Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cruising the Web

Phil Gramm and Michael Solon write today in the WSJ to contrast the economic growth resulting from Reagan's and Obama's economic policies. For all those on the left who trumpet about science, there really does seem to be the opposite approach when it comes to looking at the results of their preferred economic policies. Gramm and Solon's argument is that the CBO totally missed the results from each president's policy choices.
Mr. Obama implemented policies dramatically different from the postwar norm. Marginal tax rates soared; federal spending spiraled with a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus; Social Security Disability and food-stamp qualifications were eased; work requirements in welfare programs were suspended; Medicare and Medicaid were expanded and ObamaCare created. Federal debt doubled, and public and private debt held by the Federal Reserve quadrupled. New legislation, an unprecedented number of new regulations, and a torrent of executive orders transformed the role of government in American life.

Dramatically different policies were followed by dramatically different economic results. Economic growth during the Obama years averaged an astonishingly low 1.47%, as compared with the 3.4% average throughout all the postwar booms and busts before 2009. The extraordinary economic failure of the Obama era is not found in the recession that ended six months into his presidency but in the subsequent failed recovery, where real growth in gross domestic product averaged 2.1% per year, less than half the 4.5% average during previous postwar recoveries of similar duration.

Even after Mr. Obama announced a “summer of recovery” in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office was repeatedly forced to cut GDP and federal revenue estimates—by a total of $9 trillion and $4.2 trillion, respectively—due to weak economic growth. Federal revenues were supposed to rise by $650 billion over the following decade because of the Obama 2013 tax increase. They are now projected to fall by almost five times that amount because economic growth continues to falter.
Contrast that result to those from Reagan's administration.
GDP growth averaged 2.5% between 1974 and 1980. After taking office during a recession in 1981, Reagan cut marginal tax rates, cut nondefense and entitlement spending, and reduced the regulatory burden. Once those policies were in place, economic growth averaged 4.6% during the remainder of his presidency and federal revenues grew at double-digit rates in four of his last six years in office.
However, the CBO missed both the economic growth resulting from Reagan's policies and the stagnation resulting from Obama's.
Budget and economic data over the seven postwar decades prove that American exceptionalism flourishes when supported by polices that promote freedom and opportunity and disappears when they are suppressed. But the CBO’s methods do not recognize that truth. No single part of the Obama program was ever scored in advance by the CBO as losing $4.2 trillion in federal revenues, but those losses reflect the totality of the impact of his policies.

No single Reagan action was ever scored by the CBO as producing the equivalent of $2.9 trillion in new revenues (relative to the current GDP), but that was the overall result of his program, which increased annual economic growth by an additional 1% over his presidency. The CBO originally assumed that the 1986 tax reform would produce no economic benefits and that the 1997 Balanced Budget Act would have only a small positive effect, yet together they helped produce a quarter-century of rapid growth, surging federal revenues and a balanced budget.

Since its models are incapable of distinguishing between failed and successful economic policies, the CBO will not score the economic growth and federal revenue coming from improved economic policy.
YEt somehow the CBO is revered as a nonpartisan prognosticator of all economic proposals. And those who prefer a high-tax, strong regulatory economy will continue to deny the evidence from our own history.

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Some California Democrats are pushing to move the state's primary up to the third Tuesday in March so it would be soon after the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Michael Barone explains the consequences if they did this.
What will it mean for Democrats if California votes right after Iowa and New Hampshire? For one thing, it will require Democratic candidates, who constantly inveigh against the evils of money in politics, to raise very large amounts of money up front.

That's probably the only way they'll be able to get their messages across to California's 5 million-plus Democratic voters. Trying to organize the state precinct by precinct sounds impossible. Another likelihood is that California's public employee unions will become the kingmakers. This will help Democrats if you think they need a candidate who backs hugely higher government spending; not so much if you don't.

To appeal to Hispanic voters, Democratic candidates will have an incentive to get very close to an open borders and amnesty immigration policy, which may not help in other states. As for appealing to white non-college voters, the group which arguably defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, California won't be much help; there aren't very many of them in the state. High taxes and high housing costs have driven hundreds of thousands of non-affluent whites to leave California.
Does the Democratic Party really want to have their party pulled further to the left. That would be the ultimate result if California would have such an important role in the nomination fight. As Barone points out, California is not a typical state.
California's electorate, according to, is 26 percent non-college white, compared to 42 percent nationally. California is 6 percent black, compared to 13 percent nationally. California is 24 percent Hispanic compared to 13 percent nationally. California is 14 percent Asian compared to 5 percent nationally.

You get the idea. The only group which is similar-size in this state and the nation is college-educated whites: 29 percent of California, 31 percent of the nation. But evidence suggests—take a look at those San Francisco Bay Area election returns—that California's college-educated whites are much more left-wing than the rest of the nation's.

And so is California, of course.
Barone goes on to advise California Democrats to not take this step. They might want to have their local issues receive more prominence. Well, that might be good for the state but it's not going to help them nationally.
And things peculiar to California aren't going to help you much elsewhere. Plus, the huge expense of campaigning in California is going to stifle competition and hurt long-shot candidates who might do better than you think if you give them a chance (like, say, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama). If you want to feature early contests in states that might help you win in November, I have a list: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida.
I don't know if the state party and their representatives care about the state of the national party. If the DNC had any clout, they'd take this column and have a frank discussion with the state leaders about whether they really want to trigger such unintended consequences.

Jonah Goldberg writes that the Trump presidency seems rather like the lame-duck stage of a president's second term.
The White House is touting its raft of executive orders as proof that things are getting done and promises are being kept. That’s a fair spin. Trump campaigned on repealing a slew of Obama’s executive orders and other “job-killing” regulations.

But that doesn’t change the fact that presidents usually turn to executive orders when getting big stuff through Congress is impossible and to prove they still have their mojo. Hence Obama’s famous quip in 2014 that he still had “a pen and a phone.”

There’s another thing presidents famously do in their second terms, when Congress isn’t interested in the president’s agenda: retreat to foreign policy. Ronald Reagan concentrated on dealing with the Soviets. Bill Clinton focused on peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and the Middle East and his air war in the former Yugoslavia. George W. Bush launched the surge in Iraq, gave a shot at Israeli–Palestinian peace talks, and ramped up a massive humanitarian effort to fight AIDS in Africa. Obama’s second term was dominated by his obsession with getting a nuclear deal with Iran.

And now President Trump, early in his first term, is trying the same trick. That’s because, according to numerous reports from inside the shockingly leaky White House (another feature of lame duck presidencies, when staffers look to their own political future), Trump is eager for “wins.”

....Trump’s sudden transformation into a foreign-policy president isn’t necessarily sinister. Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” and “leading from behind” left a lot of low-hanging fruit for Trump to pluck.

The question is, what happens when the list of easy W’s runs out? There’s little evidence that Trump is operating with a coherent strategic vision, which means that he won’t have thought-out criteria for knowing when to say no to the generals he clearly admires. For a true lame-duck president, that may not matter — when the W’s run out, he’s out of office. For a first-term president who just acts like a lame-duck president, it’s another story.

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Bill Maher has figured out why the Democrats lost the White House and many seats from Congress down to the state legislatures.
"Of course, when you're nowhere you can only go up," he told the website ATTN. "I don't, unfortunately, see a lot of people who have learned the lesson so far. You can just tell that the kale-eaters — well, see, there's an important distinction: There's liberals like me and then there's the kale eaters, and the kale eaters, they're the ones who are dragging this party down."

Maher described the "kale eaters" as excessively sensitive to the point of oppressing when it comes to free speech.

"A kale eater is someone who believes the Vagina Monologues should not be performed because it's insufficiently sensitive to the .03 percent of women who do not have a vagina," he said.
I await the T-shirts and memes of liberals proudly declaring that they are kale eaters.

In hs review of the new book about Hillary Clinton's campaign, Shattered, Jim Geraghty notes that the authors, while following the Clinton campaign and talking to campaign operatives off the record, soon realized that many on the campaign recognized that things weren't going well with the candidate who was the front-runner all campaign until the actual election night.
The authors are blunt about how what they observed of Team Clinton behind the scenes was completely different from what most of the public saw:
Over the course of a year and a half, in interviews with more than one hundred subjects, we started to piece together a picture that was starkly at odds with the narrative the campaign and the media were portraying publicly. Hillary’s campaign was so spirit-crushing that her aides eventually shorthanded the feeling of impending doom with a simple mantra: We’re not allowed to have nice things.

Wouldn’t it have been nice to know there was a “feeling of impending doom” inside the Clinton campaign last year?

It’s not that there was no coverage of the campaign’s infighting and stumbles. There just wasn’t much to suggest that the dysfunction of Clinton’s team would prove fatal, or even that it was worse than the usual clashing of egos in a high-stakes national race. The Trump campaign was usually portrayed as an out-of-control clown car, with feuding egos, bumbling incompetence, and campaign managers changing as regularly as Spinal Tap drummers. The Clinton campaign, by comparison, was perceived to be an experienced, well-funded, well-organized, well-oiled machine brimming with dozens of campaign offices in swing states and a proven ground game.

Except privately, the people running the machine had their doubts, and weren’t shy about sharing them with Allen and Parnes.

In Shattered, we learn that ten speechwriters, consultants, and aides had a hand in writing Clinton’s announcement speech, which unsurprisingly turned out to be a long, muddled mess. Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, briefly brought in to help, concluded that the speech (and by extension, the whole campaign) “lacked a central rationale for why Hillary was running for president, and sounded enough like standard Democratic pablum that, with the exception of the biographical details, could have been delivered by anyone within the party.”
Quite a few people knew that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was a paper tiger.

This is the detail from the book that is the most amazing to me.
Years before Hillary Clinton’s private email server ever became a campaign issue, Clinton spent a few months doing some digital snooping on her own staff.

The new book “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes (Crown, out now) reveals that in the summer of 2008, Clinton wanted an honest assessment of what had gone wrong in her failed presidential bid against Barack Obama.

To this end, she had a trusted aide access the campaign’s server and download the emails sent and received by top staffers.

“She believed her campaign had failed her — not the other way around — and she wanted ‘to see who was talking to who, who was leaking to who,’ said a source familiar with the operation,” Allen and Parnes reveal in the book. “Her political director, Guy Cecil, had talked with members of the media from his campaign account. Her chief strategist, Mark Penn, was a tyrant. And far too many of her minions had fought for turf and status rather than votes.”

Rattled by what the emails revealed, Clinton began calling meetings to evaluate what had gone wrong. The staffers had no idea she’d read their emails.

“I was struck by how good of a sense she had before I walked in there of the problems that were going on,” one aide is quoted as saying.

The email review would be just one part of a months-long postmortem project conducted that summer, and it have lasting results: Neither Penn nor Cecil would be invited back for the 2016 “no-drama-mantra” Clinton campaign.
This is the woman who pretended that she claimed that she had her own private server just for convenience sake. Sure. Can you imagine working for a boss who then secretly read your emails? It sounds rather Nixonian.

Here's a new kooky idea coming out of the Democrats' Trump Derangement Syndrome to find a new way to get rid of Trump.
A House Democrat has introduced legislation to enhance the Constitution’s presidential removal procedures in response to concerns about President Trump’s behavior.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) filed the bill during the House's two-week April recess to empower former presidents and vice presidents of both parties, in coordination with the sitting vice president, to determine if a president is fit for office.

“It is hard to imagine a better group to work with the vice president to examine whether the president is able to discharge the duties of the office. When there are questions about the president’s ability to fulfill his or her constitutional responsibilities, it is in the country’s best interest to have a mechanism in place that works effectively,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

Blumenauer’s proposal stems from concern that the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which was adopted five decades ago, would fall short in cases of emotional or mental incapacity.
The amendment states that the vice president assumes the Oval Office in the event that a president is removed from office, dies or resigns.

Alternatively, the vice president and a majority of Cabinet officers can also jointly declare that a president is unfit to serve. The vice president would then take over as president in such a case.

In the event that a president refused to step down, two-thirds of both the House and Senate would have to vote to force the resignation.
We haven't ever had to use those provisions of the 25th Amendment to unseat a sitting president. Mostly, it's been the subject of TV shows like "24" or political novels. But do we really want Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden to sit down with Mike Pence to figure out if Trump is fit for office? What happens if they can't reach a consensus? Having past presidents and vice presidents making such a momentous decision would mean that it would inevitably become a partisan fight. Of course, there is no chance that this would get the necessary votes to even get out of Congress. But it's a sign of all the brainstorming on the left going on to find a way, some way to lever Trump out of office.

Here's a bit of new news about old news that isn't really a surprise.
Top contractors working on the Obamacare website had numerous concerns over data security in the days just prior to the 2013 launch, newly released emails from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch show.

The rollout of the site, which allows Obamacare customers to enroll in tax-subsidized insurance plans, was plagued with crashes, glitches and other problems in October 2013.

For example, just five days before the launch, an unsigned "Authorization to Operate" memo shows a contractor noting that "data was accessed that should not be publicly accessible. We recommend considering the potential security risks from divulging this data and implementing appropriate controls."
In this age with major hacking going on of all sorts of businesses, institutions and government agencies, isn't it typical that the Obama administration launched this website to which people would submit all sorts of private information while knowing how vulnerable it was?

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Ashe Show writes about the new argument put forth by some Pomona College students. Apparently, if you believe that there is such a thing as objective truth, you must be a white supremacist.
In a letter that strings together words the students no doubt learned in their Blank-Studies classes in what almost appears to be social justice Mad Libs (the word “marginalized” appears seven times in the one-page document), the students claim inviting a speaker critical of Black Lives Matter and supportive of police amounts to oppression.

Further, the three authors of the letter—freshmen Dray Denson, Avery Jonas, and sophomore Shanaya Stephenson—explain that “the Truth” is a concept rooted in racism.

“The idea that there is a single truth–’the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain,” the students wrote. “This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples” (emphasis added).

Notice the list of social justice buzzwords: white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, and capitalism.
This marvelous example of illogic came about after supporters of "Black Lives Matter' prevented Heather MacDonald from speaking about her book The War on Cops. The president of the university sent out a message saying that the university is committed to "the discovery of truth." That set these students off. They think that MacDonald is "a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist." Clearly, they've never read her writing or tried to follow her marshalling of evidence to look at the impact of certain restrictions on police have done to endanger people who live in high-crime neighborhoods, most of whom are black. As Schow points out, the argument by these students seems to be "do what we want or else we'll say you're racists."
The social justice warrior problem on college campuses appears to be escalating. The protests are becoming more violent, and the demands are becoming more absurd. Just last week, the editorial staff of the Wellesley College student newspaper wrote: “If people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted.”

The phrase “hate speech” has lost all meaning on campuses, as it now refers simply to speech liberal students don’t agree with. They claim it is bigoted, dangerous, and “violent,” making it acceptable—in their minds—to respond with physical violence.

Ruth Wisse, a former professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, writes about the concerted efforts among some academics for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to prevent interactions with Israeli researchers, writers, and professors. This attitude and tactic has a history going back to 1945. The movement today works hand in hand with the Palestinians and has had some success from academic organizations in the U.S. - the American Studies Association and the National Women's Studies Association and other groups consider resolutions of support for BDS every year. At least 100 researchers in health care and life sciences in Boston signed on to a letter to oppose BDS and support “the free flow of ideas and information.” Maybe that is the kind of support for truth and liberal ideals which the Ponoma students oppose.

Wisse contrasts the reaction to Trump's travel ban with this effort to ban Israelis from traveling to academic conferences.
Only through a concerted effort by school administration can universities remain free spaces. Jewish students should not be expected to bear the full brunt of attack by those who import the Arab-Muslim war against Israel into the American campus.

Researchers in science and medicine have a special interest in opposing a boycott that tries to destroy the benefits of shared ideas and knowledge. Although people in the sciences do not normally issue collective political statements, signatories of the recent letter cite the collaboration of Israeli scientists in lifesaving treatments as reason enough to protest the blacklist. Their statement condemns boycotts that contravene core democratic values and threaten “the free flow of information and ideas,” which functions as “the lifeblood of the academic world.”

The Boston group’s aim is similar to those of recent academic protests against President Trump’s temporary travel ban. A friend-of-the-court brief filed by 17 universities affirms that students from the six suspect countries could have much to contribute by “making scientific discoveries, starting businesses, and creating works of literature and art that redound to the benefit of others” far beyond university campuses.

If universities are willing to fight the government’s travel ban against students from Muslim-majority countries, why are members of their faculties fighting to prevent exchange with academic counterparts in the Jewish homeland? American academics ought to entertain pluralistic and multicultural perspectives and refrain from cutting themselves off from those with whom they disagree. Universities cannot pretend to be protecting the free flow of information while their faculty members try to prevent interaction with the most dynamic academic center in the Middle East.

The restrictions the Trump administration placed on potentially hostile immigrants were intended to prevent attacks on America’s liberal democratic way of life. Meantime, the goal of the BDS campaign is to attack the freest democracy in the Middle East. Not coincidentally, Iran and Syria, two countries singled out by the travel ban, are also dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The repressive tactics of BDS proponents resemble the strategy and destructive aims of those who threaten the U.S.
The contrast is indeed very telling.

The New England Patriots are trolling the New York Times. The Times put out a picture contrasting the turnout for the 2015 visit to the White House with President Obama and the one yesterday with Trump. The photos seemed to indicate that many more turned out for Obama. However, the Patriots explained that the Obama photo included staff members on the stairs while yesterday those staffers were seated on the lawn.

If you're counting teammembers, there were only two fewer players this year.

Here is the photo that should be the equivalent of the 2015 one that the NYT tried to use to beat up on this year's visit.