April 29, 2012

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Andrew Malcolm fills us in on the folks who will be the talking heads this morning.

Because the Obama administration is not interested in taking yet another victory lap over the SEALs killing Osama bin Laden almost a year ago, the president’s counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, will get up early to be on several Sunday morning shows to recount how dramatic the incident was for those folks watching it unfold from the safety of the White House basement.

You remember Brennan as the one rushed out to the White House briefing room the next day to provide the hungry media with their cherished tick-tock account of the commandos’ penetration into Pakistan and the slaying of the instigator of 9/11.

Unfortunately, so eager was the administration to tell its story quickly, that Brennan’s premature enunciation of the event contained numerous details later adjusted or contradicted, detracting from the anticipated accolades.

By now, however, most of the raid confusion is cleared. And everyone knows that the successful killing was mainly the result of Obama’s brave decision, although the SEALs, the stealth helicopter pilots and the Air Force electronic cloaking crews probably helped a little.

Oh, look, it’s an election year!

Anyway, Brennan will tell his boss’ tale on Fox News Sunday, CNN’s State of the Union and ABC’s This Week. Perhaps he’ll also be asked about the TSA’s effectiveness in fighting terror and causing ridiculous patdowns. …


Noemie Emery says the Dems are running from the Healthcare bill like it carried the plague. 

Two years and one month after it passed — and two years and three months after it might have proved useful — Democrats are regretting the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Now that we know it is nothing if not unaffordable, the act is itself the main danger from which they seek political protection and shelter.

Why now? Perhaps to get a jump on things before the act is ruled unconstitutional, or before it causes even more Democrats to lose in November, or before President Romney repeals it in 2013. “I think that the manner in which the issue was dealt with … cost Obama a lot of credibility as a leader,” said Sen. James Webb, D-Va. Webb, who voted for passage and is retiring after one term, added that if Obama had gone for a small, simple measure, he could have won some Republican votes.

Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., who is also retiring, remarked that “[w]e would all have been better off if we had dealt first with the financial system” and said Democrats wasted time and political capital creating problems that dragged the economy down.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., who is also retiring, said the bill should have been done in “digestible pieces,” and they should have ‘figure[d] how they were going to pay for the bill, and then figure[d] out what they could afford.”

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., of all people, says the Democrats should have stopped after Scott Brown won his election. …


David Harsanyi outlines the latest Obamacare fraud.

If the Obama administration expended as much creative energy saving taxpayers money as it does obscuring the costs of Obamacare, we’d probably have a program worth saving.

But from day one, the health care law has been larded with double-counting gimmickry to conceal its $1 trillion price tag. It started by measuring eight years of services against 10 years of taxes, and it has continued with an avalanche of waivers that shield friends of the White House from the cost of the very law they helped pass.

We now have another unsavory example of how government-controlled health means politicized health care.

If the law had been followed as written, Obamacare should have slashed the popular market-oriented Medicare Advantage program this year. The cuts are needed to divert funding to a Medicaid expansion that will provide coverage to millions of uninsured — the central case for the creation of Obamacare.

It’s no surprise that Medicare’s most market-focused program pushes down premiums and enrollment up. So rather than allow millions of enrollees in vital swing states, such as Florida, to experience a major benefit cut right before an election, the administration founded an $8.3 billion pilot program. This year, for example, the program offsets about 70 percent of the cuts in Advantage. The cost will be paid from the Medicare trust fund (which had a $288.3 billion shortfall this year). The consequences will be put off, conveniently, until after the election. …


Steven Hayward takes a shot at explaining the education bubble.

I haven’t had much to say here about the higher education bubble, a favorite topic of Glenn Reynolds over on Instapundit.  But with total student loan debt topping $1 trillion (higher than total credit card debt I believe), this is looking like the next major financial disaster.  Among other things, student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy, so many debt-happy students are coming out of college with the equivalent of a mortgage before they get a job.  The consequences of this are easy to see; among other things, it will slow the long-term prospects for the housing market, as millions of young graduates will have to put off home ownership because they won’t be able to qualify for home loans.  Meanwhile, Obama, and the New York Times, say: Let’s do more of this!  (The headline for the New York Times editorial seems written deliberately to make satire more difficult: “Subsidize Students, Not Tax Cuts.”  I mean really, do they have to make my job this easy?)

Student loans, among other factors, have contributed significantly to the outsized increase in college costs, which have risen faster than housing prices during the bubble, or health care costs.  Here’s how I explain it in common sense terms.  When I attended college in the late 1970s, tuition and room and board were a little less than $6,000 a year.  Round up slightly and you have a four-year cost of about $25,000.  If you went to a state university, your price tag was about half of that, and student loans might be, say, $10,000.  That $25,000 cost was in the ballpark for first-year starting professional salaries for a new college graduate in 1980, when I took my diploma; most banks and other businesses I interviewed with in those days had jobs starting around the $18 – $24K range.  In other words, your first year starting professional wage was about equivalent to the total cost of your BA.

Today, a good private college costs between $40 and $50K a year; many state universities will run you over $20K a year.  Total cost for four year now: $150K or more. …


Jonathan Tobin has more on the bad day the administration had last week at the Supreme Court.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. may have been outclassed when he went up against Paul D. Clement arguing the case to uphold the constitutionality of ObamaCare before the Supreme Court of the United States. But today, when the pair once again matched up in the same forum when the high court met to hear arguments about the state of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, it appears that the result was much the same. As the New York Times reports, even the liberal justices inclined to be on the same side of the administration, which wants the law struck down, gave the impression that they thought the solicitor general was something of a flop.

While Verrilli’s second humiliation — even Justice Sonia Sotomayor was so unimpressed with his presentation that she felt the need to tell him,  “You can see it’s not selling very well” — was noteworthy, even more important was the fact that it appeared that the key provision of the Arizona law would not only be upheld but that most of the justices — even the liberals — seemed to agree that there was nothing unreasonable about it. Given the opprobrium that the mainstream media has heaped on Arizona and the way that most of the chattering classes had spoken of the law and its supporters as racists, the reaction of the court must be a shock to the administration and to its liberal supporters. …


Peter Ferrara has a good piece on how the poor are always the first hurt by the economic fallacies of the left progressives.

Persistent economic fallacies hurt working people and the poor the most.  They are the ones most in need of the new jobs and higher wages that capital investment and economic growth produce.  And they suffer the most from unemployment and declining wages and incomes when the economy falters.  Self-styled Progressives are the source of the economic fallacies that are hurting working people and the poor today.

One common fallacy popular among self-proclaimed Progressives is to reply to the point that America now has the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world at nearly 40% with the counter that the average effective corporate tax rate is only around 25%.  But it is the marginal tax rate on the next dollar earned, not the average rate, that influences new investment, business expansion, and hiring.

Pro-growth tax reform would involve reducing that top rate in return for closing many of the loopholes that make the average rate so much lower.  The average rate would rise as a result.  But the lower marginal rate would increase incentives for more capital investment, business expansion and job creation.

Another fallacy among Progressives is to argue that America has enjoyed historically low taxes under President Obama with federal revenues around 15% of GDP compared to the long-term, postwar average of 18.3%.  But that is due to the persistent weakness of the economy under Obama, which lowers federal revenues as a percent of  GDP, as bankrupt businesses and unemployed workers pay little or nothing in taxes.

Again, what influences the capital investment, business start ups, and business expansion that creates jobs and bids up wages for working people and the poor are the marginal tax rates, not taxes as a percent of GDP.  Obama has persistently focused on raising those marginal tax rates across the board, the exact opposite of what Reagan did with so much success, which is a main reason Obama is getting the opposite results of Reagan.  Obama has recently taken to citing Reagan for the opposite of what he believed and implemented as President, in claiming his support for the so-called Buffett Rule.  But the real economy will not be fooled, and working people and the poor will not benefit from dishonest rhetoric. …


WSJ OpEd on what we can learn from tax policies of different states. 

Barack Obama is asking Americans to gamble that the U.S. economy can be taxed into prosperity. That’s the message of his campaign for the Buffett Rule, which raises income-tax rates on millionaires to a minimum of 30%, and for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. He wants to raise the highest income tax rate by 20%, double the rate on capital gains, add a new 3.8% tax on all capital earnings, and nearly triple the dividend tax rate.

All this will enhance “economic efficiency,” insists a White House economic report. As for those who disagree, says President Obama, they’re just pushing “the same version of trickle-down economics tried for much of the last century. . . . But prosperity sure didn’t trickle down.”

Mr. Obama needs a refresher course on the 1920s, 1960s, 1980s and even the 1990s, when government spending and taxes fell and employment and incomes grew rapidly.

But if the president wants to see fresher evidence of how taxes matter, he can look to what’s happening in the 50 states. In our new report “Rich States, Poor States,” prepared for the American Legislative Exchange Council, we compare the economic performance of states with no income tax to that of states with high rates. It’s like comparing Hong Kong with Greece or King Kong with fleas.

Every year for the past 40, the states without income taxes had faster output growth (measured on a decadal basis) than the states with the highest income taxes. In 1980, for example, there were 10 zero-income-tax states. Over the decade leading up to 1980, those states grew 32.3 percentage points faster than the 10 states with the highest tax rates. Job growth was also much higher in the zero-tax states. The states with the nine highest income tax rates had no net job growth at all, and seven of those nine managed to lose jobs. …

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