Sunday, July 31, 2011

You tried the best, now try the rest

The late word filtering out of Washington is that the outlines of a compromise on the debt limit has emerged that includes things the Republicans will like (no taxes) and the main thing that President Obama has listed as critical: getting him past November 2012 without this issue coming up again. Oh, and everybody can breathe easier: there will be a "Super Committee" that will cut lots of spending or else.

I, for one, think it's time to stop staffing these commissions with politicians, economists, and people with years of experience navigating fiscal policy (e.g. Bowles-Simpson). Let turn it over to the dumbest people in America: the Casey Anthony jurors. How much worse could they do? I mean look at the "smart power" of this White House as a baseline for comparison.
Bravo and Brava! - Tonight I took the family to see the Hampshire Shakespeare Company's Young Company performance of "The Winter's Tale." A classmate of my son's played the major role of Paulina and - gosh and golly - she was great. These kids today have wisdom and poise beyond their years. OK, beyond my years at the same age. Must be the Internet or something.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Your turn

Powerline: "Over to you, Harry."

Last night, Harry Reid had some fun tweaking the House of Representatives: "...they're having trouble conducting [business]." Hardy-har-har. This coming from the leader of the Senate which hasn't passed a budget in over 800 days. There was nothing whatsoever holding the Senate back from passing their own debt reduction plan except - like the President - that would mean taking a principled, if unpopular, stand.

I have to agree with Powerline and Instapundit readers: there's no point for the House to negotiate with itself. That's now how Congress is supposed to work. Let Harry Reid pass his own plan through the Senate and then both sides bring their competing plans to conference.

Obama is irrelevant and, besides, he's busy Tweeting.
Boehner plan passes - Breaking news: just barely over the hump 218-210. It looks like a dozen Republicans were holding their fire until the magic number of 214 was reached then they voted "no." No Democrats voted for the bill.
Changing the rhetoric - Verum Serum has a roundup of "the Democrats new tone during the debt debate."

More reasonable rhetoric - Hit & Run: "The greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history." Yes, that what you get with a minimal decrease in the growth of discretionary spending after doubling the size of the government in 10 years.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quote of the day - From Business Week: "Why the debt crisis is even worse than you think". Michael Boskin: "The word 'unsustainable' doesn't convey the problem enough, in my opinion." That is: entitlement spending.
How mandatory spending becomes non-mandatory

It happens when you're out of money:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Deluged by entitlement spending

If there's been one overarching theme to this blog through the years, it's been my Cassandra-like pronouncements that government spending on Medicare and Social Security is unsustainable. The federal government has made ever-mounting promises that it cannot possibly keep and now we're approaching the endgame.

From Opinion Journal: "The Road to a Downgrade - A short history of the entitlement state."
The forecast is for $8 trillion to $10 trillion more in red ink through 2021. Mr. Obama hinted in a press conference earlier this month that if it weren't for Republicans, he'd want another stimulus. Scary thought: None of this includes the ObamaCare entitlement that will place 30 million more Americans on government health rolls.

This is the road to fiscal perdition. The looming debt downgrade only confirms what everyone knows: Congress has made so many promises to so many Americans that there is no conceivable way those promises can be kept. Tax rates might have to rise to 60%, 70%, even 80% to raise the revenues to finance these promises, but that would be economically ruinous.

Yet Mr. Obama and most Democrats still oppose any serious reform of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This insistence on no reform reinforces the notion that our entitlement state is too big to afford but also too big to change politically. This is how a AAA country becomes AA, the first step on the march to Greece.
Long before our looming downgrade, what was to be gained by our national self-delusion that entitlements could never be touched? A generation of Americans have been sold on this Ponzi scheme that has no way out except crushing taxes or slashed benefits, even if Washington taxed 100% of the income of the "rich." Reform was the only pathway to ensure that younger Americans had something to look forward to in their older years. Now that the road to serfdom has been well-paved, there's no way to avoid the wreck ahead.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Does anybody understand the black-hole gravity of our debt problem?

Well, the CBO scored John Boehner's debt-reduction plan and announced it will save $850 billion over a decade.

Big whoop. Thanks to entitlement programs, the national debt is poised to double over the next 10 years and we can't even hit a trillion dollars in cuts? Not even in imaginary, fairyland spending cuts that probably won't happen?

As Megan McArdle wrote: We're doomed.
"Visions" and "contours" and "frameworks" oh my! - Hot Air: "White House press corps: How come Obama hasn't produced his own debt-ceiling plan?" Ah, you see, that would be that elusive quality called "leadership" of which President Present is not a fan.

Where was this press corps a couple months ago? I guess the thrill is gone.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Obama's speech - Sweet mercy, this is a cringeworthy melange of class warfare and straw men. I can't type fast enough, but nearly every sentence he utters is false or misleading. Corporate jet owners? Oil companies? Hedge-fund managers? Asking "patriotic" Americans to pay more in taxes? Man.

Overall, he puts himself above the fray: this debt crisis has nothing to do with him. He didn't rack up this debt with an ineffectual stimulus, or a GM bailout, or Obamacare, or this Libyan misadventure. It's all those awful Congressional Republicans who refuse to break their promises to the very voters who sent them to Washington.

And one more time: why didn't Obama and his Democratic buddies cram through a tax hike when they had a filibuster-proof majority in Congress? Why haven't they submitted a budget, as required by law, to plan the tax and spending of the nation? In other words, where's the leadership? Oh, but it's those other guys who are intransigent and irresponsible. Pitiful.

More - From PJ Tatler.
I'll have one scoop of ice cream instead of my desired two - that's called "dieting"

Paul Ryan exposes the "Trillion-Dollar Gimmick" in Harry Reid's proposal to "save" money by artificially holding elevated military spending as a baseline then calling it a "cut." Hat tip to Ace who correctly noted that the media regurgitated this talking point without, you know, doing any kind of fact-checking.

I think checking sources, fact-checking, and contacting people to confirm allegations must be an elective at journalism school. It's no wonder that a wide majority of Americans view the media as biased and unethical.

Clearly the problem is Fox News.

Extra - See Matt Hoy on "Quantifying media bias" and "Not telling the whole story."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dear Sweet Lord Baby Jesus, lyin' there in your ghost manger

It looks like I turned on the NASCAR Nationwide race on ten minutes too late last night, as the Nashville Speedway pastor went all Ricky Bobby during the invocation:

Carl Edwards - who went on to win the race - told his team owner: “I turned to Jack (Roush) after that. I said, ‘If anything happens, I want him to be at my funeral.’ That was one of the best invocations I have ever heard.”

Then he said: "I'm all jacked up on Mountain Dew!"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

J'accuse - John Podhoretz make an accusation against Obama: "The President is actually trying to talk the markets into a panic." Well, I think it's best to apply Hanlon's razor here.

Extra - Much more from PJ Tatler.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quote of the Day from the Senate sandbox

The latest hubbub on the debt limit deals, via the Hill:
“Harry’s not being included!” exclaimed the second senator.
Kids can be cruel.
Explosion in Norway - Reuters: "Explosion rocks central Oslo."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taking can-kicking to a whole-new professional level

First, there's this headline: "Trust in federal government hits a new low."

And why wouldn't it when it's packed with brave and principled leaders like the iconoclastic Senators known as the Gang of Six? Look upon their mighty works to avoid the financial collapse of our government:
Yesterday, the so-called Gang of Six—a cadre of Republican and Democratic Senators working independently from the administration and Congressional leadership—released a proposal to reduce the projected federal deficit by $3.7 trillon over the next decade. According to The Washington Post, it "requires lawmakers in the coming months to cut agency spending, overhaul Social Security and Medicare, and rewrite the tax code to generate more than $1 trillion in fresh revenue." It's But maybe not in an entirely good way.
The logic of this approach is unassailable: the federal government must raise taxes and cut spending in some manner yet to be determined.

The underwear gnomes were more responsible.

And then there's our President who keeps mouthing poll-tested words like "balanced approach" without ever deigning to provide the smallest clue what he would do to solve the debt crisis. Still, you gotta tip your hat to a guy who has the overarching self-regard to say things like this:
"This is actually a self-created crisis in some ways. It has to do with folks who are digging into set positions rather than saying how do we solve a problem," the president told KMBC, a CNN affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri.
Ah, you see, Obama doesn't believe he exacerbated the debt crisis or the poisonous Washington culture that has prevented resolution. It's all those other guys who aren't providing solutions, darn it.

Extra - USN&WP "How Obama blew a big debt deal": "Yet Obama has had plenty of chances to do something big about runaway spending and the mushrooming national debt, and he's taken a pass every time." Unless you count speeches and commission-assembling.

More - Zero Hedge goes for the "air quotes" record.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quote of the day - Via Legal Insurrection, here's Vegas icon Steve Wynn explaining why nobody wants to hire workers: "And I’m telling you that the business community in this company is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he’s gone, everybody’s going to be sitting on their thumbs."

For good measure, check out this Bloomberg article: "Why employers are slow to fill jobs." Choice quote: "We live in a time of extraordinary uncertainty about government policy with respect to taxes, health care, financial regulation, monetary issues, environmental regulation, and other areas." Better to just hunker down until November 2012.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Friday Night Lights" farewell

The reckoning of runaway government - Opinion Journal: "Get ready for a 70% marginal tax rate." "Many Democrats demand no changes to Social Security and Medicare spending. But these programs are projected to run ever-growing deficits totaling tens of trillions of dollars in coming decades, primarily from rising real benefits per beneficiary. To cover these projected deficits would require continually higher income and payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare on all taxpayers that would drive the combined marginal tax rate on labor income to more than 70% by 2035 and 80% by 2050."
There's a trillion dollars right there - Commentary: "If polls should inform policy, what about Obamacare?" Yeah, right. The extreme unseriousness of this White House is epitomized by its ridiculous insistence that we spend $53 billion on high-speed choo-choo trains.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A good review of something so bad - Zero Hedge: "A brief history of Obama's fiscal record."

And for good measure here's Victor Davis Hanson with "St. Obama and the Debt Dragon."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Missed the chance - The Atlantic's Clive Crook thinks that Obama passed up a golden opportunity to get a balanced debt deal by ignoring the Bowles-Simpson commission.
TGI "Friday Night Lights" - Tonight's the final episode of one of the freshest shows to ever grace television, one in which does not involve hip New Yorkers riffing on each other and sipping lattes. NPR replayed a Fresh Air piece with Coach Kyle Chandler today.
Speechifying ain't leading

Charles Krauthammer reminds us that even though there's been no shortage of Obama press conferences recently, he's yet to offer anything that could be called a plan to deal with the debt crisis:
All of a sudden he’s a born-again budget balancer prepared to bravely take on his own party by making deep cuts in entitlements. Really? Name one. He’s been saying forever that he’s prepared to discuss, engage, converse about entitlement cuts. But never once has he publicly proposed a single structural change to any entitlement.
Hasn’t the White House leaked that he’s prepared to raise the Medicare age or change the cost-of-living calculation?

Anonymous talk is cheap. Leaks are designed to manipulate. Offers are floated and disappear.

Say it, Mr. President. Give us one single structural change in entitlements. In public.
Obama's been pushing for the "big deal" but he's never touched entitlements which is the only pathway to genuine debt control. We're not going to get it by cutting back on park rangers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Calling the bluff - Megan McArdle: "Go ahead, GOP, make Obama's day." "Because it is a bluff. Obama is not going to shut down the government rather than accept a short term deal. He's also not going to default. Doing so would virtually ensure that even if he doesn't have to raise the debt ceiling in 2012, come January 2013, he'll be cleaning out the Oval Office to make room for the next resident."
Everybody act surprised, the Obamacare chronicles - Hit and Run: "CBO: Government's innovative health savings programs don't work."
Good question - Hot Air: "If default would be a catastrophe, why is Obama opposed to a short-term deal that would avert it?" He better warm up to the idea, because that's the way this is heading.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Scenes from today's debt talks

With both sides far apart, House majority leader Eric Cantor advocated for a smaller package to get past the looming Treasury deadline and calm the markets:
That’s when Cantor said he would be willing to abandon his own insistence on having just one vote on the debt ceiling if they could agree to a smaller package of cuts in exchange for a shorter-term hike that would require another increase before the 2012 election.
As Charles Krauthammer noted, "long-term" planning for this President is one day after Election Day. So, no, we can't have another vote that might put Obama on the spot again.
But Obama said he wouldn’t do the debt-limit increase incrementally and that he would veto a short-term bill.

“That’s when he got very agitated,” Cantor told reporters.

“Obama lit him up. Cantor sat in stunned silence,” said an official in the meeting. “It was incredible. If the public saw Obama he would win in a landslide.”
And there's your White House mentality on bald display. Job #1: Getting Obama re-elected. Job #2: everything else.

Extra - Hot Air: "I don't want to get my hopes up but we might be in store for another 45-minute lecture tomorrow on corporate jets." Oh boy.
Nobody wants to do nothin' in Washington

I've been thinking about Senator McConnell's trial balloon to let President Obama raise the debt limit in three steps, and I decided I don't like it. Politically, it's a shrewd move. But philosophically, I'm so very sick and tired of politicians in Washington refusing to lead. This goes for the various Washington "czars" and Medicare's Independent Payment Advisory Board, and the latest showdown, waiting for the bond market to put sufficient pressure on the major players. Anything to pass the buck.

I mean these guys work about 30 weeks a year and every week is three, four days tops. And they're not digging ditches: all they have to do is represent the will of the people. But apparently putting words on a piece of legislation and then pushing a button to vote is too much.

If I had my druthers, Congress would be holding daily votes on raising the debt ceiling, so everybody can be on record. OK, you don't like the Ryan budget? What's the alternative? As Ari might say, let's vote it out. Do something.

Related - National Review: "Leadership by default."
They like the green - The Truth About Cars: "Where does the UAW stand on fuel economy?"
Elevating the discussion

Similarly, his shopworn rhetoric has become more desperate. On July 5, he said of the debt-ceiling negotiations, "It's my hope … that we'll all leave our political rhetoric at the door." The next day he insisted that "the debt ceiling should not be … used as a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners, for oil and gas companies that are making billions of dollars because the price of gasoline has gone up so high."

When Obama says people should drop their political rhetoric, he means everyone else.
Obama's gonna kill Grandma - The Social Security Administration chief actuary confirms that only the Treasury can withhold Social Security checks. Hey, whoa, let's tone down the rhetoric here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Erin Go Broke - According to Moody's, Ireland has joined Greece and Portugal in junk bond status.
Inevitable: Obama scares Grandma - Hot Air: "Obama: No, I can't promise that Social Security checks will go out."

Here's the irony: up until last year, payroll taxes were running a surplus and Social Security benefits could be paid from incoming revenue; the program was expected to run this way until 2016. But thanks to the awesome Obama economy, last year Social Security ran a deficit and has to cash in $46 billion in Trust Fund treasury bills in 2011. So thanks to Obama's mishandling of the economy, he can make this credible threat! It's a win-win, baby.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The urgency of now!

Powerline has some comments also:
If not now, when? How about two years ago? Or last year? Or in February, when Obama proposed a budget that contemplated, on the most optimistic assumptions, adding at least $600 billion of new debt every year for the next decade? Obama is now fixated on the “deadline” of August 2, 2011, but where was he in 2009? Or 2010? Or prior to last week? It has been over two years since the federal government has had a budget. For Obama to adopt a sanctimonious “eat your peas” approach to the federal budget is so disingenuous that it is not surprising that Republicans find him infuriating to negotiate with.
Isn't it now obvious to even the most diehard Obama-ite that the Bowles-Simpson debt commission was just a delaying tactic to push off difficult choices and pork up the government? Even at this late and urgent date, Obama has yet to put on the table a proposal that will cut the deficit even as much as we're borrowing on a monthly basis.

Mr. Serious Responsibility wants to talk it out now.

Extra - Leadership is hard, and stuff.

More - Legal Insurrection: "A completely irresponsible president who just months ago proposed a budget with devastating deficits, repeatedly demanded that the deficits and debt be dealt with now, without any delay. Where has he been for two years?"

And this - Verum Serum: "If a tax increase is key to any deal, why didn't Democrats raise taxes the last six times they raised the debt limit?" That is, when they had wide majorities in Congress. It's a mystery, indeed.
The time has come for action! - Here's the Minuteman with "Pretty Ambitious Kabuki": "Obama has sat on the sidelines for months, demagoguing Republican proposals and letting Biden grind away with Congressional leaders. I would never claim to be smart enough to be a Democrat strategist, but does Obama really imagine he can run onto the field in the last five minutes and then get credit for some sort of leadership?"

Well, it's been established that Obama thinks the average American is - ahem - misinformed, so he probably thinks the masses can be fooled again.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Liberals plan to kill Social Security

Man, I'm loving this editorial from the Washington Post which could have been ripped from the archives of this blog: "Never-cut-entitlements liberals would hurt the poor by not giving ground."
When it comes to Social Security, the no-benefit-cuts caucus argues that the program is not the major driver of current deficits. This is correct but irrelevant. The program is on a course to run out of enough money to pay promised benefits in 2036. The longer policymakers wait to make adjustments the more painful these adjustments will be - and the more risk they pose to the most vulnerable beneficiaries that Democrats assert they want to protect. Fixing Social Security is important for its own sake; it is going to have to happen sooner or later. If the debt ceiling debate presents a sensible occasion for getting that done, at least in part, so much the better.
As I've noted before "doing nothing" means that promised benefits will be automatically cut by about a quarter once the Trust Fund runs dry in 2036. There's little compassion in that, especially for the Americans who will need it most.
Incomprehensible numbers - Zero Hedge: "Several inconvenient truths about the debt ceiling and "deficit reduction."

Friday, July 08, 2011

Roughing it - I'm camping this weekend and, man, is the WiFi weak.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The debt bomb expands - Remember when Erskine Bowles of deficit commission fame called the nation's debt "the most predictable economic crisis in U.S. history"? Here's James Pethokoukis with "U.S. debt crisis might be on fast track."

Related - Legal Insurrection: "Slow motion political crash." And Powerline, too.

And this - Here's your idiom for the moment.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The greatest broadband ever

Brought to you by the bestest stimulus program that saved us from Armageddon or something:
Eisenach and Caves looked at three areas that received stimulus funds, in the form of loans and direct grants, to expand broadband access in Southwestern Montana, Northwestern Kansas, and Northeastern Minnesota. The median household income in these areas is between $40,100 and $50,900. The median home prices are between $94,400 and $189,000.

So how much did it cost per unserved household to get them broadband access? A whopping $349,234, or many multiples of household income, and significantly more than the cost of a home itself.
Hat tip to Ace of Spades which headlines with "$7 million per house" to watch kittens on YouTube - but at this point, who's counting anymore?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Raise the debt limit or we'll shoot this dog

So the big chatter today is that the NY Times' token moderate David Brooks wrote that Republicans who reflexively vote against any tax increase "have no sense of moral decency."


Let me restate, as I have before, that I agree that there must be some taxes to go along with deep budget cuts so that we can rein in a runaway budget that is currently borrowing 46 cents for every dollar spent. It's foolish to play "chicken" with the credit of the United States. Mr. Reasonable has called for yet another chit-chat session, and the Republicans should carve out the best deal possible.

But let me respond to Mr. Brooks and others: there are quite a few of us in flyover country who think that piling historical levels of debt on future American generations is the real moral indecency. This particular outrage, which animated the Tea Party, is one that this President has never grasped given his empty rhetoric and risible "budget cutting" proposals. Now we have a couple dozen new GOP faces in Congress who were elected largely on this issue that we cannot keep borrowing and spending. According to Mr. Brooks, they should ignore these voters and "do the right thing" because the heavens will fall if the debt limit isn't raised just one more time (and again after the election, one supposes.)

Maybe we wouldn't be engaged in this latest round of brinksmanship if Congressional Democrats or the President had proposed a federal budget - as required by law. Or if Obama had adopted the recommendations of his own bipartisan debt commission. Or if the Democrats had simply raised taxes on "the rich" when they had filibuster-proof majorities in Congress. Or if they had adopted a stimulus program that didn't just pile another $800 billion of new debt to make things worse than if we had done nothing.

Ah, but now it's the Republicans who are being unreasonable about raising the debt limit.

Extra - Town Hall: "David Brooks needs a vacation" "Perhaps David Brooks should reserve his lectures on moral decency for the party that has shamelessly accelerated our debt crisis through its reckless spending binge."

"Why can't everyone be as altruistic as me?" - Hit and Run: "Obama uses bully pulpit to demand end of political rhetoric."

Monday, July 04, 2011

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Friday night news dump

Just go and grill some hot dogs, America, and pay no attention to that new report from the Council of Economic Advisors. Weekly Standard: "Obama's economists: 'Stimulus' has cost $278,000 per job."
When the Obama administration releases a report on the Friday before a long weekend, it’s clearly not trying to draw attention to the report’s contents. Sure enough, the “Seventh Quarterly Report” on the economic impact of the “stimulus,” released on Friday, July 1, provides further evidence that President Obama’s economic “stimulus” did very little, if anything, to stimulate the economy, and a whole lot to stimulate the debt.
Nice work if you can get it. And you can't.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Indebted - Mark Steyn: "Obama's Declaration of Dependence" "On Independence Day 2011, debt-ridden America is now dependent, not on far-off kings but on global bond and currency markets, which fulfill the same role the cliff edge does in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. At some point, Wile looks down and realizes he’s outrun solid ground. You know what happens next."

Yeah, well I know and I suspect that Tim Geithner knows, but I don't think the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania has a clue.
Typical Daytona race - Lots of lead changes, crashes at the end. Congrats to David Ragan for getting his first NASCAR win!

I finished in fourth place in my fantasy league using Algorithm #4.

Friday, July 01, 2011

America - The exceptional country.
Harry Potter vs. Star Wars

I had a good laugh at this comparison, although I would have added the duo designed to provide comic relief.

Harry Potter: the Weasley twins
Star Wars: R2D2 & C3PO.