April 17, 2012

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Peter Wehner says the administration is running on empty.

Everyone from President Obama to Jason Furman, the principal deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, to the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank to Politico’s Jim VandeHei, agree that the so-called Buffett Rule is a gimmick that has almost no bearing on the budget deficit. And for good reason. The Treasury Department confirms that the tax would raise at most $5 billion a year—or less than 0.5 percent of the $1.2 trillion fiscal 2012 budget deficit and, over the next decade, 0.1 percent of the $45.43 trillion the federal government will spend (for more, see here). By one estimate, the “Buffett Rule” would cover 17 days of the president’s next decade of deficits. So it’s not, in any sense, a serious or meaningful proposal. And yet it has, as the New York Times reports, become a “centerpiece” of the Obama re-election campaign.

So there you have it. The Obama presidency has reached the point where a policy that virtually everyone (including the president) concedes is a gimmick is now a centerpiece of Obama’s campaign.

There are many ways to measure the intellectual exhaustion of the Obama presidency. This isn’t a bad place to start.


Andrew Malcolm notices the hyper-partisanship of the president.

Has anyone seen Barack Obama recently?

You know, the optimistic hopeful fellow with the charming smile who promised so many positive things four and five years ago, how he was going to change the harsh, partisan tone of our nation’s capital and bring the country together as its first African American president.

Even allowing for political hyperbole, his empty resume and the invisible witnesses from the past, Obama was such a Real Good Talker that even some who didn’t vote for him still had hope that he could change some things for the better in what seemed a sadly-splintered society.

WTH did that Obama go? Have you listened recently to this Chicago Doppelganger who’s replaced him? This 2012 Obama is strident and mean, even deceitful, divisive, telling half-truths after half-truths. He’s using Air Force One as his personal Brinks truck with wings to collect cash all over the country, disguising the trips as official.

He tries to intimidate the Supreme Court, an equal branch of government, when its thinking might stray from his. He distorts history, and if no one calls him, then it’s true. If he’s caught, this Obama says you obviously mis-heard. Because, as everyone knows, he could never mis-speak.

The economy, like everything else adverse, is someone else’s fault. But if only we borrowed and spent a trillion dollars, unemployment would stay beneath 8%, Obama promised. It soared far above. It’s still above. No apology. No acknowledgment. Now, he hails any dip as proof of progress when, in fact, it comes because so many just give up seeking work. …


Charles Krauthammer goes after the “Buffett Rule.”

… As an approach to our mountain of debt, the Buffett Rule is a farce. And yet Obama repeated the ridiculous claim again this week. “It will help us close our deficit.” Does he really think we’re that stupid?

Hence the fallback: The Buffett Rule is a first step in tax reform. On the contrary. It’s a substitute for tax reform, an evasion of tax reform. In three years, Obama hasn’t touched tax (or, for that matter, entitlement) reform, and clearly has no intention to. The Buffett Rule is nothing but a form of redistributionism that has vanishingly little to do with debt reduction and everything to do with reelection.

As such, it’s clever. It deftly channels the sentiment underlying Occupy Wall Street (original version, before its slovenly, whiny, aggressive weirdness made it politically toxic). It perfectly pits the 99 percent against the 1 percent. Indeed, it is OWS translated into legislation, something the actual occupiers never had the wit to come up with.

Clever politics, but in terms of economics, it’s worse than useless. It’s counterproductive. The reason Buffett and Mitt Romney pay roughly 15 percent in taxes is that their income is principally capital gains. The Buffett Rule is, in fact, a disguised tax hike on capital gains. But Obama prefers to present it as just an alternative minimum tax because 50 years of economic history show that raising the capital gains tax backfires: It reduces federal revenue, while lowering the tax raises revenue.

No matter. Obama had famously said in 2008 that even if that’s the case, he’d still raise the capital gains tax — for the sake of fairness. …


Mark Steyn too.

… Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive. A nation that takes Barack Obama’s current rhetorical flourishes seriously is certainly well advanced along that dismal path. The current federal debt burden works out at about $140,000 per federal taxpayer, and President Obama is proposing to increase both debt and taxes. Are you one of those taxpayers? How much more do you want added to your $140,000 debt burden? As the Great Magician would say, pick a number, any number. Sorry, you’re wrong. Whatever you’re willing to bear, he’s got more lined up for you.

Even if you’re absolved from federal income tax, you, too, require enough people willing to keep the racket going, and America is already pushing forward into territory the rest of the developed world is steering well clear of. On April Fools’ Day, Japan and the United Kingdom both cut their corporate tax rates, leaving the United States even more of an outlier, with the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world: The top rate of federal corporate tax in the US is 35 percent. It’s 15 percent in Canada. Which is next door.

Well, who cares about corporations? Only out-of-touch dilettante playboys like Mitt Romney who – hmm, let’s see what I can produce from the bottom of the top hat – put his dog on the roof of his car as recently as 1984! That’s where your gran’ma will be under the Republicans’ plan, while your contraceptiveless teenage daughter is giving birth on the hood. “Corporations are people, my friend,” said Mitt, in what’s generally regarded as a damaging sound bite by all the smart people who think Obama’s plan to use the Buffett Rule to “close the deficit” this side of the fourth millennium is a stroke of genius.

But Mitt’s not wrong. In the end, a corporation doesn’t pay tax. The marble atrium of Global MegaCorp’s corporate HQ is indifferent to the tax rate; the Articles of Incorporation in the bottom drawer of the chairman’s desk couldn’t care less. Every dollar of “corporate” tax has to be fished out the pocket of a real flesh-and-blood human being, whether shareholder, employee or customer.

And that’s the problem. For what Obama’s spending, there aren’t enough of them, or us, or “the rich” – and there never will be. There is only one Warren Buffett. He is the third-wealthiest person on the planet. The first is a Mexican, and beyond the reach of the U.S. Treasury. Mr. Buffett is worth $44 billion. If he donated the entire lot to the Government of the United States, they would blow through it within four-and-a-half days. OK, so who’s the fourth-richest guy? He’s French. And the fifth guy’s a Spaniard. No. 6 six is Larry Ellison. He’s American, but that loser is only worth $36 billion. So he and Buffett between them could keep the United States Government going for a week. …


Daniel Henninger gives the background for the attacks on Paul Ryan. 

With the presidential battle begun, the Obama campaign has revived the Cold War nuclear strategy of launch on warning. At any suggestion that a conservative idea might be threatening its ideological fortress, the American left now launches ICBMs of rhetorical destruction.

So it was after the Supreme Court’s hearings on the Obama Affordable Care Act, which put in jeopardy the federal command to buy health insurance. After the president green-flagged the assault, the Supreme Court’s “legitimacy” was in play. The Roberts Court, wrote one blogger, is “on trial.”

On current course, House GOP Budget Chairman Paul Ryan himself may exhaust their entire thermonuclear arsenal before November. Once again, the Campaigner in Chief threw the switch himself, calling the Ryan House budget “social Darwinism,” “a Trojan horse” and “antithetical to our entire history.” Rev. Samuel Rodriquez of the Hispanic Evangelical Association said the poor would be “budget-war collateral damage.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Ryan pushed back. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said that in fact the Catholic Church’s “social magisterium” had informed his House budget. One goal of that teaching, he said, is to prevent the poor from staying poor. Nor, he added, should individuals become lifelong dependents of their government.

Just as the left thought the regulating reach of the Commerce Clause was beyond serious challenge, it long ago decided that none dare question the moral case for public spending. That social Darwinism speech Barack Obama is giving now in defense of federal programs isn’t merely a public-policy statement. It’s a Democratic encyclical. Paul Ryan’s ideas are worse than wrong. They are heresy. …


A word for the defense of the slimy sleazy John Edwards. This from Jonathan Tobin.

… John Edwards is an easy man to despise. His treatment of his wife and family and friends was awful. But these are private failings. The willingness of the press to avoid coverage of his personal conduct while he was a viable contender for his party’s presidential nomination was the real public scandal here.

There’s no question that Edwards behaved immorally by arranging for two wealthy friends and supporters to provide money for his mistress so his wife wouldn’t discover his affair. But the money given to Rielle Hunter, the equally sleazy campaign videographer who gave birth to Edwards’ child, was not a crime in the sense of the word that we normally use when discussing the court system. Gift taxes were paid on the money that was not funneled through Edwards’ presidential campaign accounts. The government’s attempt to treat this arrangement as an illegal campaign contribution for which he can be sent to jail for decades is an unprecedented attempt to expand the scope of laws that already require candidates to hire lawyers just to understand.

While the Justice Department will attempt to treat this case as the unraveling of a criminal conspiracy, what they are really doing is capitalizing on a tabloid scandal. The only reason Edwards is on trial is because he is a rich, famous and extremely unpopular person. Ambitious prosecutors believe they can convince a jury that is likely to view Edwards with as much disdain as the rest of the country that because his behavior was wrong and money was involved, that it was somehow a criminal affair.

What they are doing here is a classic case of prosecutorial overreach in which the government attempts to criminalize conduct that is worthy of censure but doesn’t actually constitute a violation of the law. Even worse, by expanding the reach of campaign finance laws, a guilty verdict against Edwards would strengthen the ability of the government to criminalize virtually any aspect of a candidate’s life. In the hands of unscrupulous officials, these laws could become a weapon to use against political enemies in a manner that could place even the most ethical politicians in the dock. Rather than give the government more power over this sphere, we need to pare back the byzantine maze of regulations.

John Edwards may well be the epitome of all that is wrong with American politics. But his prosecution symbolizes everything that is corrupt about the justice system.

Late Night Humor from Andrew Malcolm

Fallon: Harvard Law School will soon offer a class called, ‘Understanding Obama.’ While Barnum & Bailey Clown College will offer a class called, ‘Understanding Biden.’

Conan: Rick Santorum has returned to his previous job: Traveling to small towns across America and forcing them to outlaw dancing.

Leno: The New York Daily News says some airline passengers recently found maggots in an in-flight snack mix. How amazing is that? An airline still serving snacks.

Fallon: Joe Biden has a new Twitter account for campaign trail updates. His most recent update: ‘They still won’t let me on the campaign trail.’

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