Global Governance

Imagine there’s no countries,

It isn’t hard to do

            —John Lennon, Imagine

You have probably seen that the United Nations is holding its annual international kegger in Midtown Manhattan this week.  Rumor has it that President Obama took a whole 45 minutes out of his daytime talk show tour to give a lecture on free speech and not slandering the prophet of Islam before heading back to the campaign trail, leaving the dirty work of meeting with the various assembled heads of state to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  I understand she may even manage to squeeze Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in between her meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda.

But you may have missed some of the more sinister goings on.

Freebeacon.com (h/t Drudge Report) is reporting that the World Health Organization—a specialized agency of the U.N. that is supposed to be aimed at working for the prevention and cure of disease—is considering proposals for a global excise tax on cigarettes.  But Rusty, I don’t smoke, so what do I care?  Well let this sink in real good and consider the implications.

An agency of the U.N. is contemplating the imposition of a global tax.

A tax.  Imposed by an agency of an organization you didn’t vote for, and as to which you along with the other 318 million Americans have exactly one representative.

The idea—at least superficially—is that smoking is causing a worldwide health crisis, and the imposition of a heavy tax, it is hoped, will drive more people to quit.  But that in this particular instance it happens to be directed at cigarettes is really beside the point.  This isn’t like initiating a research program to try to eradicate tuberculosis or malaria; the WHO isn’t looking to develop a vaccine or pesticide.  What we have here is the U.N. seeking to use a taxing power in order to control the otherwise voluntary behavior of individuals worldwide.

I understand that this isn’t really a novel concept in the U.S.  We’ve had “sin taxes” ostensibly intended to control behavior by curbing the consumption of alcohol and tobacco for most of our history.  And indeed, the primary driver of Obamacare was to use the taxing power to influence behavior in the purchase of medical care insurance, as the Supreme Court has explained.  But there’s a fundamental difference between that and what’s going on with the WHO.  When we levy a tax on booze, or butts, or insurance deadbeats, those are the actions of a legitimate sovereign power.

A government.

From what authority does the WHO or the U.N. derive the power to impose any kind of a tax?  The answer, of course, is none, and for now the WHO is at least paying lip service to the notion that the actual implementation of such a tax would have to be left to the sovereign prerogative of the government of each individual member nation.  But it’s important to note that this kind of thinking that the U.N. can be involved in global taxation to drive behavior or achieve social ends is not new.  In recent years, the U.N. has considered proposals for global taxes on carbon emissions, currency and other financial transactions, and on billionaires, all explicitly directed at changing behavior and redistributing wealth.  It has also contemplated instituting International Monetary Fund draw allocations as a form of international currency, which would effectively vest the U.N. with the power to coin money.

These moves are part of what appears to be an increasing willingness around the world to look to the U.N. as a governing sovereign in its own right.  Just this week, some leaders of Muslim countries have renewed talk about the U.N. enacting a global criminal ban on blasphemy (it has already enacted multiple nonbinding resolutions against defamation of, and discrimination against, religions).  Back in July, an international restriction on the sale of small arms very nearly passed.  And even here in the U.S., earlier this year we saw the NAACP appeal to the U.N. to weigh in on the validity of U.S. voter I.D. laws, a purely internal U.S. matter.

This is a dangerous trajectory.  The United Nations was never intended to serve as a one-world-order global sovereign.  It was established as a forum for international discussion and the peaceful resolution of disputes between independent sovereign nations, not as an overriding umbrella global legislature, taxing authority, central treasury/mint government, and arbiter of both international and domestic law.  Yet, increasingly we see it viewing itself as, and beginning to act like, exactly those things.  And apparently there are a lot of people around the world, and possibly even here, who are willing to go along with it.

There are 193 member states in the General Assembly, of which we are but one.  Few of the other 192 voting members embrace our republican ideals, and none of them share our constitutional heritage.  Many do not value the rule of law.  Or human life.  And more than a few would like to see us dead.   While we have a “permanent” seat and veto power in the Security Council, in the General Assembly it’s one state = one vote, and no, that doesn’t mean we get 50 (or 57 by President Obama’s map math).  What happens to us if this body actually gains and begins to exercise the power of a global sovereign?

We cannot allow that to happen, which is why these discussions about things like the imposition of global taxes, or the enactment of global legislation under the guise of “treaties” is so important and so dangerous.  If the U.N., via the WHO, can use punitive global taxes to control your smoking, what other behavior of yours can it tax to control?  What other behavior can it control via other means?  And so on and so on, until there is no freedom left, and that Constitution and Bill of Rights that protected your freedoms as an American citizen won’t help you against a one-world government.

These things happen by incremental creep, and those little bits of national sovereignty, once ceded to a global central authority, will be virtually impossible to get back.

*********************

EDITOR’S NOTE:  17 days, and still no national address from the President on what the administration now admits it knew all along was an Al Qaeda terrorist operation.  Not only has Obama spent more time yukking it up with Beyonce, Jay-Z, Letterman, and the women of The View than he has talking with the American people (or, I’ll wager, the families of the victims) about this latest Al Qaeda attack on sovereign U.S. soil, but he and every level of his administration has lied—unnecessarily—about what it knew about the nature of the attack.  This President is a joke . . . and he isn’t very funny.

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Are We Better Off?

And I remember what she said to me

How she swore that it never would end

I remember how she held me oh, so tight

Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

—Bob Seger, Against The Wind

 

We’re into election season, and as candidates (typically those opposing the incumbent) look to simplify the choice facing the voters we often hear the question posed: are you better off now than you were four years ago?  It’s a fair question, and I suppose it is reasonable to assume that most rational voters will tend to vote in their own personal self interest.

But I think it may be a little misguided.

To begin with, the question oversimplifies the calculus.  Most people will look at it and consider the question to be presenting an economic inquiry:  Do I have a job? Am I making (and keeping) more money than I was, and is the purchasing power of that money equal to or better than what it was?  Of course, individual well-being should take into account more than just dollars.  Are you safer than you were?  Is your individual liberty as broad and protected as it was?  Everyone will consider these questions differently.

Even just looking at the economics, the question is too narrow (or, more aptly, too self-centric).  In my personal situation, a number of factors combine to make my economic picture better today than it was four years ago.  But just because things are better economically for me doesn’t mean that the policies of this administration are moving this country in the right direction, nor does it mean that I would answer “yes” to the question are you better off?

More to the point, it doesn’t mean I will vote for Barack Obama, which I won’t.

The more pertinent question for election purposes is are we better off now than we were four years ago?  In his 1980 race against Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan tried to illustrate this proposition with the “misery index,” which attempted to quantify the relative collective economic well-being in easy-to-understand terms.  The concept is simple enough: unemployment rate + inflation rate = misery index.  And it makes for a convenient shorthand for making rough comparisons of our collective economic situation at one time relative to another.  For Reagan, the index in late 1980 was around 20, owing mostly to the astronomical inflation of the Carter malaise.  Today, with inflation nearly non-existent, the misery index is a more pedestrian 9.79, although that is up 32% from the 7.39 at the end of 2008 as Obama was taking office (which was up only 0.10 from the 7.29 index Bush 43 inherited when he took office eight years earlier).

I want to take a little different tack and introduce you to a couple of people.  One is James, a very average high school teacher in Omaha, Nebraska.  James is married, has two kids, two cars, a mortgage; everything you’d expect from the typical American household.  In short—and not coincidentally—he is very representative of the median U.S. economic situation, from which the numbers representing James’ situation are derived.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, James made $50,054 last year.  That’s down from $50,303 in 2008, and his income has dropped every year since Obama took office.  Not surprisingly, his net worth has also taken a hit, dropping from $102,844 in 2005 to $66,740 in 2010 (constant 2010 dollars).  And where he had savings of $4774 in 2008, he has only $4746 today.  By comparison, James’ income rose from $42,228 to $50,303 during the eight years of the Bush administration, and although his savings dropped from $5672 in 2000 to $4774 in 2008, his net worth increased from $101,200 in 2001 to $120,300 by 2007 (constant 2007 dollars).  The data covers slightly different time periods and is presented using different index dollars, but the basic point is this:  James makes less and has less today than he did four years ago, while his income and net worth increased from the beginning of the Bush administration to its conclusion.

Like Merle Travis’ coal miner in Sixteen Tons, James is also another day older and deeper in debt.  Using the same debt clock calculator we did above for savings, we see that he has managed to reduce his family’s personal debt from $215,649 in 2008 to $190,120 in 2012 (up from $113,865 in 2000, I suspect almost entirely due to increased mortgage debt incurred though upgrading his family’s residence during the housing bubble).  But his family’s total debt, including personal debt and their share of federal, state, and local public debt, increased  from $636,712 in 2008 (up from $327,252 in 2000) to $683,734 in 2012.  This increase is caused in no small part by the increase in his family’s share of the federal debt, which rose from $129,601 in 2008 ($78,381 in 2000) to $192,531 today.  So not only does James make less than he did, but he’s increasingly deeper in debt.

Meanwhile, although inflation itself has remained essentially nil, consider James’ economic situation as it relates to some staples.  A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline cost $1.59 in December 2008 ($1.38 in December 2000); today it is $3.87, more than double what it was when Obama took office.  A pound of ground beef cost $2.99 in December 2008 ($1.98 in December 2000).  Today it’s $3.45.  Coffee cost $3.67 a pound in December 2009 ($3.21 in 2000).  Today it’s a whopping $5.69.  James has less, makes less, and owes more, and it takes more of what little he has left just to buy a lot of every day items.  And all that is before the myriad express and hidden taxes associated with Obamacare start taking effect next year, whether Obama is re-elected or not.

Taken in a purely economic sense, we cannot say that the average American—which is what the above figures reflect—is better off today than he was four years ago.

What about the broader situation of us as a whole?  For that, consider Barry, a more affluent attorney in Washington, D.C.  His figures are taken from the federal government’s income/outgo situation (again from the debt clock calculator), reduced by a couple of orders of magnitude to bring the numbers down to a quantum that we mere mortals can grasp.  Barry makes a healthy $239,900 a year today, but that’s down 5.4% from $253,586 just four years ago.  Like James, Barry makes less today than he did when Obama took office.  And as with James, by comparison Barry’s income rose 28.7% from $197,160 to $253,586 during the eight years of the Bush administration.

And, of course, there’s Barry’s spending.  Barry (like his predecessor) has trouble living within his means.  He spent $291,449 in 2008, in itself more than he brought in, and way up from the $176,604 (less than his income) spent in 2000.  But although his income is less today than it was in 2008, his spending increased 22.6% to $357,367.  Not surprisingly, Barry’s debt situation is rapidly deteriorating.  Barry owed $1,030,332 in 2008, up from $569,292 in 2000.  Today, just four years later, Barry owes an astonishing $1,605,165 and climbing.

Whether viewed on a median micro (individual) level, or a collective macro level, the results are the same. Income is dropping, spending is rising, debt is increasing.  We make less, have less, what we have is worth less, and we owe more than we did four years ago.  As discussed in my last post, thousands and thousands of people are flat leaving the work force.  48.5 million of us—a record 15% of the population—are on food stamps, more than at any time in history.

Are we better off than we were four years ago?

I submit not.

Unemployment 101

Shrek:       For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.

Donkey:    Example?

Shrek:       Example . . . uh . . . ogres are like onions . . . Onions have layers.  Ogres have layers.  Onions have layers.  You get it?  We both have layers.

Donkey:    Oh, you both have *layers*.  You know, not everybody likes onions.  What about cake?  Everybody loves cake!

Shrek:       I don’t care what everyone else likes.  Ogres are not like cakes.

            —Mike Myers as the voice of Shrek and Eddie Murphy as the voice of Donkey in Shrek

                 

Of course, unemployment has been a prime topic of conversation for some time, and there was much focus on it during convention season.  And you may have seen the August jobs report that came out earlier this month showing the “unemployment rate” essentially unchanged at 8.1%.  I thought it worth taking some time to kind of unpack those numbers, because I know I’m often guilty of throwing these things around as a convenient shorthand without really explaining that there’s a lot more to it than what you see on the surface.  I didn’t understand it myself until fairly recently.

The first part of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics division of the Department of Labor publishes a report detailing the employment situation for the preceding month.  This is the so-called “jobs report” you’ll hear referred to in the news.  Understand as an initial point that these monthly reports are based on macro-extrapolations from survey data, so there’s some wiggle room that’s sort of naturally baked in.  And also understand that most of the numbers are “seasonally adjusted,” meaning there’s a certain amount of official fudging (how much unofficial fudging goes on on top of that is anyone’s guess), and you can count on any adjustments the Labor Department—a cabinet-level part of the Executive Branch—makes working in favor of the administration du jour.  But these monthly reports are the best information we have, and they pretty broadly accepted on both sides of the political spectrum.

When you hear the news discuss the “unemployment rate,” what they’re talking about is what’s known as “U-3 unemployment.”  If you’ll click on the link to the August report and scroll down to Table A-15, you’ll see six alternative measures of unemployment, conveniently labeled U-1 through U-6.  U-3 is the “official” unemployment figure, and it’s calculated by dividing the “total unemployed” figure into the total workforce.  In the current example, using the figures on Summary Table A, for August 2012 you’ll see unemployed of 12,544,000; if we divide that into a total workforce of 154,645,000, we get the 8.1% “unemployment rate” advertised for August.

Of course, 8.1% isn’t good.  It isn’t appreciably better than it’s been throughout the Obama administration.  It’s above the 8% we were told the stimulus would keep the rate from ever exceeding.  And it’s nearly double the 5.6% Obama promised we’d be at by now.

But that’s not even the most interesting—or most relevant—information the report contains.

First, let’s understand what the U-3 rate does and doesn’t tell you.  Because U-3 is based on the ratio of “unemployed” to the total labor force, it’s wholly dependent on who the BLS includes as “unemployed.”  “Unemployed,” for U-3 purposes, includes only those people of working age who do not have a job, but are currently actively looking for a job.  Twelve-and-a-half-million Americans fit that description.  That’s bad enough.  But it’s far from a complete picture.

U-3 “unemployed” does not include the 2.5 million working age people who want a job and are available for work but have given up looking for work (what the BLS calls “marginally attached to the workforce”).  Nor does it include the 8 million people who want full time work but have been forced to take part-time work for economic reasons (what many call “underemployed”).  These are an additional 10,500,000 people who want to work and who should be working, but aren’t, and the “official” U-3 unemployment rate you hear paraded around the news doesn’t count them.  To get the unemployment rate that includes these folks, you have to look to the U-6 rate (commonly referred to as “real unemployment”), which for August 2012 was 14.7%.  Fully 20,000,000 working age people in this country are unemployed, under-employed, or want a job but have given up looking.

And even that’s not the whole story.

We see from the data on Summary Table A that although the civilian noninstitutional population increased by 212,000 (from 243,354,000 to 243,566,000) from July to August, the total civilian labor force decreased by 368,000 (from 155,013,000 to 154,645,000).  That’s reflected in the labor participation rate of 63.5%, which is down from 63.7% in July, and down from 64.1% in August of last year.  And the number of people not in the workforce at all increased by 581,000 in August (from 88,340,000 to 88,921,000).  In other words, there are more of us here, but fewer of us working.

What this tells you is that a very large and steadily increasing number of people—2,700,000 since August 2011, and counting—are leaving the workforce altogether.  And this is what’s so deceptive about the “official” U-3 unemployment figure of 8.1%.  That number is artificially low because it doesn’t reflect the increasing number of Americans who are simply giving up and dropping out.

One other tidbit is worth noting.  Summary Table B tells us that in August 2012 we added 96,000 jobs, an anemic figure in itself.  Such as it is, that 96,000 number derived entirely from the private sector, which added a net 103,000 jobs, while government lost 7,000.  Same story in July.  Same story in June.   Although the same table indicates that there were a number of government jobs added in August 2011, even then the bulk of the paltry 85,000 jobs came from the private sector.

I’m just saying.

So when you hear these monthly jobs reports talking about the “unemployment rate,” take some time to look at the data behind the story.

We Cannot Self-Censor To Pacify Islam

DiBergi:          “This tasteless cover is a good indication of the lack of musical invention within.  The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted.  They are treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry.”

Tufnel:           That’s just nitpicking, isn’t it?

            —Rob Reiner as Marty DiBergi and Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap

 

It is now fully seven days after U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others were killed in an attack on a U.S. embassy compound in Benghazi, Libya.  Mobs displaying varying degrees of violence (ranging from what CNN calls the “peaceful” chanting of “Death to America!” to actually storming in and setting the joint on fire) continue to mass around U.S. diplomatic installations in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, London, Pakistan, Paris, Somalia, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Yet we’ve still had no address to the nation from the President of the United States.

According to the U.S. government, all of this rage and violence—including the military-style hit on Ambassador Stevens, complete with RPGs and well-targeted mortar fire—is spontaneous demonstration stemming solely from a YouTube video produced by Sam Bacile titled “Innocence of Muslims.”  Ironically, without all the outrage over the supposed disrespectful depiction of Mohammed—more on that in a second—no one anywhere would have ever seen this piece of crap.  I’ll bet you a million dollars 99% of the people actually involved in the protests haven’t seen it.  Yet by murdering diplomats and setting embassies on fire, they’ve drawn global attention to the insult, thus heaping slander upon slander a million-fold.

Who’s worse, the blasphemer, or the one who broadcasts the blasphemy to the world?

Now, as I mentioned in the last post, I’ve seen this thing.  Yes, it appears to depict Mohammed in an unflattering light, although frankly it’s so poorly put together it’s difficult even to gather that much.  The script writing is straight out of Beavis and Butthead, it is obviously and crudely overdubbed to insert words like “Mohammed” in places where the actors’ dialogue clearly didn’t use his name, the costuming and production values look like something you’d expect from iCarly (not the Nickelodeon TV show, but the teen-produced internet show-within-the-show), and the editing is so choppy it’s almost impossible to discern even much of a story line.  In short, it’s almost completely unintelligible, and could just as easily be considered a spoof on anti-Muslim bigotry as a serious attempt to smear Mohammed.

How any rational adult could take this garbage seriously enough to be offended by it is beyond me; the Islamists do it waaaaayyyyy too much credit.

And yet not only do we have these murderous vandals swarming all over the Middle East screaming death threats and setting U.S. property on fire, but we have our government falling all over itself to apologize to them.  Hillary Clinton and the State Department are out there condemning the video as “disgusting and reprehensible.”  The White House asked YouTube to examine whether it violated YouTube’s conditions of use (I thought those were a private arrangement between the users and YouTube, not a federal law enforcement mechanism, but I digress…).  The FBI is investigating the film’s producer.  And the media has gone out of its way to make sure you and the world know that this guy is a convicted fraud.

It’s outrageous.  It’s a scandal.

Well, here’s my question:  where was all of this moral outrage in 1999 when the Museum of Art was exhibiting Chris Ofili’s perverted The Holy Virgin Mary, a painting of the Virgin Mary covered in feces and surrounded by little photos of vaginas?  Then-Senate candidate Hillary Clinton told PBS in response to Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to close the museum that “it is not appropriate to punish an institution such as the Brooklyn museum that has served this community with distinction over many years.”

Did the U.S. federal government issue an official condemnation of Andres Serrano’s photograph Piss Christ, an “ingenious” image of a crucifix submerged in a mason jar filled with the artist’s own urine?  Um, no—it sponsored a competition award to him in 1987 through a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment of the “Arts.”

[As an aside, who even thinks of these things?  When did poop and pee become “art,” much less anything other than just gross to anyone over about three years old?]

How much time did the FBI spend investigating Mel Gibson in 2004 for the extremely unflattering depiction of the Jewish Sanhedrin as bloodthirsty killers in The Passion of the Christ?

You heard nothing out of the federal government in any of these instances, because there was no murderous mob to appease.  Catholics didn’t take to the streets and set cars on fire over the excretion-based desecrations of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin.  Jews didn’t storm government buildings and throw Molotov cocktails over Gibson’s Good Friday narrative.  The Chinese don’t murder diplomats over movies portraying them as gangsters (see Year of the Dragon).  You don’t see Buddhists screaming “Death to America!” because Bill Murray accused the Dalai Lama of stiffing him on a tip (see Caddyshack).

The fact is no one else on earth acts like this.  The only people on the planet who fly off in an extended infantile, homicidal, destructive rampage at the slightest perceived affront are the Islamists, and they are as predictable as the sunrise in this respect.  So why do we indulge them with repeated apologies, and push a speech-chilling policy of official condemnation and investigation against their antagonist?  Any parent knows that the remedy to chronic toddler meltdowns is not appeasement; fawning attention only fans the flames.

I, for one, am sick of this, and I’m sick of them.  And we cannot and should not alter our fundamental nature to accommodate their grossly over-developed sense of insult.  We have a First Amendment in this country.  I don’t much care for Bacile’s imbecilic video.  I also don’t care for essentially anything that comes out of the mouth of Barack Obama.  But Bacile’s entitled to make his movie, and Obama’s entitled to make his speeches.  My remedy isn’t to silence them through government intimidation, no matter how big a temper-tantrum I throw.

The test for acceptable speech cannot rest on whether this group or that group is prone to getting upset and overreacting.  It is a dangerous precedent indeed to say we have free speech unless what you say is going to offend Muslims, because when they get offended they spend days and days setting things on fire and killing people.

Don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Where does that end?  What else can I not say or do because it might offend the Islamists and they get crazy when they’re offended?  Worse, how long before some other group of miscreants or malcontents recognizes the tool that’s been made available to them—that  you can get the government to bend over and to shut the opposition up if you just make it clear that you’re easily upset and you have a tendency to waste people and destroy millions of dollars worth of property when you’re upset?  What kind of chaos ensues if we all act like that?

How about this:  what say we try to act like adults here, and encourage our hyper-sensitive neighbors in the Middle East to do the same.  And if you don’t have enough self-control to keep yourself from launching into the mother-of-all-epic-hissy-fits if the anti-Mohammed theme offends you?

Don’t watch it.

Paul Krugman And The Government Spending Panacea

I was looking for love in all the wrong places

Looking for love in too many faces

Searching their eyes, looking for traces of what I’m dreaming of

            —Waylon Jennings, Looking For Love

 

Dr. Keynes—er, Krugman—is at it again.

His latest piece “Looking to the iPhone for Economic Stimulus” focuses on a JPMorgan report predicting that Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 5 may provide a boost to GDP.  And there, Professor Krugman thinks he’s found a clever bit of intellectual judo.

Ah-ha,” he says.  “People spending money to buy iPhones means a boost to GDP.”  Krugman extrapolates from that that spending in the abstract equals growth.  And if you think that’s a good thing, he argues, then you should support increased government spending.

Gotcha, you small-government simpleton.

If only it were that easy.

To begin with, Krugman—as usual—plays it loose with the facts, complaining that government employment and public investment have “plunged,” and implying that this plunge is the culprit delaying any recovery.  In reality, the August jobs report showed total government employment dropped a whopping 7,000 jobs since July, a total of three hundredths of one percent (0.03%).  Not exactly “plunging.”  Federal government employment actually rose by 3,000.  Viewed a little longer term, total government employment has hovered between 22,000,000 and 21,900,000 over the last year, and it’s down a grand total of 0.75% since August 2011.  The notion that public sector employment is “plunging” is simply false.

Nor is it clear what “public investment” Krugman thinks is “plunging”; he must have missed the $800 billion “stimulus,” the nearly $500 billion in TARP bailouts and government takeovers, and the $2.5 billion in failed green energy startup loans to Solyndra and other Obama bundler ventures.  Unless, of course, what he means is that public spending has “plunged” since these massive projects, in which case he’s just engaging in the ancient Left fallback of “you didn’t spend enough.”  And isn’t it interesting that Krugman argues that government spending is needed now to prompt recovery from what he repeatedly refers to as a “depression,” when he has previously contended that “the stimulus worked.”

What is true is that neither government employment nor public investment have really done anything to pull the economy out of the now nearly four-year long recession.  That’s a fact that is more than a little inconvenient for Professor Krugman, so he does what he always does, which is ignore it and tell you a lie that supports his fetish for more government.

To his credit, Krugman correctly notes two critical factors in economic growth.  On the one hand, Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5 is predicted to have a significant positive impact.  Why?  Because it gets people out into the market spending money.  Krugman gets this.  On the other hand, Krugman also correctly observes that companies are sitting on a lot of cash and not making investments in their businesses, and the lack of jobs as a result means that consumers aren’t spending.  But Krugman fails to make the connection between the launch of the iPhone and business reinvestment, nor does he ask the critical question why businesses aren’t reinvesting.

The iPhone 5 represents an example of innovation; Apple has created a product people want, which is why they will line up to buy it, thus generating spending and positively impacting growth.  There would be more of that kind of thing if businesses were reinvesting their capital.  But they’re not, and the reason they’re not is that they’re uncertain about the future, particularly as it relates to how much of their cash the government is going to take, and how much of their cash they’re going to be forced to spend complying with additional government regulation.

And this is where Krugman fundamentally misses the boat.  Businesses and consumers aren’t spending, so his solution is for government to fill that spending void.  The problem with this kind of thinking is that all spending is not equal.  When businesses and consumers spend, they’re spending their own money; it is a true injection of activity into the marketplace.  Government, however, doesn’t have its own money to spend.  It can only spend what it takes from businesses and consumers (or, alternatively, what it borrows, another favorite remedy of Krugman).  Not only does government spending merely put back into the market capital that government took out of the market, but it’s this very threat that government will increase taxes in order to fund additional spending that makes businesses and consumers hesitant to spend in the first place.  Even if you accept Krugman’s core premise that government spending is just as good as private spending—which it’s not—by relying on government spending you’re perpetuating the underlying problem that private concerns have less and less to spend on their own.

Krugman admits the economy will recover on its own.  What he’s advocating is make-work; the artificial creation of jobs to do work that the market at present does not need (if it needed them, the jobs would already exist and be filled).  That is not a sustainable economic model.  Furthermore, by shifting spending from the private sector to government, you move from a model where the decisions that drive the economy are spread across millions of decision makers engaging in billions of small-scale transactions, to a model where the entire economy depends upon a few gigantic decisions made by a tiny handful of government masterminds.  This hyper-concentrates risk, while minimizing the number of opportunities for successful innovation.

Darwin would not approve.

Finally, it is apparent that Professor Krugman has never actually seen the Constitution.  There is no provision authorizing the federal government to take money from the citizens for the purpose of spending it in order to stimulate the economy artificially.  The regulation of interstate commerce was never meant to make the federal government the driver of the economy.  What it was meant to do is to get protectionist state governments out of the way so that private citizens could engage in that trade that best fit their individual needs and furthered their individual desires and ambitions.  That is what a free market economy is, and it is how we function best.

Professor, government is the problem, not the solution.

And I can think of about 16,000,000,000,000 additional reasons government does not need to spend more.

**************************

EDITOR’S NOTE: This marks the 150th installment of Chasing Jefferson.  Thanks for your continued support and encouragement–keep spreading the word, and keep the discussion going.

RDW

Our MIA President

Where, oh where, are you tonight

Why did you leave me here all alone?

—Roy Clark, Where Are You Tonight?

I remain very disturbed about this.

A mob—or an organized terrorist brigade, take your pick—has attacked a U.S. consulate in Libya, murdering our ambassador and three of his staff.  An unverified report from a Lebanese news organization claims the ambassador was sodomized.  Mobs have set fires at U.S. diplomatic installations in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, Tunisia, Yemen, and even in London.  Mobs are gathering outside U.S. interests in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Embassies of our (at least for the moment) allies Germany and Switzerland have been overrun and set on fire in Sudan and Iran, respectively.  Meanwhile, whether related or not, campuses are being evacuated due to “al Qaeda threats” at the University of Texas, North Dakota State, and Valparaiso.

The situation in the Middle East, and possibly with Islamist sympathizers here at home, is quickly spiraling out of control.  So I have one simple, but important question:

Where the Hell is the President?!?!

He did a flat and disingenuous five minute dry-read speech at the Rose Garden, and a cynical photo op with the coffins returning the bodies of our dead diplomats, and that was it.  He sent out Jay Carney to make the laughable denial that all the violence and chaos is directed at the U.S., insisting that it’s all about a stupid movie—and, BTW, I’ve seen it, and it’s so beyond stupid no rational person could possibly take it seriously enough to be offended.  His surrogates have been running around castigating Mitt Romney for trying to politicize the crisis, when all he’s been doing is explaining the problems with Obama’s rudderless policy of appeasement and how he would do things differently—a perfectly legitimate thing for a presidential candidate to do.  All the while Obama is off partying like it’s 1999 with Jay-Z and Beyonce, or raising more re-election cash in Vegas, or doing softball campaign interviews for 60 Minutes.  He’s everywhere but out front and leading.

You mean he can’t take an hour or two off of his re-election campaign to actually do his freaking job?!?!

The message coming from the administration, such as it is, is garbled and self-contradictory.  Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, then it is, then it is but only until a final solution on Palestine is negotiated.  We apologize for the video, then we don’t, then we do but still “condemn” the violence.  Egypt is not an ally, then it is.  This is a religious mob, then it’s a coordinated al Qaeda revenge attack, then it’s just a mob again.  A UK paper is reporting that U.S. intelligence was warned of a possible impending attack a week ago; not surprisingly, the administration denies that.  Our foreign policy in the Middle East gives every outward indication that it’s being managed and implemented by the Keystone Cops (at least there’s one Keystone this administration can embrace).

This is what happens when you have a complete absence of leadership.  And I don’t mean just a lack; Obama is literally MIA.

At times of national crisis, we as citizens need to know that our Commander-in-Chief is in charge.  That he’s on the job and in control of the situation.  That’s why Presidents for decades have given prompt national TV addresses to the nation at critical moments.

Kennedy did that with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Reagan did that with the Beirut bombing and the Challenger explosion.

Bush 43 did that after 9/11.

Obama himself has used national TV addresses as a pulpit, but not to reassure the nation that he was in command.  He did it to boast about the killing of Osama bin Laden (important closure, but in itself hardly the apex of an urgent national crisis), and to use the BP Deepwater Horizon incident to further his anti-oil environmental zealotry agenda.  He did it from the floor of the House when he wanted to brow-beat Congress for not adopting his “jobs” spending agenda.  As a candidate he did it when he needed to distance himself from the volatile Rev. Jeremiah Wright (throwing his own grandmother and Wright under the bus in the process).   So we know Obama knows how to use national TV time, because he’s done so in the past when it has suited him politically.

Where is he now?  When it’s time to take some responsibility and demonstrate that he grasps the gravity of the situation and has it under control, why are we now five days into the crisis and we as a nation haven’t heard so much as boo from him?

Leaders lead, and that’s a must-be-present-to-win proposition.  You can’t phone it in, and you can’t staff it out.  You can’t run away on vacation (like he did last year during the debt ceiling crisis and the downgrading of our credit), or hide behind celebrity fundraising bashes and cupcake staged media appearances when a hot situation is reaching critical mass.  You have to stand up—yourself—and take charge.  Almost as important, you have to be visible to the rest of us in doing it.  That doesn’t necessarily mean dropping bombs or sending in troops.  But the face of the nation needs to be seen by America and the world.  It needs to express the full measure of our outrage, calm the fears of those of us at home, and make clear to the rest of the world that we are still the biggest kid on the block and we won’t have sand kicked in our face.

That’s part of leadership.  And it’s totally missing.

Present.

Not.

Dangerous Liaisons

“Up until now, Dallas hasn’t been afraid of you.  And they should be, because you have a very powerful weapon working for you.  There is no tomorrow for you, and that makes you all VERY DANGEROUS PEOPLE!!”

            —Gene Hackman as Coach Jimmy McGinty in The Replacements

 

Resetting something from my last post, in supposed outrage over a movie disrespecting Mohammed, rioting mobs stormed our embassy in Cairo and tore up American flags.  It turns out rioters (possibly also over the movie, possibly as a 9/11 thing—does it really matter why?) also burned our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing our Ambassador and three other Americans.  Understand: a U.S. embassy or consulate is every bit sovereign U.S. territory as New York City.  So what we have is two armed invasions of U.S. territory and the killing of Americans, which begs two questions of our Commander-in-Chief, whose primary job description is protecting Americans and American interests.  One, why weren’t these installations already adequately defended with heavily-armed Marines, especially (and obviously) on the anniversary of 9/11?  Two, why is the President giving this breach of our sovereignty and security nothing more than a five minute address in the Rose Garden before heading off to Vegas?

The President “condemns” the actions of the rioters.  Oooh.  I’m sure they’re so shaken by that they’ll never do it again.

The answer lies in the disorganization and lack of preparedness that results from a complete absence of leadership.  Witness the administration’s inability even to get its messaging coordinated.  The State Department is apologizing for the movie offending Muslims religious sensibilities, while the White House says it’s not.  The State Department says Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, while the White House says (now) that it is (at least until it’s negotiated away).

The lack of any kind of a rudder, backbone, or sensitivity to the seriousness of this issue is frightening.  We learned this week that since taking office, President Obama has skipped more than half of his daily intelligence briefings, and attended exactly none for the whole week prior to Tuesday’s attacks.  The White House says it’s OK because he’s thoroughly reading the daily reports, but this is the same administration that said Eric Holder couldn’t possibly be expected to have read all the memos sent to him regarding Operation Fast & Furious.  This administration has also been a sieve of leaked security information, and that’s on top of the official publication of withdrawal timetables; any would-be enemy need only pick up the New York Times to know what we’re going to do and when.

But not only is the Obama administration’s foreign policy apparatus a complete cluster you-know-what from an operational perspective, he has also missed the boat from a substantive policy perspective at every possible turn:

  • In 2009, a pro-democracy uprising challenged the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, a man who is undeniably unstable, ferociously anti-American, and easily the single most dangerous ruler in the region, if not on the planet.  Anybody, sight unseen, would be an improvement.  Obama’s response?  He maintained neutrality, taking the position that the Iranians needed to work it out for themselves.  Without active U.S. support, the uprising was soon crushed in a brutal and violent crackdown.
  • In 2011, the “Arab Spring” ousted Hosni Mubarek in Egypt, and Moammar Gaddafi in Libya.  Mubarek had long been a stable and non-antagonistic presence, if not a U.S. ally in the region, yet Obama backed the protesters.  And while no friend of the U.S., Gaddafi had at least kept his mouth shut and had largely been a non-factor in the region for some 15 years, yet Obama illegally lent military support to a U.N. expedition sent to aid the rebels.  In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood stepped into the resulting void, and Islamist parties including the Brotherhood also did so in Libya, meaning that Obama’s policies have swapped regimes that were known entities and friendly or at least under control for varying degrees of unknown radical Islamists.  Shockingly, it’s Egypt and Libya where we now see them storming and torching our embassies and consulates.
  • In Syria, the Obama administration has thrown its lot in with the anti-Assad rebels, even though the Assad administration has never posed any real problem for the U.S.  Those rebels have been infiltrated by elements of al Qaeda.  In Pakistan the Obama administration provides billions in aid and falls all over itself to apologize for every perceived slight, meanwhile Pakistani intelligence harbors Osama bin Laden for years right under their nose, and calls the U.S. their “worst enemy.

How can anyone be so tone deaf as to miss all of this?

It is against this backdrop that we have to view the situation with Israel, the only truly stable government and our only friend left in the Middle East.  The Israelis understand that threats to erase them from the map are very real—they’ve been living with Muslim guns and rockets pointed at them since 1948.  The rise of radical Islamist governments around the region is in itself cause for alarm in Jerusalem.  Combine that with the fact that it’s all been happening with the overt support of their only real ally in the world, and you should understand how dire they have to be viewing their situation.

And of course, there’s that pesky problem of Iran daily getting ever-closer to becoming a nuclear power (even the UN recognizes this, but won’t do anything about it).

Not only is Israel surrounded by an increasingly hostile (and potentially nuclear-armed) collection of Islamist regimes, but they’re not getting any help from us.  To the contrary, for all its lip-service to being a great friend of Israel, the Obama administration has repeatedly publicly humiliated the Israeli government, specifically on these very issues of Israel’s security:

  • Obama left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cooling his heels in a White House meeting room while he left to have dinner with his wife and daughters.
  • In yet another hot mic gaffe, Obama was caught bad-mouthing Netanyahu behind his back with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, basically saying “You can’t stand him [Netanyahu]?  I have to deal with him every day.”
  • Heading into crucial U.N. discussions about the Palestinian request for statehood recognition, Obama publicly undercut the Israelis’ negotiating position by saying Israel had to revert back to at least the pre-1967 borders (i.e., give up the Sinai, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and old Jerusalem), leaving Netanyahu with nowhere from which to negotiate.
  • And then there was Tuesday’s flat rejection of a meeting with Netanyahu to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, the single most important security issue facing both nations today.  Obama was too busy getting on Letterman and setting up fundraisers.

All of this is telling the Muslim world, the Israelis, and everyone else plain as day that if push comes to shove, we won’t have Israel’s back.  And our failure to set concrete benchmarks and timelines for Iran—and to stand up to Russia and China in the process—tells them push won’t come to shove.  For all the crowing about how bold he was for “doing the right thing” in bailing out GM and Chrysler (not the entire auto industry, Ms. Granholm—please shut up and go back to your cocktail), this President has no stones when it matters.

And the Islamists know it.

What choices are left to Israel?  With all indications being that she’s left to fend for herself, Israel will now be forced to take pre-emptive military action against Iran unilaterally, and that powder keg will be volatile indeed.  I don’t know if this could have been avoided, but it was surely made more likely by this administration’s chronic weakness, and its refusal to confront and deal with the issue decisively.  Instead they’ve just let it fester, and now it may be too late.

What the Israelis understand, and this President just doesn’t seem to grasp, is that you cannot negotiate with or appease these people.  No apology for anything is going to win you any good will, because they are not interested in your apology.  They do not care what you say.  And no amount of diplomacy or negotiation is going to get you to an agreement, because they are not interested in any negotiated peaceful co-existence.  They do not care what you give them.  What they want—and the only thing they want—is Israel gone, and once that happens they’ll be looking at us next.

And what makes these people really dangerous—and the reason even threats are unlikely to get you anywhere with them—is they’re fundamentally suicidal anyway.  They’re after the eternal reward of 79 virgins (or however many it is) awaiting martyrs for Allah, so they don’t care what you do to them, and they’re happy to die if they can kill you in the process.  I made this point some time ago, and Charles Krauthammer made it last month:  the Islamists are fundamentally different in this respect than dealing with the Soviets.  Mutually Assured Destruction and negotiations worked with the Soviets, because in the end they didn’t really want to die, and they didn’t really want to wipe us off the planet.

These people do.

If only our Commander-in-Chief understood that.

Random Musings II

“Let me explain.  No.  There is too much.  Let me sum up.”

            —Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

I’m having a hard time picking out a topic and focusing today.  So let me hit a number of things briefly, in no particular order.

1.         Amateur Hour continues

I have harped long and hard on the naïvete and sophomorishness this administration continues to exhibit on foreign policy issues, particularly in the Middle East.  But it’s getting downright embarrassing.

On Tuesday, fanatical rioters stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo and set a consulate in Libya on fire, tearing down American flags and replacing them with banners to Allah.  Apparently someone somewhere made a film that, in their judgment, disrespected Mohammed.

Oh, the horror.

Obama’s reaction?  Does he send in Marines to defend the flag and what is supposed to be sovereign U.S. territory?  Nope.  His State Department issues a statement condemning the film as an inappropriate exercise of the “universal right of free speech.”  Essentially the administration is once again falling all over itself to apologize to these people for something the U.S. as a nation didn’t even do.

Meanwhile, in a related note, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in the U.S. for three days later this month to address the U.N.  Obama is also addressing the U.N., albeit on a different day.  Bibi asked to meet with Obama while he was here, and offered to fly to D.C. to do it.  Obama’s response?

No.  Too busy (which begs the question “doing what?” but I digress).  There’s no word on whether Obama gave him the finger while he was at it.

This comes right on the heels of the DNC “inadvertently omitting” provisions relating to Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel from its party platform, then reinstating them in a fraudulent voice vote met with choruses of boos.  I fail to understand how this administration cannot grasp the magnitude of the danger it is creating through its posture in the Middle East.  On the one hand, they bend over apologizing and negotiating with people who don’t want and won’t accept an apology, and who aren’t interested in negotiating anything other than our destruction.  On the other hand, when the head of state of our only friend and the only stable regime in the region—a regime that has no one but us to turn to when surrounded by enemies bent on erasing it from the map—begs practically with hat in hand and on bended knee to meet to discuss the single most pressing foreign policy issue maybe of our time, Obama tells him talk to the hand.

How this man will get a single Jewish vote in November is beyond me.

2.         The Beast gets bigger

Regular readers of this space know that I frequently discuss the continuing expansion of the federal government.  Usually we talk about it in terms of dollars.  But today I want to show it in a little bit different light.

The Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR,” in lawyer-speak) is where the vast federal bureaucracy stashes the gazillions of rules it promulgates governing this, that, and the other thing.  EPA rules on gasoline formulation, FCC rules on the use of Ham radios, OSHA rules on the rise and run of your staircase, FDA rules on what temperature your meat has to be cooked to—this is where you’ll find them.

As of the end of 2011, the CFR totaled 169,301 pages.  That’s up 11,327 pages since Obama took office.  And not one word of it is subject to Congressional oversight, yet every bit of it is as binding as a statute passed by both Houses and signed by the President.  You want to know what’s choking American business?  Start with the CFR.

3.         Michelle Obama’s school lunch Gestapo

It seems that Michelle Obama is back at it, trumpeting new school lunch changes dictated by the federal government under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.  Recall we previously discussed separate incidents where federal inspectors were interfering with children’s home-made school lunches, replacing what their mothers had packed for them with federally-mandated “healthy” choices like chicken nuggets (undoubtedly supplied primarily by some big Obama donor).  Particularly telling was this comment from Mrs. Obama at the signing of the HHFKA:

When our kids spend so much of their time each day in school, and when many children get up to half their daily calories from school meals, it’s clear that we as a nation have a responsibility to meet as well.

We can’t just leave it up to the parents.

Read that again.  We—translated:  the federal government—have a responsibility with respect to what school children eat that cannot be left to the parents.  In other words, the federal government cannot allow parents to decide what their own children eat.

This is the way the Obamas think: government, not parents, is the answer for our children.  Where, exactly, are the limits to the federal government’s reach?

4.         The great Volt ripoff

You’re being ripped off.

You already suspected that, but let me bring it into focus for you.  You are of course aware that GM took $50 billion of your money in bailout funds, about half of which it has yet to pay back.  And that stock it issued us when the government took it over is worth barely half what it was at the time we issued it.  In short, GM is deep in hock to you.

So what’s it been doing?

Apparently it spent some $1.2 billion in R&D costs on the Volt fiasco, meaning that to date every Chevy Volt costs GM over $45,000 more to produce than it brings in.  So while it still owes you billions, it’s been flushing billions down the toilet on an economically-losing Quixotic Greenie crusade.  And despite all that money in development, GM still can’t quite solve pesky issues like the Volt’s tendency to electrocute emergency personnel, or the fact that it can’t get much past the driveway without running on gasoline.

No wonder sales have been so bad they’ve twice had to shut down production.

To make matters worse, not only does GM owe you a bunch of jack, but you’ve been chipping in on the purchase of what few of these pieces of crap GM has managed to sell.  The federal government gives $7500 more of your money to subsidize each private purchase.  And it’s using  hundreds of thousands more of your dollars to purchase hundreds of Volts outright for the military and other federal agencies.  So if and when GM ever pays you back, it will to no small degree be doing so with money it took from you (via the government) in the first place.

GM, of course, disputes the per-vehicle loss figure, saying it’s unfair to amortize the R&D over just the 21,000 or so units sold to date.  The trouble is, assuming GM nets $4000 per car—a 10% margin—it would take 300,000 units just to recoup the cost of development, even spreading over that entire volume.  At its current sales pace, it will take GM about 22 years before it will break even on the Volt.

That, friends, is what you get when government intervenes in markets.

DNC Convention Observations

It’s the same old, same old situation

It’s the same old, same old ball and chain.

            —Mötley Crüe, Same Old Situation

WARNING:  THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS FRANK REFERENCES TO SEXUAL BEHAVIOR.  READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

I have to confess up front I couldn’t bring myself to watch the DNC convention last week.  So no, I didn’t see the Great Orator-Uniter-In-Chief accept the nomination.  Nor did I listen to speaker after speaker drone on and on about how brilliant the last four years have been, and how much worse off we would have been coming out of the debacle inherited from Bush 43 had we not had such a shining example of leadership.  From what I read it was all very predictable, and exactly the same crap we’ve heard dating back to late 2007.

That said, I would offer a couple of thoughts on what I did see.

1.         THIS is who they spotlight in the year of defending against the “war on women”?

I don’t think anyone could possibly count the number of times the phrase “war on women” was used from the DNC pulpit.  It’s a central theme of their campaign, even if they can’t articulate what, exactly, it means beyond those of us on the Right having the audacity to (a) give women credit for thinking beyond the elimination of their reproductive systems’ core function, and/or (b) think that the fundamental right to life should trump selfish lack of personal responsibility and self-control.  But what struck me was what should have been the deafening disconnect between the DNC’s focus on women and women’s issues, and their selection of William Jefferson Clinton as their keynote speaker.

Really?

To review some history, let’s start with what is objectively and undeniably a fact about Bill Clinton.  While he held the most powerful office in the mortal universe, he used his personal charisma and the gravity of his position to lure an impressionable young female subordinate (Monica Lewinsky) into performing acts for his physical gratification.  He can argue all he wants about what “is” means, and he can parse around ‘till Gabriel blows his horn about whether what went on constituted “sexual relations.”  The DNA on the dress doesn’t lie, and whatever you want to call it, there’s no getting around the fact that he did what he did with her.

And then when it began to hurt him politically, he threw her under the bus.  He denied it and called her a liar on national television (and under oath, and that perjury is what got him impeached and disbarred, not the fact that he got a hummer in the oval office).  He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) even recall Ms. Lewinsky’s name, referring to her as “that woman.”  He made her a global laughing stock.  In other words, he used her like a plaything, then discarded her like yesterday’s trash.

I wonder what Sandra Fluke has to say about that.

All the while, Clinton not only broke his promises to his wife (who, by all accounts, is also a woman), but because he was so in the public eye, his dalliance humiliated her in front of the whole world.  And it wasn’t the first time he had done that.  Recall that Clinton himself has acknowledged that he had a previous affair with Gennifer Flowers (an affair he originally publicly denied, thus calling her a liar on national television, just as he originally did with Ms. Lewinsky).  That makes him a repeat offender; a serial abuser of his relationships with women.

But there’s more.

Elizabeth Ward Gracen has alleged that Clinton had an affair with her.  Juanita Broaddick has alleged he raped her.  In a more-than-salient coincidence, both women describe their encounters with Clinton as being rough and involving him biting their lip.  Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey have both alleged that Clinton sexually harassed them.  While I understand that Clinton has said all four women are lying (sound familiar?), his admitted track record with Lewinsky and Flowers does lend some credence to their claims.

At a minimum, what you have in Clinton is a man who has admitted to cheating on his wife at least twice, publicly treating both paramours like garbage to save his political career, and dragging behind him a trainload of additional allegations of affairs, abuse, and even rape.

I guess if anyone would know about a war on women . . .

2.         Anti-corporation moonbats in full bloom.

Many of you may have seen this (h/t to my Dad for turning me on to the story).  Peter Schiff infiltrated the convention posing as an uber-Left reporter asking delegates whether they would support a federal ban on corporate profits.  And delegate after delegate enthusiastically endorsed that idea outright, or at least federally-mandated caps on corporate profits (and before you dismiss it as nonsense, realize that they’ve already done this with the insurance industry under Obamacare, which requires insurance companies to pay out revenues above a certain profit limit as additional benefits).  One delegate was skeptical, but when asked if she would support it if Obama wanted it, she responded that she would support “anything” Obama wants.

Anything.

It never ceases to amaze me how absolutely mindless some of these people are.

I’ll bet you a million dollars every single one of them was, at that very moment, in possession of at least two of the following:

  1. A pack of cigarettes manufactured and sold by RJ Reynolds or US Tobacco;
  2. A credit card issued by American Express, Visa, or a major US Bank;
  3. Keys to a motor vehicle manufactured by GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, or Honda;
  4. Prescription medication manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Roche, or another large US pharmaceutical company;
  5. Clothing purchased at the Gap, Kohl’s, or some other giant US retailer.

I’ll bet you another million it never dawned on them that they were holding their convention in a venue built by Hunt Construction Group and R.J. Leeper Co., and to which Time Warner Cable Inc. paid millions of dollars to have its name attached.

Or that they got to Charlotte in an airplane operated by United Airlines Inc., American Airlines Inc., Southwest Airlines, Inc., JetBlue Inc., etc.  An airplane likely built by the Boeing Corporation (by union employees, incidentally) using aluminum produced by Alcoa, Inc.  Or that that airplane was powered by jet fuel produced and sold by ExxonMobil Corporation, or Chevron U.S.A. Inc., or ConocoPhillips Inc., etc.

Or that they were eating meals almost certainly catered by Aramark Corporation.

Or that their alcohol almost surely came from Anheuser-Busch InBev N.V., MillerCoors LLC (owned by SAB plc and Molson Coors Brewing Company), or one of the big liquor houses like Diageo plc.  Corporations, all.

I’ll bet you more than half of them are employed by a for-profit corporation.  And they have a 401(k) plan stocked with investments in . . . corporations.  Investments that depend on those corporations making . . . a profit.  There’s a decent chance that some of them hold a profit-sharing interest of some sort in their employer corporation.

Just where, exactly, do these people think everything in their daily existence comes from?  Certainly not from God, given their lusty booing of the amendments to their platform.  Does it all come from Obama, who I guess just pulls it out of his ass—er—stash?

And the terrifying thing is these people can vote, maybe more than once.

The Ebbing Tide Of Personal Responsibility

“Private Pyle, if there is one thing in this world that I hate, it is an unlocked footlocker!!  You know that, don’t you?  If it wasn’t for dickheads like you, there wouldn’t be any thievery in this world, would there?”

            —R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket

Last week it was reported that New York City public schools were loosening their disciplinary code to eliminate suspensions for, among other things, cutting class, cussing, and smoking.  According to Chancellor Dennis Walcott:

“[W]e don’t just push students out of the classroom where they’re not learning as well . . . [o]ur goal is also to make sure if counseling is appropriate we put counseling in place for them and not just suspend.

“Education law specialist” Nelson Mar echoed the sentiment:

“Often times when children are removed for disciplinary measures it has a negative impact on education, so they have a greater likelihood of failing their classes and also a greater likelihood of them dropping out.

And an unnamed parent also agreed, saying:

“Often kids acting out need more support, not less.  I think guidance would help the student thrive in school more.”

The idea, as best I can tell, is we don’t want to suspend the student, because doing so risks alienating the kid from school, thus compounding the problem.  Better to talk to them, tassel their hair, and give them a hug than to mete out punishment.

What?!?

This is tells you a lot of what’s wrong and getting worse in this country.  We’re so worried about not hurting children’s feelings that we’re failing to teach the basic life skills necessary to function in a free society: self-discipline, self-control, and personal responsibility.  Not that these things are necessarily the primary responsibility of the public schools—these things really should be being taught at home.  But the NYC school situation is indicative of a larger problem.

I think back to when I was a kid growing up in the 1970s.  The little league baseball organization in the small town I lived in gave a “sportsmanship” award to the players on the last place team every year.  In other words, in an effort to ensure that everyone got included and everyone got a prize, the league rewarded failure.

But at least we kept score.

There is a growing trend towards non-competitive no-scoring leagues for youth sports, where the games are played, but no score is kept, and at the end of play no one wins and no one loses (query whether they even count balls, strikes, and outs).  At least not officially.  The idea is to emphasize fun, sportsmanship, and learning the basics of the game, and I’m all for that for younger children to a point.  But at some point you have to recognize the perhaps unintended consequences of what you’re teaching, particularly when you understand that this is only one cog in a larger wheel.

A 2008 ABC News piece reported that an increasing number of American public schools were eliminating failing grades altogether, opting instead for do-over opportunities.  Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor said that “If the choice is between letting kids fail and giving them another opportunity to succeed, I’m going to err on the side of opportunity.”  In Texas we actually had to enact a statute to prevent some school districts from instituting a “minimum grade” threshold of 50, 60, or—yes, this was seriously proposed—70 regardless of the student’s actual performance, and then had to go to court to defend it.  Of course, no small part of the motivation for this move is that the adults in charge—the administrators and teachers—are evaluated largely by the performance of the students.  Eliminating failure (or minimizing its magnitude) by decree gives the appearance of better performance, and thus better evaluations for the faculty, and that’s a whole lot easier than pushing the students to actually do the work to learn the material and pass.  Once again, we seem to miss what we’re teaching when in the interest of self-esteem we give 20 work a passing grade of 70.

Even at home I see a trend towards the avoidance of any adverse results, rather than on preparation and work.  In my girls’ school, we have frequently seen parents obviously doing their kids’ homework for them.  Parents are even going so far as to pull their children out of school for the day just prior to a test for which the child hasn’t prepared, instead of keeping kid in class and making them experience what happens when it’s test time and they haven’t studied.

And have you seen a video game lately?  I confess we have some of these in my house.  Standard fare involves moving a character through a virtual world—fantasy Dungeons & Dragons type stuff, post-apocolyptic dystopia, World War, da ‘hood, you name it—where you kill everyone and everything you see.  Or you get killed.  Except that your character never actually dies, it just starts over wherever you left off.  It was one thing when you got three lives in Pac-Man; you were talking about a pizza-shaped cartoon, and your do-overs were limited by the number of quarters you had.  Here your character is human (albeit virtual), and the extra lives are limitless.

What’s the common thread?  There are no consequences.  There is no reward for effort and success, just for showing up, and there is no downside for failure.  There is no punishment for failing to adhere to minimum social norms.   This is what we’re teaching when nobody wins or loses, nobody fails, nobody gets kicked out, and nobody dies.  It’s just an endless series of do-overs, all in the name of preserving self-esteem.

Well, it’s no wonder, then, that we find ourselves increasingly in a culture of entitlement that embraces the concept of the free lunch and the bailout.  Whether it’s TARP money to banks, welfare with no expectation of actually getting a job, or government-forced forgiveness (or taxpayer-funded buyout) of loan principal, more and more we expect we will be relieved of any  burden associated with our actions.  Why wouldn’t we expect that, if from childhood we’ve never been expected to follow the rules, and it didn’t matter whether we did the work and learned the material because we’d get a passing 70 either way.  Everyone gets the same reward whether they win or lose.  Why should it be any different when we’re adults?

A child of whom nothing’s ever been expected can’t really be expected to produce results when it matters.  I have news for you, but the Chinese don’t give a rat’s ass whether it hurts your feelings that their engineers are better equipped and take your job.  The real world is competitive.  There are winners and losers.  Actions have consequences.  People die, and there is no second life.

If we haven’t learned to compete as children, if we haven’t been taught the self-respect that comes from personal responsibility and achievement (rather than the false self-worth that comes from everything in life having been handed to you for free), we will have no chance of leading in the world of the future, or of providing for ourselves and determining our own destiny.

There will be none of us left who knows how.

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As an aside, I’m finishing this up about 6:00 p.m. on Monday evening and looking at the program guide for Dish Network.  CNN—the same cable “news” network that gave the RNC convention selected coverage last week—is currently running “Countdown Democratic Convention.”  That’s followed at 7:00 p.m. by “Obama Revealed,” which bills itself as a sit-down conversation with Barack Obama about his time in office.  And the two programs alternate, without break, until 4:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.  Tomorrow they cover the DNC convention from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00, give Piers Morgan an hour, then replay the convention from midnight to 2:00 a.m., and again from 3:00 to 4:00 a.m.

But there’s no bias in the mainstream media.