American Elephants

Obama Has Brought Economic Mobility to a Screeching Halt. by The Elephant's Child

The federal government, for its own convenience, divides the American people into five classes by income. One poor, three middle, and one rich — or perhaps now it’s two middle and two rich. The Occupy people, an unfortunate distraction, divided Americans up into the 1% and the 99%, the filthy rich and the rest of us.  I always assumed it was the 1% of Occupy layabouts and the rest of us, for I certainly didn’t care to be associated with that mess.

There are reasonable ideas behind these divisions, for Americans believe there should be a safety net, and the poor and disabled should have the help they need. But then everybody starts using the “classes,” and drawing sharp lines and becoming obsessed by inequality, and the “growing gap” between the rich and the middle class. They do not understand the economy as a living, changing entity.

They see the economy as a pie, and if the rich get richer, then the rest will have to subsist on less. The rich make the poor poorer. But that is nonsense. The amount of money in the economy grows to accommodate increased economic activity. In theory, when the economy needs more money, the treasury prints some. In our current situation, we borrow more and sign more promissory notes.

The current battle over “The Fiscal Cliff” is all about “the rich.” President Obama wants to tax “the rich” significantly more because he has decided that they aren’t paying their “fair share” even though we have the most progressive taxes among  industrialized countries (until France elected a socialist president who raised taxes on the rich and the rich moved out of the country). This has long been a fixed idea among liberals.

According to Timothy Noah, a senior editor at the New Republic, the inequality dates from the Reagan tax cuts. The present gap between rich and middle class is intolerable. Noah declared it indisputable that income inequality is bad not only for people on the losing end but also for society at large.

There has always been enormous mobility in the American population. Young people start out poor, find jobs, get promoted or find a better job, and with hard work some even get rich.The rich are not the same people over time, nor are the poor. Obama hasn’t managed to make people richer, though he’s tried with his subsidies for political cronies; but  he has succeeded beyond anyone’s dreams at enormously enlarging the numbers of those considered poor. Over 540,000 people have dropped out of the labor force. More than 24 million Americans who want jobs don’t have them, driving labor force participation down to 63,6%. That is his accomplishment, not, as he so often claims, Bush’s fault.

There will be another big drop in the ranks of the employed in January as company after company lays off workers as a result of ObamaCare, and the threat of sequestration hits military defense contractors. Increasing taxes on “the rich” will only add to the unemployed as small businesses, who are the usual engine of prosperity, are deprived of the funds they might have used to hire or expand. New regulations being streamed out of the EPA will do more damage to the economy. The EPA has announced that consideration of costs or job losses are not a matter that they consider. They are only protecting the environment.

To make the economy prosper, we do not need to extract more taxes from the rich, we need to add a minimum of 200,000 new jobs every month. It is not happening, and because we are determinedly pursuing the wrong policies, there is no relief in sight. Obama created this mess, his policies have cost millions of jobs and money he has extracted from taxpayers has been wasted in endless, useless green schemes. If the president wants to know why the economy isn’t recovering, he only has to look in the mirror.

Shining the Public Spotlight on Sneaky Secrets at the EPA. What Will Be Revealed? by The Elephant's Child

Lisa Jackson

Splendid news from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is administrator Lisa Jackson’s forthcoming departure. It is a major victory for transparency and accountability in Washington.

There have been whispers for years and rumors that EPA officials used private email addresses, fake names and coded messages to avoid the strictures of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Jackson’s use of “Richard Windsor” as her chosen email address has recently become public, and Jackson admitted to using “Richard Windsor”as her nom de plume on a government email account.

The EPA inspector general opened an investigation into the matter because it is against federal law to use nonofficial or secret email addresses to conduct official business.  The use of private or false flag emails enables government officials to hide things that they would prefer we do not know about. And hiding things from FOIA requests is illegal. But the EPA has been hiding things for a very long time.

During the Clinton years, Carol Browner (a former senatorial aide to Vice President Gore) headed the EPA. She ordered the hard drive on her government computer to be reformatted and all backup tapes destroyed, just hours after a federal judge ordered her agency to preserve all agency email records. Only hopelessly naive or blindly partisan folks took seriously Browner’s doe-eyed claim that it was all just a big mistake and she certainly wasn’t trying to cover up anything. Nothing to see here, so move along, folks.

And nothing was done.

Christopher Horner, a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and FOIA expert turned up an internal memo from the EPA’s IT department, which described the process for establishing and using secret email accounts.

That particular revelation engendered real warfare among Jackson’s EPA, a federal court, at least two Congressional committees, Horner and the CEI over thousands of other internal emails and documents that are likely to shed light on the illegalities going on at the environmental agency. The EPA has authored hundreds of regulations that damage business, cost jobs, and involve huge costs to innocent bystanders for highly questionable reasons dependent on unusually questionable evidence.

The conflict is ongoing, and there are sure to be more ugly revelations. Those who defend Jackson will claim that her departure has nothing to do with such matters.  Chris Horner makes an obvious point: “It is not only implausible that Lisa Jackson’s resignation was unrelated to her false identity, which we revealed, given how the obvious outcome and apparent objective of such transparency laws was intolerable. But it became an inevitability when, last week, the Department of Justice agreed (as a result of our lawsuit) to begin producing 12,000 of her “Richard Windsor” alias accounts related to the war on coal Jackson was orchestrating on behalf of President Obama outside of the appropriate democratic process.”

Along with all the other things the Obama administration hid until ‘after the election’ there are dozens of Jackson’s most costly and controversial proposed regulations, which the administration is now releasing. These regulations are especially damaging to the coal industry which supplies the major portion of our electric power.

President Obama has long made clear that he wants to bankrupt the coal industry, which seems to be part of his desire to save the planet from a global warming that is proving to be non-existent. There are lots of legal battles to come.

It has become obvious that many of the numbers put forth by the agency are fraudulent, environmental damage is invented, and harm to humanity is exaggerated hooey. That’s what transparency and accountability are all about.

If you believe that the government’s business should be conducted in public, this is a significant beginning. Nobody in government has ever gone to jail for violating a FOIA request, and Jackson won’t go to jail either. But the agency is now an object of attention by the IG office as well as Congressional committees. That can only help.

The Do-Something Disease. by The Elephant's Child

Reflecting on the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, have you ever noticed how very brief the period is when the murder is blamed on the perpetrator, and how quickly the blame shifts to society in general? It’s not the perpetrator — it’s us. We are too violent as a society. We have a love affair with guns. We allow assault weapons in our society. We play violent video games. We allow and enjoy violent movies. We are bad parents. We don’t put our mentally ill people away. And so it goes. We must all understand that it is not the fault of the perpetrator, it is our fault.

Blame immediately shifts to guns, and not just any guns, but “assault weapons,” which seem to be any kind of guns that look scary. Assault weapons have been banned before, which didn’t do much good, and Congress twisted itself into pretzels trying to describe what constituted an “assault weapon.” It is not a descriptive term. An assault weapon is one used to assault someone, and could be a baseball bat or a kitchen knife. Semi-automatic simply means not automatic. So naturally, a large group of people marched on the National Rifle Association headquarters, which perhaps made them feel good.

The questions about mental health are more difficult. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has lobbied for laws that prevent people from being committed in most circumstances, and account for much of the mentally ill homeless being on the street instead of being treated. It is very difficult to get anyone committed or restrained. Mental health professionals are the first to point out that those who most need help are often not amenable to treatment of any kind, and that it is not really possible to correctly designate those who are most likely to commit mass murder.

The New York Times headline said “N.R.A. Envisions ‘a Good Guy With a Gun’ in Every School.”

The N.R.A.’s plan for countering school shootings, coming a week after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was met with widespread derision from school administrators, law enforcement officials and politicians, with some critics calling it “delusional” and “paranoid.” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, said arming schools would not make them safer.

National Review correctly and quietly pointed out that 1/3 of public schools already have armed security on staff, as of the 2009-20010 school year, the most recent data, and a number of states and districts that do not use them are discussing the idea.

In the wake of a dreadful shooting, particularly of helpless schoolchildren, it is natural to want to do something to prevent such happenings.

When Major Nidal Hassan, an Army Psychiatrist, supervised by other Psychiatrists, shot 13 people and wounded 29 others,at Fort Hood Texas Nov. 5, 2009, there was, in retrospect, all sorts of evidence that should have warned his superiors that he was a danger.  Three years later, he has not yet been tried. The incident is described by Homeland Security as ‘workplace violence’ and those wounded are not allowed purple hearts nor any of the benefits that those wounded in combat are entitled to.

Looking back at other mass murders should make us a little more cautious about our rush to do something. There are no easy answers. New laws need slow and careful consideration, not dramatic action when emotions are high. We do need an ability to restrain or commit those who really need help, but past history shows that those who badly need help are only identified after they have committed some horror.

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