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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Speaking about the new financial services legislation that they were up all night to complete, Sen. Chris Dodd saw fit to paraphrase Nancy Pelosi in one of her finer moments:

“No one will know until this is actually in place how it works. But we believe we’ve done something that has been needed for a long time. It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done.”

Am I the only one who is flabbergasted that the Democrats think this is an acceptable line of argument?  Would you ever tell your boss, “You know, I think it’s a great company, but we’re going to have to buy it to find out what’s in it.”  Or “Yeah, I think we did great last quarter, but we’re going to have to file that financial statement to find out what’s in it.”  It’s the political equivalent of buying a car off Craigslist without seeing it first, and justifying it by saying, “It took me losing a lot of money on a few other lemons to reach this historic achievement.”

It would almost be overlooked as a vapid statement by a 70-something Senator who didn’t sleep the night before, but Pelosi’s statement has been mocked so thoroughly — it appears in seemingly every story about the health care bill containing nasty surprises — no politician worth his salt could repeat such words without instantly realizing his error.  Of course, the guy is retiring, after all.

No wonder Democrats are hitting historic lows in the generic ballot.  As Barone says, it’s a lethal mixture of pervasive incompetence and unpopular ideology.

UPDATE: Rob Long pointed out this gem from the same press conference. about the same bill.

“This is about as important as it gets, because it deals with every single aspect of our lives,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), a chief architect of the compromise.

Oh, good.  So we don’t have to worry at all.

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1.  Am I the only one who looks at President Obama’s nuclear nirvana-seeking and sees a guy who, somewhere in his past, got an A+ on a term paper arguing that a nuclear-free world is achievable, and has believed ever since that he’s the guy to do it?

2.  If I had a hypothesis-proving time machine and took Pelosi, Reid, et. al. two years into the future to show them that by cutting taxes 5% for the upper 15% of wage-earners, they could achieve nearly-full employment by the time the 2012 elections roll around, would they still refuse to do it on principle?

3.  If Israel started denouncing the United States and threatening Iran’s security, would it get more support from this Administration?

4.  Were we to apply the same rules of nomenclature currently being considered for the War on Terror to our past conflicts, would we have been forced to refer to our Cold War adversaries as “ideologically-committed Eurasians,” or our German enemies as “highly-organized expansionists?”

and for a funny 5th…   Is this how Hillary deals with what must be her (and her party’s?) daily recognition that the wrong candidate beat John McCain?  Gotta say, I can’t begrudge her it.

Cheers!

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Chuck of Head Muscle has kindly hustled me back to the ol’ blog, so you can thank him for the pearls of wisdom herein imparted:

  • When last I wrote, Republicans had 40 votes in the Senate, health care reform was still inevitable, and the President was planning to preempt Lost with his State of the Union address.  That was less than a month ago.  Since then, Scott Brown has preempted health care reform, Republicans have 41 votes in the Senate and more seem inevitable, and the President looked lost in his State of the Union address.  Ain’t democracy grand?
  • Let’s all remember, come the next government shutdown crisis, that when the federal government shut down for at least three days in mid-February 2009, we all did just fine, thanks.
  • Jim Geraghty spotlights one of those critically-underappreciated data points and the way it can creep under the skin of the American electorate.  It’s easy to forget that, aside from the enduring unemployment tragedy, there is also a lot of frustration among the employed.  Each year, millions of Americans leave their jobs not because they are forced out, but because they find greener pastures.  Right now, those pastures are looking pretty brown and chewed over by the millions of people looking for jobs full-time.  Add to that a national craving for economic security, which shows up in statistics ranging from the savings rate to the fury at government interventionism, and leaving the acceptable, stable (if unfulfilling) job for the potential dream job isn’t sounding so great right now.  So if you’re a smart, capable, hard-working American feeling stuck in yesterday’s job, making yesterday’s wages, how do you feel when you find out that the federal government bureaucrat living in Arlington makes more — a lot more — than you do, and more than he did before the recession began?  And this is the schlub that’s supposed to need more of your money to turn the economy around?  Even some of those government workers who are benefiting from such largesse are outraged.  Watch this.  It’s exactly the kind of apolitical, gut-level backlash that Washington cannot see coming until it hits the ballot box.
  • Speaking of Washington, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the low-key approach taken by Washington Republicans in the wake of Scott Brown’s victory.  Sure, they’ve felt emboldened to state the obvious – that President Obama ignores the people at his peril – but there’s been little petty triumphalism of the sort that often overtakes a party in need of good news.  That said, national Republicans must maintain that discipline throughout the next ten months if they’re to lead the independents that are currently inclined to follow them.  President Obama is doing his level best to draw Republicans into small-ball fights that will make them, rather than him, look intransigent and haughty.  Kudos to McConnell, Boehner, Paul, Cantor, et. al. for being cautious, speaking equally with force and respect, and for refusing to compromise core principles for the appearance of “bipartisanship.”
  • The importance of the defeat of President Obama’s NLRB nominee, SEIU lawyer Craig Becker, cannot be understated.  One year ago, it was considered a fait accomplit that unions would soon be able to bypass the secret ballot and impose favorable contract terms through arbitration on recalcitrant employers.  Unions were so convinced of their impending empowerment that they began training their employees on how to operate in this new regime.  There was word that an army of union organizers was being prepared to be unleashed on hundreds of previously union-free workplaces, radically transforming the American workforce.  But Becker — who famously believed that employers should “shut up” during the union campaign process — is the latest symbol that another element of the inevitable liberal revolution will not come to pass, at least not anytime soon.  Sure, Obama may still make a recess appointment and elevate him to the post, but Harry Reid’s inability to obtain cloture on the nomination sent an unmistakable signal to the Administration — now is not the time to “remake” America’s employers.

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One of the Democrats’ chief criticisms of the Bush Administration, one that sometimes had merit, was that it refused to alter its strategy or message in the face of new facts.  In foreign affairs, that meant it took us three years to react to the Iraqi insurgency in a manner beyond “staying the course.”  On the domestic front, that meant allowing several appointees to serve far longer than their records justified (Gonzales, McLellan, Powell, Rumsfeld) and establishing a bunker mentality in response to press criticism.

The Obama Administration struck at this central failing of the last regime by promising pragmatism and common-sense straight from the “reality-based community.” No longer would partisan bias cloud the White House’s response to the nation’s challenges.  Spin would be replaced by transparency.  Facts would drive policy, not the other way around.

But one year into the politics of hope and change, and we are seeing a pattern develop about how this crowd handles inconvenient facts.  All summer, the economic facts rolled in that the stimulus bill had done little to create jobs or improve the economy, and that the “shovel-ready” projects so urgently needed were figments of the Democratic imagination.  Rather than change course and respond with an alternative strategy, Joe Biden repeatedly claimed that the stimulus was working, and that things were better than they would have been.  Only recently, when the Administration wanted to pass a new stimulus, was it willing to acknowledge the grand failure that was spending $787 million billion for 2.5% fewer jobs.

When the mullahs of Iran bungled its election fix this summer, the Obama State Department first abetted it, then ignored it, then begrudgingly decried it before returning to full appeasement mode.  Iranians were left to shout a remarkably Bushian line at our President – “Obama, are you with us or are you against us?”   But the answer was clear — the White House was choosing to ignore a pro-freedom Iranian revolution in hopes for a deal with the despots.  Even so, deadline after deadline was ignored, deals were cut and then broken, and Ahmedinejad continues to promise death to Israel.  All the while, Team Obama has refused to acknowledge what even France has acknowledged — Iran is just playing out the clock while it builds a nuclear bomb.

On the eve of the global warming summit, stunning revelations about the science underlying the alleged global-catastrophe-in-waiting should have led a pragmatist to take a step back and review the facts before committing a country in the red to billions more in federal aid.  A pragmatist might have also postponed announcement of a sweeping regulatory decision based on that same science, which threatened to impose billions more in environmental compliance costs on a seriously wounded economy.  In an Administration committed to “restoring integrity to U.S. science policy to ensure that decisions that can be informed by science are made on the basis of the strongest possible evidence,” one might expect that getting the science right would be of the utmost concern.  Such an Administration, and such a pragmatist, is not in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, however.

Public doesn’t want Guantanamo closed?  Ignore them and do it anyway.  Released terrorists are returning to the war on terror?  Deny the war, release more terrorists.  Health care bill doesn’t bend the cost curve, which you required of any bill you’d sign?  Say it does anyway, and deny you ever required it to do that.  Islamic terrorists attack the U.S. three times in one year?  They’re lone wolves – we’ve got it all under control – but please stand in line another hour at the airport, just in case.

Carol Lee of Politico goes into greater depth about the P.R. tactics the White House has used to ignore the facts that threaten their worldview, but I’m more concerned about the worldview itself.  We have a president who ran exclusively on the idea that he was no ideologue, that he had no dog in the partisan fights that plague Washington, and that his Administration would rise above the pettiness and do what was necessary to reform and protect America. Given these facts, the pragmatist in me says there are only two ways to react to Year One of Obama: either our President is a lying ideologue, or he’s very, very bad at knowing what is necessary to reform and protect America.

The facts themselves are clear, however.  The President will be judged by the voters in November based on how he responds to the hard facts in Iran, the muddled half-truths of climate change, the plain facts of a falling dollar, a rising debt, and a nation out of work.  Rhetorical flourishes cannot change them.  I just hope our political leaders are prepared to face them.

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Much has been written comparing the present health care reform effort to prior struggles for the same thing.  But this week’s passage of the Senate’s version of Obamacare brought to mind another recent political circumstance that, for me, says more about the political risks in play than does the failure of Hillarycare in 1993.

I speak of the impeachment of President Clinton, 1998. Of course, the process and the subject matter have nothing to do with health care.  But the politics do.  You may remember that the House vote to impeach President Clinton was the last thing Congress did before adjourning for Christmas in 1998.  I recall this distinctly, because I was driving south to Georgia from Washington with two of my friends and fellow Congressional staffers, listening to the debate and then the vote in favor of impeachment on a scratchy car radio.

It was a moment full of mixed emotions.  We wanted to be happy, because we all felt strongly that Clinton’s presidency should end after a year of lying and political manipulation.  We also knew that the public wasn’t so sure.  Polls had shown for months that Americans were largely against impeachment, but Republicans had resolutely pushed forward, certain that their solid factual and legal case against the President would carry the day in the end.  In fact, there was almost a morose, melancholy, martyred feeling to it all — while Republicans felt they were doing what they had to do, and that it was in everyone’s best interest, those who should be the most appreciative were instead rejecting them.  Even members of their own party were beginning to question the wisdom of impeachment.  In the midst of the Christmas season, the  impeachment managers’ doomed quest took on a bit of a religious tinge.

Compare this to today’s mood in Washington and the country at large.  In Washington, Democrats are throwing themselves victory parties, trying to gin up public support for a plan that average Americans have considered a boondoggle since September.  Democrats have long since given up saying that the public wants what they are selling (setting aside Harry Reid, of course, whose brain is so fried he voted against his own bill).  Instead, they insist on extolling the historic moment, promising that great things will come of this, even if Americans don’t agree with them today.  It also became obvious that Reid was desirous of a Christmas Eve vote, to give his caucus the chance to talk of the Senate’s present to the nation.

The impending political consequences of the two big votes are also similar.  While neither the impeachment vote in the House nor the Senate’s passage of Reid’s bill could independently yield practical results, they both presaged the focus of debate in Washington in the coming year.  In 1998, new political organs, like Moveon.org, were emerging to fill the void left by months of Democrats’ stunned silence in the wake of the Lewinsky allegations.  Those groups, which would become the dominant liberal political force in the country for the next decade, were already promising electoral armageddon against the House impeachment managers.  Even rank and file Democrats had begun to find their voice after months of feeling chastened by their unchaste President’s peccadilloes.  No one believed that impeachment, regardless of how it came out in the end, would benefit Republicans at the polls in 2000.  The only question was whether the Senate would compound the Republicans’ political error.

Health care, by comparison, has mobilized conservatives in ways considered unthinkable in early 2009.  New groups, such as the Tea Party movement, took up the slack in the beginning when Republicans were overcoming their post-Bush hangover.  Now, those groups appear ready to fund and support serious candidates and causes in the coming year.  At the same time, Republicans have retaken the mantle of fiscal sanity, and independent voters have rallied to them.  No one believes that health care reform, whether successful or no, will be a boon to Democrats next November.  The question remaining is whether Obama and Congress will push too many too far out on the plank so as to lose the majority entirely.

As a final comparison, I’d remind us all of what was being ignored in both cases.  At the same time impeachment was dominating the Washington scene, Osama bin Laden was plotting to take down the World  Trade Center.  The last seeds were being sown for the tech bubble to burst in 1999 and 2000.  And the poisonous atmosphere that developed in the wake of impeachment gave license to both sides to unleash a wave of ethics investigations, smear campaigns, and over-the-top theatrics that continue to dominate our politics.

Here we are, 11 years later, and after a year of campaigning on an end to such tactics, Democrats are using every trick in the book to pass what amounts to a regulatory takedown of one-sixth of the American economy on a party-line vote.  Rather than seeking to bring the country together, Democrats are content to go it alone, castigating those in their own party who refuse to go along.  All the while, unemployment hovers around 10%, real estate appears headed for a second collapse, the dollar is falling precipitously, and no one appears to know how to solve our budget crisis.  The selfsame Osama Bin Laden continues to plot his next attack.

I do not present this comparison as a way to suggest that impeachment was right, or even that health care is wrong.  Instead, it is a worthwhile reminder that sometimes doing what one party believes is right doesn’t mean it’s right for the moment, for the nation, or even for the party itself.

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One of the only fair defenses of the stimulus bill is its immediate psychological effect.  At the time it was passed, the nation was very, very scared. The general sense was that the government needed to “do something.”  Everyone knew that the new Democratic administration wasn’t about to cut taxes as a means of stimulating the economy. Thus, it was assumed that a huge fiscal stimulus – in the form of new spending – was needed, both to inject funds into stalled markets and to alleviate the sense of near-panic in the country.

While the stimulus has largely failed at kickstarting the business cycle, it did satisfy the “do something” impulse. The economic wound did not open further, although it did continue to bleed jobs. The next step, then, is to repair the wound.

In fact, let’s continue this medical analogy.   In the crucial first moments after a serious injury, furious activity is the norm.   Doctors work quickly to set bones, apply pressure, bandage cuts, or even conduct invasive surgery.  Once the trauma patient’s immediate crises are curtailed, however, she needs something very different: long periods of stability.  Rather than constant stimulation, she needs calm and rest.  While it may look like nothing is happening, the body’s forces are working to naturally heal itself.  No doctor can force a wound to close — it can only create the conditions whereby the body will do it on its own.  No doctor would ask a patient to learn a new job, or train for a marathon, while recovering from a serious accident.  And it’s mad scientists, not physicians, who experiment on patients on the mend.

Not my physician of choice.

The same lessons apply to our economy.  While the early days of last fall’s crash may have warranted emergency measures, the time for frantic maneuvers is long past.  Rather, this economy needs the government to step back and give it some time to heal.  Further poking, prodding, and experimentation only waste energy and resources when those are sorely needed by the economic “body” to replenish reserves, invest in capital improvements, and slowly rebuild inventories and workforces.  Businesses will not begin to recover until they know the assault is over.  And right now, they fear that Dr. Government is waiting right outside the door with another experimental procedure.

 

The twin spectres of costly health care mandates or greenhouse gas regulations have led companies that might have some cash on hand to hold onto it.  They might need those dollars to pay for higher health care costs, or to cover rising fuel prices.  International firms that might have seen a weak-dollar economy as a good place to invest are standing on the sidelines, wondering if the cost of doing business in America is about to skyrocket.  And small businesses deciding between hiring that next employee or saving for the next rainy day are being given every reason to put up the umbrella.

Bon Jovi agrees.

Stability, not activity, is what we need today.  That’s why the best thing our president could do for this economy — and even for his health care program — would be to call a 12-month regulatory truce.  No new rules for a year — including new regulatory programs like cap-and-trade or health care.  Now able to make economic decisions with some relative sense of certainty, Americans would regain confidence.  The dollar would rebound, businesses would react, and investors would reap the rewards.  It would send a strong signal to the markets that the mad scientist has been captured, and Dr. Obama is in.  It would also boost public confidence in the President, restoring their sense that he listens to their concerns and is willing to change course when the moment calls for it.  He wouldn’t even have to abandon his big-government aspirations — he’d just have to delay them.  And it wouldn’t cost him a dime.

Sounds like pretty good medicine to me.

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The word of the day is “decline”:

  • If you read nothing else for the rest of the year about the Obama presidency and the direction it is taking the country, read Krauthammer in this week’s Weekly Standard.  No, really – go read it.  I’ll wait.
  • Riffing on Krauthammer’s theme, Mark Steyn dishes up lugubrious drollery as only he can.
  • Introducing America to the term “downward mobility,” Robert Samuelson reminds us that Obama is, to turn a phrase, taking his eye off the ball when he tries to reform health care.  He finishes with this killer: “Some call this “reform”; no one should call it progress.”
  • And despite all the talk of regression, there is still a bull market for the President’s self-regard.

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