American Elephants

Obama May Be Uninterested in Geopolitics, But The World Won’t Wait. by The Elephant's Child

A pro-European protester wears a gas mask during street violence in Kiev

The Ukrainian government’s assault on protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square has shocked the world. The European Union is being forced to reexamine some of their assumptions about foreign policy. After the horrendous killings of protesters, President Obama, backed by his sterling foreign policy team, Chuck Hagel, Susan Rice and Joe Biden, said “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”

No one took that warning seriously. There is a fundamental shift we are witnessing in the national-security strategy of the United States, and this one means big repercussions for the world. Government snipers kept right on shooting protesters, and Obama’s passive statement merely reminded the world of all his previous red lines.

Talks mediated by three EU foreign ministers and a Russian envoy, got Viktor Yanukovych to agree to stop the violence, share power and hold early elections. Later on Friday, the Ukrainian parliament unanimously restored the 2004 constitution which curtails presidential powers. Mr. Yanukovych has lost control over the chamber, which also voted to release his predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed on trumped-up charges in 2011. Government riot police which had used live ammunition against civilians, withdrew from the capital’s center.

A new “national unity” government is to be created within 10 days to work out other constitutional changes to strengthen Ukraine’s democracy. Presidential elections will be held before the end of the year.

Yanukovych has fled Kiev for the city of Kharkiv. The protesters want Yanukovych to resign. He says he is not resigning, and may just be attempting to shore up support. Russia is reportedly prepared to fight a war over the Ukrainian territory of Crimea to protect the ethnic Russian population and the military base there. Russian officials say in private that Ukraine falls inside Russia’s sphere of influence.

“We will not allow Europe and the US to take Ukraine from us. The states of the former Soviet Union, we are one family,” said a foreign policy official. “They think Russia is still as weak as in the early 1990s but we are not.”

There is no scenario where Yanukovych resigns and the opposition takes over. Putin does not intend to lose the Ukraine. Yanukovych has enriched himself and his family  since taking power in 2010, but his popularity has declined as the corruption has gone up. The people want a clear path into the EU and NATO, the clubs of a free Europe. They have experienced Russian domination, and don’t like it. And the Holodomor may have been long ago, but it is not forgotten. For Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the possibility that a united Ukraine might desert Russia and join Europe is completely unacceptable. The situation is — fluid.

Obama Wants To End “The Dreary Era Of Austerity.” by The Elephant's Child

President Obama says his new budget will finally end the dreary “era of austerity.”

What? Dreary era of austerity? On what planet? The federal government will spend $561 billion more this year than it did in 2008. That’s a 19% increase at a time when inflation rose just 9%. Obama has set the country on a permanently higher spending path. Federal outlays are on track to reach 22.4% of the gross domestic Product (GDP) by 2024, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Deficits have dropped slightly in the past two years, and expected to fall again this year and next, but that’s due to revenues bouncing back from  recessionary lows as much as it is to spending restraint imposed by the GOP.  By 2022, the deficit will top $1 trillion again and will go on up from there, as will the national debt.

The areas that Obama singles out for big spending hikes are hardly starved for funds. He wants more money for early childhood education programs, but Head Start’s budget has soared by 25% since Obama took office to $8.6 billion. The stimulus pumped another $2 billion into the program in 2009. Study after study has shown that there is no lasting benefit from the Head Start program. The thinking seems to be that rich people send their kids to fancy early childhood programs, so if you give the same benefit to poor or minority children, they will do as well as the rich kids. It seems to be simply expensive babysitting.

Obama also wants to spend big on college tuition aid. Federal aid has already climbed 32% on his watch according to the College Board. According to Forbes magazine, student loan debt now tops $1.2 Trillion! Kids are emerging from college, many not having completed a degree, with enormous debt — and cannot find a job.

Since the “age of austerity” is over (?) Obama wants more federal job training money, for programs that have more than tripled, and about training that is questionable in producing employment.  And he wants more money for transportation — for California’s train to nowhere? He wants to order business to boost the minimum wage, on their own dime. More lost jobs.

Obama seems to think that the people who have lost jobs are unqualified for new jobs, and unless they are retrained for something different, are unemployable. He does not understand the burden that the federal government has imposed on business with ObamaCare.

The burden of excessive regulation, high taxes, and add plain old fear of what the federal government might do. The IRS, the EPA, the FCC, the EEOC, the DOL, and all the other myriad agencies and bureaus  have gone after business to emphasize federal control. Business observes what has happened to other businesses, and hunkers down to try to avoid being noticed. More jobs are to come from a newly educated workforce, not from making it easier for business to grow, expand, and hire. We still have the highest corporate tax in the world.

Well, maybe the people who are mourning the death of President Roosevelt today will be relieved that we are ending the” dreary age of austerity.” Some of the folks still believe. If this is austerity, imagine what profligacy might be.

Unemployment and Jobs are the Number One Worry for Americans. by The Elephant's Child

A new Gallup poll this month shows that nearly one in four Americans cites jobs and unemployment as the most important problem facing the country, up from 16% in January. The government and politicians had topped the list since the government shutdown in October.

The Recent Trend in top Five “Most Important” U.S. Problems

Economy in General……………………………………………..20%
Dissatisfaction with government/Congress/politicians’
poor leadership/corruption/ abuse of power…………………19%
Poor healthcare/hospitals; high cost of healthcare…………..15%
Federal Budget deficit/ Federal debt……………………………8%
Immigration/Illegal aliens.…………………………………………6%
Ethics/Moral/Religious/Family decline, dishonesty…………….5%
Education/Poor Education/Access to Education………………4%
Lack of Money……………………………………………………3%

What is one to make of this? We have just been informed that Americans are getting dumber and dumber, that they are unaware that the Earth orbits the sun. Jimmy Fallon did a man in the street thing asking people how they felt about President Roosevelt’s death, and did they want to send condolences to Eleanor?

Democrats were significantly less concerned about everything but jobs and unemployment. Republicans were unsurprisingly concerned more than Independents and Democrats about the economy, healthcare, Federal budget deficit and debt, morals and ethics. Democrats were slightly more concerned about education and poverty, hunger and homelessness.

General satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States was a sluggish 22%.

Curiously, President Obama’s priorities are quite different. He’s trying really hard to deflect interest from ObamaCare, which in spite of all sorts of “executive repairs” isn’t working. His biggest priority seems to be Income Inequality. What he doesn’t want to mention is how much money the government is redistributing, nor how much more would be needed to close the income gap. That project would require redistribution on a massive scale. The CBO found that  those in the bottom fifth of the income scale received $9.62 in federal spending for every $1 they paid in federal taxes of all kinds. People with low incomes pay little in taxes, but receive a lot of transfers.

Households in the top fifth, received 17¢ in federal spending for every $1 they paid in all federal taxes. High-income households pay a huge amount in taxes compared to what they get back in government spending.  The middle class households received $1.19 in government spending for every $1 they received in federal taxes.

Families in the top fifth have an average market income of $311,400 and pay $65,573 more in taxes than they receive in spending. We would need to take another $164,227 in higher taxes to lower their incomes to the national average.

“Capital will go where it is wanted and stay where it is well treated. It will flee from manipulation or onerous regulation of its value or use and no government power can restrain it for long.”

President Obama’s other major priority seems to be global warming, which doesn’t even show up in the public’s interest, with some justification, because most people are probably wondering if this is the start on a new ice age. There has been no warming for over 17 years. The President talks about “carbon pollution, but there is no such thing. We are a carbon-based species. CO2 is a natural fertilizer that helps plants to grow. Carbon is one of the building blocks of life. No carbon, no life.

Obviously Mr. Obama does not read Gallup polls, nor would he pay attention if he did. He apparently swallowed the Keynesian fairy dust tale — hook, line and sinker. If you want to boost the economy, you push money into the economy. It will have a magical mystery multiplication effect, somehow, and every dollar spent will result in two dollars of economic activity. If you tell him that it doesn’t work, he will say it’s wrong to compare this recovery to past recoveries. Greatest recession since the Great Depression, Bush’s fault, etc., etc., etc.

%d bloggers like this: