In a recently indulged comment by blog brother Keith he shared a recent Sunday Sermon entitled 'Obama is a Ruler of Biblical Dimensions!' The story of Pharaoh's Egypt is an excellent analogy to current events. But why are so many Americans, citizens of the greatest nation on earth, prepared to repeat this act of self-enslavement? I can best answer that with a sermon on 'Man's Rights' by Ayn Rand.
How many times have you heard it said that "health care is a right" or that "every American has a right to a decent job with a living wage?" Just last week an ACORN spokesman said that "housing is a right." [5:50] Those who hold these beliefs are willing to trade their political rights, or liberty, for economic "rights" - and expect the rest of us to do the same. Ayn Rand saw this in April of 1963:
Such is the state of one of today’s most crucial issues: political rights versus “economic rights.” It’s either-or. One destroys the other. But there are, in fact, no “economic rights,” no “collective rights,” no “public-interest rights.” The term “individual rights” is a redundancy: there is no other kind of rights and no one else to possess them.
But where did these ideas come from in modern America? According to Rand, first with FDR and then institutionalized in the Democratic Party Platform of 1960. (Click 'continue reading' to see the list.) Then she explains, "A single question added to each of the above eight clauses would make the issue clear: At whose expense?"
America has been "progressing" toward this point for my entire life. Since the "baby boom" generation American children have been raised with this altruist-collectivist ethic. Said Rand:
America’s inner contradiction was the altruist-collectivist ethics. Altruism is incompatible with freedom, with capitalism and with individual rights. One cannot combine the pursuit of happiness with the moral status of a sacrificial animal.
It was the concept of individual rights that had given birth to a free society. It was with the destruction of individual rights that the destruction of freedom had to begin.
Don't think America's founders were blind to this possibility.
The government was set to protect man from criminals—and the Constitution was written to protect man from the government. The Bill of Rights was not directed against private citizens, but against the government—as an explicit declaration that individual rights supersede any public or social power.
But this reliance upon rights to protect man from government was able to be undermined by dispute over the origin of those rights. And this is where I depart from brother Keith - when it comes to his closing prayer.
The concept of individual rights is so new in human history that most men have not grasped it fully to this day. In accordance with the two theories of ethics, the mystical or the social, some men assert that rights are a gift of God—others, that rights are a gift of society. But, in fact, the source of rights is man’s nature.
So those who believe rights are bestowed on man by his society have merely to deny the existence of God to disarm those who hold the opposing theory. Until Americans learn the true nature of rights - individual right to life and property as a birthright and a natural consequence of the nature of his being - our civil order will always be threatened by the specter of tyranny.
“The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational.” (Atlas Shrugged)
Bear clearly in mind the meaning of the concept of “rights” when you read the list which the platform offers:
“1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.
“2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.
“3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.
“4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home and abroad.
“5. The right of every family to a decent home.
“6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
“7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accidents and unemployment.
“8. The right to a good education.”
A single question added to each of the above eight clauses would make the issue clear: At whose expense?
A good friend of ThreeSources sends an interesting link. Contra the accompanying comments, I think we'd all be pretty concerned about this War on Philanthropy. As the government takes over more of what private charities do, the new taxation regime will starve their private "competitors" by reducing the deductibility of charitable giving.
I asked the president of a prominent international non-profit to comment on Obama’s new policies, and he was convinced there was no question as to the White House’s motivation. "This is a frontal assault on the non-profit sector aimed at undermining alternatives to government provision of social services. Nobody likes competition, and that goes for those who think government is the answer to all our problems."
I blogged pretty favorably a few years back about a moderately crazy scheme to offer up to $10,000 100% deductible allowance. In essence, most middle-class filers would "choose" the recipients of their tax dollars and "the rich" would fund everything else.
Without reigniting that debate, I think any movement away from private to public charity is bad and won't find much support 'round these parts.
One of my own comments was sent there today so I went to retrieve it. In the process I found numerous others from regular commenters that appeared to be quarantined due to hyperlink content. I freed several from their un-cyberworldly bonds:
Despite every intention to be there a forgotten pediatrician's appointment for my eldest made it impossible for me to get firsthand photos and video of the Obama Tea Party in Denver today. There's one shot posted in Michelle Malkin's coverage here. I'm impressed by the breadth of this event with good representation in not just Chicago but San Diego, North Carolina, Oklahoma City, Nashville, Portland, Alabama, Lansing, Cleveland, Houston, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, Austin, Hartford, and Washington D.C, courtesy of John Lilyea at 'This Ain't Hell.'
The list is even longer according to TCOT Report, which also has more photos and coverage.
Insty links as "another day, another Biden gaffe:"
Wednesday morning on the CBS Early Show, Vice President Joe Biden asked, "But what I don't understand from Governor Jindal is what would he do? In Louisiana, there's 400 people a day losing their jobs. What's he doing?"
But that claim is wrong if you look at the numbers from the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
"In December, Louisiana was the only state in the nation besides the District of Columbia, according to the national press release, that added employment over the month," said Patty Granier with the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
"The state gained 3,700 jobs for the seasonally adjusted employment," Granier said of the most recent figures.
Those numbers are available on Louisiana's employment website, laworks.net.
I compared the reaction to Governor Palin the other day and I will stand by it. I got to thinking last night that President George HW Bush and the supermarket scanner is more illustrative. To refresh, because the wrong story has so much currency, President Bush remarked on the latest at the time barcode readers, remarking upon their remarkability. The press picked this up as Bush is so clueless he's never seen a supermarket scanner , then he's so elitist, he's never been in a supermarket, then he's so out-of-touch you'd better vote for Bill Clinton.
The jokes keep coming and I'll never wrong that right. But suppose it were true. The President in 1991 has never seen a supermarket scanner. Would the world really stop? Yes, if I worked for the opposition, I'd play it up. But we are not hiring a guy to keep the peanut butter shelf stocked.
Here, in 2009, we have a Vice President who doesn't know what a webpage is. Contra-GHWB, he is now in charge of a public liaison campaign to track a Trillion dollars of government spending. And he doesn't know the website number.
Maybe they need a salty-dog cartoon character to promote Cap'n Trade. After all I ate many boxes of truly disgusting cereal as a kid to get the toy surprise that Cap'n Crunch promised me. It could work.
So far, they are not fooling the WSJ Ed Page. "Don't call it a t--" is the subtitle of An Inconvenient Tax
That didn't take long. The same week that President Obama promised (again) that "95% of working families" would not see their taxes rise by "a single dime," his own budget reveals that taxes will rise for 100% of everyone for the sake of global warming. Ahem.
You don't even have to burrow into yesterday's budget fine print to discover the "climate revenues" section, where the White House discloses that it expects $78.7 billion in new tax revenue in 2012 from its cap-and-trade program. The pot of cash grows to $237 billion through 2014, and at least $646 billion through 2019. If this isn't tax revenue, what is it? Manna from heaven? The offset from Al Gore's carbon footprint?
I'll credit the administration one thing. It is worse than a tax because it has such a strong regulatory component. Cue Cap'n Trade: "It's a tax" "No, it's regulation," replies the Power-Vampire Count Wastefula...
I love Journalism qua Journalism, and I was conditioned to appreciate growing up in a two-paper town. The Post and Rocky collapsed ownership a few years ago and became less competitive with each other. Yet it was still a two paper town.
On the other hand, Mister Truman, I'm a new media guy and think the dailies have dug their own grave with lousy, biased content and pursuit of a broken business model. When a paper closes down in San Francisco, Honolulu, or Ash Debula I say "Viva Schumpeter, the lying, lazy weasels reaped what they sowed!"
In the end, I'll admit to being saddened by the news that Denver's worse paper is shutting down after 150 years (Colorado has only been a State since 1876).
The Rocky Mountain News publishes its last paper tomorrow.
Rich Boehne, chief executive officer of Rocky-owner Scripps, broke the news to the staff at noon today, ending nearly three months of speculation over the paper's future.
"People are in grief," Editor John Temple said at a news conference later.
I try to keep an open mind when some Democrat friends claim to be "libertarian." You can make a point that Democrats might be a little more open to gay marriage, extended immigration, civil liberties. I question how devoted they are to these purities compared to their devotion to socialism and bigger government. But the 109th Congress GOP wasn't very defensible, so I try to give some benefit of the doubt.
I cannot be so kind or sanguine when they say that Democrats are less likely to pursue the War on Drugs. William Bennett is always held up as a poster boy, but Reason reminds that now-VP Joe Biden created the "Drug Czar" position. And the little-l's dream that enforcement would be reduced by the hipper, younger administration is going -- if I may quote Tommy Chong -- "Up In Smoke:"
Attorney General Eric Holder today announced the arrest of 52 people in a continuation of a Bush Administration drug investigation of the Mexican cartels. The operation began 21 months ago. The total number of arrests (a number of whom are low level traffickers) is 750.
The military may get involved in the effort
Another Holder plan that should be no surprise: He wants to bring back the assault weapons ban.
Vote Democrat -- no property rights, no civil rights!
"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder told reporters.
Holder said that putting the ban back in place would not only be a positive move by the United States, it would help cut down on the flow of guns going across the border into Mexico, which is struggling with heavy violence among drug cartels along the border.
"I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum." Holder said at a news conference on the arrest of more than 700 people in a drug enforcement crackdown on Mexican drug cartels operating in the U.S.
The US government has a hell of time keeping illegal Mexicans OUT of our country, so they plan on keeping guns OUT of their country.
That will work.
The Assault Weapons Ban signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 banned 19 types of semi-automatic military-style guns and ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds.
"A semi-automatic is a quintessential self-defense firearm owned by American citizens in this country," LaPierre said. "I think it is clearly covered under Heller and it's clearly, I think, protected by the Constitution."
Did anybody's house not explode last night when he talked about "the country that invented the car?" Oh, he meant Henry Ford inventing the assembly line. Judges? I don't think that would work on "Jeopardy" even if he did phrase it as a question.
I think we apply the Governor Sarah Palin test: WWTMSMDISPDI? Judges? Yes "What is apoplexy?"
How can the public know that the money is allocated correctly? That’s the question CBS’s Maggie Rodriguez asked.
“We’re going to put every bit of this transparently up on a website. You’re gonna know. You’ll be able to go on a website. Every single bit of this will be on a website,” he explained.
“You know, I’m embarrassed. Do you know the website number?” he asked looking offstage. “I should have it in front of me and I don’t. I’m actually embarrassed.”
He was able to get the website “number” from someone off camera.
“Recovery.gov. It’s Recovery.gov. It’s up and running,” he said with newfound confidence.
Nope, nobody messes with Joe. The same way you don't "mess with" a slobbering delusional alcoholic at the bus stop. Methinks if Governor Palin had referred to a "website number--" Judges? "What is soil their trousers?" Ding-ding.
I should create a 2012 category and lead it off with this.
I was surprised at the disappointment in the blogosphere with Governor Jindal's GOP response. I thought the audio sucked but that he did a pretty good job. Laurie Bird (HT: Insty) suggests he was much better in his Today Show interview:
If Andrew Sullivan finds him "cringeworthy." he even goes up in my esteem.
Mixed-up, Muddled and Shook-up world 'cept for Lola
Welcome to Bizarro World, ThreeSourcers! The Refugee has attacked the heroic pilot, Capt. Chesley Sullenberger. Now, I rush to defend Vice President Biden. Odder still, we're both right. BR makes a great case that Cap'n Sully has exceeded his area of expertise, and while I love a good whack at VP Biden, I have to say that this video goes too far:
Hairplugs? personal attacks? a dubious use of a racial epithet? A gratuitous swipe at VP Quayle? The Drug-czar reference is the only issue that belongs in a reason piece and the gaffes they chose are not his worst.
No one will dispute the piloting skill and heroics of Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. However, The Refugee respectfully encourages him stick to flying and forget economics.
During recent testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Capt. Sullenberger bemoaned the payroll plight of pilots.
US Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger told the House aviation subcommittee that his pay has been cut 40 percent in recent years and his pension has been terminated and replaced with a promise "worth pennies on the dollar" from the federally created Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
The reduced compensation has placed "pilots and their families in an untenable financial situation," Sullenberger said. "I do not know a single, professional airline pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps."
The Good Captain traced the problem back to airline deregulation in the 1970's. Ah. There we have it: if we could just bring back some old time government, he could still be benefiting from the artificial market created by bureaucrats - at the expense of the millions of consumers, of course.
Before we pass the hat through coach, however, let's look at his assertions objectively. First of all, there's no doubt that pilot incomes have fallen as airlines have tried to find a sustainable business model. However, 2008 data indicates that salaries for captains of A320/737 class aircraft ranges from $123,000 to about $200,000 depending upon airline. 747/777 jockeys make substantially more. US Airways is on the lower end of the scale. But even so, these individuals are well within the top 10% of all wage earners.
Untennable financial situation, sir? If you're in the top 10% of wage earners and can barely scrape by, then you either don't have any concept of true poverty or need to hire a money manager. Moreover, why not change to a higher-paying airline on a higher-paying ride? A top pilot with 19,000+ hours surely has some job mobility.
Secondly, his testimony implies that flight safety is at risk. Facts speak differently. Commercial flight fatalities have declined since deregulation despite a huge increase in the number of flights. Air travel has never been safer.
Capt. Sullenberger does not often mention that he was educated entirely on taxpayer money at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a $400,000 value in present dollars. He also learned to fly in taxpayer-paid planes costing thousands of dollars per hour all while receiving a pretty decent officer's salary and benefits, again at taxpayer's expense. The Refugee begrudges none of this, but this is a ride available to only 1 in 100,000 students with no residual student loans.
Again, with respect, the taxpayer has already done his part to support Capt. Sullenberger. Yes, his flying skills are magnificent and actions on the Hudson heroic. It was also the job that he was trained and paid to do.
We haven't had a "Dirty Hippies" post in a while (and a younger me may have personally starred in the last one). But it is time. Oh baby it is time. Gawker has a nine-minute video of the ridiculous NYU food court takeover.
Painful as it is, you have to watch it coast-to-coast, both to absorb the full inanity and to catch the end where they inventory their possessions (sorry, AC, no "PCs" in the group) to protect them from confiscation.
Blog Brother Johngalt asked me to look for warning signs of socialized medicine. I am happy to address his concerns with a report that the nursing staff of Advanced Neurology is professional, compassionate and generally lovely in every way.
But all is not quiet. One staff member was discussing that she had brought in many of her favorite pens and she was protecting them from intra-office theft. I remarked that they should be exempt because they get all those cool pens from the drug companies' sales reps.
"Obama fixed that!" cried another staff member (who obviously has not gotten the message of hope and change) "They can't do that anymore." I restored a smile when I played along, saying "Now I can sleep at night -- I was so worried that my doctor would be bought out by a pen and a box of Kleenex."
I follow pharmaceutical regulation -- I thought -- closely and had missed this pearl. I need to do a little research but don't think he was making this up. I know that marketing costs are a real casus belli to the collectivists -- it is somehow evil to spend money educating your customers and wasteful to promote your product. I'm sure that's why Coke and Budweiser do it.
But this is the world that suffering businesses will have to navigate to grow in difficult times: the proverbial anvil thrown to a drowning man. It will hurt the pharmaceutical companies, pen manufacturers, and as my fellow doubter suggested "I think all the restaurants in the area will close; I never see any pens in there but pharma ones."
Financial markets shuddered Monday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 3.4% to 7114.78 -- or nearly half the peak it hit just 16 months ago -- even as the Obama administration tried to quell fears about the viability of major U.S. banks.
The decline in the stock market was unusually broad and went well beyond the jittery financial sector, with technology and other economically sensitive categories driving major indexes to their lowest closing levels in more than 11 years.
Much as I love to study sophisticated investment vehicles and absorb wisdom from Kudlow guests, I have to admit to being the dullest, old-lady, dollar-averaging, broad-index investor on the planet. My 401K choices are a bit limited, so I do ETFs for S&P500, S&P600, and a non-aggressive international fund. For my wife's IRA, we invest lump sum once per year and can choose any investment except rare guitars (there's probably an ETF, I shouldn't jest.) So I get a little more colorful there. My big idea last year was to go heavy on Financials -- how much worse could they go? Oh. That much.
On one hand, I am a Kudlowite optimist. The dynamic free market engine of world prosperity will win in the end and a long term bet against America is not historically wise. The other hand sees protectionism, überregulation, preternaturally progressive taxes on income, investment and capital -- all in the midst of a downturn that cries for the exact opposite.
I'm thinking of going short with half this year's contribution and putting half in Taleb's Black Swan fund. A little hedge against a further downturn that seems quite possible. I would love to hear what ThreeSourcers think. How bad is it gonna get and what to do?
UPDATE: The editorial page is a little less kind, invoking Casey Stengel's "Can't anybody play this game?"
The latest example came yesterday, when equity markets showed early strength after a dreadful week when they had fallen nearly 6%. Then investors started to absorb a three-paragraph morning statement from five branches of the Obama financial regulatory team asserting that the government "stands firmly behind the banking system during this period of financial strain to ensure it will be able to perform its key function of providing credit to households and businesses." Stocks headed south around 10 a.m. and didn't stop until they'd lost another 3.4% or so. The nearby chart of the Dow since Election Day is a running tally of ebbing confidence in the new Administration.
I get the second dose of my clinical trial today. I'll have my mini netbook and full knowledge of how to get on the hospital WiFi, so maybe I'll do some Blogging on Steroids®. I get a half-hour of steroids to mitigate symptoms of the drug.
So far, they haven't caused me to hit 70 home runs, but they tend to make me a little loquacious (moi?) If I get my inner Biden on, I'll start posting. If not, as Linda Richman would say, "Talk among yourselves..."
A number of ideas over the past weeks have come together for me this morning-
In response to the letter I sent to my Senators opposing H.R. 1 a beloved cousin emailed me, "I’m not saying I disagree or agree with you when I ask this question…. But what would you suggest? I don’t really know what the right answer is at this point…"
The first line of my reply to her was, "Well, on numerous occasions in the past we've cut tax rates in an attempt to spur economic growth and every time that's been done the economy improved and net tax receipts increased, despite the lower rate of taxation."
Then the shamulus bill passed and a number of Republican governors, upon seeing the fine print, began suggesting they'd refuse the federal handouts. "Republican governors, as the last bastion of capitalist political power in this country, should implement a capitalist plan for job creation - eliminate the corporate income tax" I thought. By doing this in one or more states there would be a side-by-side comparison of capitalism versus government bailouts that would be difficult to ignore on the key statistics of job growth and state GDP growth.
But I wondered which states have a Republican governor AND a corporate income tax that could be axed?
This morning Tim Pawlenty and Mark Sanford appeared on Fox News Sunday with Ed Rendell and Jennifer Granholm to discuss the "stimulus" bill. Among other things, Sanford called The Big O's foreclosure plan "a horrible idea." Last week Sanford suggested that his state might "turn down stimulus money" from the feds. In that L.A. Times story real estate agent Joyce Rivas claimed to have voted for Sanford twice but was angered by his "threat." Rivas asked, "For starters, where's their answer to this?"
Lawmakers and observers said eliminating corporate income tax is an interesting idea, but want to hear more details.
South Carolina could join four other states, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming, with no corporate income tax, Sanford said. South Carolina collects about $300 million in corporate income taxes annually, far less than sales and individual income tax collections.
“We’ve got to get away from this piecemeal approach to jobs incentives,” Sanford said in a written statement. “We believe a better approach would be to simply lower the overall tax rate for corporations, so that we’re not only giving companies a good deal when they decide to locate here but we’re giving them a reason to stay and expand.”
A(n) hearty and heartfelt heh to Professor Glenn Reynolds. He links to an article about Senators Chris Dodd and Chuck Schumer's disconnect with the people and causes they claim to champion. Reynolds adds:
Yeah, it’s almost like they’re two-faced weasels or something.
The linked article, curiously, is a paean for more government attention to poverty. It disparages "Gingrich-Clinton Welfare Reform" and calls for the good old days of LBJ when government cared about poverty (and Bill Moyers was roaming the halls looking for gay Republicans to destroy). It seems like a long journey for one nasty quote about Schumer and Dodd, but the decision of the judges is final.
ALG News reported, mistakenly, that the new CIA Director, Leon Panetta, had a daughter that was associated with the dictators of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega. In fact, as reported by Accuracy in Media, Mr. Panetta has no daughter. ALG News would like to apologize to Mr. Panetta for erroneously reporting this in error. -- Americans for Limited Government
John Gibson Did Not Compare Eric Holder To Monkey With Bright Blue Scrotum -- HuffPo
The System That Doesn't Choose Phil Gramm for President is Flawed
Senator Gramm tells the truth so much he can't even be an economic advisor to a presidential campaign. But my first choice for President has a great guest editorial in the WSJ today:
I believe that a strong case can be made that the financial crisis stemmed from a confluence of two factors. The first was the unintended consequences of a monetary policy, developed to combat inventory cycle recessions in the last half of the 20th century, that was not well suited to the speculative bubble recession of 2001. The second was the politicization of mortgage lending.
As Mr. Greenspan testified last October at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, "It's instructive to go back to the early stages of the subprime market, which has essentially emerged out of CRA." It was not just that CRA and federal housing policy pressured lenders to make risky loans -- but that they gave lenders the excuse and the regulatory cover.
Countrywide Financial Corp. cloaked itself in righteousness and silenced any troubled regulator by being the first mortgage lender to sign a HUD "Declaration of Fair Lending Principles and Practices." Given privileged status by Fannie Mae as a reward for "the most flexible underwriting criteria," it became the world's largest mortgage lender -- until it became the first major casualty of the financial crisis.
"Cuba used to have mansions and a relatively decent economy. They moved from the individual to the collective. Now they're drivin' '54 Chevys. Maybe the last great car to come out of Detroit."
"They're [floor traders on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange] pretty much of the notion that you can't buy your way to prosperity. And if the multiplier that all of these Washington economists are selling us is over one then we never have to worry about the economy again. The government should spend a trillion dollars an hour because we'll get 1.5 trillion back.
"If you read our founding fathers, people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson, what we're doing in this country now are just making them roll over in their graves."
The division is not over race, as AG Holder claimed, but over productivity. The "racism" charge is now merely a distraction. The new administration has contempt for anyone who can earn his own living through industriousness and productive effort. Instead they confiscate wealth from producers and lavish handouts upon the lazy and the corrupt. They are, in the truest sense of the term, looters. And they control the levers of power in the administrative branch of our government. We're about to see if the "separation of powers" model can withstand their assault on the Constitution.
Two days ago Eric Holder called America "a nation of cowards." AlexC captured the key point of the U.S. Attorney General's speech. Specifically, "...average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."
But these two average Americans have no compunction whatsoever discussing racial issues. Watch:
Neither of them looks particularly like a coward to me. Well, that 2nd white guy maybe...
If this story doesn't pull Attila out of retirement...
The brouhaha concerns Air-O-Matic of Florida, the maker of the popular "Pull My Finger" app, which claims the maker of rival "iFart Mobile" is misappropriating the phrase "pull my finger" in its advertisements. Such an assertion, according to iFart Mobile maker InfoMedia of Colorado, reeks of an misunderstanding of American fart culture.
3. We should not be helping people stay in their homes if their mortgage payments are at 43 percent of their income. (The bill requires banks, in such cases, to lower interest rates until monthly payments are at 38 percent of income. The government then steps in to lower payments to 31 percent of income.) I don't feel moral outrage (although it is morally outrageous), I just don't think it is a good use of money. I also wonder how it works when your income is quite variable year to year. Are they sure there is no way to game this?
I'm no super smart business analyst or accountant, but here's how I would game this program.
It's not clear though if the "magic percentage" payments are pre or post tax.
I'm sole proprietor of my company, doing contract work.
For the sake of round-ish numbers, I make about $100,000 per year. My mortgage is $1666 / month, or $20,000 / year. 20% of my pre-tax income goes towards my home. Naturally, I pay taxes (patriotism and all), so it really becomes (assuming some deductions etc) $75,000 net, or 26% of my income toward my home.
If I incorporate my company, I could pay myself say $50,000 a year, taxed at something like 15 to 20%. Now my $20,000 / year mortgage payment becomes a more respectable 40% pre-tax or possibly approaching 50% after taxes.
Clearly, I would qualify for "help." The issue remains, however, on dealing with the other $50,000 I have made. S-Corps can't have money in the bank at the end of the year, and must pay it out as a dividend... at 15% at the end of the year.
C-Corps can, but they get hit with corporate taxes.
Again, I'm not a tax attorney or accountant, but I can easily see this system being gamed.
The expression "create or save," which has been used regularly by the President and his economic team, is an act of political genius. You can measure how many jobs are created between two points in time. But there is no way to measure how many jobs are saved. Even if things get much, much worse, the President can say that there would have been 4 million fewer jobs without the stimulus.
No opponents yet for the primary or general, yet John Fund reports that Senator Specter (RINO - PA) is vulnerable for his betrayal on the stimulus bill:
But a new Rasmussen Reports poll shows that Republicans are finding his vote for the stimulus not at all palatable. A full 69% of Pennsylvania Republicans opposed the package, and independents are evenly divided on its merits. Only Democrats are enthusiastic, with 73% in favor. All of that means that 40% of voters are less likely to support Mr. Specter because of his vote versus only 31% who are more likely. Worse, in a Republican primary, a full 58% of party loyalists say the stimulus bill would make them less likely to back the five-term incumbent.
This has been going around for a week or so, but I have been thinking a little more on it and this idea ages well.
First, with apologies to women and serious thinkers, I need to dispel the elephant in the room. There are economists and there are supermodels, but Ms. Muccio is the rare woman with a Jimmy Choo firmly planted in both camps. What is it about George Mason that attracts such brilliant, free market faculty and now this?
Second, the idea of a short payroll tax holiday is not new, but the idea of a year's exemption has some political and economic advantages. Political in that this shifts the burden from the regressive payroll tax to the sharply progressive income tax. No "tax cuts for the rich" arguments. Economically, there is zero dead-weight loss, it can start next Monday if our benighted Congress so wanted. And a full year of higher paychecks would provide confidence to consumers and real relief to employers, pari-passu with their employment rolls.
And yet it is highly palatable to me, because it would give workers an incredible taste of freedom. As it eclipsed, the Fair Tax folks would have an attentive audience. Plus, if we are going to "stimulate" what better way than to let people spend their own money? No new government programs, no new baseline spending.
That -- of course -- is why it could never be. Less power, less government control, a taste of freedom. We can't have that.
Insty also links to an interview with Ms. Muccio, though I confess she is more impressive in her own YouTube piece.
First black Attorney General, appointed by the first black President, Eric Holder:
"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."
Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White
House. One is from Chicago, another is from Tennessee, and the third is from
All three go with a White House official to examine the fence. The
Minnesota contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then
works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will
run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for
The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then
says, "I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew
and $100 profit for me."
The Chicago contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to
the White House official and whispers, "$2,700."
The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the
other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?"
The Chicago contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000 for you,
and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence."
"Done!" replies the government official.
And that, my friends, is how the new stimulus plan will work.
President Obama flew the Executive Armada 1600 miles west today so that he could sign his 'Christmas for Democrats' bill in a Denver museum with solar PV panels on the roof. (Yawn.) I drove 28 miles south to add my voice to those who said it is a dark day for our nation.
We arrived late so the only good clip I got was this closing statement by Jon Caldera. We missed hearing Michelle Malkin and Tom Tancredo. But Michelle (who I just learned has recently moved to Denver) has a good clip at the bottom of this post on her site that fills in what we missed.
Woman of the people, Alexandra Pelosi, releases a new documentary that shows slack-jawed, inbred, bible-thumpin' conservatives are more partisan that ever. Yet she doesn't quite get her subjects:
Respectfully, I wanted to say to them, I live on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I am on the winning side of capitalism. I work for HBO, corporate America. The Man has been good to me. You, on the other hand, are driving a truck that says, "Obama is a socialist idiot," and you're in a much lower tax bracket than most of the people in Manhattan that are voting for Obama. So the times I would actually get into it would be like, "OK, explain to me why you think he's an idiot. He's trying to give you a tax cut. You understand you're voting against your own self-interest?"
Glad she said "Respectfully," aren't you?
UPDATE: Changed Andrea to Alexandra, sorry for any confusion. Yes, this is Speaker Pelosi's Daughter.
Joss Whedon/Eliza Dushkus's new show Dollhouse has had a few of what Robert Johnson called "Stones in my Passway." The week it was announced, the writer's strike hit.
Worse, from those who know more than me, the show got scheduled on -- shield the kiddies' eyes here -- Friday night! Galley Slave Jonathan V. Last announced the Friday Night schedule as conclusive proof that the show was dead before beginning. The idea is that Sarah Connor goes to Friday for one last ultra-geek season before dying and that Dollhouse is strangled in the cradle.
I don't know how this works and I am tempted to accept my Buffy-sire's judgement. What struck me as sad is that the Whedon blog site spends the next day discussing ratings and things you can do to promote the show. A few posts down, it is noted that Dollhouse premiers five years after the news that Angel was canceled (also Friday the 13th).
I read a piece last week that suggested one or more of the broadcast networks will likely go to cable in the next few years, trading the certainty of the subscription model for the revenue opportunity for a big hit. Blow your gales through this model, Mr. Schumpeter -- it is broke! The viewers are in save-our-show mode the day it's out, viewership is down, revenues are down. There has got to be a better way to run a railroad. I still imagine a subscription for a network or small group of networks and wonder that Whedon fans wouldn't just pony up $49 for a season of his newest show, licensed to watch new episodes live and owning a digital copy at the end like Amazon Unbox.
Since nobody else is talking about the actual show, how 'bout it? Did anybody see it? I think the show has potential and I am anxious to see where it goes. There was a lot to take in in one episode.
On the down side, I was less pleased with the latest Sarah Connor Chronicles. I have been warming up to this show over the last season or so and if last night represents the start of a super-scifi-geeked-out denouement, color me unconvinced. Good SciFi enables an astonishing pretext to view un-astonishing human behavior (Cameron and the tortoise was magical). Attempting the special effects of the Terminator movie grabs me a lot less.
Joint promos with Summer Glau and Eliza Dushku were worth the price of admission. Whedon geeks were treated to a great reunion of Buffy and Angel characters that even extends into the previous show (don't forget Glau was the ballerina in "Waiting in the Wings" before she was in Firefly). I haven't liked anything since Angel and I find myself getting hooked on a few current programs. I watched three Seasons of "Heroes" in two months just in time for the new episodes; "Eureka" is good but I will have to buy it now if comes back on; and cautions optimism on Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles and Dollhouse.
UPDATE: I'm going to back off my Terminator Criticism. I watched it again and found much to like. Ms. Weaver's extendo-knives® didn't do it for me, but the plotline took some well defined turns.
When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.' The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
Every word of this seems a perfect depiction of the 2008 campaign and its result.
We still have the better part of four years to see if the current president is Mencken's "lofty ideal" personified. Something tells me we won't have to wait that long to find out.
Rapid passage of the Reid-Pelosi-Obama "Stimulus" Bill, H.R. 1, is apparently too important to wait for even a reading of the 1100 page text - even by the congressmen who are compelled to cast their votes! Those voting "Aye" have apparently already made up their minds and are disinclined to know what was changed in Conference Committee. For example:
"We also are getting press reports that there is a plus-up - I think $8 billion - in the high-speed rail account. We also know from further press reports that Leader Harry Reid is looking at a train to Vegas and that's what he wants to see out of the stimulus bill... Again, that's exactly the kind of waste and pork-barrel spending that the American people are sick and tired of and expect a lot more," he [House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA)] added.
I heard Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) say that the Vegas rail line, a maglev type, is projected to cost $10 million PER MILE and that a private partnership had already invested millions in a conventional rail link between the same points that would now be at serious competitive disadvantage. He used the word 'bankrupt" to describe the effect on the private effort, "with the stroke of a politician's pen."
But the house vote was rushed through a mere 10 hours after the bill was finalized. This despite a unanimous agreement to allow 48 hours to read the bill prior to consideration and voting. The 48-hour review provision was reportedly one of the measures that was stripped in conference.
The following statement was released by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer at 4:57 p.m.:
"The House is scheduled to meet at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow and is expected to proceed directly to consideration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment conference report. The conference report text will be filed this evening, giving members enough time to review the conference report before voting on it tomorrow afternoon."
"And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."
I suppose that the 3 hours between 6 and 9 am qualifies as "the light of day."
Leave it to a brainy Indian to come up with the cheapest and surest way to stimulate our economy: immigration.
"All you need to do is grant visas to two million Indians, Chinese and Koreans," said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express newspaper. "We will buy up all the subprime homes. We will work 18 hours a day to pay for them. We will immediately improve your savings rate — no Indian bank today has more than 2 percent nonperforming loans because not paying your mortgage is considered shameful here. And we will start new companies to create our own jobs and jobs for more Americans."
While his tongue was slightly in cheek, Gupta and many other Indian business people I spoke to this week were trying to make a point that sometimes non-Americans can make best: "Dear America, please remember how you got to be the wealthiest country in history. It wasn’t through protectionism, or state-owned banks or fearing free trade. No, the formula was very simple: build this really flexible, really open economy, tolerate creative destruction so dead capital is quickly redeployed to better ideas and companies, pour into it the most diverse, smart and energetic immigrants from every corner of the world and then stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat."
This comes -- mirabile dictu -- from Thomas Friedman of the NYTimes, via Don Luskin who is equally surprised.
The Stimulus bill has passed the House (score another goose-egg for GOP votes -- yes!)
But I wish the Democrats read The Everyday Economist. ThreeSources friend Josh Hendrickson has a great piece detailing how far the debate has devolved. Jonathan Chait and some TV Xtreme Keynesians are caught suggesting that wasteful spending is stumulus.
This is indeed at the core of the debate. Those who argue that wasteful spending will jump-start the economy are either disingenuous or simply do not understand how wealth is created. Wealth is not created by turning on the printing presses and handing individuals checks for a worthless day’s work. On the contrary, that is how wealth is destroyed!
SugarChuck and I used to exchange emails about "Our Margaret," by which we meant Peggy Noonan, years ago when I only feared that she was going off the deep end. I've said it 100 times, but her book on Reagan "What I Saw at the Revolution" is one of the greatest political books ever. Her lyrical columns on post-9-11 America still stand strong. Her writings on Catholicism, the Pope, and the miracle of Guadalupe got me as close to "my childhood's faith" as anything.
But she has become the Wall Street Journal's Helen Thomas! I usually avoid her column entirely, but the new Murdoch-approved format makes it more difficult. Today, she opens with the savage, atavistic elitism which first alerted me to a problem:
A moment last Monday, just after noon, in Manhattan. It's slightly overcast, not cold, a good day for walking. I'm in the 90s on Fifth heading south, enjoying the broad avenue, the trees, the wide cobblestone walkway that rings Central Park. Suddenly I realize: Something's odd here. Something's strange. It's quiet. I can hear each car go by. The traffic's not an indistinct roar. The sidewalks aren't full, as they normally are. It's like a holiday, but it's not, it's the middle of a business day in February. I thought back to two weeks before when a friend and I zoomed down Park Avenue at evening rush hour in what should have been bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Now admit it -- if you heard such Upper-West-Side blather on NPR you'd grab for a barf bag. Decades-old Reagan cred does not make it okay. Then, the heart of the story is how that horrible woman who had all those damned kids!
What we fear we're making more of these days is Nadya Suleman. The dizzy, selfish, self-dramatizing 33-year-old mother who had six small children and then a week ago eight more because, well, she always wanted a big family. "Suley" doubletalks with the best of them, she doubletalks with profound ease. She is like Blago without the charm. She had needs and took proactive steps to meet them, and those who don't approve are limited, which must be sad for them. She leaves anchorwomen slack-jawed: How do you rough up a woman who's still lactating? She seems aware of their predicament.
I have not encountered "The Octomom." I do find it very easy to avoid things like that (are we into blue-horse territory here?) but Noonan's revulsions speaks more about Noonan than Suleman. Like Governor Palin, this is a woman who is on television and yet is completely unknown at fasionable cocktail parties. Quel Horror!
Taking about the same amount of virtual newsprint, as usual on Fridays, is Kim Strassel's smart, well reasoned piece on the politics of the stimulus. It should embarrass somebody to publish them side by side.
In fact, the bottom line is that, historically, the problems that technology has addressed have gotten solved, and the ones that were dependent on politics and so forth have not. -- J Storrs Hall
As governments continue to disappoint, never never forget that human innovation pulls us up. Phil Bowermaster provides a Friday the 13th/Valentine's Day edition of "Better All the Time." Whole Read Thing Must You, Yoda.
I've been down and despondent on the blog of late. Gotta take good news when it comes:
WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew his nomination as commerce secretary Thursday, citing "irresolvable conflicts" with President Barack Obama's handling of the economic stimulus and 2010 census.
"We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy," Gregg said in a statement released by his Senate office.
Gregg is needed in the Senate. (President in '12? anybody?) Besides, he probably paid his taxes and is unfit for the Administration.
Good friend of this blog, T. C. Calhoun, sends a link to a Resolution in the New Hampshire Statehouse:
A RESOLUTION affirming States;; rights based on Jeffersonian principles.
That any Act by the Congress of the United States, Executive Order of the President of the United States of America or Judicial Order by the Judicatories of the United States of America which assumes a power not delegated to the government of United States of America by the Constitution for the United States of America and which serves to diminish the liberty of the any of the several States or their citizens shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States of America by the government of the United States of America. Acts which would cause such a nullification include, but are not limited to:
Good fun and all. Few are more fervent believers in the Ninth Amendment than I. But I have been immersed in the antebellum presidencies of late and nullification is a dirty word to me.
[A]t the April 13, 1830, banquet commemorating Jefferson's birthday. The event was a longstanding tradition among congressional Republicans, but the recent use of Jefferson's writings to justify nullification imbued the 1830 celebration with particular significance. Warned in advance by Van Buren that several "nullifiers" were expected to attend, the president and his advisers carefully scripted his remarks. After the meal, and an interminable series of toasts, Jackson rose to offer his own: "Our Union. It must be preserved." Calhoun was well prepared with an explosive rejoinder: "The Union. Next to our liberty, the most dear." Jackson had the last word a few days later, when he asked a South Carolina congressman about to depart for home to "give my compliments to my friends in your State, and say to them, that if a single drop of blood shall be shed there in opposition to the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man I can lay my hand on engaged in such treasonable conduct, upon the first tree I can reach."
As blog pragmatist, however, put me down with (then SecState) Van Buren:
A third toast was given that night; it went unheeded and was all but forgotten. Yet the voice of moderation and reconciliation was also present at that dinner party. The third toast, offered by a polished, rotund little Dutchman from the Hudson River Valley, came while the tension of the exchange between Jackson and Calhoun was still in the air. Secretary of State Martin Van Buren drew himself erect and proclaimed: "Mutual forbearance and reciprocal concessions. Through their agency our Union was founded. The patriotic spirit from which they emanated will forever sustain it."
If I can go one more over my quota of Insty links today -- did'ja see this? President Obama's gonna end sprawl! (Professor Reynolds and I fear that campaign promise might come eerily true.) So we're going to bring back the housing sector -- without building any of those ugly old houses.
That’s why I’d like to see high speed rail where it can be constructed. That’s why I would like to invest in mass transit because potentially that’s energy efficient and I think people are alot more open now to thinking regionally in terms of how we plan our transportation infrastructure. The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody recognizes that that’s not a smart way to build communities. So we should be using this money to help spur this kind of innovative thinking when it comes to transportation. That will make a big difference.
Central planning! That's what works. Some of those spectacular communities you see in the former Soviet Republics -- or public housing in Chicago. Can't let people just buy a lot and build on it -- those days are over. Note the link at the bottom to "Tell Obama to stand strong on this issue!"
[Editor please remove all extraneous exclamation marks and post -- thanks, jk]
Keith compares the election numbers to Rasmussen polling for the stimulus bill and wonders "Buyers' Remorse anyone?"
Thanks for the segue -- I've been wanting to post this all day. Instapundit linked to the story and this guy's website. Dude is buyers' remorse incarnate:
[Fred] Tausch is a registered independent who, after voting Republican for most of his life, supported Barack Obama in the last election, even contributing $2,300 to the cause.
Tausch said he "got excited about his message. There was not a lot of fiscal discipline in either party, and I thought that when Obama talked about change, he was including that he would be more cautious about how we spend money. And that's just not the case."
I appreciate that he has ponied up $100,000 to fight the stimulus, but I don't feel sympathy kicking in. "What? You mean Obama is a profligate spender?" This guy is an entrepreneur with a hundred grand, he's not completely stupid. And yet he voted for Senator Obama seeking fiscal conservatism. One thinks of those women on morning talk shows with abusive husbands.
Get out the skinny ties, Steven F. Hayward has a great column in the WSJ Editorial Page comparing President Obama's mandate to proceed with his economic agenda with that of President Reagan. Both had economic problems and both had a mandate.
Instead of Yes, We Can Spend a Trillion, "Reagan's team produced a 50-page, detailed blueprint for their first six months in office. The passage of their economic policy was the central objective."
One of the main themes that emerges from the [Initial Actions Project] is that Reagan and his team didn't assume that a landslide victory meant they had a mandate to do whatever they wanted. To the contrary, the report's authors, Richard Wirthlin and David Gergen, wrote: "The election was not a bestowal of political power, but a stewardship opportunity for us to reconsider and restructure the political agenda for the next two decades. The public has sanctioned the search for a new public philosophy to govern America."
The IAP report understood that the American people "are yet to be convinced that Mr. Reagan's policies will work." Relying on his skills as "the great communicator," the IAP recommended that the president focus on "the outlining of broad strategic policy outlines, and not on narrow programs" and that his explanations be "simple, straightforward and understandable."
Translation for Mr. Obama: Don't go on TV to talk about the stimulative effects of "weatherization." Even Jon Stewart thought that was lame.
Astute ThreeSourcers have commented that 47% of the country did not vote for President Obama. And I've read a few stories about people who voted for him but not for this.
Hayward glosses over the fact that Reagan had to get his proposals past Tip O'Neill and James Wright. But still I can vividly remember President Reagan's taking his case to the people.
The new version includes help for victims of the recession in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, health coverage and more, as well as billions for states that face the prospect of making deep cuts in their own programs.
It also preserves Obama's signature tax cut — a break for millions of lower and middle income taxpayers, including those who don't earn enough to pay income taxes.
Okay Lasseiz-fairites. I was able to get my inner-Hamilton on last fall because I felt that Sec. Hank Paulson had "stared into the Abyss" and that the first TARP funds were to protect from immanent disaster.
Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D PA11) has an interview describing what the Abyss looked like:
On Thursday at 11:00 a.m. the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the U.S., to the tune of $550 billion was being drawn out in the matter of an hour or two. The Treasury opened up its window to help and pumped a $105 billion in the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks. They decided to close the operation, close down the money accounts and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn't be further panic out there.
If they had not done that, their estimation is that by 2:00 p.m. that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the U.S., would have collapsed the entire economy of the U.S., and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it.
This was not a trillion dollar sop to Unions, or a crisis to socialize medicine over. This was the US Treasury stepping in as lender of last resort.
This is a great story! "Hailey Woldt put on the traditional black abaya, expecting the worst."
Ms. Woldt was doing her version of "Muslim Like Me" to document the prejudice of backwoods rednecks in Alabama. Ho, ho, this was going to be good! Sadly the residents of Arab, Alabama (told you it would be good!) did not comply, and treated the young woman with friendliness.
What Woldt discovered was not the prejudices of the small-town southern white American but instead the prejudices and stereotypes of contemporary leftist academia. Woldt expected to find prejudice not because she had already seen it but because her education indoctrinated her to expect it in others. This little incident opens a window on the insular, elitist and bigoted world of leftist in contemporary academia.
"As far as getting somebody worse, I've no doubt that there are worse ideologues than Senator Daschle. Yet his book about Health Care calls for an American equivalent to the NHS's NICE panel which would provide approval of all treatments and procedures based on government-decided efficacy and cost efficiency. Senator Daschle is radical enough to scare me and is a sophisticated enough player that he seems likely to be able to achieve many of his goals."
If only JK had known how prescient those words might be. The Hudson Institute's Betsy McCaughey quotes the former senator thusly:
A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”
So we shouldn't be surprised to find (McCaughey link) a Daschle-like health care trojan horse in the "we can't afford to delay it" economic stimulus bill, H.R. 1:
Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).
The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.
But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”
Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.
Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)
What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.
The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system. [Emphasis mine.]
The good news is that this was discovered, and is seeing the light of day on Fox News. The bad news? What the hell ELSE is in there??
Blog Sister Dagny asked about the brave 11 Democrats who voted against the Stimulus. One is Rep. Walt Minnick from Idaho. He's got a better idea:
Minnick is a member of the Blue Dog caucus of occasionally conservative Democcrats. His START plan is a $170 billion “bare bones” pure stimulus approach that would put $100 billion immediately into the pockets of low- and middle-income Americans, then use the other $70 billion for basic infrastructure projects that create jobs. START requires that all funds not spent by 2010 be returned to the Treasury. START also stops stimulus spending when the nation’s Gross Domestic Product increases in two of three previous quarters, and all START payments are required to be posted on a public website.
Minnick introduced START as an alternative – just in case the legislative process stalls out, says press secretary John Foster. As one of the brave 11 Democrats who voted against Pelosi’s stimulus bill, Minnick explained to folks back home that he opposed the speaker’s version because it was so “Christmas-treed up” with wasteful spending, like $300 million for golf carts. Foster told The Examiner that the House leadership encourages members to do what’s best for their districts, so there has been no backlash. We’ll see how long that lasts.
I'll happily listen to comments that this is $170 Billion too much. But elections have consequences. This sounds like a fair amount to give the triumphant Democrats and I seriously appreciate the transparency of the web pages and the shutoff of spending on recovery.
The sad part is that these guys get elected in Idaho, and probably deserve it, but then they become just another member of Pelosi's army.
Russ Roberts (who I recently discovered is a former professor and friend of a friend) takes an AP story about the staggering economic depredation recent job losses. and edits it, as a real editor would if they had any left at the Associated Press.
I am supporting the economic stimulus package for one simple reason: The country cannot afford not to take action.
The unemployment figures announced Friday, the latest earnings reports and the continuing crisis in banking make it clear that failure to act will leave the United States facing a far deeper crisis in three or six months. By then the cost of action will be much greater -- or it may be too late.
Wave after wave of bad economic news has created its own psychology of fear and lowered expectations. As in the old Movietone News, the eyes and ears of the world are upon the United States. Failure to act would be devastating not just for Wall Street and Main Street but for much of the rest of the world, which is looking to our country for leadership in this crisis.
In related news, the Washington Post graphs how immediate the stimulus really is.
Answer: 10% gets spent this year... in the year we cannot afford to delay (tm).
That's the subject line as a good friend of ThreeSources shares this. Judith Warner blogs about how couples her age are struggling to deal with the awesomeness of the Obamas:
The other night I dreamt of Barack Obama. He was taking a shower right when I needed to get into the bathroom to shave my legs, and then he was being yelled at by my husband, Max, for smoking in the house. It was not clear whether Max was feeling protective of the president’s health or jealous because of the cigarette.
(“Like a lot of folks, I have anxiety about being outside of the Obama administration universe right now,” she then explained to me. “Even though I was at the ‘it’ ball of inauguration balls, I still felt like other balls were greener, or more purple, or with credentials completely out of my control — more young. I really feel like I’m scrambling internally … to deserve Obama cred and all I’ve got is this over-my-head wonder for the man that amounts to being an Obama girl.”)
In between those two paragraphs, it gets even stranger. In case you missed the NPR interview, Ms. Warner is described:
Judith Warner's book, "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" (excerpt, NPR interview), a New York Times best-seller, was published in February 2005. "Domestic Disturbances" appears every Friday.
Our ancestors fought wild beasts and struggled to provide sufficient caloric content to their offspring. But real motherhood anxiety is surely wondering:
When my hometown makes the Wall Street Journal, it is usually not good news. Not since Bill Owens was Governor anyway. But this one made me laugh.
I do not travel for work anymore and I am long overdue to visit Sugarchuck and get some recording done, so I have not seen the public art in question:
DENVER -- The mustang rears on splayed hind legs -- his nostrils flaring, his eyes glowing red, his taut body a slick, sweaty sheen of blue. Anatomically correct -- eye-poppingly so -- the 32-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture makes quite a statement at the gateway to Denver International Airport.
But that begs the question: What kind of statement, exactly?
"It looks like it's possessed," says Denver resident Samantha Horoschak. "I have a huge fear of flying anyway, and to be greeted at the airport by a demon horse -- it's not a soothing experience."
Many people here agree, calling the muscular steed a terrifying welcome to the Mile High City.
I have not seen it but I like it already. Denver is a frontier, western city; I cannot see where it hurts to scare off a few wusses. And I like very much the idea of visiting football teams being greeted so welcomingly.
I'm glad Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians (note the little-l) are reexamining their tactics and message after the drubbing they all took in November-oh-eight. A little navel-gazing is probably well warranted.
While many topics are on the table, it appears to me that Republicans have forgotton or choosen to ignore the immigration rift. (They should read ThreeSources Immigration Category.) The debate turned me into a name-caller and separated me from Michelle Malkin, National Review (especially NRO), and Hugh Hewitt. It made me even more skeptical of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and a large list of right-wing bloggers.
Like the Civil War, it pitted brother against brother as I fought blog brothers, biological brothers and even a brother-in-law. The news may have moved on to the new administration and the stimulus bill, but I was reminded of the underlying rift yesterday. Allahpundit, whom I admire very much, had a post on the HotAir site where he complimented -- rightfully -- the tough and well reasoned stand that Senator Lindsey Graham has taken against the stimulus bill. Allahpundit could not resist pointing out that Michelle Malkin was now in agreement with "Grahamnesty."
Grahamnesty is a good line. But as we ask the last 41 Republicans who count to stick together against overwhelming odds, name calling seems a little churlish. I don't know that a Jesus-Christopher Hitchens ticket could have beaten Obama this year, but how many Republican activists were unable to get 100% behind the party's nominee because of immigration?
Regular ThreeSourcers know I stand pretty closely to McCain/Graham/Bush on immigration. I don't want to re-ignite the debate. I do, as a political pragmatist, want to seek out a New Fusionism. If the atheists and evangelicals could get together for decades to pursue their common interests, perhaps the populists and the free-border crowd need to do the same.
I get tense when I hear Rep. Tancredo rail on about deporting valedictorians and I wince when Governor Huckabee says "we have to make the Constitution match God's law." Yet it seems that the whole idea of individual liberty is under serious threat. Looking for electoral majority, we may need to paper over these differences.
As I have suggested, there is some middle ground. We could all support a platform plank of "reasonable border enforcement," "expanded legal immigration possibilities," "increased efficiency of INS and enforcement personnel," and "dignified treatment of current undocumented workers."
I'll even stop calling you xenophobic, economically-ignorant, populists names. What do you say?
I must say I'm glad to be in the loyal opposition right now. It's much more satisfying to unleash full-throated criticism of government when those in control are all Democrats. And having written this prior to reading Martin Feldstein's take I see we're on the same page.
via email to both Colorado Senators:
Dear Senator [Udall / Bennet],
I am writing to urge you to vote against the "Economic Stimulus" bill H.R. 1 in its present or any amended form. To amend this bill into a productive measure would require a nearly complete rewrite.
My wife's opposition to this bill, with which I certainly agree, is primarily on the basis that it is immoral to take money from people who earned it and spend it on controversial programs in an effort to restore economic growth by principles which are, at best, merely hopeful. The magnitude of the spending proposed in this bill compared to the time spent debating it is beyond reckless to the point of criminal irresponsibility. That this could actually happen in our government is proof that value is of no consideration while engaged in the practice of spending Other People's Money. Such carelessness leads to "misfortunes" like overpaying $86 billion for securitized assets in a $350 billion bank "bailout" bill.
My personal opposition to the bill, with which my wife certainly agrees, is primarily because it would create many new government agencies (38 by some estimates) and associated recurring costs to the treasury on an annual basis. A majority of the jobs it might create are in the public sector which would have an opposite than intended effect on economic recovery.
You may be surprised to learn, as I was, that even Keynsian economists - who believe government spending can increase economic productivity - are opposed to H.R. 1. They say it is the wrong kind of spending. One might think that a body with as much experience in spending money, albeit other people's, as the United States federal government might be better able to choose the appropriate type of spending in a given situation.
H.R. 1 is not the answer to America's problems. Its passage will be a wasted effort to stimulate the economy and will only lead to further attempts at the same goal. Please vote NO on H.R. 1 and move us more quickly to the next such attempt which can only be an improvement over this one.
A protester in Ithaca, NY hurls a shoe at the mayor for providing protection for anti-war protesters and not the "pro-war" variety.
Before you cheer too loudly, keep in mind this is Ithaca. The pro-military protester apparently himself is a former member of the Weather Underground who claims to have planted a bomb at a court house and participated in the Attica prison uprising.
So you have a former Weather Underground member who now is pro-military, throwing shoes at the anti-military Socialist Mayor, in a protest that would fall under the "community of sanctuary" protection if the protester still was a member of the Weather Underground and protesting against the Iraq war. Only in Ithaca.
My, my. I think my favorite part was when he demanded his shoe back. Hat-tip: Instapundit.
We are in the ruins of a housing market made worse by subsidized lending. The government has no business egging people on to borrow as much as possible to bet on housing prices. There is plenty of room to criticize the current stimulus plan, but Republicans need to adopt Ronald Reagan or Dwight D. Eisenhower, not Harold Ickes, as their intellectual role model. -- Harvard's Ed Glaeser in a well thought ourt and well titled The GOP Has a Dumb Mortgage Idea
A great WSJ editorial today does a little crowing about the successful elections in Iraq. War opponents will howl if I dare to say that it proves the Bush administration right. And they have a point, things could still turn out badly.
The editorial's point, however, is how the elections showed so many of the Bush administration's domestic opponents to be wrong. Iraqis rejected Iranian dominated parties. Iraqis rejected sectarian religious parties. Iraqis rejected splintered states and supported a strong national government.
The peaceful elections also pull the rug out from those who insisted that a political solution must underlie a military solution. Security is a prerequisite for compromise and the surge made all of this possible.
A coda at the end caught my eye. Opposition always implied that Bush & Co. did not bother to understand Sunni vs. Shia or any local issues. Nope, the cowboy doesn't do nuance and they're just obstinately going to push Texas values on Iraq. So how are the nuance kings going to handle Iraq? Sending an ambassador who won't be able to talk with the Prime Minister:
That's why we're puzzled by media reports that Mr. Obama intends to name Christopher Hill to replace Ryan Crocker as America's ambassador in Baghdad. Part of the puzzle is that retired Marine General Anthony Zinni -- a straight-shooter if ever there was one, with long experience in Mideast diplomacy -- claims he was tapped for the job, until the White House withdrew the offer without notice or explanation.
But the greater puzzle is why Mr. Hill -- who has spent the better part of the last few years making unreciprocated concessions to North Korea and whose previous stints included postings in Macedonia, Poland and South Korea -- is qualified to be the ambassador. Unlike Mr. Crocker, Mr. Hill has no real diplomatic experience in the Middle East and is not an Arabic speaker, no small point since Prime Minister Maliki is not an English speaker.
Once again, let's trade parties and imagine the Strum & Drang (isn't that a law firm?) had President Bush done something so "boneheaded."
As a conservative economist, I might be expected to oppose a stimulus plan. In fact, on this page in October, I declared my support for a stimulus. But the fiscal package now before Congress needs to be thoroughly revised. In its current form, it does too little to raise national spending and employment. It would be better for the Senate to delay legislation for a month, or even two, if that's what it takes to produce a much better bill. We cannot afford an $800 billion mistake.
That's Martin Feldstein in a well reasoned piece for the Washington Post. Feldstein somewhat surprisingly calls for intervention but makes several strong points why the current plan is not the right one for the times.
"Gather 'round, everybody. While I testify" -- Johnny Mercer
This will be some serious choir-preaching to ThreeSourcers, but if you have not read the lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal today, drop everything and catch up. In a wrap up piece for l'Affaire Daschle, the Ed Page salutes him for withdrawing his nomination but points out -- correctly -- that this is the system we have created and that Democrats as "the party of government" have helped to proliferate.
What Mr. Daschle's lucrative career as influence peddler really illustrates is how much Washington is now expanding its reach over the economy. Politicians and their staffers can make or break fortunes by slipping a rider into a "must pass" bill or dispensing billions of dollars in subsidies to favored constituencies. Naturally businesses are going to protect their interests and hire lobbyists to get the decisions to come out their way.
Had Mr. Daschle been confirmed, he would have been the most important man in a health-care industry expected to be worth $2.5 trillion in 2009, which is larger than the economy of France. With merely a torque to this or that regulation -- to say nothing of the "reform" he was to oversee as White House "health czar" -- he would have channeled all this wealth in one direction or the other. Just another day at the office.
The campaign reform types attack the wrong side of the equation (and our First Amendment rights). Clean government, Senator McCain, will come when the government has less power to pick winners and losers -- not when the governed are proscribed from influencing the outcome.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the leading candidate for surgeon general, is CNN’s chief medical correspondent. His résumé as a practicing neurosurgeon — and one of People magazine’s “sexiest men alive” in 2003 — is not that of a traditional journalist. But he reported on the health records of the presidential candidates last year, along with their health care proposals.
I've no doubt that some considered C. Everett Koop real hot in an understated way -- but "sexiest man alive" for Surgeon General? Hope and Change, baby!
Some London Facebook friends were talking about snowballs, and I get this weather report from Samizdat Jonathan Pearce:
It is on days like these that I am glad that I work for a web-based business and that I work from home for part of the day anyway. Judging by how severe weather has hit the UK overnight, rendering the UK public transport network immobile, that is just as well. The London Underground - with the exception of the Victoria line - is down. Buses and other transport like trains are severely affected.
Humorist Andy Borowitz got tired of the nasty email when he dared to criticize our new President. So he has changed his tack, reporting new poll results:
One week into his Presidency, Barack Obama gets high marks in a new poll, with a majority of Americans agreeing with the statement, "Barack Obama is even more awesome than I originally thought."
The percentage of voters who believe that Mr. Obama is awesome surged during his first week in office, with 82% thinking he is awesome now compared to 77% who deemed him awesome last week.
And in the latest measure of his popularity, Mr. Obama receives higher approval ratings in the new poll than either leprechauns or unicorns, mythical beings that almost everyone agrees are totally awesome.
In a head-to-head contest, Mr. Obama beats leprechauns and unicorns combined, garnering 64% compared to 21% for leprechauns, 14% for unicorns, and 1% for Congressman Ron Paul.
Wow! I really am a partisan hack. Hugh Hewitt considers me one -- and I consider him one. So, you do the math.
Hewitt wants to give Daschle a pass on tax evasion because the confirmation debate is becoming too rancorous and good people will no longer be willing to serve in government. And, the excuse I pulled out for Geithner, he worries that another nominee would be worse.
Errors on tax returns related to unusual circumstances and nanny issues are simply not the sort of character issues for which confirmation should be denied. Fixing the "confirmation mess" requires some restraint when presented with targets. The GOP should stay fixed on the stimulus bill, and not go chasing Daschle.
Take a deep breath. Count to ten. He begins with "My two cents on the latest confirmation dance is sure to disappoint my most partisan listeners" Well, I am a reader and not a listener, but if I can be counted among Hugh Hewitt's most partisan anythings, we have truly entered bizzaro world.
Hewitt sees misfeasance where I see malfeasance. "Errors on a tax return" and a reasonable point that, making $5,000,000 in two years, he would not have risked his political opportunities over a mere 200% of the median income of one of his former constituents in South Dakota.
That is his best point. And I do share the desire to get beyond confirmations being derailed by small transgressions on nannies or gardeners.
But I disagree that it was a small or simple error. This figure represents real money to anybody and it is in an area that is "gray" enough to avoid detection and prove to be a reasonably deniable. Yet, I have had to manage business vs. personal miles on a company car. I don't think it's outside the attention of a Senate Majority leader to consider if for a chauffeured limo.
As far as getting somebody worse, I've no doubt that there are worse ideologues than Senator Daschle. Yet his book about Health Care calls for an American equivalent to the NHS's NICE panel which would provide approval of all treatments and procedures based on government-decided efficacy and cost efficiency. Senator Daschle is radical enough to scare me and is a sophisticated enough player that he seems likely to be able to achieve many of his goals.
I'll take another roll of the dice, Hugh. And I'll take an early defeat to the Obama Health Care Express. If future Government appointees are going to have to start paying their taxes, we'll just have to live with that.
Mr. Daschle's excuse? According to a Journal report Friday, "he told committee staff he had grown used to having a car and driver as majority leader and did not think to report the perk on his taxes, according to staff members." How's that for a Leona Helmsley moment: Doesn't everyone have a car and chauffeur, dear?
I made some stylistic complaints about President Obama's inaugural address and do not remember a long line of ThreeSources stepping up to say I was too harsh. As far as the content, there were only a few things that bugged me, but by far the largest was his suggestion that all discussion over the size of government was over (hint: small did not win).
In his inaugural address, President Obama said that "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works." This is a commonly heard argument in response to concerns about the growth of government. Who could possibly be against government when it "works"? Why not instead consider each proposed expansion of the state on a case by case basis, supporting those that "work" and opposing any that don't?
Taken seriously, this argument leads to the rejection of any systematic constraints on government power. Why should we have a general presumption against government regulation of speech or religion? Why not instead support censorship when it "works" by improving the marketplace of ideas, and oppose it when it doesn't? Think of all the misleading speech and religious charlatans that government regulation could potentially save us from! The answer, of course, is that government regulation of speech and religion has systematic dangers that are not unique to any one particular regulation. Given those systematic flaws, it makes sense to have a general presumption against it.
Well worth a read in full. Perhaps I am being naive, but supply-side, free-trade, lassiez-faire arguments seem lost for two years at the very least. Perhaps there is some currency to arguing against expansion of government. I like to remind my lefty friends not to give President Obama any power they don't want President Palin to wield.