American Elephants

Representative Allen West Spoke in Florida. by The Elephant's Child

This seemed appropriate to add.


We Believe That America is Exceptional. Tell Us Why You Do. by The Elephant's Child

If our stalwart presidential candidates could pause in attacking each other long enough to talk about just why this is such an important election, and what they hope to do about it, I suspect we would all appreciate it.

When Barack Obama spoke during the campaign about hope and change, not enough people paid attention to his record as the most liberal senator in the Capitol. We were dazzled by footwork, and halos that appeared about the candidate’s head, presidential seals and promises to bring peace and non-partisanship to Washington DC.

Liberals are puzzled by our continuing affection for Ronald Reagan, whom they detested.  Ronald Reagan from 1975 to 1979 made more than 1,000 daily radio broadcasts, two-thirds of which he wrote himself.  They covered all sorts of topics from labor policy to the nature of communism, from World War II to the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, from the future of Africa and East Asia to that of the United States and the world. *

Richard Mitchell, whom I quote often, said in The Graves of Academe:

Thinking is done in language, and understanding, a result of thinking, is expressed in language, but, when we simply adopt and recite what has been expressed, we have committed neither thinking or understanding.

It’s not easy to get your ideas down on paper. The radio broadcasts were roughly 400-500 words long, and about every subject ranging from Cuba, to Peace, Human Rights, Intelligence and the Media, Rhodesia, SALT Talks, Arms Control. In these thousand broadcasts, Reagan said succinctly what he thought about a vast array of subjects. And it’s why he could explain so clearly to Mr. Gorbachev just what he had in mind.

Richard Mitchell also said that the business of writing is to stay put on the page so that you can go back and look at the words and see where you have been stupid. Writing is a special case of language that allows you to get it right.

If our candidates had thought a little more deeply about just why America is so important, maybe we wouldn’t have an incumbent who believes that America is not exceptional.

Herbert Meyer, assistant to the director of the CIA during the Reagan administration, wrote at American Thinker “Why, Precisely, is America so Great?”

“The one thing that President Obama and all the GOP contenders for is job agree about is that America is the greatest country in the world. They all use this line in ever speech they make, and it always brings the  crowd cheering to its feet.  But none of these politicians ever quite gets around to explaining precisely why we’re the world’s greatest country.  That’s too bad, because it’s a serious question that deserves a serious answer — right now, before Republicans choose their candidate and before the voters make their choice in November.”

He goes on to point out that politics is the relationship between the individual and the State, the relationship that we have been struggling to get right for thousands of years. Our Constitution established a relationship between the individual and the State that was unique in history.  The individual was in charge, the State would serve the individual, and there would be an arms’ length distance between the two. It is this unique relationship that made all the difference.

If you think of this relationship as a kind of operating system — like the operating systems that drive our computers and our cell phones — you can see how it’s been steadily modified and upgraded throughout our history.  In this sense, each new law enacted by Congress has been an effort to improve the operating system.  At times in our history, for instance during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, the changes have been so substantial that it’s less like an upgrade and more like a wholly new version of the operating system that’s been installed.  But never in our history have we replaced the original operating system — that extraordinary, uniquely American relationship between the individual and the State — upon which our country was founded.

Until now.

Do read the whole essay, it’s worth your while.

*See Reagan In His Own Hand.

The Richest Nation — With Starving People? by The Elephant's Child

There’s been an annoying commercial on the radio often in the last year. A young woman says that she lives just down the street, you go the same PTA meetings, and your children play together, but you don’t know that their family is suffering from — hunger.

It is annoying because she doesn’t live just down the street, she’s a well paid voice for radio commercials. But we worry about hunger. Is it true?  There are so many people unemployed.  We’re the richest nation on earth, are children and their families going hungry?

The United States government spends nearly $1 trillion a year to provide cash, food, housing, medical care and services to poor and near-poor people. About $111 billion is spent on food by federal and state programs. With all that money invested, is it possible that people are still hungry?

Heritage Foundation researchers Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield asked that very question. According to Census Bureau data for 2009 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) of the almost 50 million Americans classified as poor, 96% of the parents said their children were never hungry.  Eighty-three percent of poor families said they had enough food to eat, and 82% of poor adults said they were never hungry at any time in 2009 due to a lack of food or money, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Nationally, one out of four school children received a free lunch in 1970.  Today two out of three school lunches are free or nearly free. Some schools serve breakfast, and there is talk of offering dinner as well. On the other hand, reports of Los Angeles kids’ refusal to eat school lunches that conform to the new Dept. of Agriculture guidelines and rules, as promoted by Michelle Obama’s “Lets Move” campaign, have been major news. Anyone who has visited a school during lunch period has probably been shocked by the amount of food that goes into the trash bins. Most of the kids aren’t really hungry.

Stories appear fairly regularly about items purchased with food stamps. A receipt for  many lobsters and a porterhouse steak purchased with food stamps was found in a grocery store parking lot in Wisconsin, widely circulated on the internet, and confirmed by Snopes. It’s not that people feel that food stamps should be used to purchase only beans and rice, but many of us who have never used food stamps have also never bought 7 or 8 lobsters and a porterhouse steak all at once. When the budget gets tight, we opt for good old reliable tuna casserole, or macaroni and cheese, instead.

Lyndon Johnson’s original food stamp program was fairly conservative, but the stamps are now a credit card (alleviating any stigma) and most constraints (save liquor) have been removed.  Fraud remains a major problem.The person who bought all the lobsters and the porterhouse for free, resold them to someone for half the price, got caught and went to jail. Many restaurants and fast food chains would like to be included. The solution would seem to be some form of work requirement.

Americans are a generous people. They don’t want anyone to go hungry, but they don’t want to be ripped off either. The taxpayer dollars that support feeding programs represent a lot of hard work on the part of American families, and a lot of tuna casseroles as well.

FDR and the New Deal Love Fest by The Elephant's Child

Professor Burton J. Folsom Jr. is author of two books on Franklin Delano Roosevelt: New Deal or Raw Deal and with Anita Folsom: FDR Goes to War. Here is a speech he delivered at Hillsdale College on FDR’s energetic experimentation that did so much damage to the economy in the 1930s. The great myth has always been that FDR saved us from the Great Depression, and then it was ended by World War II. Wrong.

I have recommended Amity Schlaes The Forgotten Man.  It is a new history of the Great Depression, and a wonderful book, with a fascinating cast of very real characters, that reads like a novel.

President Obama constantly compares his problems to the Great Depression. To indicate how big the recession he “inherited from George W. Bush” is (not his fault) but he flatters himself. The comparison lies not in the extent of the Depression [ July 1927: Unemployment 3.3%; Sept 1931; Unemployment 17.4%;  Nov. 1933: Unemployment 23.2%;  Nov. 1934: Unemployment 23.2%;  July 1935: Unemployment 21.3%;  Jan. 1938: Unemployment 17.4%; Jan. 1940: Unemployment 14.6%] but in the misguided efforts to make big government heal the economy.

FDR’s plan to make people dependent on government was a clear effort to garner votes for the Democrat party [see approximately minute 35.00 on the video]. Obama is making the same effort to make people dependent on Big Government in his campaign for a second term.  I think most of us would prefer to see a recovering economy and recovering employment.  The video is very worth your time.  A lack of understanding of history may doom us to repeat it.

Chevy Dealers Aren’t Bursting With Enthusiasm for Volts. by The Elephant's Child
January 30, 2012, 5:48 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Global Warming, Science/Technology

All is not well in the electric car business. Apparently there are more charging stations than there are cars. Some Chevrolet dealers are turning down the Volts that General Motors wants to ship to them.

In New York City, GM allocated 104 Volts to 14 dealerships in the area.  Dealers accepted just 31 of them. The same group of dealers took more than 90% of the other vehicles they were eligible to receive. Customer interest is declining.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating the fires in three battery packs last year following government test crashes.  GM has announced a repair aimed at protecting the battery pack, and NHTSA announced that they have closed their investigation and concluded that the battery pack poses no significant fire risk. Dealers are waiting for thing to settle down.

GM’s 2011 target was 10,000 units, and they sold only 7,671.  They didn’t begin a full rollout until this past autumn.  Industry people are paying close attention to the market demand for electric vehicles. Several other automakers are set to launch EVs this year.  Many dealers have seen big drops in customer interest.  The cars are pricey.

There appears to be a lot of government pressure to install charging stations, and for state and local governments to buy EVs for their auto fleets. The charging station parking slots at the mall here never seem to be occupied, but that probably doesn’t mean much of anything. The western states have long driving distances with few gas stations, let alone charging stations.

With range between charges at about 40-45 miles, long trips are for the adventurous, and require some real planning.  Will the decline in concern about carbon dioxide and global warming play a part?

Economics Can Be Fun: Lesson One by The Elephant's Child
January 29, 2012, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Entertainment | Tags: , ,

We Are Broke, and Obama Is Leading in the Wrong Direction. by The Elephant's Child

(click to enlarge)                                                    (h/t: Doug Ross Journal)

Does it sink in a little more if it is put in kitchen table terms? We are broke, and no one seems to mind. Our indebtedness, per person, according to CATO scholar Michael Tanner adds up to $189,000 each. The president, when he talks about the problem at all, seems to think that if we just get “the rich” to pay their fair share the problem will be solved.

Janet Daley, American-born columnist for the Telegraph, says that Barack Obama is trying to make the US a more socialist state.  The ideas the President outlined in the State of the Union are based on the very model that is causing the EU to implode.

Mr Obama described his program of using higher taxes on the wealthy to bankroll new government spending as ‘a recipe for a fair, sound approach to deficit reduction and rebuilding this country.’…

Human beings are so much more complicated than this childlike conception of fairness assumes. When government takes away an ever larger proportion of the wealth which entrepreneurial activity creates and attempts to distribute if “fairly” (that is to say, evenly) throughout society in the form of welfare programs and public spending projects, the effects are much, much more complex and perverse than a simple financial equation would suggest. …

There is, it turns out, a huge difference between being provided with a livelihood and feeling that you have earned it. The assumption that all the wealth that individuals create belongs, by moral right, to the state, to spend on benefits or phoney job creation schemes (sorry, public infrastructure projects), is proving phenomenally difficult to expunge in Britain, so ineradicably has it embedded itself in the public consciousness.

Investors Business Daily explains that there are Six Big Myths about the tax code that Obama is spreading.

In his speech, Obama repeatedly turned to the tax code to explain what’s wrong with the country. It favors the rich, he said. It benefits companies that send jobs abroad. It subsidizes the dirty old oil industry. It’s the cause of our deficit problem. And worst of all, plenty of people and businesses aren’t paying their “fair share.” …

The claim that the rich don’t pay their fair share is simply untrue. The current tax code is extremely progressive, more progressive in fact than it was back in 1979, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

As a result, the richest 1% today accounts for 36% of all income taxes paid, while nearly half of taxpayers owe nothing at all, or get cash back.

Economist John B. Taylor offers hope.  A strange and new idea: Individuals should be free to decide what to produce and consume, and their decisions should be made within a predictable policy framework based on the rule of law:

As this election year begins, a lot of people are wondering what we can do to restore America’s prosperity and create more jobs. Republican presidential candidates are offering their ideas, and at his State of the Union message on Tuesday President Obama presented his. I believe the fundamental answer is simple: Government policies must adhere more closely to the principles of economic freedom upon which the country was founded.

At their most basic level, these principles are that families, individuals and entrepreneurs must be free to decide what to produce, what to consume, what to buy and sell, and how to help others. Their decisions are to be made within a predictable government policy framework based on the rule of law, with strong incentives derived from the market system, and with a clearly limited role for government.

This op-ed was adapted from Mr. Taylor’s new book First Principles: Five Keys to Restoring American Prosperity.” 

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