American Elephants

When Your Opponents Attack —It’s a Compliment. by The Elephant's Child

In President Obama’s recent speech in Cleveland, he mentioned House Minority Leader Boehner no less than nine times.  In a country where a surprising number of people cannot name the Vice President, I doubt if large numbers even know who John Boehner is. But the administration certainly does, and they are worried.

The President personally attacked Mr. Boehner and accused him of obstructing efforts to boost the economy in a speech Boehner had given a few weeks previously.  That was the speech in which Mr. Boehner outlined a five-point plan to restore the American economy.

Mr. Obama said “There were no new policies from Mr. Boehner.  There were no new ideas.  There was just the same philosophy that we had already tried during the decade that they were in power — the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place.  Cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations.”

So what did Mr. Boehner propose that was so, um, old?  Republicans mostly go for ideas that work, that have stood the test of time, and are backed up by experience.  Economist Kevin Hassett described Mr. Boehner’s proposals, in an article at Bloomberg.

First he suggested, as most economists believe, that it isn’t wise to raise taxes during a recession.  Allowing the Bush tax-cuts to expire is raising taxes, significantly.  Even Obama’s former budget director says the tax cuts should be continued for two years.  He agrees with Boehner than higher taxes now would harm a weak economy.

Boehner’s second proposal was to veto any legislation that might harm business that was produced by a lame-duck Congress, because economic uncertainty  was having a damaging effect.

His third proposal was to repeal the provision in the health-care law that forced business to submit Form 1099 paperwork on every supplier from whom they purchase more than $600 worth of goods.  Mr. Obama just asked Congress to repeal this.

Fourth, Boehner suggested that spending — non-defense discretionary spending — be reduced to 2008 levels.  Mr. Boehner said in June: “Listen, the Democrat spending spree is scaring the  hell out of the American people and it’s hurting our economy.”  He got that one right.

Finally, Mr. Boehner called on the president to fire his top economic advisers, Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers.  This isn’t a new idea, but a good one.

Plenty of evidence to back up each of these proposals.  Isn’t there some old tired idea about “protesting too much?”

ADDENDUM: I got the Form 1099 thing wrong.  Congress is taking it up. The Democrats thought there was a big chunk of potential taxes in this. That is largely a myth.  Adding up the value of goods and merchandise every time a business purchases $600 worth of anything would be an enormous burden on business. Mike Johanns (R-NE) is offering an amendment to scrap the whole thing, but the White House wants to simply raise the$600 to $5,000 in fear that starting repealing anything might lead to a larger repeal.


Environmental Projects Don’t Live Up to the Hype! by The Elephant's Child

All those promises about “green jobs” that were going to stimulate job growth, sprout new industries and grow the economy — as Emily Litella used to say — “Never mind.”

The green jobs were being created in China, South Korea and Spain rather than the United States.  About $92 billion of President Obama’s original $814 billion of stimulus funds was targeted for renewable energy projects.  The Department of Energy estimated that 82,000 jobs have been created (this is undoubtedly a figure from the Keynesian computer programs that say how many jobs ought to have been created if x number of dollars were appropriated).

In one of several embarrassing disclosures for the administration, a report last fall by American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop found that 11 U.S. wind farms used their grants to purchase 695 out of 982 wind turbines from overseas suppliers.

That report raised alarms in Congress. Leading Democrats insisted that the money be spent at home, but restrictions on the funds proved impossible without the specter of a trade war.

This is called “unintended consequences.” Chinese manufacturers have taken the lead in making renewable-energy components.  They dominate many industries because of the advantages they garner from state subsidies and the country’s bountiful supply of cheap labor. With the proof that green jobs are headed overseas, even environmental advocates and their administration sympathizers are backing off  from the idea of pushing green funding as a way to stimulate the economy.

The White House saw the stimulus bill as the impetus for enacting the president’s ambitious long-range environmental program — even though they knew that most of the supposed economic effect would take years rather than have an immediate effect on the economy.

“We see a future,” President Obama said in a speech Wednesday in Cleveland, “where we build a homegrown clean-energy industry, because I don’t want to see new solar panels or electric cars or advanced batteries manufactured in Europe or in Asia. I want to see them made right here in the U.S. of A. by American workers.”

Yet those who really understand “renewables” and aren’t caught up in the gauzy promises of hope and change, point out that “Wind is Not Power at All.

Based on policy pronouncements of governments, the media, and Left environmentalists, one might believe the world is about to enter the renewable energy era. In reality, however, the “new” is about a long gone era that ended before the dawn of the 20th century. Then the primary fuel was wood. Other renewables, including water and wind, were used because they were available and technologically harnessable for some very localized situations.

This three-part series of posts (none very long) is invaluable for understanding why the vast enthusiasm for wind farms is misplaced.  The promoters welcome the subsidies, on which they depend, and when the subsidies vanish,  wind farms are abandoned.  This is true everywhere, and has been the experience in other countries.   When you do not learn from experience, you end up with a remarkable amount of wasted funding.

Do What We Say — Or Else! by The Elephant's Child

Remember back when the Democrats were trying to sell ObamaCare?  It was going to reduce the cost of healthcare, reverse the escalating costs, and cover the uninsured, and save money? Conservatives looked at the claims and were more than dubious.

On Friday, President Obama said at his press conference that “As a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that’s going to increase our costs — we knew that.”

We knew that too, but that isn’t what you claimed at the time.  We also knew that the White House was going to blame insurance companies for cost increases caused by White House policies.  Now we have Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius who is going to make all the regulations that will flesh out the 2,700 pages of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act — clarifying where the White House stands:

Witness Kathleen Sebelius’s Thursday letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group—a thuggish message even by her standards. The Health and Human Services secretary wrote that some insurers have been attributing part of their 2011 premium increases to ObamaCare and warned that “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”

Zero tolerance for expressing an opinion, or offering an explanation to policyholders? They’re more subtle than this in Caracas.

What Ms. Sebelius really means is that the government will prohibit insurers from doing business if reality is not politically convenient for Democrats. ObamaCare includes a slew of mandated benefits for next year, such as allowing children to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26 and “free” preventative care (i.e., no direct out-of-pocket cost sharing for consumers). The tone of Ms. Sebelius’s letter suggests that she doesn’t understand that money is exchanged for goods and services, and that if Congress mandates new benefits, premiums will rise.

The Administration is estimating that regulations will result in premium increases by 1% to 2% on average.  We have already received notice that ours is increasing by 16%, and I’ve seen estimates from the private sector of 9% for individual policies.

The Democrat Party owns health care.  They wanted it.  They passed it.  The Congressional Democrats who voted for it are trying to run away from it as fast as they can, and when faced up with it by angry constituents, claim that they’ll fix it — if we just give them a chance.  Uh huh.

ObamaCare gives Ms. Sebelius’s regulators the power to define “unreasonable” premium hikes, which will mean whatever they decide it will mean later this fall. She promised to keep a list of insurers “with a record of unjustified rate increases” and then to bar them from ObamaCare’s subsidized “exchanges” when they come on line in 2014. In other words, insurers must accept price controls now or face the retribution of a de facto ban on selling their products to consumers four years from now.

This thuggery is a demonstration of life under ObamaCare. Health care decisions will be made by bureaucrats, and the bureaucrats will decide who can charge how much for a service or a product.  They are politicians, not physicians, and they don’t know enough to have any idea of the unintended consequences.

ADDENDUM: Michael Barone takes on Secretary Sebelius as well.  Sorry folks, you are not allowed to criticize the health-care law.  Secretary Sebelius says that “according to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact…will be minimal.” Well, sure.  You can always find “some experts” to go along with anything.  This kind of bullying goes on in some countries — but we have something called the First Amendment, that this administration ignores when it suits them.

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