American Elephants


Joe Biden says taxes are a matter of “patriotism”. by The Elephant's Child

“Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?” a plumber in Toledo asked Barack Obama  on Sunday in Ohio, where the candidate was canvassing neighborhoods and encouraging residents to vote early.  The plumber complained that he was being taxed “more and more for fulfilling the American dream.”

It’s not that I want to punish your success.  I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success too,” Obama responded.  “My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody…I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

Obama frequently rails against what he calls a Republican concept that tax breaks for the wealthy will somehow “trickle down” to middle-class Americans.  We last heard that claim during the Reagan administration.  There’s not much of anything new in Obama’s economic program.  It’s the old hate the rich and redistribute their income which has never improved an economy yet.

An IBD/TIPP poll found that most people haven’t much of an idea how much the top 5% of taxpayers (those making more than $153,542) pay in taxes. 36% of the people thought that the rich contribute 10% or less of all federal income taxes.  An additional 15% thought that the rich pay between 10% and 20% of all taxes, and another 10% thought that they probably pay between 20% and 30% of federal taxes.  In other words, most people thought that the rich pay far less than they actually do.  Only 12% of the people thought that the rich pay more than 40%.

A U.S. News & World Report blogger went to the Democratic National Convention in Denver and conducted an informal poll of about 24 delegates.  He asked them “What should the rich pay in income taxes?” The average person thought that the rich should pay 25.6% of all taxes.

So how much do the top 5% of earners actually pay?  The group whose taxes Obama wants to really raise?  They already pay 60% of all taxes. I wonder how much he’s going to soak them for, after he lets the Bush tax cuts expire?

Obama thinks that increasing taxes and giving them to the “needy” is a matter of “neighborliness”.  Joe Biden calls it a matter of “patriotism”.

According to Larry Elder,:

Liberal families earn about 6% more than conservative families, yet conservative households donate about 30% more to charity than do liberal households.  And conservatives give more than just to their own churches and other houses of worship.  Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, give far more money and donate more of their time to nonreligious charitable causes than do liberals — especially secular liberals.

Obama doesn’t seem to understand the mobility of people within our American economy, which is alive with movement between the income classes.  And we are so fortunate that this is so. In many countries you cannot aspire to move beyond your station in life.  Americans would wonder what is meant by “station in life”.

And he is going to demand that people do public service, requiring it from high school and college kids.  For his other service corps, he apparently plans to pay people for “volunteering”.  If some people volunteer for pay, why should others volunteer for free?  Sounds like a good way to end the volunteering that people have been doing all along.  But maybe Obama doesn’t know about that.  He only hangs out with liberals.



Unbelievable! More on ACORN’s Very Interesting Activities. by The Elephant's Child

Not tens, not hundreds, but thousands! And when these are discovered and discarded, how many that are not so obvious get through.  Senator ACORN is determined to win the election one way or another.



What is the difference between Republicans and Democrats? by The Elephant's Child

I came across a statistic the other day that startled me.  A poll determined that only 13% of Americans could distinguish between the political parties.  That is, they could not tell you what each party stands for correctly.  I listen to talk shows, and many callers claim that there is no difference between the parties, or they credit the wrong party with the wrong policy.  Anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but the poll is at least partly right.

Can we agree that Republicans agree that small government is desirable?  Yes, I know, they have many times been responsible for vast enlargement.  Can we agree that Democrats generally feel that things are better handled by the government than by the free market?

Can we agree that Republicans believe in individual responsibility and the freedom to make of yourself what you can?  Can we agree that Democrats believe in a caring government that makes things “fair”, taxing those who are rich to redistribute wealth more equally?

Can we then agree that the subprime crisis was the result of a well-intentioned desire to make the distribution of wealth more equal by helping minorities to own their own homes?

So, is Barack Obama the visionary figure who will bring America together as he claims to be?  Or is he the far-left candidate that his record suggests?

Economists are worried.  100 distinguished economists signed a statement released by the McCain campaign:

Barack Obama argues that his proposals to raise tax rates and halt international trade agreements would benefit the American economy.  They would do nothing of the sort.  Economic analysis and historical experience show that they would do the opposite.  They would reduce economic growth and decrease the number of jobs in America.  Moreover, with the credit crunch, the housing slump, and high energy prices weakening the U.S. economy, his proposals run a high risk of throwing the economy into a deep recession. It was exactly such misguided tax hikes and protectionism, enacted when the U.S. economy was weak in the early 1930s, that greatly increased the severity of the Great Depression.

We are very concerned with Barack Obama’s opposition to trade agreements such as the pending one with Colombia, the new one with Central America, or the established one with Canada and Mexico. Exports from the United States to other countries create jobs for Americans.  Imports make goods available to Americans at lower prices and are a particular benefit to families and individuals with low incomes.  International trade is also a powerful source of strength in a weak economy.  In the second quarter of this year, for example, increased international trade did far more to stimulate the U.S. economy than the federal government’s “stimulus” package.

Ironically, rather than supporting international trade, Barack Obama is now proposing yet another so-called stimulus package, which would do very little to grow the economy.  And his proposal to finance the package with higher taxes on oil would raise oil prices directly and by reducing exploration and production.

We are equally concerned with his proposals to increase tax rates on labor income and investment.  His dividend and capital gains tax increases would reduce investment and cut into the savings of millions of Americans.  His proposals to increase income and payroll tax rates would discourage the formation and expansion of small businesses and reduce employment and take-home pay, as would his mandates on firms to provide expensive health insurance.

After hearing such economic criticism of his proposals, Barack Obama has apparently suggested to some people that he might postpone his tax increases, perhaps to 2010. But it is a mistake to think that postponing such tax increases would prevent their harmful effect on the economy today.  The prospect  of such tax rate increases in 2010 is already a drag on the economy. Businesses considering whether to hire workers today and expand their operations have time horizons longer than a year or two, so the prospect of higher taxes starting in 2009 or 2010 reduces hiring and investment in 2008.

In sum, Barack Obama’s economic proposals are wrong for the American economy.  They defy both economic reason and economic experience.
(For the economists statement on John McCain’s economic program, continue reading:)

A new survey from Chief Executive magazine found that 74% of CEOs fear that an Obama presidency would be disastrous for the country.” The survey found some CEOs worried that if implemented [Obama’s] programs would bankrupt the country within three years”

The people who know something about creating jobs or creating problems for the economy have some important things to say.  It’s worthwhile listening to them.



More Debate: Obama’s Oil Obfuscation by The Elephant's Child

Barack Obama reiterated in the debate two claims that have been standard Democrat obfuscation.  He said “We have 3% of the world’s oil reserves and we use 25% of the world’s oil.  So what that means is that we can’t simply drill our way out of the problem.” Well, to quote Obama again, “Yes we can.”

In part, Obama’s claim is true.  We do use about a quarter of the world’s oil production. With that quarter, we produce around 28% of the world’s goods.

What’s wrong with the claim is the “3% of the world’s oil reserves” part.  This is based on a very old estimate of the world’s reserves, which in America’s case does not include the estimated 200 billion barrels in the oil shale lands of the Bakken Formation — a huge, rich reserve that stretches through Montana and North Dakota.  Nor does it include the 130 billion barrels off our coasts that Congress had placed off limits.  It doesn’t include the Green River Formation in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, which is estimated to hold 1.2 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels of shale oil, nor what may exist off the California coast — where we know there are unexplored oil reserves.

Then there is the 10 to 20 billion barrels of easily accessible oil in the ANWR coastal plain, which has been placed off limits by Congress because of spurious pressure from environmental groups.

Estimates are old because Congress has prohibited exploration.  Obama has attempted to legally prevent any exploration with new technology that gives much better estimates of how much oil is there.  And you don’t want to be able to find out how much oil is there because…?  Surpassingly strange.

Obama also hauled out the canard about the 68 million acres that Congress has offered for drilling, but where they haven’t produced oil.  This completely ignores all the work that must be done before drilling can take place, including fighting environmental lawsuits in court.  The earth is not a pincushion where you just stick a drill in and oil spouts out.  Even the slightest amount of actual thought should point out how silly this is.

Obama has been a vocal supporter of ethanol. He’s wrong. We are having food riots and severe hunger in the developing world as a result of putting food crops in our gas tanks.  Here at home, the diversion of farm land to corn grown for ethanol has raised the price of everything from food to wallboard.  The world population is expected to double by 2050, then start declining.  We are going to need all available farmland for the production of food, to prevent forests from being razed for farming. We can’t spare the farmland to fill our gas tanks — it is not efficient fuel in any case.

The environmental left believes or claims to believe that we can just switch to “alternative fuels” like wind, or solar, or geothermal and shut off the petroleum promptly.  Wind is a fraud.  There is wind, but it must always have full-time electricity back-up of gas or coal-fired power plants, simply because power is only produced when the wind blows at the right speed, not when it is not windy.  Without vast taxpayer subsidies  provided by gullible governments, wind power loses all proponents.

In spite of vast investment, wind energy does not yet produce even 3% of our power needs.  Solar can be effective for heating water, but takes too much land and is too inefficient to be a serious source of energy.

Environmentalists (true believers all) are sure that an Apollo Program will do it.  “If we can go to the moon…”  Um, it’s not the same thing.  The moon shot was a complicated engineering feat, but still fairly straightforward.

Finding new sources of energy to power our society is simply not an engineering task alone, and it is not just around the corner.  There are many efforts out there, and all kinds of hype.  Folks wanting funding for their particularl effort are ever so sure that if they just had enough money, miracles would occur.

We need to accept the fact that there is a very large energy gap between the environmentalist hatred for petroleum and their gaseous vision of a green-energy future. At present it is: Oil?, no, dirty!  Natural gas?, no, dirty! Nuclear?, no, dangerous! Hydropower?, no, kills fish! Coal?, no, dirty! Clean coal?, no, still dirty!

But those are the only things that work.  Doesn’t matter. Clean energy: wind, solar, tides, geothermal — repeat. Sigh.

Bottom line: we have enough oil resources to last us for a long time. We have not reached so called “peak oil”.  But we cannot forego the resources we have in a naive wish for a fantasy world.



I can tell a lot about your politics by your reaction to this video. by The Elephant's Child
October 1, 2008, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Perhaps you have seen this video.  It was just a casual Sunday afternoon at a neighbor’s house in Venice.  Regular folk sitting around:  Directed by Jeff Zucker, with a crew of 20.  Um hum.

If, like me, you find this a little creepy, Richard Fernandez has added some more information and some perspective at Pajamas Media. Don’t miss clicking on the link.



Some reminders are in order. by The Elephant's Child

This is an uncomfortable week, waiting, as it were, for the other shoe to drop.  I know how we got here, but I have no insight whatsoever into how we will get out.  It’s above my pay-grade, as someone said recently.  I have read too many columns by too many economists who don’t agree with each other.

The fox is in charge of the henhouse; or rather Barney Frank is in charge of the committee to solve the problem that he was most prominent in creating. Of course he blames it on Phil Gramm. Huh? And of course, President Bush, that’s a given.  Everything is Bush’s fault.

Phil Gramm’s Gramm-Leach-Bliley act which “deregulated” Glass-Stegall is explained well, and briefly by Megan McArdle in the Atlantic.

Obviously, when the mess is so big, everyone is looking for a scapegoat, in the absence of knowing just the right thing to do about it. It is, of course, much more complicated than just helping poor minorities to become homeowners.  That is a worthy aim.

Businesses develop guidelines for success in their operations.  Congressmen have found that they enjoy greater success at the ballot box if they give people stuff.  Hence all sorts of mischief.

Congress has gotten itself into the habit of thinking it can tell business how to conduct its operations.  You have given oil companies a lease on public land in exchange for vast sums, and they haven’t brought in any oil wells yet — just order them to produce oil, now.  Car mileage isn’t high enough (since most customers want higher gas mileage, obviously car companies aren’t paying attention) congress will just order them to increase mpg now.  Few members of congress have ever successfully run a business, yet they assume expertise that they do not possess, issue orders in the form of legislation and create problems.

I’m afraid we need to remind our representatives more often that they are not some sort of elite, but our servants.  They work for us.  And they need to remember that.



Forgotten history, dredged up once again. by The Elephant's Child

As we wait to see what the Congress will do in addressing the mortgage crisis, it is worthwhile noting a little history.  The New York Times reported in 2003: ” New Agency Proposed to Oversee Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae”.

The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.

Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.

The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies.  It would exercise authority over any new lines of business.  And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing risks of their ballooning portfolios.

The plan is an acknowledgment by the administration that oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — which together have issued more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt — is broken.  A report by outside investigators in July concluded that Freddie Mac manipulated its accounting to mislead investors, and critics have said Fannie Mae does not adequately hedge against rising interest rates.

“There is a general recognition that the supervisory system for housing-related government-sponsored enterprises neither has the tools, nor the stature, to deal effectively with the current size, complexity and importance of these enterprises,”Treasury Secretary John W. Snow told the House Financial Services Committee in an appearance with Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, who also backed the plan.

Mr. Snow said that Congress should eliminate the power of the president to appoint directors to the companies, a sign that the administration is less concerned about the perks of patronage than it is about the potential political problems associated with any new difficulties arising at the companies.

Do read the whole article.  This is a real crisis, though it is mostly confined to the housing and financial sectors of the economy. It’s important to do your homework, and understand what it’s about.

The debate is very much up in the air.  Economists are begging for a “clean” bill, free of extraneous language. Democrats are anxious for Government to take over financial organizations, and relieve everyone of any liability for their bad decisions, and Socialize our form of government. 

They want to bail out homeowners whose mortgages are in default, people who owe too much on their credit cards, and promise any other goodies that may help Democrats to get reelected.

Obama’s understanding of this financial crisis is very shallow. He is more interested in protecting those who bought more house than they could afford.  He is unaware that raising taxes on an economy in trouble is not the best idea, for the government may need more money.  But, he says, a new President will take over in 40 days.  Um, January 20, Mr. Obama.

He is anxious to blame everything on President Bush, for much of his campaign appeal has been to attempt to portray the Bush economy as “terrible”, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  The Bush tax cuts have been wildly successful, enabling the economy to shrug off the damages of 9/11, the War in the Mideast, and Katrina.  And even in the current trouble, the underlying economy remains strong.



Market Meltdown Explained. by The Elephant's Child

It is always wise to consult more than one source. Experts will differ in their conclusions, and will express the problem differently, so listening to several experts will help your understanding.

(h/t: The Daily Bayonet)



We may be in for 20 or 30 years of increasingly cold weather. by The Elephant's Child

It is helpful to keep an eye on Britain, for many of the problems that they currently face are problems that we could face in the near future.  An important example is the extent to which Britain has indulged Green  notions in British climate and energy policy.

Britain’s old electricity generating nuclear and coal fired power stations, which generate a third of the country’s energy, are due to close down in the next twelve years. The current political situation makes it difficult to rely on imported gas or oil.  Professor Ian Fells, emeritus professor of Energy Conversion at the University of Newcastle, and a noted expert on nuclear energy, has said that Britain will face regular power cuts lasting long enough to delay operations in hospitals, close down schools and bring cities to a standstill.

Professor Fells says that “Security of energy supply must be seen as taking priority over everything else, even climate change.”  His September 17th report, commissioned by industrialist Andrew Cook, said that renewables will not fill the impending energy gap, so old nuclear and coal plants must be kept going while new ones are built urgently.

Environmentalists were outraged at the recommendations in the report.  Greenpeace chief scientist Doug Parr said “Professor Fells has a long standing love affair with the technologies of the 20th century, but as time goes by his fetish for coal and nuclear power looks increasingly naive.”

That simple exchange, complete with sneers and outrage, succinctly describes the current state of affairs in Britain.  Unfortunately, it is not too far from the current situation in our own congress.

It is hard to tell just what lurks in the mind of a leftist.  Are they convinced that if we do not stop producing carbon dioxide — the colorless, odorless gas that we exhale every time we breathe, one of the essentials of life — the planet will suddenly heat up beyond our capacity to endure?  Are they totally unaware that it stopped warming ten years ago, and has actually been cooling for seven years?

The sun has gone quiet.  No sunspots for over a month.  Scientists have shown that what warming there has been over the past century correlates closely with the activity of the sun.  But environmentalists are not interested in the sun, they are interested in SUVs.

The lack of environmental interest in recent studies in climate change is notable. It suggests that they are not nearly as interested in climate change as they claim to be.

Power can be generated by windmills when the wind blows at the right speed.  When the wind is too strong, or too weak, or doesn’t blow at all, which is frequent, that wind power must be backed up by some other form of energy.  Natural gas is the most desirable, because it can be shut off quickly when the wind starts blowing again. But natural gas is a fossil fuel, and to obtain it, you must drill.

Windmills chew up a fair number of birds and bats, arms break and fly off — there are all kinds of details that just don’t get discussed.  In many places more energy is needed in the summer when air conditioners are running full tilt. The wind blows more in the winter. In America, only a tiny percentage of electricity demand is generated by wind.  But, as they say, hope springs eternal.

The problem is that more people die from cold than from heat.  And England can get very cold.  Oh well. It will all work out, won’t it?



Do you wonder what a community organizer organizes? by The Elephant's Child

Voters are curious about “community organizing”. Barack Obama has made quite a point of his earlier career in community organizing, but most people have no idea what an organizer actually organizes.
Iowa Hawk, a brilliant satirist, sums it up:

What do community organizers do?  As you know, Americans today are struggling with problems.  These problems include rising unemployment, energy cost, alienation, animosity, corporations and increased death.  Like no other time in our history, Americans are staring into an abyss of a hellhole of helplessness.  And this is where community organizers like me come in and provide solutions.  Specifically, America’s community organizers:

•reach out and work with comunities in various ways.
•liason with, and for, comunity agencies for service within affected areas.
•fight to make a difference.
•raise awareness.
•deal with community issues.
•when necessary, refer inquiries to outreach coordinators.
•help coordination agency administrators identify and address outreach opportunities.
•model timetables and conceptualize benchmarks.
•issue guidelines for poster contests and interpretive dance festivals.
•gather voter registrations, win valuable prizes.

More seriously, two articles visit Barack Obama’s community organizing from two sides of the aisle: one by John B. Judis from The New Republic, and another from National Review  by Byron York.  Read both articles for some insight into the presidential campaign. We offer links, you decide.



I’ll bet you didn’t know this about Sarah Palin! by The Elephant's Child

Sarah Palin has always been a runner.  She says that her parents were marathoners, and coached high school track, so it was a family affair.  She is still trying to get back to her old routine of running 7 to 10 miles every day according to the Wall Street Journal, but since giving birth she is only running 3 miles every other day.

Governor Palin is also the Commander-in Chief of the Alaska National Guard, something she shares with other governors.  However Alaska is the first line of defense in our missile interceptor defense system.  The 49th Missile Defense Battalion of the Alaska National Guard is on permanent active duty, unlike other Guard units.

Nearly 250 Alaska Guardsmen came from all over the country to serve in the 49th Missile Defense Battalion. Getting into the program is not easy, and passing the extensive training required is tough.  Applicants go through nine to 14 weeks of air defense training at Fort Bliss, Texas; a nine-week Ground Missile Defense operator course in Colorado Springs; then four more weeks of unit training in Colorado Springs before taking a certification test.

Major Joe Miley, the operations officer, explains that on order, they would fire an interceptor at the incoming missile in midcourse phase, which would destroy the target before it reentered the atmosphere.  Stationed at Fort Greely, about 150 miles southeast of Fairbanks, it’s a tough place to live and logistically support.  Winter temperatures, for example, can drop to 75 degrees below zero.

In the last 20 years, more countries are actually having intercontinental ballistic missiles, the number has increased from six nations to more than 20.  And the number of test launches has increased every year.  Training is continuous to keep skills sharp.  This is serious national defense.

Alaskan governors deal with a lot more national and international security issues than most do.  There is a lot of military in Alaska.  Sarah is briefed on highly classified security measures, homeland security and counterterrorism.  Russia is only a few miles away, and interested in claiming all of the Arctic for its energy reserves.  She also negotiated a pipeline deal with Canada.  And they were saying about her inexperience…

Our Sarah Palin has pretty sharp skills as well.



Oh come on, people. Have a sense of humor. by The Elephant's Child

What a Convention!  As partisan people — and of course we are — we watched both conventions and are looking forward to tonight.  Sarah Palin’s speech was a triumph, she held the audience in the palm of her hands. Rudy Guiliani was the best I have ever seen him.   But the most compelling moment of the whole convention was when little Piper Palin, holding the baby Trig, licked her palm to slick down the baby’s hair.

Utterly human.  No director could have planned such a charming, ordinary moment, nor so completely repudiated the sneers of the elite media.  And that’s the difference.

The glitter and gloss of the Democrat convention was impeccable theater.  Famous bands, Roman temple, oval office carpet, immense stadium, fireworks, confetti.

The Democrat convention was an angry convention. Delegates heard a description of an America at the brink of another Great Depression, of lost jobs, lost homes, lost health, lost war, lost friends.  What is the matter with these people?  They live in the freest country with the greatest opportunity and the least class consciousness in the world and they yearn to turn it into — France?

Democrats are angry because humanity doesn’t live up to their expectations. These are people whose idea of high humor has been to stick a Hitler moustache on George W. Bush and a Nazi uniform on Dick Cheney.  They are not amused by humanity.  If only you will give them power, they will fix things and make them perfect.

But humanity is. It cannot be fixed. Real people struggle, make mistakes, do foolish things as well as noble things.  Half the population, by definition, has less than average intelligence.  To get through life, you neeed a healthy sense of humor and a goodly amount of stoical resignation. We’re a mess, the lot of us; but we work at getting better, and fairly often we succeed. And we do not need Government to fix things for us.   We have to learn to pick ourselves up and try once more.  It helps when we have candidates who grasp the nature of humanity, and have a sense of what government can do and what it can’t.

That’s why Republicans had a happy convention.  Yes, they made fun of the Democrats, but they weren’t angry about it.  They were laughing.  That’s probably what made the liberals so angry.

If you watched the Palin family, Willow held the baby while Bristol held her fiance’s hand.  Then Cindy McCain held the baby, then Todd Palin took over.  Even little babies get heavy after a while.  Then Todd had to stand up, so he passed the baby to Piper.  This is how normal families work.  When one member of the family has to do something different, everybody pitches in — because it’s family. The family is enriched by the success of another member, whether it is winning a snowmachine race or negotiating a pipeline.  That’s the real America.




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