American Elephants


The State of the Union Speech: What Will He Say? What Should He Say? by The Elephant's Child

The American Enterprise Institute has a symposium featuring twenty-one of their scholars on the question of “What President Obama should say in his State of the Union speech, and What he will say.” A few brief excerpts, but you will enjoy the whole thing:

Danielle Pietka:
How does one advise a man who believed a ball game was a better use of his time than a march against terrorism attended by dozens of his allies and fellow leaders?…

Because they do not understand that for Barack Obama, many of these are success stories; or to put it another way, isn’t Assad isolated? Don’t we almost have a deal with Iran? Look at Putin struggling, Castro releasing political prisoners. Look at the wars that have ended, China’s cooperation on the world stage, and recognize that while hundreds of thousands have died throughout the Middle East at the hands of terrorists, there has been no attack on American soil.

The question for Mr. Obama, of course, is are these real successes?  And at what price have they been achieved?  Only the next president, to whom Obama will bequeath a global disaster scene of almost epic proportions, will understand the impact of the unprecedented global retreat this administration has sustained over two terms.

Jim Talent:
The president believes that military power should not be the only or primary means America uses to defend its interests and pursue its foreign policy. …But the efficacy of those tools depends on the perception, among allies and adversaries alike, that the United States has the resolve and capability to defend itself if necessary. That capability is rapidly disappearing; without a change of course, it won’t matter how the president maneuvers in the global crises that are threatening to overwhelm him, and us.

Tom Donnelly:
What should our commander-in-chief, Barack Obama, say about our wars and the condition of our military in his State of the Union speech?

“During my last two years in office, I will try not to make it worse.”

Gary Schmitt:
President Obama’s State of the Union Address will fall short—indeed, will be irresponsible—if he doesn’t take note of the increasingly problematic state of the world.

Benjamin Zycher:
It is unfortunate that the president will shunt reality aside in the context of energy and environmental policy. He will argue that renewable power—expensive, unreliable, and environmentally destructive—is clean, and both cheap and in need of continued subsidies. He will take credit for the large increase in US oil and gas production that has taken place on private land even as production on federal land has declined.

I hope that piques your interest. Lots more, great fun.



Obama’a Embarrassment Over the Exercise of American Power Threatens National Security by The Elephant's Child

November, 2013. President Obama pledged that he would not allow an interim nuclear deal with Tehran to become an opportunity for the mullahs to play for time while squeezing economic concessions from the West. “If Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the [sanctions] relief and ratchet up the pressure.”

That was then, and this is now, considerably over six months, and Iran has announced that it has begun construction of two more nuclear plants, and Iranian authorities have imprisoned a Washington Post journalist on unannounced charges. Senate lawmakers are working on their own sanctions bill. Support for sanctions is strong in both chambers of Congress. Members have noticed that it took strong sanctions to even bring Iran to the negotiating table.

President Obama has warned that he would veto any Congressional attempt to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic if the latest round of negotiations fail. He said, ‘My main message to Congress at this point is just hold your fire,” in a press conference with David Cameron, British Prime Minister. Mr. Obama seems particularly annoyed that  Congress is all about legislation that would penalize Iran only after the current deadline expires and if Iran does not agree to terms. Passing the bill now might offer an extra nudge to Iranian negotiators, and make clear that they cannot string  Americans along indefinitely, as they seem to assume.

Iran clearly sees the administration as exceptionally weak, as proved by the last election. Many in Congress do not believe that Iran has any intention of bargaining in good faith, nor that Iran has any intention of delaying or closing down its nuclear development. The administration and Secretary Kerry seem convinced that a deal is in the cards and that Iran might be offended by threats of sanctions.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian has been referred for prosecution by a revolutionary court. “It’s difficult,” the  Post noted in an editorial,” to avoid the conclusion that he is being used as a human pawn in the regime’s attempt to gain leverage in the negotiations.” It worked for the Castros.

We err if we do not assume that our opponents are completely aware of what is being said in the media, and draw their own conclusions about what they can get away with. A long time ago, the mullahs took notice when the newly inaugurated Ronald Reagan fired the nation’s striking air-traffic controllers, and changed their ideas about American determination. Somehow I don’t think the cringe-inducing James Taylor concert was a convincing display of a strong and confident America.



Recessions, Depressions, Recoveries, Repudiations and Pretensions. by The Elephant's Child

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Obama has been working hard to emphasize how much he has done for the economy. He took a victory lap when he announced that the 2015 deficit will be only $483 billion.

‘The deficit has gone down by two-thirds since I was president of the United States,” President Obama said, calling his budgeting “responsible.”

My understanding is that the deficit has gone down because John Boehner outfoxed Obama in the negotiations regarding the sequester. Remember Obama’s attempt to stop the sequester spending cuts by shutting down national parks, airports and food-safety inspections? The decrease is a big deal, because under Obama’s fiscal management the debt had risen by more than $7 trillion — including the three largest deficits since World War II. Federal deficits don’t usually decrease, they just grow, and grow.

The Democrats have, in general, believed in Keynesian economics and the value of pumping money into the economy where it will circulate and like other noxious contagious diseases — multiply. Obama inherited a recession, added $830 billion in deficit spending right off the bat. Then the auto bailouts, cash for clunkers, green jobs, renewable energy, subsidies, food stamps, increased unemployment insurance, ObamaCare, and now, besides amnesty, he wants to give out free Community College, free sick leave, and undoubtedly some other goodies he will surprise us with on Tuesday night in the SOTU. He likes giving away stuff we have to pay for. Makes him feel magnanimous. He also wants to raise taxes on the rich. But that’s just an attempt to portray Republicans as the party of the rich, because he knows Republicans won’t raise taxes. (See the  last paragraph)

He’s restored full diplomatic relationship with Cuba, although he can’t do the embassy and ambassador part without Congress, and it’s not at all clear how this benefits anyone but the Castros, who have been trading their doctors for Venezuelan oil. But the Castros welcome our generosity, and our surrender.

It’s getting really hard to tell what is real and what is not. Improving employment numbers are touted, but then you find out that a larger number of potential workers have dropped out of the workforce. Jobless claims rise to 316,000. If the number of people receiving unemployment payments drops, it may turn out to be because they used up their benefits, or perhaps they retired.  And the number of Americans of working age no longer in the workforce keeps climbing. That number of people 16 years of age and older who are not employed and not making an effort to find employment hit a record 92,898,000.

So the numbers of employed are a segment of a larger and larger number of dropouts, and new jobs are a segment of a smaller and smaller work force. And in the meantime more young people are entering the work force, but not finding jobs. How do you get any real numbers out of that moving and growing ill-defined multitude? Of course you don’t, and the president will simply tell you what he wants you to hear anyway, and the media will repeat it until you’ve got it.

The big claim was about the big jump in GDP growth in the fourth quarter to 5%. Finally, the press announced, the Recovery! Except that number was apparently phony, since they did some tricks with the numbers — and the increased consumer spending and confidence turned out to actually be the higher costs of ObamaCare.

Numbers just out say that retail sales for December were down by 9%. and more American businesses are dying than new ones are starting up.

The good news is that the big reduction in the price of gas is a savings for every family budget, and will reduce some of the costs of business. Obama will undoubtedly take credit for that, though he has fought fossil fuels with everything he and the EPA could come up with.

You have surely noticed how often President Obama has referred to the Great Depression of the 1930s. He likes to compare his depression to President Roosevelt’s. Trouble is that his recession ended in June of 2009, while Roosevelt’s went on until World War II. Our political leaders have always tried to claim it was the result of capitalism run amok, but it was the result of Roosevelt’s bad  policies and endless tinkering.

But did you know about the Financial Crisis of 1920-21? The situation was grim, unemployment had jumped from 4 percent to nearly 12 percent, and GNP declined by 17 percent. Despite the severity of the contraction, the Fed did not try to turn the money supply around and fight the downturn.

Instead, Harding cut the federal budget nearly in half between 1920 and 1922, He slashed tax rates for all income groups. The national debt was reduced by one-third. And then he allowed the economy to adjust. No pump-priming, no increased expenditures. Just the old-fashioned view that government should keep taxes and spending low and reduce the federal debt. And so he did. And the economy swiftly recovered, and hardly anyone knows that there was a recession in 1920-21. So there you go.

ADDENDUM: I corrected a spot in the third paragraph where I said deficit when I meant debt. My bad. It’s confusing enough without my brain freezes. I regret the error.




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