Monday, December 31, 2012

Republicans Should Walk Away Until Obama Acts as a Grown Up President

Members of Congress have made it a practice to treat the opposition with courtesy and respect even during the most heated of disputes. President Obama took to the airways today to humiliate and degrade the opposition party with untoward politicized remarks. Republicans should simply refuse to deal with him until he learns the decorum of a statesman rather than acting like a Chicago back alley Pol. The Republican Party would be better off as would the country as a whole. There is no need to mince words.

The media complain of a dysfunctional government. They should look closely at its source – a president in constant campaign mode ready to demagogue any issue.

Outsiders, like this writer, are not privy to the fiscal-cliff offers and counter offers that are being circulated, but a general knowledge of the basic numbers and of Obama’s style of negotiating lead me to conclude that the Republicans are being stampeded into an unacceptable deal that raises taxes on top earners by $180 billion between now and 2015 while cancelling almost a half trillion of scheduled spending cuts over the same period.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

President Obama’s Legacy: $20 Trillion in Deficits for 2016 Victor

The fiscal-cliff negotiations have deteriorated into an embarrassing travesty of competing press conferences, off-the-record remarks,  closed meetings,  and sound bites. The Republican side is frustrated and flabbergasted by the absence of  a concrete proposal from the President  that can be scored by the Congressional Budget Office and then “marked up” by Congress according to standard procedures.  Vague offers of so and so many trillions of revenue increases and spending cuts spread over a decade are just words, not real proposals. 

The last serious fiscal-cliff projections date back to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) August 2012 assessment of the budgetary effects of various fiscal policy alternatives. In its August study, the CBO –  the “gold standard” of budget projections -- calculated the budgetary consequences of going over the fiscal cliff in its “baseline projection.” It then projected the budgetary effects of alternative fiscal policies, among them, extending the Bush tax cuts and shelving the sequestered spending cuts.

We may agree or disagree with the CBO’s projections, but they are the most authoritative we have. President Obama has been vocal with respect to  the fiscal policies he wants, and each item on his wish list can be scored using the CBO’s August study. Therefore, we can approximate the five-year deficits that would result if President Obama gets what he wants. This is not rocket science. Anyone can do this using the CBO’s excel files.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We Have Met the Left and It's Obama

“What is motivating (Obama) primarily is ideology. And an ideological opening. He doesn’t like the malefactors of great wealth. He wants to “spread the wealth around.” Peggy Noonan

Anyone who dares to characterize Barack Obama as a leftist radical is heaped with scorn and outrage.  Only crazy, hateful talk-show entertainers like Rush Limbaugh stoop so low, but reasonable people do not listen anyway. Whether Obama harbors socialist views is a valid topic for intellectual conversation, but, other than errant bloggers (Is President Obama Truly a Socialist?), polite people avoid it.

Many moderate Republicans bought into the media narrative that Obama is a centrist, who moves left only to placate his base. Were it not for them, the true Obama would govern from the center, or tilt only ever so slightly to the left.

Indeed,  the carefully scripted Obama masterfully masqueraded as a centrist during his two presidential campaigns, while governing from the left. The complicit media characterized him as a softy, too ready to yield to the obstructionist Republicans.  But if the Left would only “Watch what I do, not what I say,” Obama already delivered for them the moon, and now wants the stars as well.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Liberal Left's Dirty Little Secret: The Middle Class and Poor Pay For the Entitlement State

Europe’s more than half century experience shows that, no matter hard you squeeze them, the rich cannot pay for a big government that guarantees all its citizens “positive rights” to income, employment, health, and retirement. Such an entitlement state – some call it a nanny state -- is funded primarily by repressive taxes on the middle class and the working poor. This conclusion is based on hard statistical facts that neither the right nor left dispute. America’s Left has kept this fact under wraps and out of sight of voters. It should have been the focus of the 2012 Republican campaign, but it was not.

Barack Obama has been busy creating and expanding an American entitlement state that he promises will be paid for by the rich. The middle class and poor need not worry about tax increases.  For the time being, Obama can rely on lenders (and the Fed) to finance the annual $850 deficits projected under the most likely CBO scenario. But the day of reckoning will come.  At some point, the “bond vigilantes” will refuse to finance the deficit at sustainable rates, and the government will be forced to cut entitlement spending or vastly raise taxes.  When that time comes, then ex-President Obama expects the entitlement mentality to be so deeply ingrained that the middle class and working poor will accept their higher taxes with little protest.

If we continue down the road to Obama’s Big Government, everyone watch their wallets. The taxman commeth, big time! Judging from Europe’s experience, we must dramatically raise income taxes on the middle class, triple social security taxes, introduce a 20 percent federal sales tax, and raise the gasoline tax by $4.00.  These taxes are all regressive, which means they fall most heavily first on the poor and then on the middle class.

If you do not believe me, an influential member of the media elite (from the New York Times editorial board, no less), let this secret slip in a remarkably candid admission. (Note his article appeared after the election):

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Susan Rice Disqualified Herself Under George Schultz’s Loftus’s Law

Susan Rice’s repetition of the “spontaneous mob, anti-Muslim video” story on the Sunday talk shows five days after the September 11 attacks is a big thing. Contrary to Democrat claims that the attacks on her are a political witch hunt, it is a big thing that our U.N. ambassador gave a false account of the Obama administration’s worst foreign policy disaster.  The failure to guard our  diplomatic personnel is, of course, a big thing as well, but decisions made in the fog of war are often wrong. Rice’s decision was not made in the fog of war but in the heat of a political campaign.

Rice did not appear to tell the true story, but to control the political fallout from Obama’s biggest foreign policy disaster, which threatened his “I killed Osama and al Qaeda is on the run” narrative on the very eve of the election.

The liberal press (see the New York Times,  Big Issues Are Lost in Focus on Libya Talking Points) characterizes the pursuit of Rice as raw partisanship. After all, “she accurately recited the talking points the intelligence agencies prepared.” But a conscientious public servant is not bound by talking points that are the equivalent of “the sun rose in the West today.”

Just a couple of media favorites  -- Maureen Dowd of the Times and “moderate” Republican Susan Collins – appear to understand the significance of Rice’s disseminating a false story to the public  (Make Up Turned Break Up). They ask, among other things, why Rice “promoted a story ‘with such certitude’ about a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Muslim video that was so at odds with the classified information to which the ambassador had access. (It was also at odds with common sense…) … after  the F.B.I. interviewed survivors of the attack in Germany ….and established that there was no protest.”

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff Bargain is Peanuts

The internet and print media are full of accounts of an evolving bargain in the fiscal cliff negotiations. The Republicans will accept $1.2 trillion in tax hikes on the “rich,” and the Democrats will accept $400 billion of spending cuts. (Past experience shows the spending cuts never occur other than for defense). These increases and cuts are to be spread over a ten year period. Annualized, taxes are supposed to increase $120 billion ($.12 trillion) per year and spending cuts by $40 billion ($.04 trillion) per year.

Citizens are supposed to be impressed by figures such as $1.2 trillion or $400 billion. News accounts mention the “over ten years” in passing or not at all.

To see how small these figures are, we apply them to 2012 federal spending and revenues. If this agreement had been in place for 2012 (and had gone as planned), federal revenues would have gone up from $2,468 billion to $2,588 billion. Expenditures would have fallen from $3,795 billion to $3,755 billion. The deficit would have decreased from $1,327 billion to $1,167.

In a word, the fiscal cliff deal yields, at best, small, marginal, and even trivial changes.

In reality, the “rich” will alter their behavior, and tax revenues will rise (if at all) by a fraction of the “agreed upon” change. (Remember Congress can only set rates and rules. It cannot dictate what taxpayers actually pay). As Obama Care’s price tag becomes evident, federal expenditures will exceed expectations, and if interest rates rise, soaring interest payments on the federal debt will send Congress back to the drawing boards.

The fiscal cliff negotiations do not touch the looming disaster of almost $100 trillion in unfunded federal government liabilities under its existing entitlement programs. The Obama administration will leave that problem for the next administration to tackle. The next administration must decide whether to cut the welfare state or tax the middle class at European levels, which requires doubling social security taxes, applying the top marginal rates to the upper middle class, a 20 percent national sales tax, and $10 gasoline.

Such draconic measures will likely prove too much for the next administration and it will try to kick the can down the road to the next administration. Greece: We are not that far behind you unless we get a truly transformational President.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let’s Stop Beating on Romney and Talking About the 2016

Instead of beating on Mitt Romney, we should thank him for a valiant campaign in which he had to contend not only with an incumbent president but also a cheer leading mainstream media. His debate performances were good but not perfect. It is always possible to nit pick. His campaign speeches in the last three weeks of the campaign were good to excellent, and he proved a tireless campaigner. It is not good form or a good incentive system to throw a losing candidate to the wolves, as many are doing.

We would be in good hands had he been elected. What a shame.

It is my layman’s impression that Romney would be president elect without Hurricane Sandy, without Candy Crawley, and without the overheard 47 percent remark.  There is no telling how many equivalents to the 47 percent remark that the press did not report for Obama.

It is sheer craziness that the press is already watching every move of possible 2016 Republican candidates. Give it a rest, please.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Giant Sucking Sound Is Hostess Jobs Moving to Mexico (And Media Give Democrat Private Equity a Pass)

November 21, 2012 was a dark day for us Gen X-ers, who grew up with calorie-rich Twinkies and Ding Dongs in our school lunch boxes. (Nowadays, they would probably be confiscated by the food police, but that is now not then). After a failed mediation, Hostess Brands announced last Tuesday it would proceed with liquidation after 82 years of operations. Its various brands – among them, Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Dolly Madison, and Home Pride – go on the auction block as Hostess’s competitors, such as Flowers Foods, ConAgra, and Mexico’s El Grupo Bimbo, are poised to pick up Hostess’s iconic Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and Dolly Madison brands.

A successful bid from Grupo Bimbo, the world’s largest baker, means Twinkies labeled “Hecho en Mexico” – the ultimate insult to the American baker and delivery man. News reports claim this result is likely. Twinkies can return as a highly profitable Mexican expat free from U.S. tariff-inflated sugar prices and unions.

The liquidation leaves Hostess’s 18,500  workers, most members of the Teamsters or bakery workers union, out in the cold. They are probably asking: President Obama: Where are you when Twinkies and Ring Ding Juniors need saving rather than Detroit?

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Obama Knew by 2PM on September 12 but Invented a False Narrative Nevertheless (and the media does not care)

The American people must believe in the veracity and forthrightness of their commander in chief. Barack Obama concurs (November 2, New York Times): “You do want to be able to trust your president.  You want to know that the president means what he says, and says what he means. And after four years as president, you know me.”

We’ll we may know more than we wish to.

Despite the media’s confusing Fog-of-War” coverage of the Benghazi tragedy, we know the President deliberately provided false and misleading information on the  most important security failure of his administration. He misled the American public for political advantage by asserting that the Benghazi attacks were caused by an anti-Muslim video and carried out by a spontaneous mob. He knew this narrative was false by 2PM September 12 at the latest, but he continued to spread it for personal political gain.
The Washington Post in its Security breakdown in Benghazi is not interested in whether Obama told the truth about the video and the spontaneous mob. Such questions raise what the Post calls a “political and mostly pointless issue.” Since when is the president’s veracity “pointless?”

Only Fox News, with its “aggressive reporting,” addresses Obama’s veracity, but Fox is automatically discredited “by the blustery and often scurrilous commentary” of Bill O’Reily and Shawn Hannity, among others. Serious media need pay no attention to such amateur rabble rousers, despite Fox’s Jennifer Griffin’s stellar investigative reporting.

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Paul’s recommendation: Read Good Intentions, By Bob Zeidman, before voting.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Obama's Own "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" Destroys Foundation of Campaign

Mitt Romney’s factually-accurate but mischievous Jeep ad baited the Obama campaign into admitting that the charge against Romney (“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”) on which its campaign is based is false.

Romney’s TV spot: “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China,” is 100% factually accurate. That is its beauty.

Yes, it is true that the Obama administration took GM and Chrysler through Chapter 11bankruptcy. GM and Chrysler shares became worthless and their creditors lost most of their investments. Chrysler was indeed sold to Italy’s Fiat. Chrysler’s Jeep has indeed announced that it intends to produce Jeeps in China.

The Jeep ad brought forth a furious counter attack by Obama operatives, media allies, and self-appointed “independent” fact checkers. In its cry and fury, the Obama juggernaut made a fatal mistake: They admitted that Obama “let Detroit go bankrupt,” as Romney proposed. Staunch Obama supporter, the LA Times, could not bring itself to utter the dreadful word: “Chapter 11.” It chose instead to call what happened at GM and Chrysler “brief bankruptcy restructurings.”

A self-declared (but really democrat) independent fact checker really stepped in it with its dismissal of the nefarious and outrageous (but true) Romney ad:
“It’s also misleading to say ‘Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy’ without mentioning that Romney, too, advocated a bankruptcy plan. In fact, Romney wrote a 2008 op-ed that said: ‘A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs’.” At last, we have the two candidates agreeing on a truly important issue. ( I guess you would love to take that back).

Note the irony: After three years of “I saved the auto industry and Romney wanted Detroit to go bankrupt” in his stump speeches, the Obama team is using Romney to defend the Detroit bankruptcies Obama orchestrated. You mean Bain capitalist Romney did not want to decimate both Detroit and the Ohio auto industry as you have been telling us?  So Obama “saved” millions of auto jobs by following Romney’s advice?

But wait, the LA Times is ready with the standard Obama comeback:  Obama forced GM and Chrysler through a government imposed Chapter 11 because “other sources of financing became unavailable during the recession.”  Not true at all. The treasury could have provided a neutral bankruptcy court with the small amount of creditor-in-possession financing at no taxpayer risk needed to reorganize GM and Chrysler at a small fraction of the $80 billion it actually spent.  With its recognized brand, billion dollar revenues, and inflated costs begging to be pared, GM would have attracted bidders out of the Gazoo, even in 2009.

When cornered with this truth, Obama supporters will play the blame-Bush-game: “Well Bush provided government funds to keep GM and Chrysler running as he passed the baton to Obama. Yes, but then Obama should say: “Bush saved Detroit, not me.” Strange, but I have yet to hear these words.
Although the two candidates are on the same “let Detroit go bankrupt” page, their approaches could not have been more different. Obama used government pressure and blackmail to reward his UAW allies. He knew that the UAW wage and pension contracts could not survive the regular bankruptcy proceeding that businessman Romney wanted. Obama is now getting his payback. Organized labor is his biggest contributor and the organizer of the fabled Obama “ground game.”

Main Stream Media: Where were your fact checkers when Obama was distorting Romney’s “let Detroit go bankrupt”? You seem to notice only when Mitt finally played hardball and reversed the tables.

Where is the Obama apology:  “American voters: Forget what I said earlier. Both Mitt and I agree to ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt’.”

Paul’s recommendation: Read Good Intentions, By Bob Zeidman, before voting.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Barack Obama Will Regret He Took Ownership of Hurricane Sandy Recovery

The New York Times (Obama Promises Speedy Aid as Storm Takes on Political Weight) described the President  as “eager to project the image of a president responding forcefully to the crisis” as he promised on Wednesday “storm’s victims in New Jersey, New York and elsewhere that federal help is on the way.” He assured them that his administration will “get resources where they’re needed as fast as possible.” If governors and mayors are “getting ‘no’ for an answer somewhere in the federal government, they can call me personally at the White House.” The Times even threw in praise from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “The President has been all over this. He deserves great credit.” Christie wisely did not add: “And he gets the blame when things go wrong.”

If Obama were an experienced hurricane survivor like me (hailing from Houston), he would not have said these words. No hurricane works to the benefit of public officials, high or low.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New York Times Mentions Benghazi For the First Time in Four Days

In its Libya Warnings Were Plentiful, but Unspecific, the New York Times broke its four day embargo on the use of the word “Benghazi.” Those expecting a discussion of a possible cover up by the administration and the curious sticking to the “video story” were due for a disappointment. The article was exclusively about security arrangements and the difficulty of gauging the security threat to our embassy facilities in Libya.

American voters know about the changing administration accounts in the month following the Benghazi attacks and are curious. They must look elsewhere from the Times to get answers.

There You Go Again: New York Times Trying to Save Obama in Ohio

 In its GOP Turns Fire on Obama Pillar, The Auto Bailout, the New York Times engages in a blatant distortion to prop up Obama’s waning fortunes in Ohio. 

The Times rehashes a November 18, 2008 Romney editorial entitled Let Detroit Go Bankrupt as follows:

“Mr. Romney wrote an Op-Ed article in the New York Timesgiven the title by the newspaper “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.’’ In the piece Mr. Romney wrote that in the event of a bailout, “You can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”

Notice that the Times admits it chose the misleading headline (“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”), which served as campaign fodder for Obama for the next three years.

Anyone who bothers to read the Romney piece knows he is arguing against a federal bail out (not bankruptcy) of GM and Chrysler. A bailout would leave both unable to compete, and, indeed, you could “kiss the American automotive industry good by.”

Instead, Romney advocated a court-managed Chapter 11 bankruptcy to realign GM and Chrysler’s costs with competitors to save GM and Chrysler.  The Obama administration agreed. Obama’s car czar pushed GM and Chrysler through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. Chrysler was, in effect, sold to Fiat.  The bankrupt “old” GM’s shares became worthless, and its assets were transferred to a “new” GM owned primarily by the unions and the federal government.

The Times somehow forgot to tell its readers that Obama agreed with Romney to “let Detroit go bankrupt.”

Romney wanted a regular bankruptcy preceding to put in place  “new labor (UAW) agreements to align pay and benefits to match those of workers at competitors.” Alarmed by his UAW allies, Obama rushed to strong arm through a political bankruptcy at taxpayer expense that shortchanged bond holders, preserved union contracts and gold-plated pensions, and made the federal government the largest single shareholder.

Do not take my word: The Washington Post’s Fact Check: Letting Detroit go bankrupt rejects Obama’s references to Romney’s  wanting Detroit to go “bankrupt.”  I quote:

“This statement is drawn from a headline — ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt’ (chosen by the Times)— on an opinion article written by Romney for New York Times. But he did not say that in the article…Although ‘bankrupt’ often conjures up images of liquidation, Romney called for a ‘managed bankruptcy.’ This is a process in which the company uses the bankruptcy code to discharge its debts, but emerges from the process a leaner, less leveraged company.”

Confronted with this truth, Obama’s supporters can only claim: “But there was no money for a regular bankruptcy.” Yes, there was. If the federal government could throw $80 billion at the GM-Chrysler bankruptcies, it could have put up the small amount of creditor-in-possession funds required for a regular bankruptcy.

Ohio remember:  Obama’s political bankruptcy of GM did not rescue jobs. It rescued union pay and benefits.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Readers’ Manual on the GM Bailout:

Both Obama and Romney proposed taking GM through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

GM went bankrupt. Its shares became worthless and its assets were transferred to a new company, which was called General Motors.

Obama used taxpayer dollars to force through a political bankruptcy that preserved union contracts and pensions, short changed bondholders, and made the unions and the federal government the new owners of GM

Romney favored a regular bankruptcy that would treat all GM stakeholders fairly. The government would be limited to providing bridge financing backed by GM assets to limit taxpayer exposure.
The federal government remains a major shareholder because it cannot sell its shares without revealing the extent of the taxpayer loss.

The old GM was an ideal candidate for Chapter 11. It had an established brand name, billions of dollars of revenues, and needed restructuring to lower its high labor and pension costs. It would have attracted numerous bidders. It would have emerged from bankruptcy with slightly fewer jobs, lower wages, and less generous union pensions.

Ohioans Are No Fools: Obama Did NOT Save Your Automotive Jobs

Barack Obama believes he can take Ohio voters for fools. His “I saved GM from bankruptcy” was his first whopper. As if that was not enough, Obama, aided and abetted by Bill Clinton in Charlotte, conceived an even bigger whopper: “I saved the entire U.S. auto industry.” These two claims were supposed to assure Obama Ohio’s electoral votes with its 76,000 jobs in motor vehicle assembly and manufacture of bodies, trailers and parts.

November 6 will show that Ohio voters have too much common sense to be taken in by Obama’s whoppers.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Wow! The New York Times Tells the Truth on the Benghazi Blunder (PS Obama Is Losing)

Op-ed writer Ross Douthat is a rare truth teller among the New York Times’s writers’ stable. Columnist Paul Krugman spouts daily left-wing fact-uninformed economics. Token conservative, David Brooks, pens trivia about the latest book he read. Maureen Dowd jokes about women’s issues. Only Douthat  questions the Times’ ueber-liberal party line and tells the truth.

In his Sunday October 14 Mystery of Benghazi, Douthat dissects why “White House officials continued to stress the importance of the ‘hateful’ and ‘disgusting’ video, and its supposed role as a catalyst for what Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, insisted was a spontaneous attack” even as “it became clearer that the Benghazi violence was an al Qaeda operation” --- a narrative “pushed on Sunday morning programs, on late-night talk shows and at news conferences, by everyone from Rice to Hillary Clinton to the president himself.”  Per Douthat: “When Obama spoke at the United Nations shortly after the attacks, the video was referenced six times in the text; Al Qaeda was referenced only once.”

Douthat, for the first time on the pages of the venerable Times, clearly lays out the time line of what he terms the administration’s “strange denial” that the Benghazi consulate attack was a planned terrorist action.

Douthat rejects two common explanations for Obama’s “self defeating strategy,” before coming up with his own. 

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Obama’s World 2050: Read Good Intentions Before the Election

The success of 2016: Obama‘s America shows there is an audience for conservative movies. Many movie-goers missed the obvious conservative message of a billionaire hero who saves Gotham City from the Occupy Gotham mob in the mega-hit The Dark Knight Rises. That Hollywood could at long last make Parts 1 and 2 of Atlas Shrugged for a niche-market represents an under-appreciated accomplishment.

If we look back, the books that have best put across a conservative message (or an anti-statist) message in the most indelible fashion have offered a vision of a future socialist or statist society. The classics, of course, are Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Now we have Bob Zeidman’s Good Intentions, a satirical novel about a future America in which political correctness has run amuck. Zeidman pictures a society in which everyone works for the state, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World “primitives” are the few remaining entrepreneurs.

Zeidman’s protagonist is Winston Jones (the counterpart of Orwell’s Winston Smith of 1984). Winston Jones is chosen by the Fairness for EveryBody Society to be the president because he has the required makeup—ethnic, racial, religious, sexual orientation, etc.—to “fairly represent the diversity of America.” In his attempt to escape his destiny as President, Jones goes about a voyage of discovery of the true America and comes to an understanding that it has veered radically off course.

The future America has solved the diversity problem by pairing couples to produce a homogenous gene pool, where everyone is alike. If we are all the same, there is equal opportunity and the government assures equal outcomes.  

Zeidman’s future Americans work for the government, where they work for the good of all. To prevent conflict in child rearing, one parent families are encouraged and the state provides an “e-father” for young boys and girls.  Property rights are not enforced because we are obliged to share with the less fortunate. In one scene, Winston encounters a frantic homeowner, in which illegal immigrants have decided to live. They ignore the plea “but this is my house” with the admonition that she should take care of the less fortunate. Perhaps they can perform some odd jobs to pay their way.

Zeidman’s future America has evolved into the ultimate nanny state. The state places patches of rubber matting around fences on which children might play along with warning signs (which make illegal the removal of the warning sign). The state protects us from ingesting things that might harm our health. In theGovMintBucks coffee shop, a “caffeinator” must be bribed to give customers sugared caffeine. After all, sugar causes obesity and hyperactivity in children and caffeine requires a prescription. Police are posted in the coffee shop to enforce these rules.

In his reluctant adventure of discovery, Winston encounters “The Documented,” a group of legal aliens that refuse to break the law and turn down government entitlements along with the mysterious Freedman Group— “subversives” who believe in free market capitalism and secretly run businesses without government interference. At the other end of the spectrum, he comes in contact with Radical Femlamism, a bizarre blending of Radical Feminism and Radical Islam.

I’ll not divulge further secrets. Just read Good Intentions and pass it on, and read it before the election.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why Did British Investigators Prosecute Only the Murdochs When Everyone Was Doing It?

From the press coverage of the British tabloid hacking scandal, it seemed that only News of the World engaged in dirty tricks. All other British tabloids were clean as the fresh driven snow. This struck me as rather suspicious, and I wrote so at the time.

I knew that British tabloids compete against each other fiercely. If only one uses sleazy techniques to get juicier stories, the others would lose out in the competitive struggle.

As an economist, I posed a hypothesis: If only the Murdoch papers (News of the World and the Sun) used underhanded and illegal methods to get news scoops, their share of the tabloid market would be rising over time. Only they had the really salacious stories. Other tabloids would be boring in comparison.

British tabloid circulation statistics do not support the hypothesis. Both News of the World’s share of Sunday tabloids and The Sun’s share of daily circulation remained stable against a backdrop of declining overall tabloid circulation.

This statistical fact tells me that “everyone did it.” But why were only the Murdochs being investigated? I guess no one likes their power and politics.

Well, it looks as if the truth is finally coming out. According to a news report, a suit was filed against the Daily Mirror and covers the time when Piers Morgan was the editor. Morgan, CNN’s replacement for Larry King, previously denied involvement in phone hacking activity, but this scandal is spreading from Murdoch to the Mirror Group. The Associated Press reported late Monday: “Four alleged phone hacking victims have filed suit against the publisher of Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper, a tabloid once edited by CNN’s Morgan, prominent lawyer said late Monday.” An actress, a former nanny to David Beckham’s children and two sports figures are seeking damages due to alleged phone hacking.

It is rather late for the British public to learn that “everyone did it.” News of the World is gone. The Murdoch media empire has been under constant assault, while his likely-equally-guilty competitors have gone about their merry way.

I might also note that the fact that “everyone did it,” is not making headlines. In fact, the story is buried and will likely remain so.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How Obama Handed the Debate to Romney

President Obama handed the debate to challenger Mitt Romney on a silver platter, and few noticed it happening. Pundits debated the finer points and kept count of  body and face blows. They were looking for signs of a technical knockout and missed the fact that Obama lowered his guard for an upper cut that left him dazed on the canvass.  When he was led to his corner, he still did not know what had happened.

This was to be a debate on foreign policy – Obama’s supposed strength. Instead, it turned into a replay of earlier debates on the economy —Obama’s weak suit, and Obama fell into the trap.

Some  trivia enthusiast needs to do a word count, but I reckon about one quarter of the debate was on the American economy with Romney on the attack and Obama on the defensive. The foreign policy context opened the door: Without a strong economy, America cannot have a strong foreign policy.

In watching focus groups after the debate, that is exactly the point viewers took home: Obama gave us a weak economy and thus weakened us in  the international arena. Romney promises to fix our economy. He has a plan, so it is time for a change. The message is as simple as Johnny Cochrane’s “If the glove don’t fit, acquit:” Romney: “Weak economy equals weak foreign policy. Fire Obama.”

In a huge tactical blunder, Obama himself  interjected the economy into what was supposed to be a foreign policy debate:

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Appease, Surrender, Abandon, and Get Nothing: Obama's NaivePolitik

Obama’s superior foreign-policy acumen has been part and parcel of the Beltway narrative. “I killed Osama and I Got Us Out of Iraq” were supposed to offset the awful economy. Pundits were sure that youth-lived-in-Indonesia and college-traveler-to-Pakistan Obama could easily dispatch provincial “businessman” Romney in the  final debate – a fitting climax to the President’s inevitable reelection. As Obama whispered to Putin’s envoy: “Tell Vladimir to wait until the election. Then I will be flexible,” he could not even imagine a loss to such a weak opponent.

The Benghazi tragedy of 9/11 shook the foundations of this narrative. For weeks, the administration kept changing its story, as if in a panic. On the eve of the final debate, foreign policy has moved to the front burner to decide an election that was supposed to be about the economy. The rough-and-tumble of the last debate will swell an audience waiting for blood.

Obama entered the first two debates with weak cards, but he was supposed to contest the final debate from a position of strength. All that has changed. Romney can produce a devastating laundry list of Obama’s foreign policy defeats to an audience that is actually listening. And Obama will not have Candy Crowley, unless Bob Shieffer wants to join her in the tank.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Now Benghazi Is the Intelligence Community's Fault?

The administration is now releasing top secret intelligence memos to demonstrate that Ambassador Rice’s  September 16 talk show statements were the result of bad intelligence (Early Uncertainty on Libya Account, WSJ, October 19). 

If our intelligence community could not debrief consulate personnel, interview eye witnesses, examine the surveillance camera and drone satellite tapes, talk with Libyan officials within five days after the attack, this in itself is a national scandal of huge proportions. 

The New York Times October 16 Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation had already completed this work within a day of the attack (but chose not to share its results with its readers). 
We must ask why exculpatory secret intelligence information is being released now to aid the President’s campaign and why our intelligence community purports to have been asleep at the wheel, especially after one of their top officials had already testified under oath that this was clearly a terrorist attack. 

Why is the intelligence community falling on its sword to help the President get reelected?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Candy Clearly Wrong on Benghazi, But No Instant Replay for Referee Error

During his September 12 comments on the killing of Ambassador Stevens the night before, President Obama spoke of “brutal killings,” praised the work of our diplomats, and called for religious tolerance. He ended on a general note that “no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.”
Ignoring mounting evidence that the attack was planned, the Obama administration launched a full scale campaign to peddle a spontaneous-mob-incited-by-the video narrative on the next day. The most notable operation was Ambassador Rice’s September 16 statement on the Sunday talk shows: “Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo….”

The spontaneous-mob-video narrative continued until September 20, when the press secretary announced that it is “self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.”

As Romney explained this sequence of events at last night’s debate, Obama interrupted and told him to “get the transcript” of his remarks. When Romney persisted, Crowley interjected:  “He did in fact call it an ‘act of terror.” Crowley continued: “It did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.” On both counts, Crowley was outright wrong.

The Times Knew and Kept Silent

The New York Times deafening thirty-five-day silence on the developing Benghazi scandal ended today with its Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation.

The article reveals that the Times knew almost immediately that the assault was carried out by an organized militant group and that there was no spontaneous demonstration of sparked by the anti-Muslim video. According to the Times:  a 20-year-old neighbor described the brigade he saw leading the attack. “There was no protest or anything of that sort.” Libyan guards at the Benghazi compound and other witnesses told Times journalists as early as Sept. 12 that the streets outside the mission were quiet in the moments before the attack without any prior protests.

The attack was planned and carried out by a local militant group, which may or may not have ties with al Qaeda, but U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they intercepted boastful phone calls after the fact from the attackers to individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In June the group staged a similar attack against the Tunisian Consulate over a different film, according to the Congressional testimony of the American security chief at the time.

During the onslaught, most of the attackers made no effort to hide their faces or identities, and during the assault some acknowledged to a Libyan journalist working for the Times that they belonged to the group. The Times reporter interviewed militants who claimed they heard of the video that day from the Cairo protests earlier in the day. Other Benghazi militia leaders said the militant group had boasted back in June that it could destroy the American Mission. The Times notes, however, that “in the days after the attack the Obama administration’s surrogates said it grew out of a peaceful protest against the video.”

The Times remained silent as the Obama administration peddled the spontaneous mob incited by the video to the media. It knew the truth but said nothing.

And there are those who deny the existence of media bias.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Krugman’s Malarkey: “Death by Ideology”

Paul Krugman argues in his Death by Ideology  that “lack of insurance is responsible for thousands, and probably tens of thousands, of excess deaths of Americans each year.” Romney and Ryan, he claims, “want to repeal Obama care and slash funding for Medicaid — actions that would take insurance away from some 45 million nonelderly Americans, causing thousands of people to suffer premature death.” Moreover, any plan to replace Medicare by vouchers “would deprive many seniors of adequate coverage, too, leading to still more unnecessary mortality.” And what if the amount of money in a “voucher care” program were not enough to buy a decent policy? Krugman lectures that “going to the emergency room when you’re very sick is no substitute for regular care, especially if you have chronic health problems.

It would be good if Krugman did a little gathering of facts before he writes.  If he had read my Krugman’s Sick Numbers, he would know that there are virtually no uninsured poor, that most of the uninsured are relatively young and can afford health insurance but choose not to. For them, health insurance is simply not a good deal. He seems not to know that those who substitute the emergency room for a regular physician are primarily those on the government Medicaid program. They are insured but few medical care providers want the measly fees the government offers them.

As an economist, Krugman should know that the real question is not whether there would be enough money in a voucher program “to buy a decent program.” Instead, he should ask, based on developing experience, whether government health insurance programs offer providers enough money so that they do not have to treat the government insured at a loss? If this is the case, the poor will not be able to get a doctor. Judging from the emergency room visit statistics, that is exactly what is happening.

Could it be that government insurance is “death of ideology?”

Monday, October 15, 2012

Obama on Benghazi: Believe Me or Your Lying Eyes (Or At Least Wait Until After the Election)

In Duck Soup, Groucho Marx pleads his innocence to his wealthy matronly fiancĂ©, who catches him smooching with a show girl: “Who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

Since September 12, the Obama administration has been asking us to believe him, his press secretary, and his proxies that our Libyan ambassador and three other consulate officials were killed by a spontaneous mob driven into frenzy by an anti-Muslim film produced by an unknown Christian film maker.  He asks that we not believe his state department or top intelligence officials who testify that this narrative is false. Nor should we notice the coincidence of the attack taking place on 9/11 or that this was revenge for the fifteen top al Qaeda leaders killed by drones under Obama. Of course, Obama spiking the “I-killed-Osama” football at the Democrat convention had nothing to do with this either. Nor did the Libyan President warn of impending violence three days earlier.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Why Obama/Biden Cannot Possibly Win the Presidential Debates

If we cut through the surface images of the two presidential debates – aggressive confident Romney, subdued and passive Obama, jeering Biden, and polite Ryan – the Obama/Biden team has little chance of winning any of the four debates.  Despite recent improvements in survey numbers, the vast majority of Americans think the country “is headed in the wrong direction” and almost eighty percent are “dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States.”

Reduced to fundamentals, Obama and Biden must defend the status quo, which voters believe is a disaster. They cannot offer major makeovers because that would amount to admitting policy mistakes, and they must somehow make voters believe that they have done a good job or that the sorry state of the country is not their fault.  It goes without saying that this is a tough and almost impossible sell after three and a half years in office.

Romney and Ryan have their hands free to blast the status quo, focus on the policy errors of the past three and a half years, and explain what they would do to fix the mess we are in.

When the current team manager is having a losing season, fans decide it is time for a new one. Romney and Ryan can play the role of the new manager with new ideas which can turn the season around if given the chance. Obama and Biden are left with explaining why, due to weather, injuries, and other things beyond their control, they have lost so many games. Fans don’t want excuses. They want wins.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Krugman’s Sick Numbers

In his Romney’s Sick Joke, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman makes the sky-is-falling  claim that 89 million Americans under 65 “would be left out in the cold (without health insurance) under Mr. Romney’s plan…By the way, that’s more than a third of the U.S. population under 65 years old…. Another answer is 45 million, the estimated number of people who would have health insurance if Mr. Obama were re-elected, but would lose it if Mr. Romney were to win.”

I am surprised that Krugman did not tell us how many Americans Romney would allow to die so that he could “cut taxes on the wealthy.”

Politicians, especially liberals, have a nasty habit of creating government programs to solve problems, without knowing whether the problem exists, and, if it exists, how big the problem is. Obama Care was passed, without a Republican vote, to solve a long list of problems – the uninsured poor, those with existing preconditions, the lack of universal coverage, soaring health care costs, and so on – that seems to change with political convenience. According to Krugman, the health-care crisis now is preexisting conditions and Romney’s heartless cuts to Medicaid.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why The Shock That Obama Lost?

The Mainstream media and the Democrat Left are traumatized by Obama`s clear loss of the first presidential debate in Denver. Obama campaign operatives blame Jim Lehrer for letting the debate get out of hand.  Others use the excuse  that Obama`s famous debating skills are rusty. Both sides seem to agree that Obama played defense to protect the lead the polls are giving him. The most zealous Obama fans pulled their hair and asked “Where was Obama tonight?”

Being in Berlin, I watched the debates this morning on YouTube, immediately after reading the pundit consensus that Obama had an off night and had lost the debate. After watching the entire debate, my take was quite different. I saw the regular campaign-trail and White-House-press-conference Obama and a slightly energized Romney, not much different from his better primary debates. I would have judged the debates a tie, putting myself in the shoes of the average viewer. Obama made his usual points. Romney made his, although in a better prepared manner. Both Obama and Romney performed as I expected, except that Romney seemed more energized and comfortable.

If my impression that both performed up to capacity is on the mark, why the media and Democrat shell shock about Obama`s disastrous performance?

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The Debate: Obama Still Overstates Preexisting Conditions

I watched the entire Obama-Romney debate on Youtube. In the health care discussion, Obama spoke of the 50 million Americas (if not 50 million exactly, he suggested a huge number of people)  threatened with the loss of health insurance coverage for preexisting conditions.

In my blog published right before the debate, I showed that preexisting conditions is not a problem for those on government health care programs and on company insurance programs. It affects those who buy direct private insurance, where one in eight might be affected either in terms of policy price or even denial.

The figure I come up with of those who have problems with preexisting conditions is 1.4 to 3.8 million -- far from Secretary Sibelius`s half the American population or Obama´s fifty million.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fact Checking False And Misleading Democratic Assertions About Obamacare

Obama Care is back, front and center, in electoral politics. The Obama campaign uses hyperbole to warn of medical disasters of untold proportions if Republicans win.
Among the deliberate distortions of the Obama campaign are:

Obama’s media collaborators warn that a Romney victory would make shameful America the only “rich nation in the world (that) fails to provide comprehensive health care that is free or inexpensive to its entire population.” Without Obama Care “roughly 50 million Americans, 16 percent of the population, have no health insurance at all; most of them are relatively poor ….” A Republican repeal will cause “45,000 deaths per year and limit (or) ability to enjoy a full life for fear of accident or serious disease.” (What drama!)
Obama, in a prime time interview stresses that he will ”make sure that the 30 million people who don’t have health insurance can get it.” (His advisors corrected the statement to say that Obama meant 36 million U.S. citizens without health insurance, after excluding non-citizens).
Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services  somehow manages to estimate that half the American population has preexisting conditions that threaten their access to health insurance. But do not worry: “Under the Affordable Care Act, these Americans cannot be denied coverage, be charged significantly higher premiums, be subjected to an extended waiting period, or have their benefits curtailed by insurance companies.”

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Few Poor Americans Are Without Health Insurance

The Bureau of Census’s Current Population Report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011 (September 2012) shows 48.6 million American men, women and children without health insurance. The Census Bureau, in its technical notes, admits this is an over count. Some eight million on Medicaid report themselves without insurance. This adjustment lowers the number of uninsured to 40.6 million.

We can calculate the number of “non-poor” without health insurance from the above Census Bureau report using the percentages of uninsured people in families at different levels of household income. The official poverty threshold income is between $11,484 for a single person and $22,891 for a family of four, I use $22,500 figure as the poverty threshold income.

The Census Bureau finds that 24.4 percent of uninsured persons live in households  earning less than $25,000, 21.5% in households earning $25,000-$50,000, 15.4% in households earning $50-75,000, and 7.8% in households earning more than $75,000.

We can use Internal Revenue Statistics to multiply the number of households earning $22,500-$25,000, $25,000-$50,000, $50,000-$75,000, and $75,000 or more by the percent of uninsured households in each category. This procedure yields the number of uninsured households earning $22,500-$25,000 (2.5 million), $25,000-$50,000 (7.2 million), $50,000-$75,000 (2.9 million), and $75,000 and above (2.3 million). We approximate the number of uninsured people in households with incomes $25,000 and higher by multiplying by the average number of household members by income level.

The final tally is 36.1 million people in households earning $22,500 or above that are uninsured. (We suspect that most of these people are young. One quarter between 18 and 34 do not have health insurance).

We get the number of uninsured poor by subtracting the 36.1 million uninsured non-poor from the total uninsured of 40.6 million to get 4.5 million uninsured poor.

The Census Bureau reports that 9.8 million non-citizens are uninsured.  If we, as does President Obama (in a television interview) exclude them from subsidized government programs, they should be dropped from the insured poor ranks. Most non-citizens are Hispanic who have a poverty rate of 25%. If we use the Hispanic figures, we must drop another 2 million from the uninsured poor, for a total of 2.5 million uninsured U.S. citizens.

Given the vagaries and approximations of these calculations, the 2.2 million figure (seven tenths of one percent of the U.S. population) is probably not significantly different from zero. Only five percent of the 46.2 million Americans in poverty lack health insurance, not because it is not available to them, but they do not know about it or do not care to enroll.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why the Fuss? Obama Has Long Been On Record In Favor Of Redistribution

In 2001, then state senator and University of Chicago law lecturer, Barack Obama, sat down for a public radio interview. At the time, he did not anticipate a near-term run for the presidency. He spoke candidly and deliberately about how to “break free” of Constitutional constraints against redistribution to provide “economic justice.” In the course of his interview, Obama laid out the electoral strategy of cobbling together the  “power coalitions” that have been the hallmark of his 2012 re-election campaign.

Politicians are said to speak the truth only by mistake. As his political career took off unexpectedly, Obama subsequently hid his views on redistribution, except in unguarded moments, such as “you didn’t build that” or “spreading the wealth around is good.” But on that day in 2001 in a Chicago public radio station, Obama candidly expounded his political and social philosophy as shaped by his critical-legal studies professors at Harvard and his experience as a community organizer in Chicago.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

What If 'President' McCain Was Running For Re-Election Against 'Senator' Obama?

Imagine John McCain, having eked out a narrow victory in 2008, running for reelection against Illinois Senator Barack Obama under today’s economic and foreign policy circumstances. The following would be  a sample triumphant press report – New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, what have you — dated Friday September15.

“President John McCain’s reelection bid is tottering on the verge of collapse. The raising of the black flag over the Cairo Embassy, the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, and the outburst of violent protests throughout the Mid East appear to be the coup de grace to McCain’s faltering campaign. Yesterday, reporters pelted the visibly dispirited McCain on the campaign trail with pointed questions about the Middle East: ‘Did you really say Egypt is no longer an ally? Did a major UK newspaper not present evidence that we had credible reports of security breaches at our Libya compound and you did nothing about it? You have not held a press conference for months. When do you intend to stand before the press and answer our questions?

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Friday, September 7, 2012

New York Times Downplays U.S. Decline

In my World Economists Confirm America's Decline Under Obama,  I stressed the headline that the World Economic forum’s Global Competitiveness Index lowered the United States’ world ranking from first to fifth during the first three years of Obama’s term.

Unbeknownst to me, the World Economic Forum published its 2012 ranking the next day. With the U.S. election just two months off, the true headline should have been: “U.S. Decline Continues as We Fall from First to Seventh Under Obama.”

The New York Times ignored this headline by emphasizing the growing competitiveness gap within Europe. In its Competitiveness Gap Widening in Europe, the venerable Times gives one brief mention to the further collapse of U.S. competitiveness hidden in the middle of the article:

“Switzerland, which is not a part of the European Union, takes top place in the global table, with Singapore second, the United States occupying 7th position — down two places from last year — and Canada at 14th. China, in 29th place, is rated the most competitive among large emerging markets.”

And the Managing Editor of the Times denies any form of media bias in her newspaper.