American Elephants

Class Warfare: How the Game is Played! by The Elephant's Child

President Obama can’t let go of the executive jet theme.  He must regard an executive jet as a fat cat accessory that will really offend ordinary folk.  The left is deeply invested in “equality” and most of their policies are designed, in theory, to make people more equal — except, of course for those bright, dedicated, incorruptible people in government who will decide — everything.

A corporate jet is meant to get executives to corporate meetings, corporate locations with as little wasted time as possible. Yes, they are expensive.  Corporate executives’ time is expensive. Attacking corporate jets is attacking an important American industry which employs thousands of Americans. Guess who gets hurt? Not the executives, but the people who design, build and sell airplanes, who face layoffs, lost sales, a damaged industry.

The left maintains that inequality in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent decades.  Since 1979, they claim, only those at the top have seen their income rise significantly.  Thirty-six percent of all after-tax gains went to the most affluent 1% of the population.  Over 20% of those gains went to the top thousandth (0.1%)of the income distribution. Thus, they say, Economic inequality in the U.S. is now greater than at any time since the beginning of the Great Depression.

Why is this important? The poor have not been getting any poorer. Zero remains zero, if the poor earn no income.  The definition of the poor has changed, because the government “poverty line” below which one is “poor” keeps being raised to include more people. So although more people may now be considered “poor” their situation is not getting worse.  We have all sorts of programs to make sure that the poor don’t have to live poor, and statistics show us that they don’t. The poor are not poor because the rich are rich.

More importantly, the poor, over time, are not the same people. Young people, going out on their own for the first time are usually poor, share living quarters and work in beginning jobs. Over time, they move up. The rich also are not the same people over time. You can check that out on Forbes‘ annual list of the richest people in the country and in the world. People move in and out of the list quite regularly.

At the upper end of the income distribution, you have Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs, and many others. Has the definition of “the rich” changed since 1979?  Oh yeah!  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (and a lot of others) labored in a new industry that went from strange little machines that only geeks were interested in, to putting computers into most homes, offices, schools, stores and laps. They were in the right place at the right time with the right ideas. Some people are lucky and skillful enough to bring all three elements together.

That has happened many times, over and over in history. The fact that some people get rich doesn’t deprive anyone else. They usually create a lot more wealth for others.  There is not a money pie wherein if one person gets a bigger slice— everyone else gets cheated. When growth like that happens, the economy expands. We’ve had oil barons, cattle barons, railroad barons, movie moguls, rock stars, and on and on. There are new things out there waiting to be invented that will make other people rich.  Are we supposed to hate anyone who becomes rich through his own efforts or his own luck?  Why?

Wealth and poverty are the result of choices: hard work, persistence, determination, education and luck. If a young person graduates from high school, waits to get married until after they have graduated from high school, and waits to have a child until after they have married, in general, they will do alright.

A new study from the Pew Research Center trumpets a new wealth gap between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics.  “The median wealth of white households is 20 times the median wealth of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households.”  Call this playing politics with statistics.  A “median” number is just the number in the middle, not an average.

The collapse of the housing market and the recession took a far greater toll on blacks and Hispanics than on whites. Much of the housing bubble was caused by government policies that encouraged minorities to buy homes that under normal prudent rules of lending, they would not have been able to afford. Most of the wealth of blacks and Hispanics was in their home equity, and they were hit hard.

The study is based on an economic survey distributed by the Census Bureau that compiles data about household wealth by race and ethnicity.  Plummeting home values were the principal cause of the erosion in wealth among all groups, with Hispanics the hardest hit. A disproportionate number of Hispanics were located in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, states hardest  hit by the decline in housing values. Blacks and Hispanics have also been harder hit by unemployment numbers in manufacturing and construction.

Expect this study to make political  headlines across the country.  A president who is already anxious to  campaign on class warfare and the race card will not be able to resist.

A growing economy would change the picture.  How do we get a growing economy? Stop wasteful government spending, and remove the regulation and uncertainty that are hamstringing business.

Set them free.


Senator Marco Rubio Speaks on the Debt Crisis. by The Elephant's Child

This young Senator is an impressive addition to the Senate.

We’ve got three things going on. One is, of course the debt limit. We have to raise it to allow the government to borrow enough to pay the bills that we have already racked up.

Senator Rubio clarifies the second. The government is spending $300 billion a month.  The government receives $180 billion each month. And each month they need to borrow $120 billion. These are round figures, but close enough.

The third element is the rating agencies who have said that they will downgrade our credit rating from AAA if we don’t get our spending under control. They aren’t interested in the debt ceiling, but only in seeing that we are making a serious effort to get the spending under control.That shouldn’t be difficult  with our bloated, wasteful government.

The battle continues.

Overcriminalization: You May be the Next Felon! by The Elephant's Child

For decades, lawyers, academics and government officials have attempted to count the total number of federal criminal laws. The best attempt was way back in 1982, when Justice Department lawyers undertook the effort as part of a long and ultimately failed campaign to persuade Congress to revise the criminal code, which by the 1980s was scattered around among 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law. They were trying to expose the idiocy of the system.

The effort spanned two years, and in the end produced only an educated estimate of something around 3,000 criminal offenses. Subsequent efforts by computer searches didn’t produce a specific estimate.

John Baker, a retired Louisiana State University law professor who has tried just counting the number of new federal crimes created in recent years said:

There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime.  That is not an exaggeration.

Even those who have never attended an auto race, like me, are probably familiar with the name Bobby Unser, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.  He also survived sub-zero blizzard conditions in the mountains and faced down every challenge until he encountered the U.S. Forest Service.

Uh huh.  Eddie Leroy Anderson of Craigmont, Idaho is a retired logger, a former science teacher and now a federal criminal.  In 2009, the 68 year-old Mr. Anderson and his son went hunting for arrowheads near a favorite campground of theirs.  They didn’t find any arrowheads that day, but unfortunately they were on federal land.  The law, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, doesn’t require criminal intent and makes it a felony punishable by up to two years in prison to attempt to take artifacts off federal land without a permit.

The two men, faced with that reality pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and got a year’s probation and a $1,500 penalty each.

The Andersons are two of hundreds of thousands of Americans who are charged and convicted in recent decades under federal criminal laws — as opposed to state or local laws — as the federal justice system has dramatically expanded its authority and reach.  As the laws have increased,  it has become ever easier for Americans to end up on the wrong side of the law. Many laws set a lower standard for conviction than in the past. Prosecutors don’t necessarily need to show that the defendant had criminal intent.

The first federal criminal statute, signed into law April 30, 1793 listed just a few offenses: treason, counterfeiting, piracy and murder, maiming and robbery in federal jurisdictions.  It’s easy for legislators to respond to the cry of  ‘We need a law,” and much more difficult to pause and realize that perhaps we don’t really need another law. And when Big Government grows so bloated and intrusive that ordinary citizens become federal felons over something that they had no conception could even be a law— can we whittle down the size of government and particularly the intrusiveness, or are we doomed to all end up in prison?

There are many organizations working on trying to remedy the situation, and several authors have detailed the problem.  If you want to see if you are at risk:

One Nation Under Arrest by Paul Rosenzweig and Brian W. Walsh
Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Harvey Silvergate
Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of almost Everything by Gene Healy

“New Tone,” “Shared Sacrifice” and Other Unhinged Rhetoric from the Democrats! by The Elephant's Child
July 29, 2011, 6:05 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Politics

The House of Representatives has passed the Boehner bill authorizing a limited increase in the $14.3 trillion debt limit in exchange for more than $900 billion cuts in spending. The vote was 218-210 after Speaker Boehner (R-OH) agreed to revise the legislation to condition a second increase in the debt ceiling on congressional passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

The debt ceiling must be raised so that we can pay off the balance on the federal credit card. They have already spent the money, and we have to borrow more money to pay the bills.

Because we have already spent more money than we can afford, Republicans are demanding that we cut back on spending money that we don’t have, but have to borrow. They are asking for a balanced budget amendment—something that most states have—to force some discipline on Congress and keep them from running up more credit card bills.

Remember that the government has no money of its own. Government money comes from taxpayers — you, and the Democrats want more.  Republicans think people are taxed enough, and the problem is a spendaholic government. that needs to be forced to cut back a little.

The Democrats simply want to continue their spending spree, and are furious that the Republicans are trying to make them stop.  Verum Serum did a helpful roundup of the new tone the Democrats have adopted during the debate:

•Rep. Nancy Pelosi – “We’re trying to save life on this planet as we know it today.”
•Rep. Nancy Pelosi – “They want to destroy your rights.”
•Sen. Harry Reid
– “The time for ideological extremism should end.”
•Rep. Rangel
– “These people don’t care about our country.”
•Comm. Director Dan Pfeiffer – “…could potentially put us towards a depression because House Republicans…are unwilling to compromise.”
•DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz – “This is almost like dictatorship.”
•Rep. Garamendi (D-CA) – “They basically want to terminate the American Dream.”
•Rachel Maddow – “shameless, craven, unprincipled, partisan hackery”
•Tom Friedman – “If sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the G.O.P. on a suicide mission.”
•Rep. Hoyer – “They want to shoot every bullet they have at the president.”
•Van Jones – “They want to repeal the 20th century. They want to smash down every American institution our grandparents fought for…”
•Joe Klein – “Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation.”
•Steve Rattner on MSNBC – “It’s a form of economic terrorism…These Tea Party guys are like strapped with dynamite standing in the middle of Times Square at rush hour saying either you do it my way or we’re going to blow you up, ourselves up, and the whole country with us.”

Is this the way it goes at the kitchen table in your house? The credit card bill gets big enough that you realize that you’re in trouble. You demand that the rest of the family pay attention, recognize the problem and agree to hold off on spending until you get the bill paid off, and recognize the need to change their ways a little.

Do the wife and kids start screaming that you’re trying to destroy their lives, ruin everything the family has ever stood for, that you don’t care about them? Can you identify the children in this scenario?

The Democrats have no plan. The president has offered no plan. (The Harry Reid “plan” includes “cuts in spending” that say—if we were to keep the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan going for another 10 years it would cost $1 trillion .  But we’re not going to do that, we’re withdrawing our troops in 2014, so we would have $ 1 trillion in savings.)  See Paul Ryan (R-WI) explain the Democrats spending cut gimmicks here.

The battle isn’t about the debt limit.  The battle is about the Democrats desire to keep right on spending, and the Republicans desire to make them cut back a little.  The flaming language defending their spending spree is hard to understand — strangling the nation, dictatorship, destroying your rights?

The other news today is slower growth for the economy, more mass layoffs, a downward revision of growth estimates for last month, the stock market down another 100 points. Republicans really want to get back to a growing economy.  Why don’t the Democrats want that?

Arctic Problems and Arctic Politics by The Elephant's Child

Five years ago, Charles Monnett was one of the scientists whose observation that several polar bears had drowned in the Arctic Ocean was quickly latched onto by the global warming movement. Now the wildlife biologist is on administrative leave and facing questions about scientific integrity issues.

The 2006 article about the bear spawned more controversy about melting Arctic ice, and the effects of global warming.

Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says the case reinforces the group’s position that people should be more skeptical about the work of climate change scientists.  Even if every scientist is objective, “what we’re being asked to do is turn our economy around and spend trillions and trillions of dollars on the basis of” claims about climate change.

In 2004, Monnett and researcher Jeffrey Gleason were conducting an aerial survey of bowhead whales, and saw four dead polar bears floating in the water after a storm. Low-resolution photos show floating white blobs.

The two detailed their observations in an article published in the journal Polar Biology.  In the peer-reviewed article, they said they were reporting, to the best of their knowledge, the first observations of bears floating dead and presumed drowned while swimming long distances. They said their observation suggested the bears drowned in rough seas and high winds.  They added that the findings “suggest that drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues.”

The article drew national attention,and green groups seized on the polar bear as a symbol of the “disastrous effect of warming” on the Arctic. In 2008, the bear was classified as a “threatened species”, even though their numbers had been increasing sharply.

Polar bears can swim long distances.  I’ve seen numbers as high as 60 miles. The Arctic ice melts in the summer and expands in the winter. Some years it melts more, others less. The alarmists want to point to any open water as a sign of doom for the world. And more particularly, they want to use the polar bear to keep oil companies from drilling in Alaska or off the Alaskan coast. They probably care more about the latter than the former.

There are a lot of suppositions and politics in those assumptions. Clearly, the polar bear is not threatened or endangered.  Their numbers have increased too much. Satellite surveys of Arctic ice indicate that the Arctic has not melted.  The new paper from UAH’s Spencer and Braswell has blown a fair sized hole in global warming theory. It is a good thing to step back and check the science and the assumptions derived from the science. The federal government has taken a good many actions based on flawed science that have cost jobs, livelihoods and the public’s pocketbook.  Insisting on truth and accuracy is good politics.

New Questions About Global Climate Predictions! by The Elephant's Child

New NASA satellite data from the years 2000 to 2011 show that the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than the computer models of the IPCC have predicted.  A new study reported in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing indicate that increases in atmospheric CO2 trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

The observations suggest that “there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show.,” said study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite.  “There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”

Spencer and  UA Huntsville’s Dr. Danny Braswell compared what a half-dozen of the IPCC’s climate models say that the climate should do with satellite data showing what the atmosphere actually did during the 18 months before and after warming events between 2000 and 2011.

Not only does the atmosphere release more energy than was believed, it starts releasing it earlier in a warming cycle—more than three months before the warming event reaches its peak.

The paper “On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant energy Balance“can be found here, comments from Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. can be found here.

And all that stuff about the “greenhouse effect,” nevermind.

Ignorance of the Past Leads to Folly in the Present! by The Elephant's Child

Investors Business Daily has a column today suggesting that the burgeoning theme in Washington, quietly whispered among the power brokers is — the “new normal.” I recognize that one.  We’ve been here before.  The American Dream is over, Japan is Number One.  Oh wait — that was way back in January, 1990.

I have seen articles suggesting that unemployment is destined to remain high—permanently. Manufacturing will continue to shrink. A home is not a good investment. There will be no more high paying jobs (well, except in government of course, where all the bright people are).   The U.S. is not going to be a fast-growing superpower, and we need to stop acting like one.  We need more government agencies run by the best and brightest  to take care of all the people who are displaced by the ‘new normal.’  It is unfortunate, but we must resign ourselves to double-digit unemployment.

The world is running out of energy, so we must live more sustainable lives. We must use less energy, less precious water.  We can no longer afford to squander space and energy and wealth on strip malls and suburbs. We need more sustainable communities and more  sustainable lives in more compact sustainable cities. All stuffed in there, cheek to jowl. That’s “the new urbanism.” Another lefty dream. See this interesting graph!

China could pass the United States as the world’s largest economy as early as 2016.  The International Monetary Fund said that back in April.  This assumes that if China is growing at 10% today, it will always grow at 10%.  China made a big mistake with its one child policy.  By 2040, China’s elderly population will exceed the total population of Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Japan. Every elderly person will be supported by two workers. Good luck with that. Will they dispose of their elderly as they have disposed of those unfortunate girl children? And what about all those young men who cannot find wives? Will they fill up their empty cities?

This is straight line thinking. If unemployment is high today, it will always be high.  If we are short of energy today, we will always be short of energy.  Nothing will ever change. You will notice that men are still wearing powdered wigs and writing with quill pens. The ships that ply the ocean are propelled by canvas sails, and it takes a long time to get anywhere.  And we are still a small nation of 13 states.  Nothing will ever change.

We have an unusual number of people invested in predicting the future, not only in silly media columns. They have devised computer models to predict the climate in 50 years and 100 years, and are busily trying to make regulations and laws to prepare for the future predicted by their computers. Odd, when our best weather forecasters have trouble predicting the weather for the following week.  Seven days is about their limit.

America was settled by people who had the courage and independent spirit to pack up and cross a vast ocean in a voyage that lasted months rather than days. They knew little about the wilderness that awaited them.  They built their own communities and made up their own rules.  And once the towns got too big or the rules too onerous, they packed up and moved on to where they could again build their own communities and make up their own rules.

Because it was a new country, they had to find ways to adapt, to create and  invent to cope with a new land and new surroundings.  There was no heavy hand of government to spell out what they could and could not do. They started out trying to create what they already knew, and as they changed the land, the land changed them. American exceptionalism derives from that creative, independent spirit.  How odd that our current president should see this country as no more exceptional than any other.

How very strange that the left insists that the American Dream is to be found in “the new normal” and in “the new urbanism.” Have to stamp out all that independent spirit! The government will nurture the creativity, we just need an agency to direct it into the correct path.

Ignorance of the past leads to folly in the present. Freedom and democracy require a modicum of truth to survive. I like these lines from Bruce Thornton’s Plagues of Mind:

The importance of history lies in its ability to give a sort of visual depth to our expectations and ideas, to place them in the only context that matters—the dense and intricate record of what humans have thought and attempted and experienced, their successes and failures, their nobility and pettiness.  History gives us ideals to strive for and failures both practical and moral to avoid. By familiarizing ourselves with the record of humanity’s deeds and crimes, we achieve a critical distance from the manifold passions and interests of the present, and we win a calm space in which we can judge with a cooler eye, the hectic novelties and temptations bombarding us.  Without that, we fall into the trap of judging everything from the standards and “knowledge” of the present.

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