Saturday, December 31, 2011

Obamacare Snapshot: Europe Edition

Socialism is an economic system doomed to failure.  In the history of the world, there has never been an example of a successful long-term socialist state.  The concept of universal health care is the crown jewel of socialism because it means the government tells people what treatments and procedures they can (and cannot) have, and basically boils a human life down to a formula of how useful that life is to the all-powerful State.  No other consideration is more important to controlling a nation than controlling the nation's health care.

One of the most contentious issues of the past two years was the passage of Obamacare, America's version of universal health care.  In a nutshell, Obama and the Democrats used deceit (promising this system would lower costs and increase effectiveness), deceitful strong-arm tactics (thousands of pages crafted behind closed doors, with only a few hours between the release of the bill and the vote on the bill), outright bribery (the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase) and slanted numbers from the CBO (they calculate numbers based only on the assumptions provided to them, not real world data) to pass this abomination over the strenuous objections of around 60% of American citizens.  Critics say Obamacare won't work and point to truckloads of facts.  Supporters love the idea and ignore those facts.

Europe is the single best example of why universal health care will inevitably fail because they've been doing it for decades and are currently in the death throes.  Observe:

Any reasonable person does not take satisfaction in the failure and destruction of another.  This is especially true when the other is innocent of any wrongdoing or lack of judgment.
Yet sometimes, epic failure can constructively serve as an example of what not to do.  If the individual states of our nation are a laboratory of democracy, then the states of Europe are the laboratory of socialism.  What we are witness to in Greece, and eventually in Spain, Italy, and possibly France, is the painful death of the welfare state. 
Credit markets are locking up all over the continent; meanwhile, trillions have been pumped into their banks in an effort to keep them afloat.  But their situation is so bad that they cannot even take the risk of making business loans.  Employment is shrinking, and tax revenues are falling.  Internally, the socialist cash-machine is running empty as other people's money dries up.  It is all happening just as reader of American Thinker foresaw.
The welfare state's demise, long inevitable, will be painful and ugly, and it will harshly impact the weakest and the most innocent of the population.  After all, the welfare state defies the laws of economics and the laws of mathematics.  Take notice as the liberal and socialist agitators and pundits shake their collectivized fists at the sky and curse the gods without any noticeable change.  The facts on the ground will do what they will, despite rhetoric or political pontifications coming from any quarter.
One of the first organs to fail is the socialized health care program.  No matter its stated merits, a serious and impactful socialized medicine program is simply too expensive for any state to long sustain.
For months prior to the passing of ObamaCare, we were told -- repeatedly -- how it would "bend the cost curve downward" and open up better health care for millions of Americans...all at the same time! 
The problem is that the pundits on the left at the time and still today don't even believe their own rhetoric.  In fact, they are either living in a fantasy land that never existed or simply lying.
Back in May 2010, bluegrasspundit made mention of the total hypocrisy of the left with regard to ObamaCare.
After shilling for ObamaCare for months, the New York Times is now telling Greece getting out of the health care marketplace would allow health care costs to come down. The hypocrisy of the left is simple astounding.
The NY Times also made mention of the total impossibility of it all.
Another reform high on the list is removing the state from the marketplace in crucial sectors like health care, transportation and energy and allowing private investment.
What is also important to make note of is that these socialized countries do not have the traditional bogeyman that leftists point their finger at: a revenue-hungry military.  The Greek military is small to the point of insignificance.  The same is true with Spain, Italy, and most others on the continent.  Their defensive needs were being functionally met and subsidized by the United States.
A recent article by the NY Times makes for overwhelming evidence of the disruption and pain this transformation causes to the innocent and the disadvantaged.  While the article is slanted politically, it is worth reading in its entirety; the reader must realize that this will happen in other European nations, and eventually here in the U.S. should we be so foolish as to follow their example.
At public hospitals, doctors report shortages of all kinds of supplies, from toilet paper to catheters to syringes. Computerized equipment has gone unrepaired and is no longer in use. Nurses are handling four times the patients they should, and wait times for operations -- even cancer surgeries -- have grown longer.
Access to drugs has also been affected, as some drug manufacturers, owed tens of millions of dollars, are no longer willing to supply Greek hospitals. At the same time pharmacists, afraid that the government might not reimburse them, are asking for cash payments, even from those with insurance.
Brick by brick, the edifice of socialized medicine is ruthlessly and forcefully being taken apart.
The lesson here is for our nation to rid ourselves of ObamaCare entirely before it becomes embedded into the fabric of society, because it too will be rooted out by the forces of economics.  It is easier to throw out the seed than uproot the plant, so the sooner this is done, the better.  Anything less is a form a gross medical malpractice.
"There are two places only where socialism will work; In Heaven, where it is not needed, and in Hell, where they already have it."  -Winston Churchill

We are currently on the first steps down this road, and only the first few provisions have been implemented thus far.  The bulk of the damage takes place in 2013 (after Obama's re-election bid...but that's purely coincidence *cough cough*), and we'll feel it almost immediately in the form of higher costs, longer wait times for procedures, fewer qualified medical personnel, and the shriveling up of medical innovation.  And as Obamcare goes, so goes the rest of the nation because it is the single biggest driver of government excess and tyrannical control we face.  If it is fully implemented, the America of the past -- free, innovative, prosperous -- will be left in the past, no longer the blessing of the next generation of American children.

However, with the successful election of a Republican President and large numbers of Republicans in Congress -- the right Republicans, ones who are willing to stand on principle and do what they were elected to do -- it is possible to prevent this inevitable disaster by repealing Obamacare before it takes its vicious toll on our nation to a point where recovery is impossible.

Unless we want to live Europe's socialist implosion first hand, that is.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Heritage Charts Of 2011

This is some awesomely good stuff!  The Heritage Foundation is definitely the conservative's treasure chest when it comes to putting facts and numbers behind our ideological arguments.  Some outstanding examples from just the past year:

A liberal Keynesian economist will tell you that all is well as long as we manage this debt properly (I know this for a fact because I've actually been told this by a liberal Keynesian economist).  It's funny how they think that we can sustain what even they will admit is an unsustainable level of debt indefinitely, isn't it?

Anyway, in my humble opinion, that's simply shoving one's head so far under the sand that there is no hope of ever seeing daylight again.  It's wishful thinking.  It's choosing not to live in the real world.  Sure, things may have been worse during WWII, but does that give us an excuse for returning to that historic pinnacle of economic danger?  Also, the reason things were that grave in the mid-1940s is because we as a nation sold out to win and went into a period of hyper-productivity.  Are we doing that now?  Hardly.  In fact, America 2011 is doing almost exactly the opposite - destructive regulations and liberal policies are preventing productivity at every turn, shutting down energy production, requiring miles of red tape for new product development, taxing the momentum out of the few businesses that are actually expanding, and so on.

I can manage my equilibrium and stay level for quite some time while falling from an airplane, but it's a certainty that I'm going to eventually hit the ground.  Economics works the same way, and eventually America is going to hit the economic ground.  The question is whether or not we have unfurled the parachute at that point.

Clearly, what we've been doing isn't working, and a drastic change needs to occur.  I once heard a guy say that it takes a distance of 5 miles for an aircraft carrier to change direction, so you have to plan ahead.  The longer we wait to begin our national economic direction change, the more likely it will be that we'll have a full-speed impact with the shore.

Then again, after the past couple of years, maybe we're already there.  Unfortunately, the people currently in charge keep backing up and ramming ahead with the same failed policies that have been used in the past...

The Roots Of Liberalism And Conservatism

I thought this was an interesting perspective that was worth sharing:

Conservative writers sometimes complain about the obstinacy of liberals -- how they persist in their beliefs despite the flagrant misdeeds of their politicians and the collapse of welfare states, as is now happening in Europe.  Since false conclusions are often the result of false initial assumptions, I tried to find the cause of this persistence by tracing back to the roots of liberal and conservative thought.
I concluded that conservatism is based on the concept that "all men are equal but not necessarily good," while liberalism is derived from the idea that "all men are good but not necessarily equal."
Conservatism is the logical consequence of two Christian doctrines: universal equal rights and original sin.  As Wikipedia puts it:
The concept of universal human rights was not known in the ancient world, not in Ancient Greece and Rome, Ancient India, Ancient China, nor among the Hebrews; slavery, for instance, was justified in ancient times as a natural condition.
The concept of universal equal rights is implicit in the New Testament and was discussed by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.  However, few organized attempts were made to put the doctrine into practice until the issue of slavery in the Spanish colonies induced Dominican missionary Bartolom√© de Las Casas to plead for freedom and legal protection for the Indians on the basis of divinely ordained human equality [1].  This led Robert Bellarmine, a Jesuit theologian, to set forth in detail (e.g., in his De Laicis) the universal rights of human beings.  Through later philosophers, like Hume and Locke, this doctrine came down to Jefferson and was embodied in the Declaration of Independence.
Original sin -- the doctrine that all human beings have an unfortunate tendency (like a car with a bent axle) to go crooked rather than straight -- was cited as the reason for the need of redemption by Christ.  It is also the most obvious lesson that history teaches us.  Its principal political/economic ramification is the dictum, expressed by many champions of freedom, that no one can be unquestioningly trusted with power:
"There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men[.] ... Those who have been once intoxicated with power and have derived any kind of emolument from it can never willingly abandon it." -Edmund Burke
"It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power." -John Adams
"Free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence.  It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind those we are obliged to trust with power." -Thomas Jeffferson
"All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." -Lord Acton
These two doctrines lead conservatives to the conclusions that (a) freedom is the most precious and fragile blessing we possess, and (b) no single individual or group can be trusted to protect and preserve it for us.  Therefore, conservatives try to construct society like a mobile -- balancing the powers of one group against those of another, so that no group or coalition can become powerful enough to outweigh the others.  Conservatives differ among themselves as to how best to achieve this balance but agree that it is precarious and difficult to maintain.  As Thomas Paine said, "[t]hose who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
In contrast, liberals accept the concept of human rights -- and have an admirable record of fighting for some of them -- but deny the existence of original sin.  They do not believe that there is anything wrong with humanity that proper nurturing and education won't cure [2].  Instead, they tend to believe in evolutism, a quasi-religious belief that humanity is guided by a driving force (like the black slab in Kubrick's 2001: Space Odyssey) that will lead us toward an ever-higher form of life and intelligence.  Therefore, if we follow the right path, we will inevitably come to a happy world with peace and security for all.
However, there is no experimental evidence that the black slab or shining path really exists.  I therefore contend that liberalism is as much a faith-based religion as Christianity.  As with any religion, it has a demonology -- Wall Street, big business, and the rich and powerful.  Once we get rid of these demons (after stripping them of their wealth), we will all be kind and prosperous.
To exorcize these demons, and to supervise our nurture and education, liberals believe that the common herd needs shepherds to guide it.  This is in keeping with the doctrines of evolutism; some of us will be more evolved than the rest and will be the fittest leaders [3].  Therefore, despite constant professions of universal equality, liberalism is essentially elitist and tends, as Djilas pointed out, to produce a class system of its own.
Liberalism has even flirted with a variety of gods.  The rationalists of the French revolution tried to make mankind its own god.  Others have worshiped Historical Necessity or Gaia [4].  But these are unsatisfactorily abstract, so contemporary leftists tend to choose dictator-gods like Chairman Mao or Kim Jong-il.
In summary, I see the battle between liberals and conservatives as a struggle between two religions [5].  The point is (reality aside), which one would you prefer to believe in?  The conservative worldview is grim; as in the red queen's race, we must run as fast as we can just to keep the freedom we now have.  In contrast, liberalism promises that if we follow its path, we will soon rid the world of its ills and enjoy peace and plenty.
According to scientific studies and practical experience, we tend to believe what we want to believe.  Liberals just don't want to endure the chill of reality. Therefore, they ignore any media revelations of liberal failures and persist in their rosy dreams.  They do not want to be awakened and will resist it.
But let us not be too patronizing.  Perhaps we conservatives have oneirogenic myths of our own.
[1] "The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man." -G. K. Chesterton, What I Saw In America (1922) Ch. 19.
[2] This leads to the paradox that, if the nurturing-education theory is right, then the wealthy and aristocratic among us should be the best of humanity and our natural leaders.
[3] Invariably, the intellectuals within the liberal movement know that they are its predestined leaders.  They can be discerned by their smug, more-evolved-than-thou air.  Eric Hoffer discussed their egotism and thirst for power in The True Believer and The Temper of Our Time.
[4] This divergence of views about humanity is eerily echoed in views of nature.  Liberals, whether Gaians or Greenies, see Nature as balanced and benign, hostile only when disturbed by man.  Conservatives perceive nature to be indifferent to life and prone to catastrophic instabilities; like Auric Goldfinger, nature can destroy a species by rolling over in its sleep.
[5] It is disturbing to note that radical Islam fits into our definition of "liberal."  Islamists do not believe in original sin, regard themselves as an elite group, and expect to achieve a prosperous and peaceful world by global conquest.  Marxism and Islam have so many tenets in common that some sort of alliance or hybridization is frighteningly likely, especially in black or third-world communities.

I'm not sure I agree with 100% of this, but I definitely see a lot that makes sense to me.  Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

More On SOPA

Via Heritage:

Would you be outraged if the Department of Justice shut down The Foundry without any warning and blocked access for more than a year? 
That’s exactly what happened to a hip-hop blog called, which was falsely accused of criminal copyright infringement. The blog posted music from artists promoting their work. But federal authorities viewed it differently. They seized the domain name, then shared virtually no information with its owner for more than year. Only recently did they quietly drop the case. 
The government’s handling of this hip-hop blog is fueling fears about legislation moving quickly through Congress that addresses copyright infringement and online piracy. 
The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA as it’s known in the House, and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act would give the U.S. attorney general the power and authority to block criminal enterprises from trafficking in illegal products online. 
Their cause is a noble one. Business incur significant losses when Americans buy counterfeit items. Consumers must also be increasingly vigilant about purchases they make online. Federal authorities shut down more than 150 websites just last month for pirated goods. 
But the two bills making their way through Congress are the wrong solution. 
They pose serious threats to freedom of speech and expression and raise security concerns. With the Senate possibly voting on the PROTECT IP Act in January and the House moving forward with hearings on SOPA, Americans should understand what’s at stake. 
As the case with illustrates, the federal government already has the ability to shut down U.S.-based websites. A growing number of so-called “rogue sites” are located outside the United States, however, limiting the government’s ability to block them. 
SOPA would give Attorney General Eric Holder and individual intellectual property holders the ability to sue these rogue sites if they were “dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” The government, through a court order, could take these four steps: 
  1. Require Internet service providers to prevent subscribers from reaching the website in question;
  1. Prohibit search engines such as Google from providing direct links to the foreign website in search results;
  1. Prohibit payment network providers, such as PayPal or credit card firms, from completing financial transactions affecting the site; and
  1. Bar Internet advertising firms from placing online ads from or to the affected website.
“The legislation addresses a legitimate problem,” wrote Heritage’s regulatory policy expert James Gattuso, “but it may have unintended negative consequences for the operation of the Internet and free speech.” 
Free speech: The legislation gives the government the authority to tamper with Internet search results by requiring firms like Google to block links to infringing websites. Placing this limit on information providers is troubling and arguably a violation of the First Amendment. Besides, Washington’s appetite for power is uncontrollable, and this would almost certainly lead to a slippery slope of unwanted interference in the future. 
Internet security: Criminals would almost certainly discover new ways to circumvent the government’s measures. But the most glaring security problem with SOPA is the damage it would cause to DNSSEC, the new Internet system designed to limit certain crimes. This would jeopardize security across the Internet, potentially creating new challenges. 
“The federal government needs to protect intellectual property rights,” Gattuso concluded in his analysis. “But it should do so in a way that does not disrupt the growth of technology, does not weaken Internet security, respects free speech rights, and solves the problem of rogue sites.” 
The debate over SOPA is already among the most intense and polarizing taking place in Washington — and rightfully so. With concerns about free speech and Internet security taking center stage, lawmakers would be wise to look at alternatives when they return in January.

Again, this may not seem like that big of a deal if you're not a website owner, but stop and think about how many websites you visit on a regular basis.  Do you shop online?  Download music online?  Use Facebook, Google, Amazon, or any of the millions of other websites that drive our economy?  These laws would allow the government to shut them down with little or no actual justification...even if the website had done nothing wrong!

These bills are bad, bad stuff.  Pay attention to this one when January rolls around.  It's going to affect you in ways that will be very, very detrimental.  The best way to avoid the truly bad stuff like this is to prevent it from ever becoming reality.

Sci-Fi Geeks And Free Speech Trump Political Correctness And Stupid University Officials (At Least This Time)

We have to be on guard against political correctness at all times.  Fortunately, here's one fight won by the good guys:

Yes, I'm a fan of Firefly.  Yes, I'm a fan of free speech.  Yes, I get tremendous enjoyment out of seeing political correctness and liberal authoritarians lose.  This video is like Christmas all over again.

But the guy was correct at the end there - we need to stand up when we see these things happen, even if we're not fans of Firefly or whatever the issue of the moment may be.  When free speech and Constitutional rights are being threatened, that's all the reason we should need to stand up for (or against) something.  Generally speaking, it's only a matter of time until something we love or rely on is targeted by authoritarian liberals, and since most of us don't have a built in constituency like Firefly, it would be good to know that other Americans will stand with us simply on principle.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

And A Happy I-Told-You-So New Year


Today, the Treasury Department announced that Obama will ask for another $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, carrying our national debt to $16.394 trillion by next year.  This will bring Obama’s total share of the debt to $5.77 trillion by the end of his tenure, far more than any other president.  Unfortunately, there is not a darn thing we can do about it.  Yet, it didn’t have to be this way. 
Looking back at this year of legislative battles, there is no doubt that the debt ceiling deal wins the award for the most insane capitulation of the year.  In July, Obama, who had already accrued $3.6 trillion in debt, was faced with the embarrassing prospect of asking for yet another increase in the debt limit.  That was our opportunity to extract transformational concessions from Obama in return for the ability to issue more debt.  That was our time to push for Cut, Cap, Balance, or at the very least, a plain balanced budget amendment. 
Not only did GOP leaders strike out and squander the entire opportunity, they ground into a double play.  They gave Obama the ability to raise the debt ceiling another $2.1 trillion, just enough to spare him from another embarrassing debt increase right before the 2012 election.  What did we get in return?  Our reward for giving him the increase was, in fact, a twofer gift to Obama.  We were “rewarded” with the creation of the 18th debt commission and the Budget Control Act, which completely abrogated the Republicans budget, thereby obviating any leverage we would have during the remaining budget battles of the year.  After all, how could we go back on our word? 
At a time when many “prominent” conservative publications were blithely cheering on this disaster, we detailed nine reasons to oppose the deal.  Among other things, we noted that the deal would encourage notional spending cuts, preserve Obamacare, destroy the Ryan budget, engender deep cuts in defense, and grant Obama a lifeline, all the while, failing to prevent a credit downgrade. 
Sadly, my premonition has come to fruition.  After enjoying a free ride on the first $900 billion of debt, Obama now has the authority to issue another $1.2 trillion of debt.  He has blown through the first ‘tranche’ of the debt ceiling increase at a rate of almost $6 billion per day.  Now, pursuant to the debt deal, only a resolution of disapproval from two-thirds of both houses of Congress can preempt such an increase. 
Those who promoted this debt ceiling scheme last July with oleaginous columns and speeches, while denouncing its critics as “intransigent,”  should hang their heads in shame. 
It is now incontrovertibly clear that this deal was worse than giving Obama a ‘clean extension.’  We could have fought it out another day; extracting a modicum of reforms from Democrats during each battle.  Instead, the bipartisan Budget Control Act, while slowing Obama’s unrealistic baseline spending, will consummate the current unsustainable levels of spending for the next decade.  As long as those who were signatory to the deal are still leading the House, they will be constricted by the spending levels of the BCA.  Republicans can formulate any budget they want this coming April, yet they will feel compelled to commit to the higher spending levels promised under the debt ceiling deal. 
So after months of garrulous promises to cut spending, we are left with a budget that fails to cut a penny from discretionary budget authority, even as mandatory spending continues to rise unabated. 
Hence, it is often better to do nothing than to pass bad legislation.  Thanks to this failed idea, there is no realistic roadmap for entitlement reform; not a single agency or program will be eliminated; Obamacare is off limits; there will be no balanced budgets, ever. 
A simple strikeout would have been far superior to grounding into a double play.  Then again, Republicans are called the stupid party for a reason.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Luke 1:26-38
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin who was to be married to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the name of the virgin was Mary.

And the angel came in to her and said, "Peace be with you, to whom special grace has been given; the Lord is with you."

But she was greatly troubled at his words, and said to herself, "What may be the purpose of these words?"

The angel said to her, "Have no fear, Mary, for you have God's approval. And see, you will give birth to a son, and his name will be Jesus. He will be great, and will be named the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his father:

He will have rule over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

Mary said to the angel, "How may this be, because I have had no knowledge of a man?"

The angel in answer said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will come to rest on you, and so that which will come to birth will be named holy, Son of God. Even now Elisabeth, who is of your family, is to be a mother, though she is old: and this is the sixth month with her who was without children. For there is nothing which God is not able to do."

Mary said: "I am the servant of the Lord; may it be to me as you say." And the angel went away.

Luke 2:1-20

Now it came about in those days that an order went out from Caesar Augustus that there was to be a numbering of all the world. This was the first numbering, which was made when Quirinius was ruler of Syria. And all men went to be numbered, everyone to his town.

Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the town of Nazareth, into Judaea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he was of the house and family of David, to be put on the list with Mary, his future wife, who was about to become a mother. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She had her first son; and folding him in linen, she put him to rest in the place where the cattle had their food, because there was no room for them in the house.

And in the same country there were keepers of sheep in the fields, watching over their flock by night. An angel of the Lord came to them, and the glory of the Lord was shining round about them: and fear came on them.

The angel said, "Have no fear; for truly, I give you good news of great joy which will be for all the people: For on this day, in the town of David, a Saviour has come to birth, who is Christ the Lord. This is the sign to you: you will see a young child folded in linen, in the place where the cattle have their food."

And suddenly there was with the angel a great band of spirits from heaven, giving praise to God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace among men with whom he is well pleased."

When the angels had gone away from them into Heaven, the keepers of the sheep said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem, and see this thing which has come about, which the Lord has made clear to us."

They came quickly, and saw Mary and Joseph, and the child in the place where the cattle had their food. And when they saw it, they gave them an account of the things which had been said to them about the child. All those to whose ears it came were full of wonder at the things said by the keepers of the sheep.

But Mary kept all these words in her heart, and gave much thought to them. Then the keepers of the sheep went back, giving glory and praise to God for all the things which had come to their ears and which they had seen, as it had been said to them.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Unemployment And Economic News

In case you were wondering how the economy can suck while unemployment continues to decline, here's your answer (emphasis mine):
...the most important sentence isn't a report on something that just happened, but a fresh look at something that's been happening for the last three years. In particular, it's this sentence by the Financial Times' Ed Luce, who writes, "According to government statistics, if the same number of people were seeking work today as in 2007, the jobless rate would be 11 percent."

Remember that the unemployment rate is not "how many people don't have jobs?", but "how many people don't have jobs and are actively looking for them?" Let's say you've been looking fruitlessly for five months and realize you've exhausted every job listing in your area. Discouraged, you stop looking, at least for the moment. According to the government, you're no longer unemployed. Congratulations?

Since 2007, the percent of the population that either has a job or is actively looking for one has fallen from 62.7 percent to 58.5 percent. That's millions of workers leaving the workforce, and it's not because they've become sick or old or infirm. It's because they can't find a job, and so they've stopped trying. That's where Luce's calculation comes from. If 62.7 percent of the country was still counted as in the workforce, unemployment would be 11 percent. In that sense, the real unemployment rate -- the apples-to-apples unemployment rate -- is probably 11 percent. And the real un- and underemployed rate -- the so-called "U6" -- is near 20 percent.

There were some celebrations when the unemployment rate dropped last month. But much of that drop was people leaving the labor force. The surprising truth is that when the labor market really recovers, the unemployment rate will actually rise, albeit only temporarily, as discouraged workers start searching for jobs again. 
The number of people who are 'actively looking' for a job is designated by the White House, so they can pretty much pick whatever number they want.  I believe this is precisely the plan - to artificially tweak the numbers to show a gradual 'decline' in the unemployment rate, combined with the notion that their policies are 'working' and just need more time.  This will sucker the Democrat base -- ignorant people who accept every news report offered to them without a second thought -- and will also snag a number of people from the squishy middle.  The only question is whether or not it will be enough to stem major electoral losses.

Another common theme that's already coming out is that of the 'rich' paying their 'fair share'.  We've talked before about that idiotic statement, but since this is clearly the liberal Left plan, we'll keep hammering away at it some more.  The key to remember is that it's not true.  It's more deception:

A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CB0) says, "The share of income received by the top 1% grew from about 8% in 1979 to over 17% in 2007."

This news caused quite a stir, feeding the left's obsession with inequality. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, for example, said this "jaw-dropping report" shows "why the Occupy Wall Street protests have struck such a nerve." The New York Times opined that the study is "likely to have a major impact on the debate in Congress over the fairness of federal tax and spending policies."

But here's a question: Why did the report stop at 2007? The CBO didn't say, although its report briefly acknowledged—in a footnote—that "high income taxpayers had especially large declines in adjusted gross income between 2007 and 2009."

No kidding. Once these two years are brought into the picture, the share of after-tax income of the top 1% by my estimate fell to 11.3% in 2009 from the 17.3% that the CBO reported for 2007.
The larger truth is that recessions always destroy wealth and small business incomes at the top. Perhaps those who obsess over income shares should welcome stock market crashes and deep recessions because such calamities invariably reduce "inequality." Of course, the same recessions also increase poverty and unemployment.

The latest cyclical destruction of top incomes has been unusually deep and persistent, because fully 43.7% of top earners' incomes in 2007 were from capital gains, dividends and interest, with another 17.1% from small business. Since 2007, capital gains on stocks and real estate have often turned to losses, dividends on financial stocks were slashed, interest income nearly disappeared, and many small businesses remain unprofitable.

The truth of the matter is that Obama's policies are driving this economy deeper and deeper into the ground, and a genuine recovery will never take place until he's gone and his policies are rolled back.


Recall these visuals:

What's the one difference when comparing the current recession to every other recession in the past half century?

Barack Obama and his radical Leftist policies, especially his spending.


So don't allow yourself to be distracted when Obama and the Left lie and deceive and point the finger at 'the rich'.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Speaking Of The Housing Crisis... anyone else thinking this is a bit of a bombshell (emphasis mine)?

Democrats have spent years arguing that private lenders created the housing boom and bust, and that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac merely came along for the ride. This was always a politically convenient fiction, and now thanks to the unlikely source of the Securities and Exchange Commission we have a trail of evidence showing how the failed mortgage giants turbocharged the crisis.

That's the story revealed Friday by the SEC's civil lawsuits against six former Fannie and Freddie executives, including a pair of CEOs. The SEC says the companies defrauded investors because they "knew and approved of misleading statements" about Fan and Fred's exposure to subprime loans, and it chronicles their push to expand the business.

The executives deny the charges, and we hope they don't settle. The case deserves to play out in court, so Americans can see in detail how Fan and Fred were central to the bubble. The lawsuits themselves, combined with information admitted as true by Fan and Fred in civil nonprosecution agreements with the SEC, are certainly illuminating.

The Beltway story of the crisis claims that Congress's affordable housing mandates had nothing to do with it. But the SEC's lawsuit shows that Fannie degraded its underwriting standards to increase its market share in subprime loans. According to the SEC suit, for instance, in 2006 Fannie Mae adjusted its widely used automated underwriting system, "Desktop Underwriter." Fannie did so as part of its "Say Yes" strategy to "provide more 'approve' messages . . . for larger volumes of loans with lower FICO [credit] scores and higher LTVs [loan-to-value] than previously permitted."

The SEC also shows how Fannie led private lenders into the subprime market. In July 1999, Fannie and Angelo Mozilo's Countrywide Home Loans entered "an alliance agreement" that included "a reduced documentation loan program called the 'internet loan,'" later called the "Fast and Easy" loan. As the SEC notes, "by the mid-2000s, other mortgage lenders developed similar reduced documentation loan programs, such as Mortgage Express and PaperSaver—many of which Fannie Mae acquired in ever-increasing volumes."

Mr. Mozilo and Fannie essentially were business partners in the subprime business. Countrywide found the customers, while Fannie provided the taxpayer-backed capital. And the rest of the industry followed.

As Fannie expanded its subprime loan purchases and guarantees, the SEC alleges that executives hid the risk from investors. Consider Fannie's Expanded Approval/Timely Payment Rewards (EA) loans, which the company described to regulators as its "most significant initiative to serve credit-impaired borrowers."

By December 31, 2006, Fannie owned or securitized some $43.3 billion of these loans, which, according to the SEC, had "higher average serious delinquency rates, higher credit losses, and lower average credit scores" than Fannie's disclosed subprime loans. By June 30, 2008, Fannie had $60 billion in EA loans and $41.7 billion in another risky program called "My Community Mortgage," but it only publicly reported an $8 billion exposure.

The SEC says Fannie executives also failed to disclose the company's total exposure to risky "Alt-A" loans, sometimes called "liar loans," which required less documentation than traditional subprime loans. Fannie created a special category called "Lender Selected" loans and it gave lenders "coding designations" to separate these Alt-A loans from those Fannie had publicly disclosed. By June 30, 2008, Fannie said its Alt-A exposure was 11% of its portfolio, when it was closer to 23%—a $341 billion difference.

All the while, Fannie executives worked to calm growing fears about subprime while receiving internal reports about the company's risk exposure. In February 2007, Chief Risk Officer Enrico Dallavecchia told investors that Fannie's subprime exposure was "immaterial." At a March 2007 Congressional hearing, CEO Daniel Mudd testified that "we see it as part of our mission and our charter to make safe mortgages available to people who don't have perfect credit," adding that Fannie's subprime exposure was "relatively minimal." The Freddie record is similarly incriminating.


The SEC's case should embarrass Congress's Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which spent 18 months looking at the evidence and issued a report in January 2011 that whitewashed Fan and Fred's role. Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the commission to prosecute the Beltway theory of the crisis that private bankers caused it all, and Chairman Phil Angelides delivered what she wanted.

Far from being peripheral to the housing crisis, the SEC lawsuit shows that Fan and Fred were at the very heart of it. Private lenders made many mistakes, but they could never have done as much harm if Fan and Fred weren't providing tens of billions in taxpayer-subsidized liquidity to lend on easy terms to borrowers who couldn't pay it back.

Congress created the two mortgage giants as well as their "affordable housing" mandates, and neither the financial system nor taxpayers will be safe until Congress shrinks the toxic twins and ultimately puts them out of business.

Just a brief and simplified recap of the housing crisis:
- the Carter administration passed the Community Reinvestment Act in the late 1970s to force banks into relaxing their loan application standards to allow less well-qualified buyers (i.e. the 'poor' and illegal immigrants, people who were most at risk for failure to pay their mortgages) access to home loans
- banks complied
- in the 1990s the Clinton administration further relaxed the standards and the penalties for non-compliance
- the bubble began to build
- through the 2000s, the Bush administration tried over a dozen times to warn of the impending danger and prod Congress to do something about it
- Congress did nothing (but continue to take money from Freddie and Fannie)
- banks, being forced by law to issue mortgages to people they knew were likely to flake out and fail to pay, created new and inventive ways to ditch those risky/subprime loans
- the bubble burst

It's pretty much a consensus that the housing bubble was the final domino that triggered the economic catastrophe of 2008.  Now, with this lawsuit, we're seeing the seedy underbelly of those who lied, deceived, and covered up what they knew to be illegitimate business practices.

I agree with the editorial - bring it on.  Let's just remember who played which part on this stage as we watch the ugliness unfold.

Lord Of The Rings Fans: Rejoice!

We're less than a year away from the next masterpiece:


(PS - I can't wait to see how they address the dragon at the end...oh yeah!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You Want Conservatism? Here It Is.

I cannot remember the last time I heard an elected politician speak this clearly, this succinctly, and this forcefully about what it means to view America through conservative eyes.  This editorial from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is outstanding, outstanding stuff, and (in my humble opinion) precisely what we need to hear a LOT of in the run-up to the election next year:

Congressman Paul Ryan recently coined a smart phrase to describe the core concept of economic freedom: "The right to rise."

Think about it. We talk about the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to assembly. The right to rise doesn't seem like something we should have to protect.

But we do. We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck.

That is what economic freedom looks like. Freedom to succeed as well as to fail, freedom to do something or nothing. People understand this. Freedom of speech, for example, means that we put up with a lot of verbal and visual garbage in order to make sure that individuals have the right to say what needs to be said, even when it is inconvenient or unpopular. We forgive the sacrifices of free speech because we value its blessings.

But when it comes to economic freedom, we are less forgiving of the cycles of growth and loss, of trial and error, and of failure and success that are part of the realities of the marketplace and life itself.

Increasingly, we have let our elected officials abridge our own economic freedoms through the annual passage of thousands of laws and their associated regulations. We see human tragedy and we demand a regulation to prevent it. We see a criminal fraud and we demand more laws. We see an industry dying and we demand it be saved. Each time, we demand "Do something . . . anything."

As Florida's governor for eight years, I was asked to "do something" almost every day. Many times I resisted through vetoes but many times I succumbed. And I wasn't alone. Mayors, county chairs, governors and presidents never think their laws will harm the free market. But cumulatively, they do, and we have now imperiled the right to rise.

Woe to the elected leader who fails to deliver a multipoint plan for economic success, driven by specific government action. "Trust in the dynamism of the market" is not a phrase in today's political lexicon.

Have we lost faith in the free-market system of entrepreneurial capitalism? Are we no longer willing to place our trust in the creative chaos unleashed by millions of people pursuing their own best economic interests?

The right to rise does not require a libertarian utopia to exist. Rather, it requires fewer, simpler and more outcome-oriented rules. Rules for which an honest cost-benefit analysis is done before their imposition. Rules that sunset so they can be eliminated or adjusted as conditions change. Rules that have disputes resolved faster and less expensively through arbitration than litigation.

In Washington, D.C., rules are going in the opposite direction. They are exploding in reach and complexity. They are created under a cloud of uncertainty, and years after their passage nobody really knows how they will work.

We either can go down the road we are on, a road where the individual is allowed to succeed only so much before being punished with ruinous taxation, where commerce ignores government action at its own peril, and where the state decides how a massive share of the economy's resources should be spent.

Or we can return to the road we once knew and which has served us well: a road where individuals acting freely and with little restraint are able to pursue fortune and prosperity as they see fit, a road where the government's role is not to shape the marketplace but to help prepare its citizens to prosper from it.

In short, we must choose between the straight line promised by the statists and the jagged line of economic freedom. The straight line of gradual and controlled growth is what the statists promise but can never deliver. The jagged line offers no guarantees but has a powerful record of delivering the most prosperity and the most opportunity to the most people. We cannot possibly know in advance what freedom promises for 312 million individuals. But unless we are willing to explore the jagged line of freedom, we will be stuck with the straight line. And the straight line, it turns out, is a flat line.

The only thing wrong about this is that none of the current Republican presidential candidates is saying it.  Is this Jeb floating a trial balloon for a run himself?  If so, he would immediately leap to the front of the pack.  I know, I know, it's another Bush...but the Right base is pretty much yawning so far at the current crop of candidates, and George W. Bush was never quite as universally hated by the masses as the Left seemed to think (they were projecting their own feelings there).  Let's speculate a bit, just for fun.

Romney's tendency to flip-flop is rivaled only by John Kerry, his enactment of Romneycare in Massachusetts will remove the #2 issue (Obamacare repeal) from the table, and he has little record of conservatism, anyway.  Newt Gingrich has shining moments...and then Nancy-Pelosi-couch-moments; he's a brainiac who could run circles around Obama in a debate...but is still enamored with Big Government solutions to everything.  Bachmann's brusqueness puts off a lot of people -- even those who would like to support her -- and her husband's questionable practice would be problematic.  Ron Paul is great on economics but a complete wackjob on everything else.  Huntsman might as well re-register as a Democrat.  None of the others have gotten enough traction to bother with at this point.

Despite what you hear in the media -- we must always keep in mind that the mainstream media is nothing more than the propaganda wing of the Democrat party -- Obama is not liked, is not polling well, and is not a shoe-in for re-election.  In fact, his poll numbers are abysmal, the lowest for a President running for re-election since Jimmy Carter (and look how that worked out).  His policies are demonstrable failures almost without exception, and this nation is most definitely not better off now than when Obama took office.  A recent Gallup poll showed a staggering 64% of Americans believe Big Government is a greater danger to America than Big Business, just one point shy of a record high over half a century of asking the questionThe Obama administration recently admitted that they're not even bothering with white working class voters this time around because they know they won't win them over.  The plan is to generate as much class warfare as possible while hiding behind accusations of racism as a shield.

This is not evidence of a confident and successful White House.

But they know that the Republican base doesn't like any of the current candidates, and the support is split across several of them.  If that continues, Obama wins by default.  It is only if a single candidate emerges that the bulk of the Right can support that Obama will be defeated.  If this candidate happens to be boldly and honestly calling out the problems we face as being created or exacerbated by Obama, by articulating the conservative platform as outlined in the article above, and by talking up America rather than running down his/her opponents...well, I think a landslide wouldn't quite do it justice.

Jeb?  Your move.  It's yours for the taking.