American Elephants

Stuff You Probably Never Knew, But Should. by The Elephant's Child

What’s the difference between horns and antlers? The Brain Scoop’s Emily Graslie explains.

(h/t: thekidshouldseethis)

More Taxes, More Spending — Not The Way To Grow The Economy by The Elephant's Child

President Obama used his weekly address this last weekend to talk about his priorities and misstate every available fact. Does anyone listen to these weekly utterances? He said:

Our top priority as a nation, and my top priority as President, must be doing everything we can to reignite the engine of America’s growth; a rising thriving middle class. That’s our North Star. That must drive every decision we make.

Now, yesterday, we learned that our businesses created 95,000 new jobs last month. That’s about 500,000 new jobs this year, and nearly 6.5 million new jobs over the past three years.

There were 88,000 new jobs in March, but 660,000 more people left the labor force. When you subtract 660,000 from 88,000, you don’t get North Star quality job growth, nor any job growth at all. Mr. Obama insists on counting only the pluses and ignoring anything that might reflect badly on him. He claims that he has already reduced the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion (smoke and mirrors) and his budget will reduce our deficits by nearly $2 trillion more (also nonsense). He speaks of “the investments that a growing economy needs” — a euphemism for more Obama spending directed to his cronies.

Jobs that are created by taking more in taxes out of the private economy, which is spent on some business promoted by his supporters, don’t grow the private economy. He is simply campaigning again, not governing. When the president says “investment” he’s talking about having more money to spend. A government job is not growth, it is a cost for America’s taxpayers. Americans are glad to support necessary services, but that threshold was left far behind many years ago.

Obama’s budget request will be formally released on Wednesday. It is supposedly an ‘olive branch’ to Republicans on entitlement reforms. Mr. Obama will accept changes in the Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) to reduce the growth of benefits over time, but to get that Republicans would have to accept higher taxes for Obama to “invest.” The growth in cost of Social Security and Medicare needs reform, but simply taking it out of seniors’ benefits, and paying medical providers less  is not a solution. It is quite possible to reduce expenditures without harming seniors and without depriving them of needed medical care, but Obama is never interested in making anyone less dependent.

In tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal, William Poole says that ‘journalists, commentators and policy makers should ignore the projection of reductions in the budget deficit. To do otherwise is to be complicit in fraud.”

For 50 years or so the federal government has deliberately and to an increasing extent misstated probable future budget deficits. Democrats and Republicans are guilty. The White House is guilty. And so is Congress. Private firms that deliberately misrepresent their financial statements in this fashion would be guilty of a crime.

The magnitude of the misrepresentation is breathtaking. For one example, the bitterly contested “fiscal cliff” legislation (the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012) raised the top income tax rate to 39.6%. However, the Congressional Budget Office’s latest (early February) deficit projection for 2013-22 is now $4.6 trillion higher than the baseline deficit it projected in mid-2012. After the tax increase, how can that be? …

Fortunately, some years ago the CBO began to present “alternative scenario” budget projections, in which differences from current-law projections are explained in detail. In its early February update, one example is that the 25% cut in physician Medicare reimbursements scheduled for next Jan. 1 will not occur. That adjustment increases the projected deficit in 2023 by $16 billion, and cumulatively by $138 billion from 2014-23. Congress has overridden the scheduled cut in physician reimbursements every year since 2003, in a legislative provision known as the “doc fix.”

Mr. Obama’s attempts to paint a rosy picture of his accomplishments, and to demand more taxes so he can do more of the same “investment” that he has been doing for the last four years should be rejected. It is hooey, political posturing, confirmed by the participation of Americans in the labor force. The rate of participation has fallen to 63.3%, which is the lowest level since May of 1979 when the country was mired in stagflation under the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

That means that 9,460,000 people have given up looking for work since Obama was inaugurated in January of 2009, when 80, 507,000 Americans were out of the labor force.  That’s nearly 90 million people (89,967,000) who have stopped looking for work and dropped out of the workforce altogether. The climbing numbers of people on welfare, Social Security disability, receiving food stamps are disturbing, but compassionate people believe in a safety net to protect those in trouble, while we resent those who game the system. But the number and the percentage of the population of those who have simply given up hope of finding a job is a record of real despair.

Margaret Thatcher: The Free Society Speech 1975 by The Elephant's Child

Lady Margaret Thatcher, R.I.P. by The Elephant's Child

The watershed year was 1979, and the battlefield was Britain. After an unprecedented series of strikes, especially in the public sector, dubbed by the media ‘the winter of discontent,’ Margaret Thatcher, the first woman to become leader of a British political party became  Britain’s first woman Prime Minister on 4 May 1979, having led the Conservatives to a 43-seat electoral victory. Mrs. Thatcher, soon dubbed by the Brezhnev regime “the Iron Lady’ (a title she relished), called herself a ‘conviction’ politician, as opposed to a consensus one. She implicitly  repudiated much of Conservative post-war policy, and especially its tacit agreement with the Labour Party that whole areas of British public life, including the welfare state and the nationalized sector, were sacrosanct. Her first task was to curb the legal power of the trade unions which, as we have seen, had been growing steadily since 1945. A previous attempt at reform by the Conservative government in 1971, the comprehensive and ultra-complex Industrial Relations Act, had proved unworkable and had been promptly scrapped by the incoming Labour Cabinet in 1974. Mrs. Thatcher’s government, having learned the lesson, set about the problem on a step-by-step basis, enacting in all five separate acts, over the space of three parliaments, which progressively ended a whole series of special union legal privileges, made many strikes and forms of picketing unlawful, and subjected unions that broke the law to severe financial penalties. Mrs. Thatcher also made it clear that the police, in dealing with ‘mass’, ‘flying’ and ‘secondary’ pickets, which had made it virtually impossible in the 1970s for employers to resist strike demands and so inflicted grievous damage on both the private and public sector would be fully backed by her government. …

The decline of union restrictive practices and of overmanning in many sectors produced a rise in productivity in Britain, which in several years during the decade, was the highest in Europe; and for much of 198os the British economy expanded rapidly: in 1988, for instance, it was still growing at 4 per cent after seven years of continuous expansion, a record unique in the post-war years of continuous expansion, a record unique in the post-war period. But what particularly struck foreigners about the performance of the Thatcher government was its success in reducing the state sector, by the process known as ‘privatization’. This had two aspects. The first was the transfer of nationalized industries, such as Cable & Wireless, British Steel, British Airways, British Telecommunications, British Gas, and the water and the electricity supply and distribution industry into private ownership and management. …Privatization rapidly transformed the loss-makers into  profitable companies.British Steel, for instance, had incurred the largest loss in corporate history, some £500 million, the year before it was privatized; by the end of the 1980s it had the highest productivity rates in the European steel industry and was the most profitable steel company in the world. The turnaround at British Airways was scarcely less spectacular.

The foregoing comes from Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, an essential book.

Then there was the Cold War, and the unlikely triumvirate of the Polish Pope, Britain’s Iron Lady, and the American actor turned President, Ronald Reagan. If you didn’t watch these excerpts from Herb Meyer’s speech, do take the time. If you’re short on time, just watch the middle excerpt.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were essentially soul mates, which doesn’t mean they didn’t have their disagreements, but they were world significant figures in history and will be long remembered. Courage, iron will, and keeping their eyes on the prize. Paul Johnson again:

Thus the year 1989, which the Left throughout the world had planned as a celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution — the beginning of modern radical politics, as it was argued — turned into something quite different: a Year of Revolutions indeed, but of revolutions against the established order of Marxism-Leninism. Not all of them succeeded.

Prime Ministers and Presidents come and go, and some of them are significant and put the world on a different path, and some aren’t and don’t. Lady Margaret Thatcher was one of the significant ones.  Rest in Peace.

ADDENDUM: I quoted historian Paul Johnson regarding Margaret Thatcher. The Wall Street Journal opinion page has featured today, an article from Paul Johnson on “The World-Changing Margaret Thatcher: Not since Catherine the Great has there been a woman of such consequence.” It may be behind a pay wall, but here is a link to the piece, and here is the Journal’s own piece.

Making Rope the Edwardian Way by The Elephant's Child

In the BBC series Edwardian Farm, archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn and historian Ruth Goodman work on a British farm for an entire year in the manner it would have been run during the Edwardian era (1901–1919). In this clip they demonstrate how rope was made from sisal fiber, and the tools that were used to make it.

The whole Edwardian Farm documentary is available here. It’s twelve hours long, so save it and watch it over time. Great fun, and worth your time. It’s very well done.


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