Early during his second term, President George W. Bush declared he would spend his accumulated political capital on reforming Social Security. Democrats immediately lambasted the president, falsely claiming that his reform ideas were “radical” and would leave the elderly penniless and laying in the streets. They claimed Bush would gamble the life savings of our parents and grandparents on the stock market, and that his Wall Street buddies would grow rich while swindling granny out of everything she owned.
Of course, the truth was nowhere close. Bush’s “Strengthening Social Security for the 21st Century” plan was actually quite timid. It made no changes, zero, in the Social Security program for those 55 and over. Under Bush’s plan, personal retirement accounts would be phased in, with annual contribution limits gradually increased to a staggering…4%…yes 4%…of workers’ payroll taxes allocated to their personal accounts, with annual contributions initially capped at $1,000 per year in 2009, rising over time by $100 annually, plus growth in average wages. In other words, a measly 4% of payroll taxes would have been invested in private accounts, with the other 96% staying in the Social Security Trust Fund.
And yet due to this “radical” plan, this blindingly fast weaning of Americans from the government teat, Democrats successfully terrified Americas seniors and Bush’s political capital was eviscerated. He would end up abandoning the effort and Republicans would crawl back into their shells, unwilling to again touch this third rail of American politics.
The former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Donald Berwick infamously made the following statement in praising Britain’s National Health Service:
[A]ny health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized, and humane must – must – redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate. Excellent healthcare is by definition redistribution.
ObamaCare- or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act- is the product of this same socialist ideological tradition that views government-run health care as a central component of any comprehensive wealth transfer scheme. However, the PPACA’s methods are more devious and radical than the NHS in accomplishing this goal. The main consumer-level redistribution provisions in PPACA are the refundable premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies available to individuals purchasing policies on the soon-to-be-established “exchanges.”
These tax provisions were at issue on Friday as IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Shulman’s difficult job was to defend the Department of the Treasury’s recently issued regulations implementing PPACA’s tax credits. Why was that such a difficult job? That requires some background on how PPACA’s statutory provisions are structured.
As soon as the dismal jobs numbers were announced last week, I started asking what issue would the Obama campaign roll out this week to distract voters from the President’s disastrous record on jobs and the economy.
Over the past few months, the Obama White House has rolled out the President’s half-assed support for same-sex marriage (hey lets let the states vote on it! How Dick Cheney circa 2004), followed by his half-step on immigration (I wonder if Latinos like the taste of crumbs?), and then followed by a trial balloon on marijuana decrim (“Sure my Justice Department has been cracking down on medical marijuana but hey, I need some good buzz”).
Apparently, off shore accounts are the new gay marriage. The Obama campaign team has been all over the tv blasting Mitt Romney for “secretive offshore accounts.” Forget the fact that these “secretive” accounts were discovered because they were listed on Romney’s tax returns and disclosure forms! Never mind the fact that there is nothing illegal about having an offshore account. Apparently, the Obama campaign hopes that by appealing to the worst in people, by appealing to their petty jealousies and by stoking the embers of class warfare, average Americans will forget that the reason they are so jealous of Mitt is because this President has been a disaster at facilitating an environment in which jobs can be created.
The irony of this debate - apparently lost on the average liberal - is that the offshore accounts they vilify are a product of an overly complex and uncompetetive tax code that liberals are hell bent on DEFENDING.
Hope and Change 2008, has been replaced by Smoke and Mirrors 2012. So much for Obama the transformational President.
What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.
During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.
Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.
Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
As we near the South Carolina primaries, the media is abuzz with the drama unfolding among the Republican candidates for president, and the harsh attacks being leveled by each faction. Some see this as detrimental to the eventual Republican nominee, but I tend to disagree. In 2008, when Mitt Romney graciously stepped down and conceded to John McCain, it allowed the Republican Party to coalesce around “their man”, who promptly went on to get an Electoral College tail-whipping, losing 365-173 to a smooth-talking political neophyte with no record to speak of, but a catchy, feel-good slogan and the media on his side.
This year, make no mistake, the gloves are coming off, and the Republicans had better have a battle-tested candidate that is ready to go up against Obama. The “Hope and Change” campaign is no more, and Obama knows it. He now has a record that can be used against him, so rest assured, the absolute last thing he will focus on is that record. He’s accumulated more debt than every other president combined, signed off on a nearly trillion dollar stimulus bill that actually increased unemployment by more than two percent, the size of the federal government has grown by a quarter, and we have the scandals surrounding voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party, the Solyndra scandal, Fast and Furious, his latest unconstitutional power grabs, and more.
Since he can’t run on his record, so what will he do? My guess is, first, he will claim that while things have been bad under his administration, he has the right policies, and therefore it would have been even worse under Republicans. The second angle I believe he will use, and indeed we saw it implemented in part during the 2012 mid-term elections, is to paint his opposition as being against him because he is black, and because they are just bad people. Why that route? Because if you can demonize the messenger you can avoid having to address the message.
Before Democrats, the Obama Administration, liberals, and progressives start crowing about the updated unemployment figures—which the Bureau of Labor Statistics say is now down to 8.6%—there’s something you should know about the why it is down—and it’s not pretty.
The BLS divides up the unemployment numbers into six figures, U-1 through U-6. U-3 is the “official” number, the one that’s always toted on the primetime news channels. U-6, however, is the real unemployment figure, which counts marginally attached workers (those that have stopped looking for work for the time being) and underemployed workers (those working part time but want full time work), among others. And the worst part is?
Even that is rosy compared to the “real truth.”
The truth comes in near the middle of the Bureau’s press release:
In November, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs declined by 432,000 to 7.6 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was little changed at 5.7 million and accounted for 43.0 percent of the unemployed. (See tables A-11 and A-12.)
The civilian labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 64.0 percent. The employment-population ratio, at 58.5 percent, changed little.(See table A-1.)
As a voracious consumer of news regarding current events and politics, it occurred to me this week that to a person of sanity and sound reason, listening to and reading the coverage of what is going on in our nation and world today is so far removed from reality, historical experience and logic as to be the product of a journalist reporting live from the bottom of that rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. We regularly hear from people considered leaders by many, uttering the most incredibly nonsensical things with a straight face, fully expecting the rest of us to believe them. Indeed, often these things are uttered with such seemingly powerful sincerity that even the sane begin to question themselves.
So, here are a few random thoughts from the passing week…
Judging by recent stories from California, the nickname for that state should be changed from the “Golden State” to the “Granola State”, because it is positively the land of fruits and nuts. California, with a debt rating of A- (the lowest of any state), annual deficits of billions of dollars, and long-term debt obligations to public employee unions that amount to hundreds of billions of dollars, nevertheless recently decided to double down on lunacy by passing the “California Dream Act”, a state version of the federal law that would give in-state tuition and more lavish taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal aliens and their children. This is a magnet for more illegal immigration, and in the end the state will continue its rapid descent into bankruptcy.
Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a speech last Friday at the UN which caused US “diplomats” to pack up their toys and run home.
In his speech to the annual General Assembly, Ahmadinejad said it was mostly U.S. government officials who believed a terrorist group was behind the suicide hijacking attacks that brought down New York’s World Trade Center and hit the Pentagon.
Another theory, he said, was “that some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy, and its grips on the Middle East, in order to save the Zionist regime” — his way of characterizing Israel.
“The majority of the American people as well as most nations and politicians around the world agree with this view,” Ahmadinejad told the 192-nation assembly.
Shortly after walking out of the speech like spoiled little children, the US envoy responded by written statement claiming Iran’s president had offered up “vile conspiracies” and “anti-Semitism”. Even if you accept that the translation of his statements are perfectly correct, it isn’t clear at all that he claimed to believe the conspiracy himself, merely that a large number of people outside US government circles believed them.
For months now, the American people have watched in horror as a dark, viscous fluid has hemorrhaged out of a well. It continues every minute of every day, day in and day out, with no end in sight. Even though we know it threatens the livelihood of everything and everyone in its path, we have been unable to stop it. We have elected officials that we have called upon to put an end to it, yet they have thus far proven completely incompetent, unable to get the job done and end the leak. Indeed, most of the time, despite the grandstanding and the bold talk, it seems as if the government is not only unable to end the leak, but unwilling. For, despite the rhetoric, the actions of government thus far have not been the kind that will end this disaster.
“Plug the damn hole!” our president cried in frustration. I agree. But…
As bad as the oil spill in the gulf most certainly is, the leak I am talking about is the unending gusher of red ink which comes from the “well” in Washington, D.C. This leak is doing far more damage to our country and will take much longer to correct than the leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Its effects are far more problematic for the health of our country, yet far less is being done to combat it. At least BP is making an effort to stop their leak, even if most attempts have proved futile so far. In our nation’s capitol, everyone talks about the need for fiscal responsibility, but few have shown they believe those words by allowing the danger to galvanize us into action.
A couple of items in the news lately have brought the judiciary back into the consciousness of the American public; the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and the recent decision by federal judge Barbara Crabb in Wisconsin in which she ruled that the National Day of Prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In the rulings of both justices we find an egregious disrespect for the plain meaning of the Constitution, and it is a failure of the American people to learn the Constitution that has allowed us to stray so far.
As a nation, we have reached a point where we bestow upon the courts an unjustified level of deference to their perceived wisdom. In fact, the Founding Fathers created the judiciary to be the weakest of the three branches, vested as they are with lifetime appointments.
Thomas Jefferson wrote (in a letter to William C. Jarvis, 1820) that “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so.” Yet today we have allowed the courts to be elevated to the level of an oligarchy, where we accept rulings that are clearly unaligned with the Constitution without so much as a whimper.