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Posts For: February 28, 2009

Psst: Work on the Recession

Disconnected? That’s the New York Times take on the Obama administration, but there is a silver lining:

The economy is spiraling down at an accelerating pace, threatening to undermine the Obama administration’s spending plans, which anticipate vigorous rates of growth in years to come. A sense of disconnect between the projections by the White House and the grim realities of everyday American life was enhanced on Friday, as the Commerce Department gave a harsher assessment for the last three months of 2008. In place of an initial estimate that the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent — already abysmal — the government said that the pace of decline was actually 6.2 percent, making it the worst quarter since 1982.

The silver lining is that this might head off the ludicrous plans to hike taxes, nationalize industries and vastly expand regulation and anti-business measures (e.g. cap and trade) in a recession. Now it’s true that the Obama team’s supposedly honest budget has been revealed in less than a week as pure fantasy:

If, as is widely anticipated, the economy grows more slowly than the White House assumes, revenue will be lower, forcing the government to cut spending, raise taxes or run larger deficits. Economists also criticized as unrealistically hopeful the assumptions by the Federal Reserve as it began so-called stress tests to gauge the health of the nation’s largest banks. In testimony, Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, said that the nation’s unemployment rate would most likely reach 8.8 percent next year.

Well, yes it would be insane to raise taxes even higher when the recession proves to be worse than expected, but this is all a matter of degrees. Why raise taxes at all or threaten to raise them while the economy is in free-fall? Why concoct a cap and trade policy that aims to suck another $645B more out of the economy in “carbon revenues”?

The Grand Design to remodel the U.S. economy is running head long into the worsening recession. The Obama administration may need to slow down the massive redesign of our tax, energy, and healthcare policies (and indeed the entire relationship between individuals and their government) in order to give the economy a chance to recover. A viable bank recovery plan and corporate or payroll tax relief aren’t as sexy as nationalized healthcare, but the president’s supposedly brilliant advisors might want to consider a whole lot less of the latter — unless they really do desire a replay of the 1930s.

Disconnected? That’s the New York Times take on the Obama administration, but there is a silver lining:

The economy is spiraling down at an accelerating pace, threatening to undermine the Obama administration’s spending plans, which anticipate vigorous rates of growth in years to come. A sense of disconnect between the projections by the White House and the grim realities of everyday American life was enhanced on Friday, as the Commerce Department gave a harsher assessment for the last three months of 2008. In place of an initial estimate that the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 3.8 percent — already abysmal — the government said that the pace of decline was actually 6.2 percent, making it the worst quarter since 1982.

The silver lining is that this might head off the ludicrous plans to hike taxes, nationalize industries and vastly expand regulation and anti-business measures (e.g. cap and trade) in a recession. Now it’s true that the Obama team’s supposedly honest budget has been revealed in less than a week as pure fantasy:

If, as is widely anticipated, the economy grows more slowly than the White House assumes, revenue will be lower, forcing the government to cut spending, raise taxes or run larger deficits. Economists also criticized as unrealistically hopeful the assumptions by the Federal Reserve as it began so-called stress tests to gauge the health of the nation’s largest banks. In testimony, Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, said that the nation’s unemployment rate would most likely reach 8.8 percent next year.

Well, yes it would be insane to raise taxes even higher when the recession proves to be worse than expected, but this is all a matter of degrees. Why raise taxes at all or threaten to raise them while the economy is in free-fall? Why concoct a cap and trade policy that aims to suck another $645B more out of the economy in “carbon revenues”?

The Grand Design to remodel the U.S. economy is running head long into the worsening recession. The Obama administration may need to slow down the massive redesign of our tax, energy, and healthcare policies (and indeed the entire relationship between individuals and their government) in order to give the economy a chance to recover. A viable bank recovery plan and corporate or payroll tax relief aren’t as sexy as nationalized healthcare, but the president’s supposedly brilliant advisors might want to consider a whole lot less of the latter — unless they really do desire a replay of the 1930s.

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Done with Human Rights

As a foreign policy issue, human rights has historically been a no-brainer for both Democrats and Republicans. Conservatives pushed Stalinist regimes on their records of mistreatment all through the Cold War and liberal leaders have usually been comfortable at least talking the talk when it comes to far right nationalist tyrannies. Not so these days. Michael Barone is not overstating the case when he writes:

One arrow in the quiver of American foreign policy has been our pressing — sometimes sotto voce (as in the Helsinki Accords), sometimes in opera buffa (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”) — tyrannical regimes to honor human rights. Hillary Clinton has put that arrow over her knee, broken it in two and thrown it away.

Barone is referring to Clinton’s blunt announcement to the Chinese that the U.S. is not in the Human Rights business at the moment.

What’s most repugnant about the Obama administration’s indifference to human rights abuses is the way this posture was achieved. Obama created a rights-abusing bogeyman in the person of George W. Bush and then, with full executive bravado, slew the monster by way of inaugural rhetoric and a few high-profile (but technically watery) presidential orders. So Barack Obama has supposedly done his share for human rights.

He’s closing (but really just relocating) the Guantanamo facility, so he doesn’t have to mention the wrongfully imprisoned thousands throughout China. He’s ending (but really just discussing the ramifications of ending) tough interrogations, so he doesn’t have to bring up Syrian torture when reaching out to the Assad regime. He’s closed down temporary CIA detention facilities, so when he goes on Arabian TV he’s free to praise the “courage” of a Saudi king whose domestic anti-terrorism program amounts to a secret network of sheer brutality.

We are seeing the real-world impact of equating three cases of American waterboarding with institutionalized international torture. Obama set up Bush’s America as a human rights wasteland in order to play to the netroots and taint his Republican challenger. It worked, as a campaign strategy. But his years-long mission to convince the entire world that America has lost its moral standing worked too. In histrionically declaring America a newly torture-free nation during his congressional address last week, Obama may think he’s let himself off the international hook. But with his administration’s decision to scrap human rights, the period of our nation’s real moral degradation may only just be getting started.

Last summer, when he was still a candidate, Barack Obama promised: “I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, ‘You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.'” Our moment just passed.

As a foreign policy issue, human rights has historically been a no-brainer for both Democrats and Republicans. Conservatives pushed Stalinist regimes on their records of mistreatment all through the Cold War and liberal leaders have usually been comfortable at least talking the talk when it comes to far right nationalist tyrannies. Not so these days. Michael Barone is not overstating the case when he writes:

One arrow in the quiver of American foreign policy has been our pressing — sometimes sotto voce (as in the Helsinki Accords), sometimes in opera buffa (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”) — tyrannical regimes to honor human rights. Hillary Clinton has put that arrow over her knee, broken it in two and thrown it away.

Barone is referring to Clinton’s blunt announcement to the Chinese that the U.S. is not in the Human Rights business at the moment.

What’s most repugnant about the Obama administration’s indifference to human rights abuses is the way this posture was achieved. Obama created a rights-abusing bogeyman in the person of George W. Bush and then, with full executive bravado, slew the monster by way of inaugural rhetoric and a few high-profile (but technically watery) presidential orders. So Barack Obama has supposedly done his share for human rights.

He’s closing (but really just relocating) the Guantanamo facility, so he doesn’t have to mention the wrongfully imprisoned thousands throughout China. He’s ending (but really just discussing the ramifications of ending) tough interrogations, so he doesn’t have to bring up Syrian torture when reaching out to the Assad regime. He’s closed down temporary CIA detention facilities, so when he goes on Arabian TV he’s free to praise the “courage” of a Saudi king whose domestic anti-terrorism program amounts to a secret network of sheer brutality.

We are seeing the real-world impact of equating three cases of American waterboarding with institutionalized international torture. Obama set up Bush’s America as a human rights wasteland in order to play to the netroots and taint his Republican challenger. It worked, as a campaign strategy. But his years-long mission to convince the entire world that America has lost its moral standing worked too. In histrionically declaring America a newly torture-free nation during his congressional address last week, Obama may think he’s let himself off the international hook. But with his administration’s decision to scrap human rights, the period of our nation’s real moral degradation may only just be getting started.

Last summer, when he was still a candidate, Barack Obama promised: “I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, ‘You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.'” Our moment just passed.

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Incoherence

Marty Peretz writes of the decision not to attend Durban II and of the appointment of Chas Freeman:

I have an instinct that the finale for Geneva was hastened by the Freeman disaster about which I wrote thrice yesterday. No one can explain what the president sees in him that would allow such a crude propagandist and bigot to be judge of what intelligence information the president sees and what he does not. The intelligence machinery of the country has been under suspicion for years  because of ignorance or bureaucratic conflicts. Add now the fact that Freeman loves the Chinese dictatorship and that he is a shill for the king of Saudi Arabia. Oh yes, and he clearly despises friends of Israel, Jewish or not.

Perhaps this is so, but then there is no rhyme or reason to our national security apparatus. We have a president who ricochets from one set of critics to the next without regard for the merits of the issue before him. Is this is what we are to expect — the toady of the House of Saud in a key role “balanced” by a “boycott” of Durban II? This is a peculiar compromise indeed: to be just a little bit in the thrall of the Israel-bashers. And it raises the troubling question as to who really is in charge of decision making: everyone or no one or a very confused president?

Coming out of the election, one theory on Barack Obama was that he was a “moderate” on national security who simply played to the netroots in the primary.  That’s the “bet” Colin Powell and others placed. Another explanation, particularly after the appointments of solid establishment types, was that he really didn’t care that much about foreign policy and wanted to devote himself to domestic policy.

Perhaps re-inventing American society and dismantling the free market system have taken most of his time of late. But if that is the case, he better start paying attention and stop leaving national security to others. National security is not self-executing. Without a strong hand at the rudder and a clear chain of command we will have incoherence.

Marty Peretz writes of the decision not to attend Durban II and of the appointment of Chas Freeman:

I have an instinct that the finale for Geneva was hastened by the Freeman disaster about which I wrote thrice yesterday. No one can explain what the president sees in him that would allow such a crude propagandist and bigot to be judge of what intelligence information the president sees and what he does not. The intelligence machinery of the country has been under suspicion for years  because of ignorance or bureaucratic conflicts. Add now the fact that Freeman loves the Chinese dictatorship and that he is a shill for the king of Saudi Arabia. Oh yes, and he clearly despises friends of Israel, Jewish or not.

Perhaps this is so, but then there is no rhyme or reason to our national security apparatus. We have a president who ricochets from one set of critics to the next without regard for the merits of the issue before him. Is this is what we are to expect — the toady of the House of Saud in a key role “balanced” by a “boycott” of Durban II? This is a peculiar compromise indeed: to be just a little bit in the thrall of the Israel-bashers. And it raises the troubling question as to who really is in charge of decision making: everyone or no one or a very confused president?

Coming out of the election, one theory on Barack Obama was that he was a “moderate” on national security who simply played to the netroots in the primary.  That’s the “bet” Colin Powell and others placed. Another explanation, particularly after the appointments of solid establishment types, was that he really didn’t care that much about foreign policy and wanted to devote himself to domestic policy.

Perhaps re-inventing American society and dismantling the free market system have taken most of his time of late. But if that is the case, he better start paying attention and stop leaving national security to others. National security is not self-executing. Without a strong hand at the rudder and a clear chain of command we will have incoherence.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

David Brooks remains torn.  The president is not governing as the candidate he promised to be, but instead as a far left pol. Brooks declares Obama’s budget is “far more honest” than the ones that preceded it, but then proceeds to tell us how it really isn’t. (It is less honest than even Brooks concedes, actually.) It must be grating to those with such high hopes  to see “a weird passivity emanating from the White House, a deference to the Washington establishment.”

Larry Kudlow isn’t mincing words in his evaluation: “Let me be very clear on the economics of President Obama’s address to Congress and budget. He is declaring war on investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, large corporations, and private-equity and venture-capital funds. That is the meaning of his anti-growth tax-hike proposals, which make absolutely no sense at all — either for this recession or from the standpoint of expanding our economy’s long-run potential to grow.”

Obama does have a way with words, Rich Lowry concedes. “Obama is a talented, but a wily and dishonest, salesman. Nineteenth-century pol Martin Van Buren earned the sobriquet ‘the little magician’ for his skillful manipulation of New York’s political machine. Obama is the rhetorical magician, depending — as all magicians do — on deft sleight of hand. In his speech, Obama didn’t want his listeners to think he’s a big-government heir to Lyndon Johnson, so he talked of slashing waste. He said his team had begun going ‘line by line’ through the budget, and ‘we have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade.'” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Fred Barnes thinks Obama is in campaign mode, avoiding hard choices and playing the role of “quick change artist.” He concludes, “Financial markets have already registered a vote of no confidence in Obama’s economic plan. But the political community and the public are reserving judgment. At some point, reality will intrude, followed by accountability. But not yet.”

Perhaps Obama, for all his eloquence, was insufficiently clear on Iraq during the campaign. He snipes at Pelosi-Reid generated criticism: “They, maybe, weren’t paying attention to what I said during the campaign.” Well I guess it depends what part of the campaign.

Fiscal conservatives were duped says the Beagle Blogger.

Voters were also conned about that post-racial business.

The oppo-researcher, non-lawyer hired by the White House counsel office (imagine if the Bush administration had done this) leaves to go back to the DNC.

Charles Hurt writes: “This year alone, deficit spending will be $1.8 trillion. But even among Democrats, there remain some deficit hawks who will choke, and that will lead to only one solution: even bigger tax hikes than the president already has proposed. This may be the ‘change’ Obama was dreaming about, but it won’t be what people were hoping for.”

How irrelevant is a poll on the GOP 2012 contenders in February 2009? Very.

Megan McArdle writes: “I think it is decidedly iffy whether congress actually passes any cap and trade system with teeth.  For a cap and trade system to work, it will have to make energy more expensive at a time when incomes are declining.  This will be very, very, very unpopular.  I imagine the Democrats will try to get the Republicans to kill it for them, but they don’t have much margin–one flipping Republican in the Senate and a few in the house should let them pass it.  If the Republicans are smart, they will provide three moderate Republicans in the Senate,  a few Republicans from safe seats in the House, and make the Democrats suffer the consequences of raising the price of gas and electricity.  But I doubt they’ll be smart; they’ll do Pelosi’s dirty work for her.” No, generally a minority party doesn’t recover unless it opposes asinine policies and sets itself up as the alternative. Moreover, it never pays to harm the country.

Is the administration’s design for nationalized healthcare sinking healthcare stocks? Looks that way.  But it’s not just healthcare. Don Luskin says, “The mask is off. He is trying to socialize this country.” Watch the whole thing.

It does seem that the entire market is imploding.

You can see why people might be nervous.

Jon Chait slams Chas Freeman in the Washington Post, but uses up much of the precious platform slamming “neocons” who believe “good guys” should fight “bad guys.” (Were Truman, FDR and JFK neocons? Churchill too, I suppose.) Mislabeling Freeman a “realist” doesn’t help matters and Chait oddly avoids quoting in detail exactly what Freeman has said or explaining Freeman’s monetary dependence on the House of Saud. (Was this thrown together in an hour using recycled lines from other columns?) The entire theme that Obama’s picks are as bad as Bush’s is not only unsubstantiated, but poor form for a supporter of the candidate who was supposed to be better than all who preceded him.

David Brooks remains torn.  The president is not governing as the candidate he promised to be, but instead as a far left pol. Brooks declares Obama’s budget is “far more honest” than the ones that preceded it, but then proceeds to tell us how it really isn’t. (It is less honest than even Brooks concedes, actually.) It must be grating to those with such high hopes  to see “a weird passivity emanating from the White House, a deference to the Washington establishment.”

Larry Kudlow isn’t mincing words in his evaluation: “Let me be very clear on the economics of President Obama’s address to Congress and budget. He is declaring war on investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, large corporations, and private-equity and venture-capital funds. That is the meaning of his anti-growth tax-hike proposals, which make absolutely no sense at all — either for this recession or from the standpoint of expanding our economy’s long-run potential to grow.”

Obama does have a way with words, Rich Lowry concedes. “Obama is a talented, but a wily and dishonest, salesman. Nineteenth-century pol Martin Van Buren earned the sobriquet ‘the little magician’ for his skillful manipulation of New York’s political machine. Obama is the rhetorical magician, depending — as all magicians do — on deft sleight of hand. In his speech, Obama didn’t want his listeners to think he’s a big-government heir to Lyndon Johnson, so he talked of slashing waste. He said his team had begun going ‘line by line’ through the budget, and ‘we have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade.'” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Fred Barnes thinks Obama is in campaign mode, avoiding hard choices and playing the role of “quick change artist.” He concludes, “Financial markets have already registered a vote of no confidence in Obama’s economic plan. But the political community and the public are reserving judgment. At some point, reality will intrude, followed by accountability. But not yet.”

Perhaps Obama, for all his eloquence, was insufficiently clear on Iraq during the campaign. He snipes at Pelosi-Reid generated criticism: “They, maybe, weren’t paying attention to what I said during the campaign.” Well I guess it depends what part of the campaign.

Fiscal conservatives were duped says the Beagle Blogger.

Voters were also conned about that post-racial business.

The oppo-researcher, non-lawyer hired by the White House counsel office (imagine if the Bush administration had done this) leaves to go back to the DNC.

Charles Hurt writes: “This year alone, deficit spending will be $1.8 trillion. But even among Democrats, there remain some deficit hawks who will choke, and that will lead to only one solution: even bigger tax hikes than the president already has proposed. This may be the ‘change’ Obama was dreaming about, but it won’t be what people were hoping for.”

How irrelevant is a poll on the GOP 2012 contenders in February 2009? Very.

Megan McArdle writes: “I think it is decidedly iffy whether congress actually passes any cap and trade system with teeth.  For a cap and trade system to work, it will have to make energy more expensive at a time when incomes are declining.  This will be very, very, very unpopular.  I imagine the Democrats will try to get the Republicans to kill it for them, but they don’t have much margin–one flipping Republican in the Senate and a few in the house should let them pass it.  If the Republicans are smart, they will provide three moderate Republicans in the Senate,  a few Republicans from safe seats in the House, and make the Democrats suffer the consequences of raising the price of gas and electricity.  But I doubt they’ll be smart; they’ll do Pelosi’s dirty work for her.” No, generally a minority party doesn’t recover unless it opposes asinine policies and sets itself up as the alternative. Moreover, it never pays to harm the country.

Is the administration’s design for nationalized healthcare sinking healthcare stocks? Looks that way.  But it’s not just healthcare. Don Luskin says, “The mask is off. He is trying to socialize this country.” Watch the whole thing.

It does seem that the entire market is imploding.

You can see why people might be nervous.

Jon Chait slams Chas Freeman in the Washington Post, but uses up much of the precious platform slamming “neocons” who believe “good guys” should fight “bad guys.” (Were Truman, FDR and JFK neocons? Churchill too, I suppose.) Mislabeling Freeman a “realist” doesn’t help matters and Chait oddly avoids quoting in detail exactly what Freeman has said or explaining Freeman’s monetary dependence on the House of Saud. (Was this thrown together in an hour using recycled lines from other columns?) The entire theme that Obama’s picks are as bad as Bush’s is not only unsubstantiated, but poor form for a supporter of the candidate who was supposed to be better than all who preceded him.

Read Less




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