who can really believe she suddenly has been seized with a new passion to champion, as she put it in Iowa, “the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here”?

Or developed a new persona. She will, of course, go through the motions. Her team will produce a “message,” one of the most corrosive, debased words in the lexicon of contemporary politics — an alleged synonym for belief or conviction, it signifies nothing more than a branded marketing strategy.

She will develop policies. In Iowa, she’d already delivered her top four, one of which is to take unaccountable big money out of politics. This is rather precious, considering that her supporters intend to raise $2.5 billion for 2016 alone and that the Clinton Foundation is one of the most formidable machines ever devised for extracting money from the rich, the powerful and the unsavory.

She will try to sell herself as champion of the little guy. Not easy to do when you and your husband have for the last 25 years made limo-liberal Davos-world your home. Hence the van trek to Iowa, lest a Gulfstream 450 invade the visual.

Clinton’s unchangeability, however, is the source of her uniqueness as a candidate: She’s a fixed point. She is who she is. And no one expects — nor would anyone really believe — any claimed character change.

The greatest plus for Marco Rubio's candidacy is that he is "the anti-Hillary." He's young, historic, and isn't wealthy. But the biggest contrast is that he's been willing to put forth policy proposals instead of anodyne platitudes.

So why is the Democratic field so old? Byron York contemplates this fact.
There are five Democrats who have either declared or are thinking about running for president. Three — Joe Biden, Bernard Sanders, and Jim Webb — will be over 70 years old on Inauguration Day 2017. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton will be nine months short of 70. Only Martin O'Malley, who will turn 54 a couple of days before the 2017 swearing-in, has not reached retirement age already.

In 2008, Democrats had a 47 year-old candidate who mesmerized the party and ran away with the votes of Americans aged 18 to 29. Republicans, meanwhile, ran a 72 year-old man whose reputation was based on heroism in a war 40 years earlier. Youth won.

This time the situation is reversed. The average age of the Republican field is far below the Democrats, with every candidate younger than Clinton. The most senior is Jeb Bush, who will be 64 on Inauguration Day. Scott Walker will be 49; Marco Rubio will be 45; Ted Cruz, 46; Rand Paul, 54; Chris Christie, 54; Mike Huckabee, 61; Bobby Jindal, 45. Although Bush is in the older range, they're all in the career sweet spot to win the White House.

What accounts for the Democrats' dramatic change from the party of youth to the party of age?

"It's the snuffing out of young talent by the strength and size and sheer velocity of the inevitable nominee," says a well-connected Democratic strategist. "The Clintons took all the air out of the collective Democratic room. There are a lot of people who would be running who are much younger, but they've got their future in front of them, and they don't want the Clintons to ruin it, in this campaign or after this campaign. So they're waiting for a moment when there is enough oxygen to run."

"If Hillary Clinton weren't running, we'd have a field that looks like the Republican field — young and vibrant and diverse."
Well, it's nice of them to think so. But who would those young, vibrant candidates be?

The real student loan crisis is one that Obama has created.
The real crisis is one Obama himself manufactured since taking office.

In 2010, Obama eliminated the federal guaranteed loan program, which let private lenders offer student loans at low interest rates. Now, the Department of Education is the only place to go for such loans.

Obama sold this government takeover as a way to save money — why bear the costs of guaranteeing private loans, he said, when the government could cut out the middleman and lend the money itself?

The cost savings didn't happen. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office just increased its 10-year forecast for the loan program's costs by $27 billion, or 30%.

What did happen was an explosive growth in the amount of federal student loan debt. President Clinton phased in direct federal lending in 1993 as an option, but over the next 15 years the amount of loans was fairly stable. The result of Obama's action is striking. In each of the past six years, federal direct student loan debt has climbed by more than $100 billion.

And since Obama keeps making it easier and easier to avoid repaying those loans, it's a problem that taxpayers will eventually have to shoulder.

Through words and actions, Obama has encouraged irresponsibility on the part of student borrowers. He constantly talks as if student debt were an unfair burden they unknowingly had foisted upon them.

At the same time, he's made it easier and easier to avoid paying back student loans in full. Earlier this year, for example, Obama expanded eligibility for his "pay as you earn" program, which limits loan payments to 10% of income, with any debt left after 20 years forgiven.

Students got the message. The St. Louis Fed reports that 27.3% of student loans in repayment are at least a month behind in payments. That's a far higher delinquency rate than any other kind of debt, and it's significantly higher than the delinquency rate 10 years ago.

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Oh what a non-surprise. Iran's parliament wants to make changes in the nuclear deal. Amazing how many differences there still are between what the Obama administration is trumpeting as their great achievement and what Iran says they are willing to agree to. And who really doubts that Obama and his negotiators will eventually give in on such details?

We've only had a few days of Hillary the Candidate and already she's providing opponents with a lot of material for snarkiness.

And apparently, this "shallow and risk-averse" campaign is exactly what Americans deserve.
It’s all so dull, so bland, so scripted, so planned, so typically political. And perhaps, just perhaps, it’s what American voters deserve.

Americans want to believe that we’re a nation of risk-takers, pioneers, people willing to cast comfort and safety aside to achieve a dream, tell the truth, and change the world. Some of us still are those things, too. But in reality, a lot of us have become something else in recent years: narcissistic, overly-cautious, superficial, reality-disconnected, and above all, very, very boring.

Even among those of us who loathe the former Madam Secretary, we have become in so many ways just like her campaign promises to be. We are, in effect, Ready for Hillary....

When we have a choice between meeting people in real life, with all the potential awkwardness that might entail, or just sitting around texting and Facebook messaging, more and more, we seem to go for the “virtual.” We don’t want the sacrifices or pain entailed to really achieve; we prefer the comfort of telling ourselves that we are excelling, even when any objective analysis would show that is at best a half-truth. We don’t actually want reality, whether in our entertainment, our jobs, our education, our lives, or our politics. We just want something that kind of looks like it.

Hillary Clinton may appear past her political prime: a constructed, fake and self-obsessed persona; a boring, risk-averse, default option for a party out of touch with many of its would-be constituents and lacking in creativity and ambition.

But given the way many Americans lead our lives now, she may also be exactly what we deserve.

Of course: the Clinton campaign makes sure to confiscate cellphones and cameras before Iowans can meet Hillary.

Al Sharpton has violated tax laws again and again and somehow he just doesn't have to suffer the consequences.
New York’s velvet-glove handling of Sharpton’s tax and business woes might be justified if he had few assets to aggressively seize.

But his rock-and-roll lifestyle, in addition to his lucrative MSNBC and radio contracts, suggests he should be able to pay up.

Yet for some reason, New York authorities don’t seem terribly interested in holding Sharpton accountable.

As a civil-rights activist, Sharpton has pushed for equality under the law. New York should offer some reassurances that it holds that same principle dear — especially where Sharpton is concerned.

Meanwhile, law-abiding taxpayers in this state, who pay some of the biggest tax bills in the nation, should be infuriated at this disparate treatment.

The Justice Department is indicting Senator Menendez for asking for favors for a wealthy donor. But somehow the indictment avoids reference to one senator who was in the meeting that Menendez held with HHS Secretary Sebelius.
Oh, and who is “Senator 3”? None other than Harry Reid, and the Super PAC was Mr. Reid’s campaign fund, Majority PAC. The indictment doesn’t mention it, but Dr. Melgen gave another $100,000 to the PAC in 2012 that was not earmarked for New Jersey. Either the Medicare issue had enough merit for the Senate’s most powerful Democrat to host the sitdown with Ms. Sebelius. Or else it was corruption, and Dr. Melgen bribed Mr. Reid too and he should also be indicted.

If we’re going to slip down this slope, should Democrats who take money from the trial bar and then vote to make it easier to file class actions go to jail? By this standard, Hillary should be rung up for the foreign donations the Clinton Foundation accepted while she was Secretary of State, and Senators should serve time for recommending donors’ kids for the military academies.

The reality is that money and political speech are inseparable, and the metaphysical questions of why politicians believe what they do and why citizens give them money can’t be resolved by the courts. The Justice Department’s open-ended definition of corruption, applied consistently, would make every politician in America a felon. Justice may be trying to use selective prosecutions to enforce—or intimidate politicians into abiding by—campaign-finance restrictions that the Supreme Court holds unconstitutional.