American Elephants

Liberals Are Not Open to An Exchange of Ideas. They want You to Shut Up! by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-pete-souza-640x480Bret Stephens tackled much the same subject today at the Wall Street Journal in a column titled “President’ Mumbo Jumbo’

David Petraeus testified last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Regarding Syria, the former general and CIA director urged a credible threat to destroy Bashar Assad’s air force if it continues to bomb its own people. He also recommended “the establishment of enclaves in Syria protected by coalition air power, where a moderate Sunni force could be supported and where additional forces could be trained, internally displaced persons could find refuge, and the Syrian opposition could organize.”

But Barack Obama does not agree. At his Friday press conference, the president described such views as “mumbo-jumbo,” “half-baked ideas,” “as-if” solutions, a willful effort to “downplay the challenges involved in the situation.” He says the critics have no answers to the questions of “what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it.”

America’s greatest living general might as well have been testifying to his shower drain for all the difference his views are going to make in this administration.

Over at Reason magazine, late last month, David Harsanyi wrote that “Liberals are Done Debating” — and it’s true. They are  not interested in an exchange of ideas, they want you to shut up. They will call you names like psychopath and sociopathic, bought off by big oil, or big food. Conservatives hate workers, bet against America, want to destroy democracy,  have no empathy for the destitute, favor inequality injustice and the “rape culture”. What they will not do is discuss the issues, The one thing that you cannot possibly have is a legitimate difference of opinion.

What strikes me as particularly interesting is the claims of vast empathy for the downtrodden, keen to decrease inequality, want to punish those responsible for the “rape crisis” (of course it’s real) and the usual — you don’t care about women.

But when it comes to actual empathy for real people, our troops will suffer under extreme rules of engagement, lest they inadvertently injure someone, and someone can be blamed. The Left kept a meticulous body count of deaths in Afghanistan — see what horrors Bush has committed— but Obama’s deadline for America’s exit and restrictive rules of engagement had a body count twice as large, and it was never mentioned in the compliant press.

Our Ambassador and his aide and two brave former Seals died while pleading for security and help, and it was shrugged off with a “At this point what difference does it make?” and to keep up the illusion of the insulting video, the poor video maker was jailed for months so he couldn’t talk to newsmen.

A shooting in Oregon is denigrated as a personal insult to President Obama, and he has himself photographed looking exasperated at a computer screen, and the photo promptly released to the press. See how exasperated I am? And he ordered the press to write about changing the gun laws.

So, naturally, he is going to Oregon to make another pitch for gun control. His most recent one went a little sour when he made a big deal of Australia’s gun confiscation, and Australia promptly had a shooting there. He will go to Oregon and sympathize and argue for support for his upcoming executive order to confiscate all guns, if he can only figure out how to get around the Second Amendment with an executive order.

Barack Obama Does Not Learn From Experience. by The Elephant's Child

Obama angry 3Herbert E. Meyer, writing at Ricochet:

In science, when you conduct an experiment to test a theory and get a result you didn’t expect, you learn from the experience and re-think your theory. But what do you do in politics, when you implement a policy you were certain would succeed but which fails miserably? We’re about to find out.

For seven years now, President Obama has been conducting what may well be one of history’s greatest political experiments. His revolutionary theory — which this Copernicus-from-Chicago articulates with such supreme confidence that he’s persuaded American voters to elect him twice to the presidency — is that the world would be a safer, less violent place if the United States played a smaller role on the global stage. At the core of this theory lies his hypothesis that American military power is more the problem than the solution; that our over-reliance on guns rather than brains had de-stabilized key parts of the world, such as the Mideast, that would otherwise have been more peaceful and prosperous.

It’s quite clear that this is what Obama believes, as does a large number of academic professors, and yes, that is what they are teaching our children. Many have moved on into the administration.

Progressives do not share our understanding of society’s problems, nor  our differences about how to deal with them. Progressives have contempt for America’s past and disdain for America’s social contract. Progressives draw their inspiration from an imaginary future where so-called “social justice” prevails. They believe that human beings are naturally cooperative and sharing, honest and moral, but are corrupted by social institutions that encourage greed and prejudice, and socialism will bring about that imagined future where “social justice” prevails.

Conservatives, on the other hand believe that man is flawed, and the root cause of most social evils, and if social institutions are corrupt, it is because human beings create and run them. Because man is barbarous, we need laws and the discipline of morality to civilize the people. That’s why the founders created a system of checks and balances to control the majority’s natural instinct to tyrannize the weak and outnumbered, and why they set limits to government.

There is no indication whatsoever that Obama has learned from his disastrous mistakes, or that he even understands that they were mistakes. Obama yanked our troops out of Iraq, and gave birth to ISIS, who has been rampaging across the Middle East, attempting a forcile return to the seventh century.  The last Americans will soon be drawn out of Afghanistan, in opposition to the generals on the ground, as the Taliban are ready to take over. Russia has sent its warplanes to bomb the insurgents in Syria that we supported, while Obama expects them to deal with ISIS. Ukraine is fighting for its life, China is building military bases all over the Pacific, and waging cyber-warfare on the United States while Obama is quite sure he has made an agreement with China that they will stop doing that. There is no indication that he will learn from experience or change his policy. Early on, Richard Epstein, who knew Obama at University of Chicago, said that once Obama has made up his mind, it is set in concrete. He will not change it. Herb Meyer adds:

Human nature doesn’t change. Politics will always be a rough game, and power will always be an aphrodisiac to those who play it. But so long as politicians need our votes to get elected, the ultimate power lies with us. If we citizens will give our support, and our votes, to only those candidates who will think and act more like scientists, over time we can change the culture of politics itself. That would be a huge leap forward not only for our country, but for humanity.

Clever Economist Tricks And The Urge To Control Everything by The Elephant's Child

The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing seemed like a good idea at the time. Cheap interest rates would let businesses borrow and grow and hire.The Wall Street Journal says household and nonprofit net worth climbed to $85.7 trillion

Economists had hoped that rising worth in U.S. households could induce — through what are known as wealth effects — enough spending and confidence to bring about a more robust economic recovery. That logic helped underpin the Fed’s decisions to hols interest rates near zero for nearly the past seven years, and to engage in repeated rounds of asset purchases, known as quantitative easing.

But while the value of U.S. assets has shot upward in recent years—stocks have reached new highs and home values have regained much of what was lost in the housing bubble’s collapse—economic growth has been sluggish, and many households have seen little of this wealth flow into their paychecks.

The American Interest says ‘Low Interest Rates Mask the Effects of Job-Killing Policies.’ “While the Fed’s quantitative easing has not led to the consumer price inflation that many feared, it has led to asset price inflation. Job growth, not asset  price inflation, is the best way to promote economic growth.”

To grow the economy, cheap interest rates are not going to work as well as reforms that make business formation and job creation more attractive. Yet Democrats these days have ever-lengthening lists of job-killing policies they want to enact, from tighter environmental regulations to dramatic minimum wage increases (especially in cities where unemployment is high) to tax increases. Paradoxically, that leaves liberals cheerleading for Fed policies that increase inequality and concentrate wealth because only ultra low rates (or truly massive deficits, which can’t be rammed through a GOP Congress) can mask the effect of left-wing microeconomic policies on the economy as a whole.

The Pizza shop owners have been ordered to list all the ingredients in each pizza with the calorie count, because people are too fat. They have also been ordered to comply with the newly raised federal minimum wage, because no one can raise a family on the minimum wage. And just how do they pay for all that?

Hospitals have been ordered to computerize every examining room so they can be centrally programmed to store all the patient’s information so it can be shifted between hospitals and the government to reduce the cost of health care.¹ A tax has been levied on every piece of medical equipment from the examination table to the mammogram machine to the disposable gloves, and the sterile swabs. That is also expected to reduce the cost of health care.

That’s just two tiny examples of the wrongheadedness of Democrats and their economists. Noble intent + stupid idea does not equal an improving economy, and yet here we sit after 7 very long years.

They are so intent on control and more closely directing all economic activity in the interest of greater “fairness” that we have reached a point where the Federal Reserve seems to be terrified at the possibility of what might happen if they raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point.

¹ This has largely been done, at great expense. Hospitals and clinics cannot talk to each other nor to the federal government. Each was separately programmed and they cannot communicate. However, just as was warned, medical identities and records are being stolen, and recovering from such a theft can cost as much as $15,000.

September Was A Lousy Month for Jobs! by The Elephant's Child

Another dismal jobs report: only 142,000 new jobs were added last month.  Sixty thousand below the lowest estimate. And 236,000 jobs were lost in September. President Obama will add the 142,000 jobs to the total he has created, ignore the jobs lost and decide he just needs to spend a bit more to get more money circulating in the economy or something like that.

The August total was revised much lower from 173,000 to 136,000. Job growth in 2015 has averaged 198,000 per month, compared to an average monthly gain of 260,000 in 2014.

You might notice that people are leaving Democrat run states in droves for states with lower taxes and less regulation. There are things that can be done to help out an ailing economy, but they are not in the Democrat playbook. Their answer is always to add another regulation, control a little more  — that’s how you get to that bright Utopian future.

The Mysterious Results of Liberal Policies. by The Elephant's Child

uhaul-van-sizes-i14The people of the Left seem to have trouble not only with innumeracy, but also a general understanding of economics and free markets. In fact, every so often someone blurts it out,  their enemy is — capitalism. That gets a little awkward because the United States has long been a capitalist and free market nation.

Democrats hate corporations, though they happily use the goods that corporations create,  and enjoy the advances in our wealth and well being. They remain convinced that their policies will create a workers’ paradise where everyone is equal and there aren’t any more rich people lording it over everyone else, except for themselves, of course. Obviously someone has to control things.

So how is it all working out? Economist Stephen Moore reports that “new census data shows that day after day, month after month, year after year, people are fleeing liberal blue states for conservative red states.”

The top seven states with the biggest percentage increases in inbound immigration from other states are in order: North Dakota. Nevada, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Arizona and Texas. All of these states are politically red, except Colorado, which is purple.

Meanwhile, the leading exodus states, in percentage terms, are: Alaska, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey and Kansas. These states, except Alaska and Kansas, are blue.

The American Legislative Exchange Council finds that nearly 1.000 people a day are leaving blue states and moving to red states. This is an immigration pattern that is changing the economic center of gravity in the country to the South and West.

IRS data shows the same pattern. They keep track of tax filers who move and the amount of wealth they are taking with them. And it is not an insignificant transfer of wealth. In 2013 Florida gained $8.2 billion in adjusted gross income from new arrivals. Texas  gained $5.9 billion. And five of the states who gained the most  don’t have an income tax: Florida, Texas, Arizona, Washington and Nevada.

Democrats simply do not understand why anyone would leave a blue state. The blue states offer higher minimum wages, pro-union work rules, higher taxes on the rich, generous welfare benefits, lots of regulations to help workers and the environment. Isn’t that the program that will lead to a workers’ paradise?

Stephen Moore said he debated the situation with NYT columnist Paul Krugman this summer, and Krugman’s explanation for the migration from North to South was that “air conditioning” had made the South more livable. Yet there’s a lot of in-migration to North Dakota, and that’s not for the air conditioning. Possibly high-paying oilfield jobs?

in the past decade, 1.4 million more Americans moved out of California than moved in. According to Thomas Sowell, at least one fifth of Californians pay at least half of their income for housing. You can  possibly rent a bunk in an apartment for $1500 a month. The drought continues, and thousands of buildings and some 300,000 acres have gone up in flames. The  problem, according to Governor Jerry Brown is fossil fuels. The wildfires, he says, are the result of cataclysmic climate change, and are only going to get worse. Foresters say it’s due to a century of fire suppression which has led to a huge buildup of vegetation.  I’d bet on the forest supervisors.

Unfortunately, the problems are the direct result of government policies. Once ordinary houses in Palo Alto are now selling for a cool million or two. The waters of the Sacramento River were flushed out to sea to protect a supposedly endangered  tiny bait fish, while farmers in the Central Valley were denied the water they had contracted for.

Liberals don’t understand the results of their policies. They can see that people and businesses are moving out, but the reason is a mystery. Some mystery!

Independent, Free, and Self-Directed, Or the Democrat’s Gulag? by The Elephant's Child

At Real Clear Politics (the Real Clear Policy sector) Sherzod Abdukadirov writes about “How Uncle Sam Uses Behavioral Science,” in Mr. Obama’s “executive order urging federal agencies to use behavioral science insights in designing government policies and regulations. The order argues that such insights have the potential to improve consumer welfare through better policy design.”

I wrote about this week or so ago, but I find I’m not ready to leave the subject. It’s straight out of the Marxist playbook, and you can talk about ‘nudges’ or ‘behavioral experiments’, but it’s just plain propaganda designed to make you do what the government wants you to do. No “consumer welfare” about it. If at first they don’t succeed, they will try a little harder.

The example used in Sherzod’s piece is from the Energy Department, with their “Energy Star” appliances. They boast about consumer savings which are supposed to justify the higher price of the appliances.

Unfortunately, the evidence marshaled by the agency for consumer myopia is highly dubious. For example, the latest standard for residential dishwashers promises consumers a savings of $3 over 15 years — it takes twelve years just to cover the higher up-front price — while the standard for clothes dryers delivers $14 in savings over 16 years, with the higher price covered after five years.

That DOE would declare consumers irrational for not chasing trivial, long-term savings defies common sense. And when one considers the fact that another objective for energy-efficiency regulations is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, it becomes clear that the agency’s motivation may have less to do with improving consumer welfare and more to do with hitting its environmental goals. The use of behavioral insights in policy opens the door for agencies to impose more stringent regulations that aim to advance the administration’s agenda rather than consumer welfare.

This is why everything that the EPA does to take further control of your life and options is cloaked in preventing childhood asthma. Or the noxious twisty lightbulbs or their expensive counterparts. Consider a federal department and you can probably come up with something intended to shut down your options and force you to do something you don’t want to do. Consider ObamaCare.

The Left wants control. They don’t want you to have the option of free speech if it disagrees with them. Obama just said that you couldn’t have freedom of religion if it opposes gay marriage. The federal government will put restrictors in your shower head so you don’t use too much water. Just think of what the feds have done to make driving a car more expensive.

Conservatives talk about freedom, but perhaps that is too broad a term. What we are really talking about is autonomy: the quality or state of being independent, free, and self-directing.  It’s the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision. Take away our autonomy and welcome to the Gulag.

The Department of Energy believes that paying more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a public good. We would suggest that the Department of Energy has not studied the science of carbon dioxide. The Department of Agriculture has ordered that we enrich factory farms by putting the corn crop in our gas tanks. Mrs. Obama has ordered that small school children eat what she tells them to, but because even little children prize their autonomy, they throw the food in the garbage.

Both Barack and Michelle Obama became lawyers. How can you study law in the United States of America and fail to understand the importance of freedom and autonomy? Did they never read the whole Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and not understand what it was about? Obama announced early on that the law was about empathy. And he has repeated that many times, emphasizing how important empathy is to him. Take another look at Dierdre McCloskey’s graph, and what personal autonomy has meant to America.

President Obama’s Legacy In 9 Simple Charts From The Federal Reserve. by The Elephant's Child

CP6eZ_CWsAAyWVe.jpg large(Click to enlarge)

Take your time, read the small print. The nine charts do not, of course cover everything. There’s still the Iran Deal, the mess in Syria, the Taliban’s success in Afghanistan, excessive regulation. It would be easy to chart another nine, and then another. But it is a start on an all too real record. Some Legacy!


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