The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Zero Sum Universe

I'll be blogging only intermittently over the coming three months. The reason—I'm in the process of starting an automotive accessories company—design, manufacturing, distribution, and all. I'm getting some help from my son, who is also my business partner, but 12-hour days and a start-up life style leave little time for political commentary.

Since his election, Barack Obama has done nothing to surprise me, and of course, elections do have consequences. In this case, the consequences seem to be continuing foreign policy fecklessness and domestic incompetence, but no surprise there. That's what the people voted for and that's what we've got.

P.J O'Rourke summarizes the current (and I fear, future) state of domestic politics when he addresses the President directly:
But the worst thing that you've [Obama] done internationally is what you've done domestically. You sent a message to America in your re-election campaign. Therefore you sent a message to the world. The message is that we live in a zero-sum universe.

There is a fixed amount of good things. Life is a pizza. If some people have too many slices, other people have to eat the pizza box. You had no answer to Mitt Romney's argument for more pizza parlors baking more pizzas. The solution to our problems, you said, is redistribution of the pizzas we've got—with low-cost, government-subsidized pepperoni somehow materializing as the result of higher taxes on pizza-parlor owners.

In this zero-sum universe there is only so much happiness. The idea is that if we wipe the smile off the faces of people with prosperous businesses and successful careers, that will make the rest of us grin.

There is only so much money. The people who have money are hogging it. The way for the rest of us to get money is to turn the hogs into bacon.

Mr. President, your entire campaign platform was redistribution. Take from the rich and give to the . . . Well, actually, you didn't mention the poor. What you talked and talked about was the middle class, something most well-off Americans consider themselves to be members of. So your plan is to take from the more rich and the more or less rich and give to the less rich, more or less. It is as if Robin Hood stole treasure from the Sheriff of Nottingham and bestowed it on the Deputy Sheriff.

But never mind. The evil of zero-sum thinking and redistributive politics has nothing to do with which things are taken or to whom those things are given or what the sum of zero things is supposed to be. The evil lies in denying people the right, the means, and, indeed, the duty to make more things.
So we'll raise taxes on "the rich" and pay for about 10 days of government spending in 2013. No worries about the other 355 days, we'll just borrow and borrow some more, Obama's fed will print money to buy the debt (QE4) and the ship will ever so slowly sink. "Evil?" Nah, it's just a really, really stupid ideological position.

Back to work on building a small private sector company. See ya in a few weeks.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Soul Crushing

Nicholas Kristof is a liberal NYT columnist who is unreservedly pro-Obama and proudly big government. It is, therefore, shocking to read his recent column written on a trip into Appalachia:
THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.

Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a $698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18.

“The kids get taken out of the program because the parents are going to lose the check,” said Billie Oaks, who runs a literacy program here in Breathitt County, a poor part of Kentucky. “It’s heartbreaking.”

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month.
This moment of lucidity is actually encouraging. If an uber-liberal like Kristof can, even for just a moment, see the "sole-crushing" results of big government programs that do little more than encourage those in poverty to stay in poverty, maybe there's a sliver of hope.

Nah. Not a chance!

Those on the Left live in a world of best intentions. As long as their intentions are good, results really don't matter.

Leftists argue that ever-expanding government programs, breathtaking redistribution of wealth via tax increases, anti-corporate policies, and ever-expanding dependency class will somehow lead to economic growth that will benefit the "weakest among us." The economic wreckage of the past four years and the President's abject failure to revive the economy is blamed on the evil Bush and dismissed. After all, how is it possible that an ill-advised $800+ billion "stimulus" didn't do the trick? In the fantasy world of Obama supporters, it just wasn't enough, that's all.

Leftists suggest that "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor" (or seniors, or the middle class) is morally reprehensible, but shrug their shoulders when they are told that our budget is overwhelmingly weighted to service the dependency class (through social programs and entitlements) and any meaningful cuts must come from those budget items. They demagogue every responsible proposal to reduce spending and debt, cloaking themselves in moral outrage over the "lack of balance." The President they and the dependency class elected understands the power of class warfare and uses it to suggest (dishonestly) that higher taxes will somehow solve our budgetary problems. They dismiss $1 trillion annual deficits with a wave of the hand.

To those of us who believe that the President and his party have a responsibility to put the economic health of this country ahead of petty partisan advantage, it's really quite distressing. In fact, it's soul crushing.


And this depressing tidbit from Tyler Durdin:
And we thought last month's delayed foodstamp data was bad. The just reported foodstamp number for September was a doozy, with 607,544 new Americans becoming eligible for foodstamps, as a record 47.7 million Americans are now living in poverty at least according to the USDA. The monthly increase was the highest since May 2011, and with August's 421K new impoverished America, over 1 million Americans made the EBT card their new best friend. It is unclear just which atmospheric phenomenon will get the blame for this unprecedented surge in poverty, which comes at a time when the pre-election economic data euphoria was adamant that the US economy was on an escape velocity to utopia. Instead what we do know is that in August and September, over three times as many foodstamp recipients were add to the economy as jobs (324,000). We also know that with the imminent impact of Sandy, which will send foodstamp recipients soaring, it is now looking quite possible that the US may end 2012 with just over a mindboggling 50 million Americans living in absolute poverty and collecting the $134.29 average monthly benefit per person, instead of working. Welcome to the recovery indeed.
Remember, all of this is occurring at unprecedented levels of debt-financed government spending, but no matter. We need to spend even more, right? Just ask the President and his supporters.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Small News

A day of small news stories, but all of them remain noteworthy:

1. A week ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) praised President Obama's Fiscal Cliff proposal as an excellent offering. You'll recall it's the proposal that emphasized taxing the rich, and at the same time spending more money on still another stimulus (well why not, the first one really worked so well -- set item 2 below). There were no meaningful spending cuts at all.

Yesterday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) called Reid's bluff and proposed that the entire Senate vote on Obama's plan. Reid flat out refused. Maybe that's because he worries that it will be defeated handily with many democrats voting against it. Recall that Obama's last budget was defeated in the senate 99 - 0.

An aside from Daniel Henninger:
Presidents, kings, queens, generals all have accomplished a modus vivendi with their opponents and mortal enemies. Until now. What deal of Clintonesque majesty has Barack Obama ever pulled off?

The fiscal-cliff negotiation is a train driven by an engineer who doesn't know how to use the brake, doesn't know where the brake is and doesn't care. His idea of politics is giving campaign speeches outside Washington to assemble a Sandy of public sentiment that will blow congressional Republicans off the cliff.
Aw, we're okay, it's the little train that could with Barack Obama at the stick.

2. Now that the election is over, the media is reporting that unemployment has gone up above 8 percent. No surprise. But remember, Obama will do soooo much better in his second term.

3. The supporters of Barack Obama and his big government dreams supported by trillion dollar annual deficits fantasize about the success of Europe with it's cradle to grave government support, it's universal health care, it's huge government pensions, it's mandatory eight weeks of vacation. Today the EU reported that growth for 2013 is projected to be -0.3 percent (that's a minus) meaning the Europe is in still another recession. And as far as big government policies go, today Greece announced that its unemployment rate is 26 percent! We've only got 18 percent to go.

4. It looks like the President instructed the CIA to arm Syrian rebels earlier this year. The only problem is that those rebels are vicious Islamists who now talk of Israel as their next target. Still more benefits of leading from behind and soft power, wouldn't you say? Of course, the President avoids any responsibility for this debacle because he used Qatar as a cut-out in the arms transfer. Even more intriguing, the NYT reports that Jihadi forces in Libya also got their hands on some of those arms. Perfect! Another triumph for Obama's Middle East foreign policy.

5. Rioting continues in Egypt as the rotten fruit that is the harvest of the Arab spring falls to the ground. That fruit will probably hit the tanks that have been deployed around Egyptian "president" cum dictator, Morsi's headquarters.

Just another day as we approach Barack Obama's second term. As the Dems are fond of saying, elections do have consequences, don't they?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


There actually were a small number of people who voted for Barack Obama in last month's election who believed, despite all indications to the contrary, that he would moderate his approach and address growing debt, deficits, and near bankrupt entitlements in some meaningful way. Not a chance.

With the exception of his successful class warfare meme of "taxing the rich," Obama has offered absolutely nothing meaningful to address the fiscal problems we face. Instead, he continues his perpetual campaigning (the only thing at which he excels) demonizing the opposition party with the support of a biased, adoring media.

The GOP isn't making things easier on themselves by adhering to a no tax increase pledge, but at least they recognize the fiscal problems we face and want a more broad-based solution to address them. Obama, as is his M.O., offers absolutely no new ideas in the area of fiscal restraint. Why? Because he doesn't have to. He has been and will be rewarded politically by the dependency class and those on the Left for being fiscally irresponsible. Got it.

Glen Reynolds makes a modest suggestion for the GOP. First the GOP must have the courage to jettison their position on no tax increases. If they do that, they have some leverage. He's what he writes:
Adopt the Bowles-Simpson Plan. The plan was the product of a bipartisan commission, chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, appointed by President Obama to address America's ballooning deficits and national debt. Most experts agree that it's a pretty good plan. President Obama didn't like it because it shrinks government too much.

Tough. It's a plan, which is more than President Obama has offered, and from a bipartisan commission he appointed. Can Obama get away with vetoing that? Can Senate Democrats get away with rejecting it and bringing on the automatic cuts and tax increases of the sequester? Doubtful. Plus, though the press tends to cover for Obama and blame Republicans, media types love Bipartisan Commissions.
Let the Democrat senate reject the bi-partisan plan. Let the President veto it. At least citizens who are not members of the dependency class will then know where the President and his supporters really stand on bi-partisan solutions to major fiscal problems. Might not make any difference, but if we go over the fiscal cliff (not an entirely bad thing, IMO), at least we'll know whose fault it really is.


Thomas Sowell comments:
No previous administration in the entire history of the nation ever finished the year with a trillion dollar deficit. The Obama administration has done so every single year. Yet political and media discussions of the financial crisis have been focused overwhelmingly on how to get more tax revenue to pay for past and future spending.

The very catchwords and phrases used by the Obama administration betray how phony this all is. For example, "We are just asking the rich to pay a little more."
As I've noted in earlier posts, if the rich pay all that Obama asks, it will cover our annual budget for exactly 8 days each year. The other 357 days? That's the problem.

Sowell summarizes:
All the political angst and moral melodrama about getting "the rich" to pay "their fair share" is part of a big charade. This is not about economics, it is about politics. Taxing "the rich" will produce a drop in the bucket when compared to the staggering and unprecedented deficits of the Obama administration.
But then again, virtually all of the positions taken by this President are a charade that masks the politics of class envy, rather than the financial health of the nation.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Absolutely Nothing

When this nation re-elected Barack Obama to a second term, it implicitly indicated that big government was preferable to fiscal responsibility and lower debt. The majority of the people made a calculated decision that they would gain more from government handouts (to a rapidly growing dependency class), and that the handouts were preferable to a more rational stewardship of our economy. They believed Barack Obama when he told them that "the rich" don't pay their "fair share" (even though the top 20 percent of income tax payers contribute 70 percent of all income taxes collected) and therefore, must be taxed to "help balance the budget" (even though all the money collected would reduce our deficit by about 2.5 percent).

Fine. We've decided to expand an already big government and reward irresponsible spending behavior, while demonizing those who try to reign it in. No problem.

It's quite apparent that the Dems and Barack Obama have a clear-cut and probably successful strategy going forward as we approach the fiscal cliff.

1. They will demand tax increases only on "the rich."
2. They will offer absolutely no meaningful spending cuts.
3. They will demand spending increases that provide still more giveaways to the dependency class.
4. They will happily allow us to go over the "fiscal cliff," resulting in tax increases for everyone.
5. They will then blame the GOP for all of this, supported with glee by a compliant left-leaning MSM.

And the debt will keep climbing and spending will continue to grow.

Again, no problem. In fact, let's go over the cliff!

Mark Steyn comments:
Sequestration sounds like castration, only more so: it would chop off everything in sight. It would be so savage in its dismemberment of poor helpless America that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that, over the course of a decade, the sequestration cuts would reduce the federal debt by $153 billion. Sorry, I meant to put on my Dr. Evil voice for that: ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE BILLION DOLLARS!!! Which is about what the United States government currently borrows every month. [Emphasis mine] No sane person could willingly countenance brutally saving a month's worth of debt over the course of a decade.
That's right—a decade!! So what we're talking about here are very small cuts distributed over 10 years with politicians on both sides of the aisle wringing their hands and telling us that Armegeddon will result. Puleeze!

Mark Steyn comments further:
I suppose it's possible to take this recurring melodrama seriously, but there's no reason to. The problem facing the United States government is that it spends over a trillion dollars a year that it doesn't have. If you want to make that number go away, you need either to reduce spending or increase revenue. With the best will in the world, you can't interpret the election result as a spectacular victory for less spending. Indeed, if nothing else, the unfortunate events of Nov. 6 should have performed the useful task of disabusing us poor conservatives that America is any kind of "center-right nation." A few months ago, I dined with a (pardon my English) French intellectual who, apropos Mitt Romney's stump-speech warnings that we were on a one-way ticket to Continental-sized dependency, chortled to me, "Americans love Big Government as much as Europeans. The only difference is that Americans refuse to admit it."
And since the 51 percent who voted for Obama have a love affair with Big Government, it's necessary to provide their lover with the money she needs to continually give us more and more gifts. That would be increased taxes—on everyone. And if that causes another recession and even greater unemployment, no worries. It's the GOP's fault, right, because Barack Obama negotiated in good faith, right? And besides, he's never to blame for anything, right?

And to compensate for increasing unemployment, we'll just extend unemployment compensation even further (as Obama recommended this week) and increase our deficits even more. And when we need even more "revenue," we'll increase taxes yet again. Round and around we go, until we run out of money.

We're just livin' the fantasy ... nothing to worry about. Absolutely nothing.