July 5, 2012

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



Alana Goodman says Romney is about to make his fourth visit to Israel. Putin was just there. But, Obama has never made the trip.

The New York Times reports that Mitt Romney will visit Israel to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu this summer, marking his fourth trip to the country: …


What is a card-carrying right winger to do? Now it looks like David Brooks is making sense.

Hostility toward the Supreme Court has risen sharply since Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. upheld the Obama health care law. People are apparently angry that the court didn’t rid them of a law they detest. But that’s silly. If Americans want to replace this thing, they should do it themselves.

The case against Obamacare is pretty straightforward. In the first place, the law centralizes power. Representative Tom Price, a Republican of Georgia, counted 159 new federal offices, boards and councils, though nonpartisan researchers have had trouble reaching an exact tally. In the first six months after passage alone, federal officials churned out an awesome 4,103 pages of regulations.

The law also creates the sort of complex structures that inevitably produce unintended consequences. The most commonly discussed perverse result is that millions of Americans will lose their current health insurance.

A report by the House Ways and Means Committee found that 71 of the Fortune 100 companies have an incentive to drop coverage. But nobody really knows what’s going to happen. A Congressional Budget Office study this year estimated that 20 million could lose coverage under the law or perhaps 3 million could gain employer coverage. Or the number could be inside or outside the range.

There are other possible perverse effects. …


Michael Barone regrets the decision, however . . .

… the fact remains that a majority of five justices, including Roberts, also declared that Congress’ power to regulate commerce does not authorize a mandate to buy a commercial product. This will tend to bar further expansion of the size and scope of the federal government.

Moreover, the Constitution’s limits on congressional power have now become, for the first time in seven decades, a political issue. They’re likely to remain one for years to come.

This would not have been the case had the constitutional case against the mandate not been advanced by Washington lawyer David Rivkin, Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett and many others.

They did not quite prevail in the Supreme Court, but they changed not only the legal but also the political debate in a way almost no one anticipated three years ago.

Unhappy conservatives grumble that Congress can get around the declaration that a mandate is beyond Congress’ enumerated powers by labeling it a tax — or just by relying on five justices declaring it one.

But there’s usually a political price to pay for increasing taxes. That’s why Barack Obama swore up and down that the mandate was not a tax. It’s why Democratic congressional leaders did not call it one.

Chief Justice Roberts’ decision undercuts such arguments, now and in the future. Members of Congress supporting such legislation will be held responsible, this year and for years to come, for increasing taxes.

And the Constitution’s provision that tax bills must be originated in the House of Representatives means that the party controlling the House can effectively block such measures. That will be an argument for Republican congressional candidates for the indefinite future. …


Michael Boskin writes on Barack Obama’s economic ignorance. 

President Obama should put Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” at the top of his summer reading list. This was clear after listening to his 54-minute list of economic excuses and policy proposals delivered earlier this month on the campus of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.

At times Mr. Obama suggested that the profit motive is somehow ignoble, an opinion shared by many on the far left. But every student learns in introductory economics class that the pursuit of profits is essential to a successful economy, allocating resources to the use consumers value most.

This is not exactly a new insight. Writing in 1776, Adam Smith noted, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

The president spent nearly an hour demonizing his Republican opponent Mitt Romney’s economic policies and doubling down on his own failed agenda. He called for higher taxes on our most productive citizens and successful small businesses, more government spending and debt, and Washington micromanagement of wide swaths of the economy.

Instead of doubling down, Mr. Obama could have seen his party’s 2010 midterm defeat as a message from voters to move to the center, announcing that his vast expansion of government was temporary and necessitated by the financial crisis and deep recession. …


Ed Carson says the cost of the GM bailout has hit $35 billion.

To quote Lando Calrissian, this deal’s getting worse all the time.

General Motors (GM) shares fell to a fresh 2012 closing low of 19.57 on Monday. The stock hit 19 in mid-December, the lowest since the auto giant came public at $33 in November 2010 following its June 2009 bankruptcy.

Normally you might say, tough luck investors. But this is Government Motors. The Treasury still owns 26.5% of GM, or 500 million shares. Taxpayers are still out $26.4 billion in direct aid. Shares would have to hit $53 for the government to break even.

Those shares were worth about $9.8 billion as of Monday. That would leave taxpayers with a loss of $16.6 billion.

But that’s not the full tally. Obama let GM keep $45 billion in past losses to offset future profits. Those are usually wiped out or slashed, along with debts, in bankruptcy. But the administration essentially gifted $45 billion in write-offs (book value $18 billion) to GM. So when GM earned a $7.6 billion profit in 2011 (more on that below), it paid no taxes.

Include that $18 billion gift, and taxpayers’ true loss climbs to nearly $35 billion. …


More economic stupidity from the president. This time the Weekly Standard writes on the latest solar firm bust.

Just two years after President Obama touted a $400 million loan to the green energy firm Abound Solar, the company is declaring bankruptcy. The Department of Energy announced the news on Thursday, while the media were focused on the Obamacare Supreme Court decision, C.J. Ciaramella of the Washington Free Beacon reports. A Department of Energy spokesman wrote on the agency’s website that Abound Solar received “less than $70 million” of its $400 million loan from the government. According to the New York Times, Abound Solar only has 125 employees at this time–all of whom will be fired next week. Dividing the $70 million loan by its entire workforce amounts to $560,000 per worker. 

The failure of Abound Solar, like that of Solyndra, is particularly embarrassing for President Obama–he touted the $400 million loan to Abound Solar in his July 3, 2010 weekly address and claimed it would create 1,500 “permanent jobs.”  …


Andrew Malcolm has late night humor.

Leno: Obama’s Democratic National Convention is falling apart already. They canceled their kickoff event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Which would have been a perfect place for Democrats: You go around in circles, turn left all the time and end up right back where you started.

Leno: Today Joe Biden said, the economy is “a depression for millions and millions of Americans.” I don’t know who Mitt Romney is picking for his VP, but Joe Biden sounds perfect.

Oops! Obama congratulates the NBA champion Miami Heats. Hey, what can you expect from a fan of the Chicago Bull and White Sock.

July 1, 2012

 Click on WORD or PDF for full content



Iowahawk has the spirit.

The last time Democrats gloated this hard after a health care victory, they lost 60 House seats.


Andrew Malcolm’s take on the decision.

The Supreme Court’s shocking decision to uphold most of ObamaCare Thursday elated its proponents, disheartened its enemies and may have finally taught media legal observers to never again draw conclusions from justices’ questions in oral arguments.

But one other thing it did for sure is thrust Obama’s whole idea of inserting government deeper and deeper into the most intimate parts of Americans’ daily lives and deaths smack dab back into the political arena. There, in the next 130 days, the nation will hear a different set of oral arguments — on the stump – until voters issue their collective final opinion on Nov. 6.

The 5-4 court decision ruled the idea was constitutional. Now, voters will decide if it’s acceptable. And affordable. Within hours, the decision had driven more than a million new dollars into the Romney war-chest. … 

… We were disappointed with a sharp sense of betrayal as the professed conservative chief justice, unsolicited, crafted a successful legal foundation to hand a grand victory to this arrogant Chicago bully like an undeserved, unexpected gift.

It may well have been accidental or coincidental, but Roberts’ ‘political choices’ image is apt and perfectly-timed for summer of a presidential election year. Remember back during the ObamaCare debate when Nancy Pelosi said we’d have to pass the mammoth thing to find out what was in it? Only in Washington could someone utter those lordly words in public, as if they made any sense whatsoever. And not be laughed off the rostrum. …


And Peter Wehner.

Having already written about the majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, what about the politics of the decision?

I have argued before that while overturning the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be a debilitating blow to the president, upholding it would create problems of its own. And that’s certainly the case.

For one thing, as others at ”Contentions” have pointed out, the president is now saddled with a huge middle class tax increase. Anchoring the Affordable Care Act in the Tax Clause is the only way it passed constitutional muster—and Republicans will do everything in their power to tether Obama to his tax increase. It doesn’t help the president that the argument that saved ObamaCare contradicted what Obama himself repeatedly said, which is (a) the individual mandate is “absolutely not a tax increase” and (b) he would never in a thousand years raise taxes on the middle class.

It was, and he has.

In addition, the decision by the Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act has once again thrust to center stage a historically unpopular law (one that is particularly unpopular in swing states).

The Supreme Court, then, has succeeded in once again inflaming the passions of the GOP base while reminding independents why they despise the ACA. The 2012 election may now take on a 2010 feel. And for those who might have forgotten, Democrats—thanks in large part to Obama’s health care law—sustained an epic defeat in that mid-term election.

As it was, so may it be.


Mort Zuckerman on Obama’s middle class vulnerability.  

The American public has had lots of experience living through recessions. We have endured 11 over the past 60 years, but none since the end of World War II has been as deep or as long as this one. It has severely tested the optimism, confidence, and animal spirits that typify the temper of America.

People see that the administration has invested $5 trillion to reverse the recession and achieve growth again, and the Federal Reserve has pushed interest rates down to record lows. But it’s like strenuously inflating a tire with a leaky valve. Whatever we do, it is soon soft again and now the air still seems to be hissing out, so we fear we will soon be riding on the rim. The only certain result is that we will be paying interest on this $5 trillion for decades to come.

American families are hurting. Just this month, the Federal Reserve reported that between 2007 and 2010 there was a massive decline of 39 percent in real median household net worth, dropping from $126,400 to $77,300, the lowest level since 1992. Two decades of cumulative prosperity for the average American family have been wiped out. The housing market hasn’t reached anywhere near bottom, further threatening Americans’ largest asset, their home equity. Banks still own 450,000 foreclosed properties on top of another 2 million units in the foreclosure process, and an additional 1.7 million homes are in some form of delinquency. Add to this the near record 3.6 million vacant units being held off the market for “unspecified reasons,” and you have a huge excess supply that will be a dead weight on housing values for months to come.

Who has suffered the largest percentage of losses in both wealth and income? The middle class of America. …


National Journal piece on Hillsborough County outside of Tampa.

TAMPA, Fla.—Welcome to the molten core of the political universe, the hottest battleground in the biggest battleground state. Since 1960, Hillsborough County has called every single presidential election except for one—and there’s no reason to think that voters here won’t do it again.

Look around this county of 1.2 million and you’ll find a mash-up of past and future: a solidly Democratic city bracketed by Republican-leaning suburbs; strawberry fields, ranch-style homes, and gentrified urban neighborhoods; Puerto Ricans, Cuban-Americans, African-Americans, Midwestern retirees, college kids, active military, and young families; the brick and wrought iron of historic Ybor City, and the stucco and terra-cotta of the Sun City Center senior community.

The county boasts the nation’s seventh-largest seaport, the fourth-largest zoo, three major-league sports teams, and an annual festival honoring pirate invasions of the 18th and 19th centuries. It sits at the intersection of Interstate 75, which traverses the United States from north to south, and I-4, which bisects Florida from east to west. This is holy ground for pollsters and advertisers scouting a cross section of America.

“To me, it’s the linchpin,” said Peter Hart, a veteran Democratic pollster who has overseen dozens of focus groups in the county, including one last month that analyzed Republicans’ views of presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney. “If you want to understand the swings in the electorate, you are likely to find them in Hillsborough County. It tends to be a good mirror.”

Hillsborough was a Democratic bastion back in the 1970s, but, like other parts of Florida and the South, it has been trending Republican for years—even though the Democratic Party has a 50,000-vote edge in the county. The last time Hillsborough voted for a Democratic presidential nominee was for Bill Clinton in 1996. Before that it was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Five out of the seven county commissioners are Republicans; so are the property appraiser, the tax collector, the state attorney, the elections supervisor, and the sheriff.

In 2008, Hillsborough became the only Florida county that had backed Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 to flip to Barack Obama. A surge of minority voters, young people, and independents helped Obama wring 68,000 more votes out of Hillsborough than John Kerry had, propelling him to a 7-point victory over Republican nominee John McCain in the county.

Was it a fluke? Or was it the start of something big?

Democrats are banking on the latter, pointing to demographic trends here and throughout the country that are pumping up the share of the electorate that isn’t white and that leans their way. Republicans prefer to think of 2008 as an anomaly and Obama as a one-hit wonder, a history-making candidate at a time when the stars and planets over Hillsborough were aligned just right. …

… Can Romney ultimately match Obama in organizational power here? There’s no reason to think he can’t. The race is a dead heat, and Obama was even less organized in Florida than Romney at this time four years ago.

“We’re not going to be outworked,” said Martinez, the Romney spokesman and a veteran of Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. “You’re going to see an aggressive effort in the state of Florida comparable to the successful Republican efforts you’ve seen in the state before.”

Few, however, are underestimating the difficulty of dislodging a president in a place so evenly divided. Over a mug of coffee in his cottage-like office, Republican strategist Goodman proudly pointed to framed signs from recent winning state campaigns: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford. But this one is different.

“Anyone who thinks that Florida, which tends to be reliably Republican, will be anything less than a firefight in November is ignoring history,” Goodman said. “All hands will be on deck.”

Goodman called the GOP’s selection of Hillsborough to host the national convention “huge” and said that the publicity surrounding the four-day event could easily boost Romney’s popularity enough to make a difference in November. But there is little evidence that the location of a convention translates into a win; in fact, the last four Republican nominees all lost the states that hosted the national conventions: California in 1996, Pennsylvania in 2000, New York in 2004, and Minnesota in 2008. Eric Ostermeier, a research associate at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, noted on the school’s website that over the past half-century, there was only one instance in which a state hosting the Republican convention flipped after voting for the Democratic nominee four years earlier.

That was in 1968, when Richard Nixon won Florida.

June 29, 2012

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



It is time everyone cooled down and Charles Krauthammer is the man to start it.

It’s the judiciary’s Nixon-to-China: Chief Justice John Roberts joins the liberal wing of the Supreme Court and upholds the constitutionality of Obamacare. How? By pulling off one of the great constitutional finesses of all time. He managed to uphold the central conservative argument against Obamacare, while at the same time finding a narrow definitional dodge to uphold the law — and thus prevented the court from being seen as having overturned, presumably on political grounds, the signature legislation of this administration.

Why did he do it? Because he carries two identities. Jurisprudentially, he is a constitutional conservative. Institutionally, he is chief justice and sees himself as uniquely entrusted with the custodianship of the court’s legitimacy, reputation and stature.

As a conservative, he is as appalled as his conservative colleagues by the administration’s central argument that Obamacare’s individual mandate is a proper exercise of its authority to regulate commerce. …

… Law upheld, Supreme Court’s reputation for neutrality maintained. Commerce clause contained, constitutional principle of enumerated powers reaffirmed.

That’s not how I would have ruled. I think the “mandate is merely a tax” argument is a dodge, and a flimsy one at that. (The “tax” is obviously punitive, regulatory and intended to compel.) Perhaps that’s not how Roberts would have ruled had he been just an associate justice and not the chief. But that’s how he did rule.

Obamacare is now essentially upheld. There’s only one way it can be overturned. The same way it was passed — elect a new president and a new Congress. That’s undoubtedly what Roberts is telling the nation: Your job, not mine. I won’t make it easy for you.


Tom Scocca from Slate is next.

There were two battles being fought in the Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act. Chief Justice John Roberts—and Justice Anthony Kennedy—delivered victory to the right in the one that mattered.

Yes, Roberts voted to uphold the individual mandate, joining the court’s liberal wing to give President Obama a 5-4 victory on his signature piece of legislation. Right-wing partisans are crying treason; left-wing partisans saw their predictions of a bitter, party-line defeat undone.

But the health care law was, ultimately, a pretext. This was a test case for the long-standing—but previously fringe—campaign to rewrite Congress’ regulatory powers under the Commerce Clause.

This is why the challenge to the ACA, and its progress through the courts, came as a surprise to Democrats and to mainstream constitutional scholars: Three years ago, there was no serious doubt that Congress had the power to impose the individual mandate. …

… The business about “new and potentially vast” authority is a fig leaf. This is a substantial rollback of Congress’ regulatory powers, and the chief justice knows it. It is what Roberts has been pursuing ever since he signed up with the Federalist Society. In 2005, Sen. Barack Obama spoke in opposition to Roberts’ nomination, saying he did not trust his political philosophy on tough questions such as “whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce.” Today, Roberts did what Obama predicted he would do.

Roberts’ genius was in pushing this health care decision through without attaching it to the coattails of an ugly, narrow partisan victory. Obama wins on policy, this time. And Roberts rewrites Congress’ power to regulate, opening the door for countless future challenges. In the long term, supporters of curtailing the federal government should be glad to have made that trade.


Mark Tapscott, managing editor of the Examiner has already backed down.

OK, it’s hard to admit but my initial reaction to this morning’s Obamacare decision by the Supreme Court – a snide tweet branding  Chief Justice John Roberts as another “gift” from President George W. Bush like the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit program – was embarrassingly hasty. …

… Roberts has forced the entitlement state to drop its pretense that government entitlements are intrinsically beneficial and concede the brutal reality that they are in fact the application of force to take from some to give to others. As a practical matter, taxes cannot represent an unlimited power. That’s a genuinely new deal for welfare state advocates. and one that is not likely to adduce to their future success.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Roberts forces what is a profound assault on the nation’s constitutional framework hiding behind the false flag of humanitarianism out of the courts and tosses it into the political arena where the general sense of the community can resolve the outstanding issue.

As long as there are congressional elections every two years and presidential elections every four years, the American system will continue to give advocates of whatever stripe – you know, those “factions” Publius so feared – realistic hopes of eventually prevailing. When political questions are decided by a mere five black-robed judges, it can take generations – or a civil war – to reverse the damage (See Dred Scott, Plessy v Ferguson, NLRB v Jones & Laughlin Steel, Wickard v Filburne, etc.).

On balance, I believe the decision takes a giant step toward restoring the judicial efficacy of constitutionally limited government and drags New Deal liberals and progressives out from behind their pretense of being compassionate and virtuous. That said, it will still take some time for enough cases to work their way through the court system to allow the full fruit of the decision to be harvested.

And one more thought: During our civil war, battles that appeared lost on the first day were often won on the second or third day (Shiloh, Gettysburg). Those who see today as a loss should take heart because tomorrow the struggle will be on new and more promising ground. …


Toby Harnden in the Daily Mail, UK says this looks like a ‘pyrrhic victory’ for the president.

… Romney, with his Massachusetts baggage, is an imperfect messenger on healthcare. But the Roberts tax argument plays right into his hands by linking Obamacare to the economy.

In a time of economic hardship with rising unemployment why did Obama raise taxes to achieve the Left’s dream of universal healthcare? That’s a potent question for Romney to ask in the final four months of this campaign.

The decision deprives the Left in a single stroke of its argument that Obama needs to be re-elected so he can appoint liberal judges to a Supreme Court controlled by Right-wing zealots. It also gives Romney a very clear message of ‘repeal and replace’.

A striking down of Obamacare would have been a disaster for Obama. But in the longer-term, his victory might well prove to be a Pyrrhic one.

Some conservatives are already calling Obama’s healthcare reform ‘Obamatax’ rather than ‘Obamacare’. If Romney adopts that description, he makes the reform sound altogether less benign and he links the healthcare debate to his core message about the economy.

Roberts may have enraged many conservatives by refusing to kill Obamacare. But if he become known ultimately as the father of Obamatax he may well have handed Romney an election gift.


Jennifer Rubin suggests six things to watch.

… 6. The impact on employment and small business may be considerable. The RNC is highlighting this from CNBC’s Jim Cramer: “I think this is just a terrible decision, people, for the possibility of more employment for this year. Look, this is not a great thing for small business, and I think that the market is afraid that small business will lay off people, and I think that the market is taking it over, all right, in that this is just another reason why you should not hire and another reason why you should fire.”

This is precisely the argument that Mitt Romney has been making: Obama’s policies are retarding growth and impairing hiring. If we see continued decline in the jobs numbers, this argument becomes very powerful. In short, Obama chose “historic” health-care legislation over an economic revival, and now Americans are paying the price. Conservatives have a unique opportunity to explain why Obamacare is bad policy and quicksand for Democrats to defend.


Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics has a piece that needs editing but contains germs of interesting thoughts.

3. The chief justice has built up some political capital.

Barack Obama was forced to go on television and praise the court’s ruling. In so doing, he validated — at least implicitly — one of the most pro-state’s rights decisions in recent times.

Roberts has basically done what John Marshall did: Insulate the court from criticism of bald partisan bias and infidelity to, as he once put it, calling balls and strikes. He’s earning plaudits from the left. Though the right is grumbling, I suspect they won’t be doing so for long

4. This matters in the long run — a lot.

This is not the last battle to be fought on the Roberts Court. It might not even be the most significant. In the next term, for example, the court is being asked to reconsider its affirmative action jurisprudence. There are almost certainly five votes to overturn court rulings from a decade ago upholding some forms of affirmative action.

Following that, the court will face a variety of tough decisions. There are probably five votes to uproot the entire campaign finance system, a decision that would make Citizens United look like small fry. And there are probably five votes to invalidate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

I don’t think invalidating the ACA would have affected the court’s legitimacy that much, at least outside of liberals in the legal academy. But taken as a whole, this series of decisions really might have irrevocably hurt the court’s reputation for independence.

But Roberts has something of an ace up his sleeve now. Accusations of hyper-partisanship are much harder to make against him, and he has more freedom to move on these issues.

The cartoonists understood all of this very quickly.

June 28, 2012

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



Daniel Henninger says regardless of the Court decision today, the Affordable Care Act will never take effect. 

Leaked national security secrets may be a dime a dozen now, but the Supreme Court still sits as the last major American institution that doesn’t conduct its business out the back door. Which is to say none of the Supreme Court’s nine justices called me to reveal their ObamaCare decision before its Thursday annunciation. What difference does that make? Anyone who had to wait for the Supreme Court to tell them what the Affordable Care Act represents is too far behind the curve to ever catch up. Alas, that includes Barack Obama, the president that time forgot.

Whether ObamaCare was affirmed or overturned by the ladies and men in robes, nothing was going to change one unimpeachable fact: From day one, the Obama health-care legislation was swimming against the tides of history. It was a legislative monolith out of sync with an iPad world. In the era of the smartphone, ObamaCare was rotary-dial health reform.

The signs this was so were everywhere, but Barack Obama and the Pelosi-Reid edition of the Democratic Party blew past them. Years before it arrived at the Supreme Court’s door, the Obama health-care law was unpopular with the American public. With occasional exceptions, its unfavorables have been above 50% for nearly three years. And why not? It runs counter to the daily experience of virtually everyone.

Electronics, foods, fashion, entertainment, apps, social media, appliances—pretty much anything that escapes the cold hands of a public agency is laid before us in a dazzling, unprecedented array of choices. Despite all the incoming, people learned to navigate the options. Virtually everyone has become adept at customizing a personal milieu that suits them. Given a reasonably growing economy, they’ll be able to sustain these choices.

In this context, the Affordable Care Act gave new meaning to the word “outlier.”  …


Charles Lane, who appears on the panel sometimes with Sir Charles, has an interesting take on role of the Court.

… the United States periodically redefines the role of the federal government in society, in a process that is both political and legal — and, sometimes, more revolutionary than evolutionary. In that sense, we do have a “living Constitution.”

In the 1930s, expanding federal power was innovative, promising. By blessing it, the court aligned itself with the wave of the future, in this country and globally. Ditto for the 1960s. Much of the legislation that resulted — from Social Security to the Voting Rights Act — was indeed progressive.

Today, however, there is nothing new about federal intervention — and much evidence from the past 70 years that big programs produce inefficiencies and unintended consequences.

The post-New Deal consensus about the scope of federal power has broken down amid national, and global, concern over the welfare state’s cost and intrusiveness — a sea change of which the tea party is but one manifestation. Obamacare itself, which has consistently polled badly, fueled that movement. …


Frank Bruni of the NY Times on the things presidents can and can’t control.

… And now? He’s beholden to lawmakers’ whims, buffeted by global winds, as much a spectator as an agent of the most important developments around him, a leader of the free world who follows the news like the rest of us. Against Obama’s wishes and will, his attorney general is investigated and excoriated by a House panel. His jobs bill languishes. Egypt charts a once unexpected course, electing an Islamist president. The Syrian government pursues a bloody crackdown against its people, ignoring the Obama administration’s protests.

At times he looks dazed, and flails. To focus his economic message, he gave an unfocused 54-minute speech on the apparent theory that the more sentences in the mix, the greater the odds of a keeper.

Less than a week later, he stepped up to a lectern at the end of a conference of world leaders in Mexico and rambled some more, whatever particular point he intended to highlight getting lost in a wonky, windy tutorial on the European economy. He stammered. Sputtered. Slowed down to the point where he almost went into oratorical reverse.

Much has been made of his recent executive decision regarding young illegal immigrants as an act of sheer political calculation. It may well be. But I wonder if there wasn’t an emotional motivation as well — if he wasn’t trying to find one small patch of ground on which he could have his unchallenged say and way. …


Barack is back in Boston and Andrew Malcolm has thoughts.

Boston has been very good to him.

Back in 2004 a wannabe senator named Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention there. Remember, that was the hometown event where John Kerry saluted America and reported for duty? And America replied, ‘That’s OK. Go back to your yacht moored in Rhode Island to dodge Massachusetts’ taxes.”

Obama’s speech did absolutely nothing for Kerry, who thought he’d become president at lunchtime on election day that fall. But by evening he knew he’d become instead the second consecutive Democrat to lose to George W. Bush. Oh, the humanity!

But Obama’s Boston convention speech was very well-received. Just ask him. He went home to Illinois after and crushed his powerhouse Republican opponent, Alan Keyes. And began a brief Senate career that was mostly spent out of town seeking the next office.

The Boston experience gave him the confidence that he could take on the vaunted Clinton machine and, later, pretty much defeat anyone or anything if he’d just throw another speech at it. Obama speeches almost always have someone yelling, “We love you, Barack!” He loves the public adulation. Who wouldn’t? “I love you back,” Obama claims. …


Kevin Williamson wants the president to know the difference between outsourcing and offshoring.

Could somebody please get Barack Obama to shut up about “outsourcing” until some undergraduate aide has explained to him what the word means? As it stands, the president is showing himself an ignorant rube on the subject, and that is to nobody’s advantage.

The Obama campaign, as you probably know, has been running ads denouncing Mitt Romney’s role at Bain Capital, in which Romney made various business deals that had the effect of making a whole lot of money for Bain’s customers while also allowing a lot of dirty foreigners to eat, and God knows the world would be better off if a billion-some Chinese were hungry and desperate, that being an obvious recipe for global stability.

Because the Obama campaign knows that one of its most important constituencies is economically illiterate yokels — a demographic to which the president himself apparently belongs — it is on the airwaves claiming “Romney’s never stood up to China — all he’s ever done is send them our jobs.’’ (Whose?) The Obama campaign cites a Washington Post story on the subject, and the Romney campaign has noted that the folks over at WaPo did not distinguish between outsourcing and offshoring (and, indeed, the story is not a very smart one — do read it and see). Obama responded thus: “Yesterday, his advisers tried to clear this up by telling us that there was a difference between ‘outsourcing’ and ‘offshoring.’ Seriously. You can’t make that up.” And indeed you wouldn’t have to make it up, because it is a real thing: different words with different meanings. (Seriously, can we get this guy a library card?)

“Outsourcing” happens when a firm contracts out its non-core functions to other vendors, e.g., a hotel decides to hire a cleaning service rather than keep maids on the hotel payroll. To take an extreme but illustrative case, consider that the firms that provide car-driving services do not manufacture their own automobiles or stitch their drivers’ uniforms, even though doing so would “create jobs.” They outsource those tasks to GM or Ford and to whomever makes their uniforms. Likewise, their communication systems are outsourced to Apple or Motorola or RIM.

But at least they should “buy American,” right? GM is an “American” company building “American” cars, but it too outsources many of its needs, sometimes to other U.S.-based companies, sometimes to companies overseas. Moving facilities overseas is what “offshoring” means; it is not synonymous with “outsourcing.”  …


Jennifer Rubin tells the story of when she was Nora Ephrom’s lawyer.

In a former life I was a labor lawyer, working for Hollywood studios. And that’s where I met Nora Ephron.

In the movie industry there are rules upon rules in various union contracts about credits on screen and in ads — about where they go, how big they need to be, and whose name goes before others. It’s insane to the average person, but really, really important to people who work in movies.

Ephron had a film, “Sleepless in Seattle.” She wanted to give the now-very-famous Marc Shaiman a music supervisor credit for selecting the many wonderful tracks for that film. And she wanted to give him credit in a prominent position in the credits before the movie. This was not permitted by her own union, the Directors Guild of America, because it was perceived as a slight to other DGA personnel (the assistant directors, for example) whose names got shoved in the back. ( I know this all seems nuts, but stick with me.) …

The Free Beacon has the double dipping Donilon details.

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon collected more than $148,000 in pension payments from bailed out mortgage giant Fannie Mae in 2011, on top of his White House salary of $172,200, according to a Free Beacon analysis of White House personal financial disclosure forms.

Donilon netted more than $320,000 in income in 2011 between the two taxpayer-funded sources, including monthly payments totaling $12,391 as part of Fannie Mae’s “Executive Pension” and “Qualified Benefit” plans, the documents show.

“Most taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet. Yet, Mr. Donilon is still profiting from his work during the Fannie Mae buildup of the housing bubble that led to a recession and massive taxpayer bailouts,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.

“We find it fairly unsurprising an Obama adviser is double-dipping the public coffers,” said Mattie Duppler, government affairs manager at American for Tax Reform. “After all, after trillion-dollar deficits for four years running, what’s a few hundred thousand?” …

June 27, 2012

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



Niall Ferguson with an important lecture on public debt.

Critics of Western democracy are right to discern that something is amiss with our political institutions. The most obvious symptom of the malaise is the huge debts we have managed to accumulate in recent decades, which (unlike in the past) cannot largely be blamed on wars.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the gross government debt of Greece this year will reach 153 per cent of GDP. For Italy the figure is 123, for Ireland 113, for Portugal 112 and for the United States 107.

Britain’s debt is approaching 88 per cent. Japan – a special case as the first non-Western country to adopt Western institutions – is the world leader, with a mountain of government debt approaching 236 per cent of GDP, more than triple what it was 20 years ago.

Often these debts get discussed as if they themselves were the problem, and the result is a rather sterile argument between proponents of “austerity” and “stimulus”. I want to suggest that they are a consequence of a more profound malaise.

The heart of the matter is the way public debt allows the current generation of voters to live at the expense of those as yet too young to vote or as yet unborn. In this regard, the statistics commonly cited as government debt are themselves deeply misleading, for they encompass only the sums owed by governments in the form of bonds. …

… In his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke wrote that the real social contract is not Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s contract between the sovereign and the people or “general will”, but the “partnership” between the generations. He writes: “SOCIETY is indeed a contract… The state … is … a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” In the enormous intergenerational transfers implied by current fiscal policies we see a shocking and perhaps unparalleled breach of precisely that partnership, so brilliantly described by Burke.

I want to suggest that the biggest challenge facing mature democracies is how to restore the social contract between the generations. But I recognise that the obstacles to doing so are daunting. Not the least of these is that the young find it quite hard to compute their own long-term economic interests.

It is surprisingly easy to win the support of young voters for policies that would ultimately make matters even worse for them, like maintaining defined benefit pensions for public employees. If young Americans knew what was good for them, they would all be in the Tea Party. …


Investors.com Editors show how this “What me worry?” attitude has infected the city of Chicago.

… Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas recently disclosed a staggering $108 billion debt tab across various governing bodies in the county that translates to $63,525 per Chicago household. Unfunded pension liabilities make up nearly a quarter of that. Not all the debt is Chicago’s, a city with the nation’s highest sales tax, but enough of it is.

Chicago lost 200,000 people from 2000 to 2009. The only one of the nation’s 15 largest cities to lose people. Of all cities, it fell between Detroit, reigning champion of progressive urban decay, and hurricane ravaged New Orleans, in the number of people fleeing to greener pastures.

As Aaron M. Renn writes in City Journal, during the first decade of this century Chicago lost 7.1% of its jobs. Chicago’s famous Loop, the second-largest business district in the nation, lost 18.6% of its private-sector jobs.

While Obama’s critics delve into his Kenyan ancestry, and his defenders delve into likely opponent Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital and as governor of Massachusetts, pundits and voters would be wise to look at Obama’s Chicago for clues to his past and our future.

Chicago was the political incubator for a community organizer who would become president. It is where President Obama sat in the pews on Sunday listening to the liberation theology of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for two decades. Its liberal academia provided an educational haven for the likes of the former bomb-wielding terrorist Weatherman William Ayers, who was host to Obama’s first fund-raiser. …


John Fund stopped by at the convention of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It was like a funeral.

Since 2008, we’ve seen the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Unlike 75 years ago, however, unions and the Left have this time largely failed to build a rigorous movement of economic populism to further their goals: Witness the now largely disbanded Occupy movement. Indeed, as members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gathered here last week, the mood was pessimistic.

“Our success or failure will mark a turning point not only for our union but for the entire labor movement,” Lee Saunders, the new AFSCME president, told his members. Attendees noted how few changes in labor law they had been able to get through Congress since President Obama’s election. Union members in San Diego and San Jose, two cities that voted heavily for Obama in 2008, mourned the overwhelming passage this month of ballot measures in those cities curbing public-sector pension benefits: In both, two-thirds of voters approved the measures. Hanging over the crowd was the crushing loss unions experienced in Wisconsin three weeks ago, when GOP governor Scott Walker won 38 percent of the votes of union members and apparently carried a majority of private-sector-union members.

But even as AFSCME delegates convened in Los Angeles, they received word of yet another blow. …


NY Times had a funeral of sorts too, in a piece on the left’s denial of the constitutional vulnerability of the health care act.

… In passing the law two years ago, Democrats entertained little doubt that it was constitutional. The White House held a conference call to tell reporters that any legal challenge, as one Obama aide put it, “will eventually fail and shouldn’t be given too much credence in the press.”

Congress held no hearing on the plan’s constitutionality until nearly a year after it was signed into law. Representative Nancy Pelosi, then the House speaker, scoffed when a reporter asked what part of the Constitution empowered Congress to force Americans to buy health insurance. “Are you serious?” she asked with disdain. “Are you serious?”

Opponents of the health plan were indeed serious, and so was the Supreme Court, which devoted more time to hearing the case than to any other in decades. A White House that had assumed any challenge would fail now fears that a centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s presidency may be partly or completely overturned on a theory that it gave little credence. The miscalculation left the administration on the defensive as its legal strategy evolved over the last two years.

“It led to some people taking it too lightly,” said a Congressional lawyer who like others involved in drafting the law declined to be identified before the ruling. “It shouldn’t strike anybody as a close call,” the lawyer added, but “given where we are now, do I wish we had focused even more on this? I guess I would say yes.”  …

June 26, 2012

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



WSJ Editors note the passing of Anna Schwartz. 

Let it be said that Anna Schwartz led a model professional life. In our mercurial times, that is no small thing.

Most often, Anna Schwartz, who died Thursday at age 96, was included in sentences as co-author with Milton Friedman of the magisterial economic study “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960.” That would suffice for the epitaph of nearly any economist. It does not for Anna Schwartz. …


As regards Obama’s new immigration policy, Charles Krauthammer has thoughts.

… Obama had tried to change the law. In late 2010, he asked Congress to pass the Dream Act, which offered a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants. Congress refused.

When subsequently pressed by Hispanic groups to simply implement the law by executive action, Obama explained that it would be illegal. “Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. .?.?. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.”

That was then. Now he’s gone and done it anyway. It’s obvious why. The election approaches and his margin is slipping. He needs a big Hispanic vote and this is the perfect pander. After all, who will call him on it? A supine press? Congressional Democrats? …


Jennifer Rubin has some questions.

There is a surplus of news every day — more than one can read or write about. I’m left with many questions at the end of a busy news week.

Here are some:

1.Why is Andrea Mitchell still covering the 2012 race? My colleague Erik Wemple aptly documented her use of a misleading video and her blatantly unfair introduction to a piece on Mitt Romney’s comments about Wawa’s technology. She hasn’t explained what she did, let alone apologized. It is mystifying how her employer could regard her as an unbiased reporter at this point.

2.Why has the Obama campaign taken Vice President Joe Biden to an undisclosed location? By muzzling him, it’s taken away the most likable member of the administration. (Damning with faint praise, I know.) …


WaPo Editors think Congress has a right to investigate “fast and furious.”

… The administration is on relatively firm ground in refusing to release wiretap records or prosecutorial memoranda that might affect ongoing criminal investigations. We’re less impressed by its claim that the subpoena improperly demands internal records relating to the Justice Department’s response to Mr. Issa’s investigation — as opposed to Fast and Furious itself.

Perhaps it’s true, as the White House has argued, that Mr. Issa’s investigation has degenerated into a partisan fishing expedition. And perhaps yielding to that would discourage candor in the councils of this and future administrations, as the Obama administration, echoing a standard plea of its predecessors, asserts.

But Congress’s authority to gather information is broad — as broad as its sweeping powers to legislate, spend public money and hold executive officials accountable through impeachment. No doubt a lot of congressional investigations are partisan fishing expeditions. For better or worse, that comes with the democratic territory. Absent very strong countervailing considerations — stronger than some of those the administration has asserted in this case — Congress is generally entitled to disclosure.


Ed Morrissey links to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show having fun with spurious executive privilege claims.

Via Katie Pavlich, that’s not the only bad news here for Eric Holder and Barack Obama. Not only does Jon Stewart tell an audience inclined towards supporting Obama in November exactly why Operation Fast and Furious was so important to investigate, he also explains that the Obama administration has been refusing to cooperate with subpoenas, giving false information to Congress, and generally stalling for the last several months. On top of that, Stewart then skewers the same Democrats who blasted George Bush in 2007 for hypocrisy in defending Obama’s executive privilege claim in 2012. That’s a hell of a lot more information than NBC provided its viewers this week, that’s for sure. …


Morrissey spots another Obama supporter who thinks the assertion of executive privilege was a mistake. This time it is David Brooks.

Forget the legalities of executive privilege and the partisan nature of the fight over the contempt charge, David Brooks told PBS on Friday night.  Even if the assertion of the privilege is legal, which almost everyone agrees it isn’t, it’s still a dumb response to a dumb program — and it’s only going to benefit the Republicans:

“I’m in general a defender of executive privilege,” Brooks said. “I think it’s important for an administration to be able to have conversations about policy that will be private, so they can have a normal deliberative process. In this case — whether legally the administration is on solid ground in invoking it — that is a gray area. Politically, I think it’s stupid.” …


Roger Simon wonders which former president this one most resembles.

Now that we are deep into a presidential election year that promises to be a referendum on the direction of our nation, possibly even of the world, it seems appropriate to examine similarities between our current president and past presidents to see what that reveals.

Which former president most closely resembles Barack Obama? I have my theory. You may feel differently. Whoever the choice may be, the discussion of the subject may tell us important things about what we should be looking for in leadership.

The conventional wisdom, especially on the right, is that of all past presidents Barack Obama most closely resembles Jimmy Carter. Both men, after all, presided over parlous economic times and chose ultra-typical liberal solutions that did not work, apparently worsening the situation and leading to, in Carter’s own term, national “malaise.” Both men also had to deal with serious challenges from Iran and did so, to say the least, ineffectually.

So the case for Carter — who, as we all know, was not reelected — is strong. But I have another candidate, one who to me resembles Barack Obama more, especially in personality and style.

His name is Richard Nixon. …


Andrew Malcolm with late night humor. 

Conan: The theory of the Freudian slip has been scientifically proven after 111 years. Don’t know about you, but I think that’s the breast news I’ve heard all week.

Fallon: President Obama just played his 100th round of golf since taking office. You could tell it was Obama, because he finished about 14 trillion over par.

Fallon: Playing 100th round of golf, Obama asked his caddie for a recommendation and he was like, “Uhh, don’t play so much golf??”

Fallon: Two Oregon men plan a 400-mile trip in two lawn chairs connected to balloons. Or as North Korea calls that, “the space program.”

June 25, 2012

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



Rex Murphy in Canada’s National Post cuts our president to the quick. 

When you are in vogue, the editor of Vogue pleads for your attention.

When you’re not in vogue, you plead with the editor of Vogue.

Consider Barrack Obama. Just a week ago, in an effort to mingle with the despised 1% and walk away with bucketloads of money none of them should apparently have in the first place, the president of the United States — once a figure of dignity and prestige — went to a dinner with the Ice Queen of the Fashionistas, the editor of Vogue magazine, Anna Wintour. This was a remarkable turnaround.

About four short years ago, while Obama was still on the campaign trail, he had ascended, as no other political figure in recent years has done, to an altitude of public esteem and celebrity that almost draped him in divine status. (One Newsweek reporter, if those terms don’t nullify one another, even said he was “our god.”) In those high days, Obama didn’t just visit somebody or some group; he bestowed his presence or attention on them. He was the “cynosure of all eyes,” “the glass of fashion and the mould of form … th’ observed or all observers.”

Obama was the supercelebrity of our time. He didn’t need to solicit attention, and certainly never needed to do anything so undignified as ask for money — after every primary, win or lose, his online army mailed in the loot and the big bankrolls of Wall Street and Hollywood couldn’t wait to shower the cool candidate with their cash and cheques. He shone so brightly there were moments in the last presidential campaign when you could reasonably wonder if there was another candidate in play.

And now look at the man, and candidate, this year. He has had to resort to summoning the woman Meryl Streep played so chillingly and with such hauteur in the Devil Wears Prada, Anna Wintour, to do an online pitch for him. It is available on YouTube, and for unintentional comedy it has few peers. …   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAlnKHctMYs


It is an important week. Andrew Malcolm wonders if everyone is on station in DC.

In case you wondered if Democrat President Obama would keep his eye on the ball in the final months of this term, his schedule this week tells the tale: …

… Obama ended last week with a Florida campaign event, where, oops, he fell down (Video here). That was widely seen as a metaphor for the president’s awful month of June.

With the economy and employment situations finally in tip-top shape, Obama got in another round of golf Sunday and launches this “work” week by flying Air Force One up to New England for not one, not two, not three, but four more fundraisers today.

Then, after overnighting in Boston to rest his vocal chords, Obama flies back down South for more fundraising. It’s probably coincidence that Obama also was out-of-town – fundraising, of course – on June 1 when the awful May job numbers came out. …


Peter Wehner reviews three new books that seek to defend the indefensible.

Few things are more difficult in politics than confronting failure and learning from it. It is especially difficult when a leader you have championed, and in whom you have placed your highest hopes, turns out to be less than he seemed.

Such is the dilemma facing liberals in the age of Obama. Barack Obama entered the presidency with his sights and standards very high, and many liberals believed he could be the transformative figure they had been awaiting for generations. But by now it is clear that, by any reasonable measure (including those set out by Obama himself at the beginning of his term), his presidency has been a failure.

Consider the economy. President Obama has overseen the weakest recovery on record. He is on track to have the worst jobs record of any president in the modern era. The standard of living for Americans has fallen more dramatically during his presidency than during any since the government began recording it five decades ago. As of this writing, unemployment has been above 8 percent for 38 consecutive months, the longest such stretch since the Great Depression. Home values are nearly 35 percent lower than they were five years ago. A record 46 million Americans are now living in poverty.

The economist Michael Boskin has listed some of the post–World War II records set during the Obama years: among them, federal spending as a percentage of GDP at 25 percent, the federal debt as a percentage of GDP at 67 percent, and the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP at 10 percent. The United States has amassed more than $5 trillion in debt since January 2009, with the president having submitted four budgets with trillion-dollar-plus deficits. (Prior to Obama, no president had submitted even a single budget with deficits in excess of a trillion dollars.) In addition, government dependency, defined as the percentage of persons receiving one or more federal benefit payments, is the highest in American history.

Add to this the fact that the president’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is among the most unpopular major domestic policies passed in the last century; and that the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, widely known as Obama’s stimulus package, is so unpopular that his aides have virtually expelled the word stimulus from their lexicon.

The president’s critics are eager to offer their explanations of his shortcomings, but what can his supporters say?

Three new books, each by authors favorably disposed to Obama, attempt to explain the declining arc of his presidency. Noam Scheiber’s The Escape Artists (Simon & Schuster, 368 pages) and David Corn’s Showdown (William Morrow, 432 pages) offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Obama White House. Scheiber focuses exclusively on the president’s economic team, and Corn covers everything from debt-ceiling negotiations to the killing of Osama bin Laden. In the third book, Overreach (Princeton University Press, 248 pages), presidential scholar George C. Edwards III provides a more academic and detached analysis of Obama’s failures and tries to put them in perspective.

Taken together, these books offer a sense of what the president’s champions and defenders think has gone wrong, with Scheiber and Corn in particular beginning to suggest how liberals will rationalize Obama’s first term should his failures prove fatal to his securing a second.

First, these supporters of the president accuse him of the same sin they themselves committed: expecting too much from Barack Obama. Scheiber writes that there was a “strain of messianism” in Obama, a “determination to change the course of history.” When soon-to-be Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told president-elect Obama that his signature accomplishment would be preventing a Great Depression, Obama said, “That’s not enough for me.”

“If you don’t do that,” Geithner responded, “nothing else is possible.” Obama repeated, “Yeah, but that’s not enough.” …

… Obama has routinely used rhetoric that is, by presidential standards, hyper-partisan and splenetic. He has accused Republicans of being members of the Flat Earth Society, of being “social Darwinists,” and of putting “party ahead of country.” He has portrayed them as cruelly indifferent to the suffering of autistic and Down syndrome children and the elderly. And as the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel has pointed out, the administration has gone so far as to engage in implicit intimidation and threats against private citizens in order to frighten them away from giving money to Mitt Romney. To believe that Obama is at heart an irenic, unifying political figure requires an almost clinical level of self-delusion.

As for laying the blame for Obama’s failures on a communications problem, that is the usual refuge for all White Houses that find themselves buffeted by events. “If only we made our case louder, more often, and to more audiences,” the thinking goes, “the scales would fall from the eyes of the public.” But this, too, is a species of self-delusion. Holding this view is more a source of Obama’s failures than an excuse for them. …

… For the first two years of his presidency, Obama had his way with the stimulus package, the Affordable Care Act, the GM-Chrysler bailouts, “cash for clunkers,” financial regulations, release of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds, credit-card price controls, the endless extension of jobless benefits, and more. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “Mr. Obama has been the least obstructed president since LBJ in 1965 or FDR in 1933.”

The results have been parlous for the country and created cognitive dissonance for progressives. The election of Obama was supposed to be a liberal apotheosis. Democratic strategist James Carville proclaimed his belief that the changes wrought by that election would “guarantee the Democrats remain in power for the next 40 years.” Capturing the spirit of the left, the theorist Michael Lind said: “The election of Barack Obama to the presidency may signal more than the end of an era of Republican presidential dominance and conservative ideology. It may mark the beginning of a Fourth Republic of the United States.”

No Fourth Republic has emerged. Carville’s prediction of a 40-year majority fell 38 years short. And liberalism has not supplanted conservatism. According to Gallup, 40 percent of Americans described their views as conservative last year, 35 percent as moderate, and only 21 percent as liberal. This marked the third straight year that conservatives outnumbered moderates—and after more than a decade in which moderates mostly tied or outnumbered conservatives.

In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans picked up more House seats than in any election since 1938 and controlled more seats than they had since 1946. In addition, Republicans picked up more than 720 seats in state legislatures, the most in the modern era. The GOP has not enjoyed this much power in state capitals since the 1920s. To be a Democrat in the age of Obama is a dangerous thing.

If Obama goes on to lose his bid for reelection, it would be yet another crushing blow to liberalism. And in reading these books, it is hard to avoid the impression that the effort to explain a 2012 defeat is already under way. …


WaPo gives the Obama campaign “Four Pinocchios” for the latest ad slamming Romney’s work at Bain.

… The Obama campaign apparently loves to ding former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney with the charge of “outsourcing.” On several occasions, we have faulted the campaign for its claims, apparently to little avail.

Now, all of the claims have been combined in one 30-second ad, with the added incendiary charge that Romney was a “corporate raider.” Let’s look anew at this material. …

June 24, 2012

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



Fake memoirs have become a genre attracting the attention of Mark Steyn

Courtesy of David Maraniss’ new book, we now know that yet another key prop of Barack Obama’s identity is false: His Kenyan grandfather was not brutally tortured or even non-brutally detained by his British colonial masters. The composite gram’pa joins an ever-swelling cast of characters from Barack’s “memoir” who, to put it discreetly, differ somewhat in reality from their bit parts in the grand Obama narrative. The best friend at school portrayed in Obama’s autobiography as “a symbol of young blackness” was, in fact, half Japanese, and not a close friend. The white girlfriend he took to an off-Broadway play that prompted an angry post-show exchange about race never saw the play, dated Obama in an entirely different time zone, and had no such world-historically significant conversation with him. His Indonesian step-grandfather, supposedly killed by Dutch soldiers during his people’s valiant struggle against colonialism, met his actual demise when he “fell off a chair at his home while trying to hang drapes.”

David Maraniss is no right-winger, and can’t understand why boorish nonliterary types have seized on his book as evidence that the president of the United States is a Grade A phony. “It is a legitimate question about where the line is in memoir,” he told Soledad O’Brien on CNN. My Oxford dictionary defines “memoir” as “an historical account or biography written from personal knowledge.” And if Obama doesn’t have “personal knowledge” of his tortured grandfather, war-hero step-grandfather and racially obsessed theater-buff girlfriend, who does? But in recent years, the Left has turned the fake memoir into one of the most prestigious literary genres: Oprah’s Book Club recommended James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces,” hailed by Bret Easton Ellis as a “heartbreaking memoir” of “poetic honesty,” but subsequently revealed to be heavy on the “poetic” and rather light on the “honesty.” The “heartbreaking memoir” of a drug-addled street punk who got tossed in the slammer after brawling with cops while high on crack with his narco-hooker girlfriend proved to be the work of some suburban Pat Boone type with a couple of parking tickets. (I exaggerate, but not as much as he did.)

Oprah was also smitten by “The Education of Little Tree,” the heartwarmingly honest memoir of a Cherokee childhood which turned out to be concocted by a former Klansman whose only previous notable literary work was George Wallace’s “Segregation Forever” speech. …


Peter Wehner on the president’s “annus horribilis” that’s taking place in just this one month of June.

President Obama was already suffering one of the worst imaginable months for an incumbent president in an election year – including a dismal jobs report and declining factory orders, falling approval ratings (including in swing states), the overwhelming victory of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, the president’s widely ridiculed claim the private sector is “doing fine,” Bill Clinton’s various apostasies, the realization that Obama might be outspent in this election by Mitt Romney, and a major speech in Ohio that was panned even by sympathetic liberals. (Jim Geraghty provides a nice summary and analysis here.)

But it may be that the first half of June was a walk in the park compared to the latter part of the month. Because two events – one which just happened and one that will happen next week – may turn out to be powerful, and even crippling, body blows to the president. …


Just days before the Court decision on healthcare, Robert Samuelson reviews why it was such a mistake.

We pay our presidents for judgment, and President Obama committed a colossal error of judgment in making health-care “reform” a centerpiece of his first term. Ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — and regardless of how the court decides — it’s clear that Obama overreached. His attempt to achieve universal health insurance coverage is a massive feat of social engineering that, by its sweeping nature, weakens the economic recovery and antagonizes millions of Americans.

Let’s review why the ACA (“Obamacare”) is dreadful public policy:

(1) It increases uncertainty and decreases confidence when recovery from the Great Recession requires more confidence and less uncertainty. …

… To all the ACA’s substantive defects is now added a looming political and constitutional firestorm. Whether the Supreme Court upholds the whole law, strikes it all down or discards only parts, anger and outrage will ensue. The court may be accused of usurping legislative powers or of cowering before White House intimidation. The ACA has become an instrument of the political polarization that the president regularly deplores.

When historians examine Obama’s first term, the irony will be plain. A president bent on burnishing his legacy acted in ways that did the opposite. It’s a case of bad judgment.


A poll of Supreme Court clerks shows they think the mandate will not pass muster. Alana Goodman has the story.

Via WaPo’s Sarah Kliff, this is a big shift from what we saw in the last poll of Supreme Court clerks:

A new poll of 56 former Supreme Court clerks finds that 57 percent think the individual mandate will be overturned. That’s a 22-point jump from the last time the same group of clerks was surveyed, right before oral arguments. Back then, 35 percent thought the court would toss out the required purchase of health insurance.

Most of the clerks found the Supreme Court’s questioning to be more skeptical than they had expected. As one clerk put it to Purple Strategies’ Doug Schoen, who conducted the research, “I feel like a dope, because I was one of those who predicted that the Court would uphold the statute by a lopsided majority…it now appears pretty likely that this prediction was way off.” …


Just in case the Court does not make a sensible ruling this week, Noemie Emery has drafted a speech for Mitt.

In the event the Supreme Court does not put Obamacare out of our misery next week, Mitt Romney ought be ready to roll with the punches and come out at once with Plan B. Plan A was to have the Court sever it neatly with one swing of the axe, but there was always the possibility the Court would not follow the returns of the recent elections. Plan B should be the political process, which involves not the minds of nine, but the intent of millions, expressed in the usual ways. Thus, Plan B should be to elect politicians who will undo Obamacare with the tools given their branches of government. And so, Romney ought to say this: 

MY FELLOW AMERICANS: It is now up to us. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—which protects no one, and which will bankrupt the country—is not unconstitutional, but that does not mean it is good. A number of things that are legal are in many ways bad: It is legal to lie (except under oath), or to stay home all day watching TV in your skivvies; but it’s best not to do so, and we’d rather you’d not. 

And legal or not, this health care act is a disaster—born in deceit, passed in arrogance in the face of the will and the rage of the people, it has caused dissent and contention since its inception, and this has hardly worn off over time. People have not learned to love it: Their anger has deepened. Resistance hasn’t diminished: It has grown. The problem is not that it expands coverage; that intention is laudable. The problem is that it is a 2,700 page blunderbuss that tries to assert central control over 16 percent of a $14 trillion economy, over the choices and actions of nearly six million health care professionals, and over the health care decisions and choices of the more than 300 million American citizens with whom they all interact. This country is drowning in debt, (along with everyone else in the first-world community), and this bill will cost much, much more than was claimed when they passed it, and that, let us remember, was quite bad enough. …


Mort Zuckerman on why we need a new approach to public unions.

It’s hard to dodge downpours in a wet season, and it is proving remarkably wet for the Democrats and public sector unions. Since losing the big effort to recall the Republican governor of Wisconsin, they have been trying hard to explain away the 1,334,450 raindrops Wisconsin voters deposited on their pro-union campaigners. The rain on their parade, we are told, is not really a protest against the disproportionate political power accumulated by public sector unions. It’s because voters dislike the idea of recalling someone they not so long ago voted into office. It’s because the Democratic candidate, the worthy mayor of Milwaukee, wasn’t as gifted an orator as the governor. It’s because big corporate money poured in from out of state thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which opened the floodgates for wealthy donors to exert undue sway. It’s because….

Well, let’s concede there’s something in all these arguments, maybe adding up to as much as 46 percent of the vote against Gov. Scott Walker’s 53 percent. But you’d have to be remarkably impervious to being soaked to say, as a White House spokesman did, that the massive defeat of the recall has no implications for anywhere outside of Wisconsin (which went for Barack Obama by 14 points in 2008).

The central issue was the political power of the public service unions, which translates into salaries, benefits, and pensions far above those received by the median wage earner in the state. Wisconsin taxpayers understood that the state’s $3.6 billion deficit posed a mortal danger to continuing public services such as education and necessary infrastructure. So they said: Enough! They demanded that everybody contribute to putting the state back on track. In state after state, lavish, unaffordable over-promises have been made to public service employees; in fact, the cost of healthcare benefits and pensions is rising so fast that it is producing a fiscal crisis in virtually every state in the union.

How did the balance of power in the public sector become so out of whack? The public unions often elect the management that they negotiate with. They organize voting campaigns for politicians who, upon election, repay their benefactors by approving salaries and benefits for the public sector employees, irrespective of whether they are sustainable, and the unions don’t worry about bankrupting those sitting opposite them at the table. The taxpayer-funded public service unions have essentially dictated the terms of their employment to the taxpayers they are supposed to serve.

Government employees are better off in almost every area than private sector employees, be it in paid benefits, time off, or job security. Pensions are particularly irritating, for many state workers can retire in their mid-50s at close to full pay and receive pensions for far more years than they have worked, even though they are young enough to take another job. If you take their pensions’ present value in terms of the cash you would need to buy an annuity making payments equal to the pension, we have created a new class of millionaires. …

June 21, 2012

Click on WORD or PDF for full content



According to Keynesians, large cuts in federal spending would lead to a depression. In fact, large cuts after the Second World War led to a boom. David Henderson has the story.

… We often hear that big cuts in government spending over a short period of time are a bad idea. The argument against big cuts, typically made by Keynesian economists, is twofold. First, large cuts in government spending, with no offsetting tax cuts, will lead to a large drop in aggregate demand for goods and services, thus causing a recession or even a depression. Second, with a major shift in demand (fewer government goods and services and more private ones), the economy would experience a wrenching readjustment, during which many people would become unemployed, and the economy would slow down.

But if such claims were true, wouldn’t history confirm them? And wouldn’t the decline in the economy be large when the government cuts spending a lot? That’s certainly what the late Keynesian economist Paul Samuelson thought. Well, Samuelson was wrong, and not just wrong, but spectacularly wrong.

In a 2010 study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, I examined the four years from 1944, the peak of World War II spending, to 1948. Over those years, the U.S. government cut spending from a high of 44 percent of gross national product (GNP) in 1944 to only 8.9 percent in 1948, a drop of over 35 percentage points of GNP. The result was an astonishing boom. The unemployment rate, which was artificially low at the end of the war because many millions of workers had been drafted into the U.S. armed services, did increase. But between 1945 and 1948, it reached its peak at only 3.9 percent in 1946. From September 1945 to December 1948, the average unemployment rate was 3.5 percent.

Most of the policies that Samuelson had feared actually happened, and in spades. Price controls were eliminated. Not only was the federal budget deficit decreased, but also, in 1947, the budget surplus was over 5 percent of GNP. Demobilization happened big-time. Between 1945 and 1947, when the postwar transition was complete, the number of people in the armed forces fell by 10.5 million. Civilian employment by the armed forces fell by 1.8 million, and military-related employment in industry fell off the cliff from 11.0 million to 0.8 million. As demobilization proceeded, optimistic employers in the private sector scooped up millions of the soldiers, sailors, and others who had been displaced from the armed forces and from military industries. …


After David Henderson deals with that Keynesian fallacy, Shikha Dalmia counters some more.

Poor President Obama. Life under the White House klieg lights must seem soooo unfair. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been saying since last year that although “private-sector jobs have been doing just fine,” public-sector jobs need help with another $35 billion in stimulus spending, without raising an eyebrow. But the president regurgitates the same line and all hell breaks loose: The blogosphere chortles mercilessly; Twitter chatter roundly lampoons him; and Mitt “I Like Being Able to Fire People” Romney accuses him of being out of touch with ordinary Americans.

Truth is, though, that Obama was asking for it. His statement might be conventional wisdom in his party’s circles. But it nonetheless manages to pack in virtually every “progressive” economic fallacy—and then some.

For starters, his claim that private-sector job growth is hunky-dory is hooey. It is true that private companies have added 4.3 million jobs since February 2010. However, this represents a 2.8 percent rate of job growth compared to the 8 percent average after previous recoveries—despite (or perhaps because of) $800 billion in stimulus spending.

But instead of asking whether the effects of his own policies—like uncertainty over the extension of the Bush tax cuts and the compliance costs of ObamaCare—might be choking the private sector, Obama wants to apply his stimulus therapy to the public sector. This won’t produce overall growth. Indeed, more government spending means a shrinking private sector, and there are three main reasons why. …


Marc Thiessen reports on another Obama equity investment that has gone south.

A few weeks ago, I reported on President Obama’s string of failed public equity investments, which have left in their wake bankruptcies, layoffs, criminal investigations, and taxpayers on the hook for billions. Well apparently, another of Obama’s investments is in deep fiscal trouble. CBS News reports: (h/t Hot Air and the Right Scoop): …

… Little wonder that Obama has all but abandoned his attacks on Mitt Romney’s record in private equity. With a public equity portfolio that includes A123 … Raser Technologies … ECOtality … First Solar … Beacon Power … and Solyndra (among others), Obama is in no position to be criticizing anyone’s investment record.


Ed Carson in Investors.com tracks the increase in federal jobs.

President Obama’s statement Friday that the private sector is “doing fine” drew so much ridicule that he was forced to backtrack hours later. But it’s clear that Obama and many other Democrats see job problems — and solutions — starting and stopping with government employment.

A quick look at payroll stats shows that’s not the case.

Private-sector jobs are still down by 4.6 million, or 4%, from January 2008, when overall employment peaked. Meanwhile government jobs are down just 407,000, or 1.8%. Federal employment actually is 225,000 jobs above its January 2008 level, an 11.4% increase. That’s right, up 11.4%.

Private payrolls have been trending higher in the last couple of years while government has been shedding staff. But that’s because governments did not cut jobs right away. Overall government employment didn’t peak until April 2009, 16 months after the recession started. It didn’t fall below their January 2008 level until September 2010. …


Jonathan Tobin tells us how ‘the color purple’ gets ugly.

In what must be considered among the most egregious acts of discrimination against Israel by leftist intellectuals, author Alice Walker is not allowing her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple to be translated into Hebrew because of her opposition to the Jewish state. The book, which was made into a popular 1985 movie directed by Steven Spielberg, is a story about racism and misogyny in the American south.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that in a letter posted on a site supporting the boycott of Israel, Walker said she was refusing to allow the translation in order to boost support for the movement to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) the Jewish state because of its alleged mistreatment of Palestinians. But in saying she doesn’t even wish her work to appear in Hebrew, Walker is making a broader statement than a mere critique of Israeli policies. This sort of a boycott is an attempt to treat Jews and Hebrew, which is the national language of the Jewish people, as beyond the pale. In doing so, Walker has illustrated how hatred for Israel can erase the line between political opinion and outright anti-Semitism. …


Slate in praise of wooden spoons.

There are few things I absolutely have to have in a kitchen. I don’t need fancy pots (though Le Creuset makes some beautiful ones), or impressive tools I will rarely use (though I began asking for a blowtorch every Christmas at age 12), or single-use gadgets like avocado slicers or mango pitters (you already own these—they’re called knives). In fact, to feel confident that I can put together a good meal using whatever’s around, all I really need is some garlic, a little olive oil, and a wooden spoon.

For other people, the first two of that threesome will vary—but the third should always stay the same. Wood is sturdy but not harsh, lasts for years or even decades, and is one of the most versatile materials out of which a kitchen utensil can be crafted. Despite this, wooden spoons seem to have fallen out of favor in home kitchens. I rarely see more than one (if any at all) in the tangle of utensils on friends’ counters, and wooden utensils are consistently outnumbered by those made from other materials in stores. So many people neglect this beautifully efficient and historic kitchen tool, ignoring the many reasons wooden spoons are better than the rest.

Spoons predate forks by thousands of years, going back as far as the Paleolithic Era. ..