“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” - Thomas Jefferson, 1816, Letter to Thomas Yancey
Our nation, for several years now, has been in extended crisis mode. By the end of the Bush administration, we’d reached a point of complacency. We had wars raging on two fronts, but rather than being something the entire nation was focused on and engaged in, it was little more than partisan fodder to be used against Bush and the Republicans in the newspapers and on the nightly news (as evidenced by the fact that the constant front-page stories of soldier death counts miraculously disappeared once Obama took office).
Then came the financial collapse, which effectively ended John McCain’s chances at the presidency and ushered in Barack Obama, a political neophyte who campaigned not on specific policy positions and political philosophies, but on his claim to being “not Bush”, ushering in an era of “hope and change”. Unfortunately, while Obama has certainly achieved “change”, in doing so he has all but destroyed hope in America, at least until he leaves office.
These past two weeks we’ve seen the stock market rising and falling more often than a Kennedy after a night of partying. The dollar continues to be weakened, America’s credit rating is downgraded for the first time in history, unemployment remains high, and the prospects for improvement seem bleak in the short term. We are largely dependent on our enemies for our energy consumption, mainly because we refuse to access the vast reserves of energy we have on our own soil and in the oceans surrounding us. The waves of bad news crashing over us seem endless right now.
When it comes to debt reduction, one often cited method is to increase taxes on the richest Americans. It’s a small wonder that this one gets trotted out so much, since it’s typically rather popular. Even billionaire Warren Buffett has come out in support of this one, citing that he has a lower effective tax rate than his own secretary. The problem is that it won’t actually solve a thing.
The whole “tax the rich” is smoke and mirrors, designed to look like those in power are addressing the issue of debt while really doing nothing more than taking more money that wasn’t theirs to start with. We could take every penny from every billionaire in this country, as well was tax the profits of every Fortune 500 company in the U.S. and still have a problem with our debt.
There are plenty who will say that I’m arguing that if it won’t fix it all, then it shouldn’t be done at all. I’m actually not. What I’m saying is that the whole argument is predicated on it doing something that it really won’t. People are free to support whatever policies they so choose, but they need to be aware of the fact that what they’re proposing won’t make a dent in the national debt. It won’t really make a dent in the deficit either.
Taxation is essentially the government taking money from citizens to pay for whatever. The key word in that is “taking”. Making no mistake, it’s the correct verb. They take it from Americans like you and me, and then spend it on things that we might not necessarily agree with. They’ve used it to fund wars that were horrendously unpopular. They’ve used it to arrest such nefarious criminals as guys who sell raw milk. Ah yes, they use it oh so wisely </sarcasm>
It is human nature to seek those things which are most rare and beautiful, and therefore the most prized. In the physical world, few things elicit visions of such stark elegance and grandeur than Carrara marble. Marble is highly sought after and desired in our most beautiful edifices. Expensive and often difficult to work with, its very temperamental nature makes it all the more desirable, the elemental equivalent of a beautiful, tempestuous woman that will not be tamed.
Marble comes in a myriad of types and colors, but Carrara marble, known for its pure, milky white character, is prized above all other marble by the world’s greatest sculptors. Centuries ago, in the “Golden Age” of Tuscan sculpture, it was considered the highest honor for a sculptor to be commissioned by a wealthy benefactor to create a statue from a block of Carrara marble.
It was also an endeavor that came with great pressure for the sculptor. Before the chisel was ever applied to the marble, the sculptor must first study the block in exquisite detail, memorizing its characteristics, noting the direction of the grain and any tiny flaws in the stone. He had to map out every strike with precision, completing the sculpture in his head before ever touching the stone. It was critical that he understand the flow of the marble’s grain. If not, a single strike with hammer and chisel against the grain could crack it. To strike with excessive force could cause the crystalline structure of the stone to be crushed, which in turn led to sub-surface holes that could ruin the entire piece.
All of the Members of Congress that will serve on the so-called “Super Committee,” the group created as part of the debt deal between the White House and Congress to find $1.5 trillion in “deficit reduction” in the coming months, have been made public:
The top Republicans in the House and the Senate appointed six more lawmakers on Wednesday to the bipartisan committee that is supposed to recommend steps to reduce federal budget deficits by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
Speaker John A. Boehner chose three senior Republican House members: Jeb Hensarling of Texas, and Dave Camp and Fred Upton, both of Michigan.
Mr. Hensarling, who is chairman of the House Republican Conference, will be co-chairman of the new panel, along with Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington.
The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, chose Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona, Rob Portman of Ohio and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania for the 12-member panel.
As noted, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who hasn’t been one to restrain spending, was named by Senate Majority Harry Reid. She will serve with Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named her picks today:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has selected Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) for the so-called “supercommittee” on Thursday.
On Monday afternoon, MoveOn.org and Rebuild the Dream announced a campaign to build up a popular movement that could match (if not surpass) the debt reduction crowd in both size and energy. And they have borrowed a concept from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) as their organizing principle.
The campaign, led by Van Jones, President of Rebuild the Dream; Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org; and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), among others, is debuting a new Contract for the American Dream. They describe it as “a progressive economic vision crafted by 125,000 Americans … to get the economy back on track.” Its debut will involve a nationwide day of action, as well as an ad in The New York Times to run sometime this week, organizers said.
This “Contract” is very illustrative of the core tenets of modern liberalism – that it is the government that drives the economy, and that the government has every right to commandeer your money if it believes it has a better means of using it. Remember that the government is not some abstract and omniscient system; it is merely a group of power-hungry individuals with enough naivete to believe they know more than the rest of us:
The basic premise of the campaign is that America isn’t broke, it’s merely imbalanced. In order to stabilize the economy, politicians should make substantial investments in infrastructure, energy, education and the social safety net, tax the rich, end the wars, and create a wider revenue base through job creation.
I am an addict. A junkie. For years I’ve maintained an air of respectability in public, while behind closed doors I’m always looking for my next fix. With every year that passes it takes more and more for me to satiate my need. I will tell any lie, distort any claim, and do whatever I need to do to maintain my habit. I used to be embarrassed about it, covered it up, but no longer. I am who I am and everybody can just deal with it. I used to be able to shuffle the finances around to fund my habit, hide it so that no one would notice. Now, my habit is so bad that I can’t cover the cost with what I earn. I had to find a way to pay for it.
I took out a second mortgage on my house, telling myself that my habit was not so bad, that I could quit whenever I wanted; that this was only a short term solution and I’d pay it back quickly. That is what I told myself anyway. But days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months and months turned to years, and I’m more addicted than ever, with no way to pay for my fix. I’ve maxed out my credit cards, emptied my savings account, borrowed from family and friends. I’ve emptied the trust funds that were supposed to be for my kids. I’ve stolen anything I could get my hands on that I could sell. I’ve gone to loan sharks.
The Senate voted 51-46, along strict party-lines Friday to kill the House Republicans “cut, cap and balance” legislation.
The measure would have cut spending by $111 billion in 2012, capped spending over the next decade and prohibited more borrowing until Congress passes a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
President Obama had threatened to veto the bill, which was dead on arrival in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the legislation “very, very bad” and said it was a waste of the upper chamber’s time.
During the debate on “cut, cap and balance,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued the GOP plan would solve the nation’s deficit crisis if Democrats would join Republicans in supporting it.
“This isn’t rocket science,” said McConnell. “We could solve this problem this morning if Democrats would…join us in backing this legislation that Republicans support.”
Supporters of the proposal have cited a CNN poll in recent days showing that voters support some parts of it, specifically the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). That’s not a surprise since BBA proposal are politically popular. However, the “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal passed by the House only called for a BBA. It didn’t attain the 2/3 requirement to pass a constitutional amendment.
As the debt debate continues with no end in sight (not even Aug. 2nd) some people are getting understandably upset. They want to know who to blame, and if anything that’s come up so far will actually fix the problem. Well, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that the Cato Institute has come out with another outstanding video on the situation. The bad news is that you have to blame everybody, and no, there isn’t really a good solution coming out yet:
Again, there will be no dismantling of unconstitutional (or just flat out bad) programs and departments, just “trimming” around the edges, which won’t be good for the long term as they’ll a piece of cake to overcome. The “Cut Cap Balance” idea is a good start, but the Democrats will never go for it, and it’s only that—a start.
Shortly after the 2008 presidential election, historian Michael Bechloss gushed with praise for President-Elect Barack Obama, declaring him to be “probably the smartest guy ever to become President”, and raving that his IQ is “off the charts”. When interviewer Don Imus inquired as to what Obama’s IQ is, Bechloss admitted that he did not know, but that did not keep him from gushing effusive praise. We are left to take a historian’s word for it, because Obama has steadfastly refused to release his college transcripts, and his policies while in office certainly do not lend credence to the claims of his brilliance. In fact, if we had to judge the president by the effectiveness of his policies, Obama would be the functional equivalent not of the class valedictorian, but of that weird kid that sat in the corner and ate paste while talking to himself.
On matters of the economy, the president and his advisors seem to be particularly clueless. Consider some statements from the administration of late:
In a recent video clip making the rounds, Obama responds to a question about the near $1 trillion “stimulus” package and its effect on the economy by laughing and then declaring “ ‘Shovel-ready’ was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” This is, you will recall, the same stimulus package that Obama demanded must be passed immediately if we were to stem the possibility of another Great Depression. We were promised (by Christina Romer, the first chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors) that if we passed it, unemployment would stay below 8%. Well, we DID pass it, and we have been rewarded with unemployment levels between 9-10+% for well over two years. Now, we have high unemployment AND staggering quantities of additional debt crippling the economy.
No doubt all of us would take some good economic news right now, but that won’t come from the jobs report for June, which was released this morning showing the unemployment rate rising slightly to 9.2% and adding only 18,000 jobs:
U.S. employment growth ground to a halt in June, with employers hiring the fewest number of workers in nine months, dampening hopes the economy was on the cusp of regaining momentum after stumbling in recent months.
Nonfarm payrolls rose only 18,000, the weakest reading since September, the Labor Department said on Friday, well below economists’ expectations for a 90,000 rise.
Many economists raised their forecasts on Thursday after a stronger-than-expected reading on U.S. private hiring from payrolls processor ADP, and they expected gains of anywhere between 125,000 and 175,000.
The unemployment rate climbed to 9.2 percent, the highest since December, from 9.1 percent in May.
Numbers from the two previous months were revised down by 44,000 jobs; April dropped from 232,000 to 217,000 and May from 54,000 to 25,000. In case you’re wondering, the economy needs to create around 120,000 jobs each just to keep up with population growth.
Another bad sign is the U-6 rate, what many economists call the “real unemployment rate,” jumped from 15.8% to 16.2%.
Just like government intervention in the economy in the 1930s prolonged the Great Depression, intervention and uncertainty with President Barack Obama’s economic policies are slowing the pace of recovery today.