American Elephants

Barking up the Wrong Tree! by The Elephant's Child
February 7, 2011, 8:26 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Freedom | Tags: , ,

President Obama told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today that government and business “can and must work together.”

Rasmussen Reports found that 68% of likely U.S. voters believe that government and big business already work together against the interests of consumers and investors.  Their latest poll  shows that only 13^ disagree with that assessment, While 18 % are not sure.

The view that government and big business work together against the interests of others is shared across partisan, demographic and ideological lines.  Seventy percent of liberals and sixty-nine percent of conservatives share that view.

This indicates a massive chasm between Americans who seek freedom and self-governance and politicians who want to rule over them.

President Obama told the Chamber of Commerce today that “the role of government is to support the economic foundation by spending public money to improve transportation, education and communications systems.” Rasmussen’s earlier polling has found that 59% of voters believe that the primary purpose of government is to protect individual liberties and freedom.

That makes things fairly clear, doesn’t it.  Only 10% see managing the economy as government’s primary role.  24% see the government’s primary role as ensuring social justice.  And Americans consistently believe in lower taxes and lower government spending.

Government Knows Best! (Except When it Kills You) by American Elephant

The Federal Government has been telling us for years to avoid the sun, wear sunscreen, don’t tan. Democrat busy-body, control-freaks, always looking for new ways to save people from themselves, control their choices, and steal their money in the process, have recently passed increased taxation and regulation on the use of tanning beds.

But now comes new research by Professor Hakan Olsson, a leading cancer specialist at the oncology unit at Lund University in Sweden, who believes the risk of skin cancer is “far outweighed” by the benefits of sunlight to womens’  health:

He said there was overwhelming evidence that exposure to the sun helps protect against blood clots in the leg, which claim the lives of 25,000 Britons a year.

These clots, known as deep vein thromboses, have been shown to be far more prevalent in winter than summer.

Professor Olsson, who was presenting his research at the Swedish Society of Medicine, cited other studies showing that more patients are diagnosed with diabetes in the colder months, a phenomenon attributed to a lack of vitamin D.

For his study, he examined tanning habits and the incidence of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes or malignant melanoma.

‘Our studies show that women with active sunbathing habits live longer,’ he said. [read more]

Which, if Professor Olsson’s research proves true, means busy-body, command-and-control “progressives” have driven countless women (and possibly men, the research was done only on women) to an early grave by scaring, regulating, and taxing them out of the sun. As they have caused countless deaths by forcing automakers to make lighter, less safe cars, killed countless millions around the world by blocking the use of DDT to kill malaria carrying mosquitoes, and caused countless more deaths by starvation by driving up the costs of food by getting farmers to grow crops for gas tanks instead of kitchen tables.

Yet more evidence that “consensus” in science is utter horsepucky. And yet another excellent reason that health decisions should be made between doctors and their patients, not by command and control government.

Exit question: You think Democrats will repeal their tanning regulations and “sin” taxes now that they have virtually destroyed that industry for no justifiable reason?

Big Government, Big Bureaucracy, Big Pay, Big Debt. by The Elephant's Child

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who will head the panel overseeing federal pay, has been startled when looking at what has happened to federal compensation. Federal workers are earning double what their counterparts in the private sector receive. And Obama wants to give a 1.4% across-the-board pay-raise to 2.1 million federal workers.

The number of federal workers who earn more than $150,000 has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office. The federal workforce  has increased by 141,000 since Obama took office, and the White House has said they expect to add 125,000 more federal workers this fiscal year.  This does not include census workers or military — it’s all just federal bureaucrats. Top paid staff have increased in every department and agency.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley insists that the proposed raise “is a modest amount and should be implemented” to help make salaries more comparable with those in the private sector.  Union employees always believe themselves to be underpaid, but it sounds like it would take a 50% pay cut to put them in line with their private sector counterparts.

What is worrisome is President Obama’s attitude towards money.  There seems to be no end to the projects on which he wants to lavish federal money.  He does not seem to grasp that the federal government has no money of it own, but only money it taxes from the people and their children and grandchildren.

Throughout the long campaign, spending was a major complaint, yet that notion seems not to have registered at all.  Obama  is still talking about high-speed rail, vast infrastructure projects, more subsidies for wind, solar and national grid.

With an economy in recession and over 17% unemployment in some areas the Obamas have startled the nation with their spending excesses.  Whether the 35 or so Czars, or the Wagyu beef, or the excessive entourage for foreign trips — the (to use liberal pundit’s new word)  ‘optics’ are unfortunate.  It just looks bad.  Really bad.


So Much for Hope! by American Elephant
August 28, 2010, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Economy, Election 2010, News, Progressivism | Tags: , , ,

U.S. birthrate lowest in a century.

The United States birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in at least a century as many people apparently decided they could not afford more mouths to feed.

And before Obama blames Bush, which seems to be the only thing he is capable of:

The situation is a striking turnabout from 2007, when more babies were born in the United States than in any other year in the nation’s history.

I can’t think of a more objective measure of how much hope Americans are feeling — and the truth is that Obama has not brought hope, he has destroyed it, as he destroys everything he touches.

(h/t HotAir)

The Struggle to Maintain an Aura of Calm and Competence. by The Elephant's Child

The federal bureaucrats in charge of regulating BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil rigs  badly underestimated the potential damage and size of a serious oil spill. NRO’s Daniel Foster points out:

The Interior Department exempted BP’s calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis last year, according to government documents, after three reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely.

The decision by the department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) to give BP’s lease at Deepwater Horizon a “categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on April 6, 2009 — and BP’s lobbying efforts just 11 days before the explosion to expand those exemptions — show that neither federal regulators nor the company anticipated an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the gulf.

This doesn’t mean too much, simply that neither the MMS nor BP expected an industrial accident of this size and scale, nor did they expect an accident at all.  Drilling for oil is a hazardous business.  There is risk involved.  And there are limits to what regulations can accomplish.

There has been a  plan in place since 1994 that required the federal government to have pre-placement of booms to contain controlled burns of surface oil.  The booms weren’t there, and the plan had been ignored.  Equipment can fail, humans are fallible, mistakes are made, the unexpected happens — that’s what happens in the real world.  We try to prepare, but stuff happens.  The Assistant Secretary of the Interior who was supposedly in charge was white-water rafting on the Colorado River.

The President, however, was stung by suggestions that he was nine days late and inattentive when the spill happened.  The White House has put up a detailed (my goodness is it detailed) timeline, moment by moment, of the administration’s calm and competent response to the disaster.  Apparently the industry experts who have been working night and day had little to do with it — except to get the blame.

At the White House website you will find an extensive timeline of “The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill.” You will also find a piece indicating that the administration was on the ground in Nashville “before the raindrops started falling.”

Nobody has explained how the FBI lost Faisal Shahzad long enough for him to get on an airline bound for Dubai when he was on a “no fly list” and had been under observation since the Clinton administration as a person of interest, yet he was able to travel back and forth to Pakistan frequently.

The Washington Post has a long article on “naming disasters”and the critical importance of the name both as a historic matter and in the “more immediate matters of image, public relations and legal liability.”

What do you call a gigantic man-made disaster that is threatening to despoil the ecosystems and wreck the economies of the Gulf Coast? The answer is important, if you happen to be one of the companies responsible for it.

The media had referred to it as “the Gulf oil spill,” “the Deepwater Horizon spill” and the “Gulf Coast disaster.” President Obama “put a brand name on it in remarks in Louisiana on Sunday”  The President dubbed it “the BP oil spill” after the company that leased the now-sunken drilling platform.

This is perhaps what the President means by ” keeping a boot on the neck of BP.” Which is an unfortunate phrase and should have no place in White House communications.  BP acknowledged responsibility long before the  “boot” comment. Presidents of the United States should not plant boots on anyone’s neck.  The phrase is from Orwell.

What I am getting at in all of this, is not to place blame.  The world is a dangerous place, and things happen.  Those who are certain that more regulation, more agencies, more mandates, more rules — will compensate for dangerous nature, fallible humanity, failed equipment and natural disasters — are mistaken.

The more bureaucracy grows — the more error: the more rules — the fewer are obeyed.  More regulation breeds a disrespect for law, and those who were so sure that wise, benevolent people in charge, changing society to make it better — end up unable to keep the lights on in Venezuela, unable to feed their own people in North Korea,  with a society of alcoholics who have given up having children in Russia,  and with the very best of intentions creating trillions of dollars of debt in America.

The wise folks in Washington are always sure that they know better,  that their ideas are new and fresh, and a glorious future lies ahead. They don’t. They aren’t, and it doesn’t.  Big government is to be opposed not because it is a popular slogan in some quarters,  but because it simply doesn’t work.  It has been tested over and over, and it never, never works.

The American people don’t need or want everything remade, reformed and reorganized for them.  They want truth and transparency.  They have a lot of good old-fashioned common sense and they know — most of the time — when they’re being told the truth, and when they’re not.  Collectively, they have a lot of wisdom too. They deserve the respect and the attention of those in government.

April, 2010′s Nanny of the Month Award. by The Elephant's Child
April 30, 2010, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Law, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , ,

I yield to no one in my distaste for bureaucrats who think they must regulate everything.   But there is a serious side to all this nit-picky nannyism.  Excessive regulation leads to disrespect for the laws,  When regulations are silly, and unnecessary, people lose respect for both the regulations and for the regulators.

It seems strange for a government to outlaw incandescent lightbulbs because of a false idea that we are short of energy, as government officials build themselves multiple homes of ridiculous size, and demand private plane service.

The regulators seldom have any intent of being regulated themselves, nor of obeying any regulations.  The regulations are meant to apply only to the distasteful masses — us.

The Tyranny of Bureaucracy, or Death by a Thousand Threads. by The Elephant's Child

Conservatives praise the free market.  Liberals prefer big government, and many simply do not understand what the fuss is all about.

Alexis de Tocqueville explained it many years ago in his masterpiece Democracy in America. Tocqueville saw the transformation of a free society, not in melodramatic terms like a military coup, but as a slow, creeping death.  The power of the centralized government will gradually expand, meddling in the tiniest corners of our lives.  We will be immobilized, like Gulliver, by innumerable rules and regulations, hundreds of annoying little restrictions that become more and more binding until eventually we are paralyzed.

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately.  It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will.  Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated…

Tocqueville describes the new tyranny as “an immense and tutelary power,” and its task is to watch over us all, and regulate every aspect of our lives.

It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.

We are to be seduced.  American democracy will end not with bludgeons, but with the emergence of a vast welfare state that manages all the details of our lives and corrupts our character.

The…sole condition required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community is to love equality, or to get men to believe you love it.  Thus the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced, as it were, to a single principle.

I came across a story, of all things, about a maker of bourbon.  A company went “green”, but not as demanded by the EPA.  Not forced by a mass of regulations and mandates devised by environmental  busybodies or by rules passed by Congress “for the children”.  Maker’s Mark was faced with the challenge of how to dispose of the spent grains from the distillery process.  They turned to a firm called Ecovation.  Do read the story of what they did with the thick slop that was once a refuse product.

Innovation?  The government will produce innovation.  They will create an agency, or perhaps a committee or a commission. They will appropriate funds, issue directions, establish rules, add  mandates, a schedule, and a vast chain of command, a hierarchy that must approve each step.  Something may be created, but it won’t be innovative or creative, for the impulse for innovation is stamped out by petty nitpicking, and bureaucracy is the home ground of petty nitpicking.  In a hierarchical organization the next one up on the ladder must approve, so that the one on the next rung will approve.  And so on, and so on.  It is how societies die.

That is what the fuss is all about.

Big Government Intrudes in Your Life, Part IV. by The Elephant's Child
April 5, 2010, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Economy, Energy, Law, Statism | Tags: , , ,

In Part II, we discussed the Obama administration’s EPA’s new rules forcing automakers to increase their vehicles’ fuel economy by 40% in five years. This will cost Americans a bundle — raising the price of a car from $1,000 to $5,000 more, kill jobs in the auto industry and incidentally kill a lot of people on the highways by forcing car makers to make lighter, more vulnerable cars. That happened on April 1.

The next day, the same EPA favorably reviewed an ethanol fuel mandate that would force cars to get up to 5 percent poorer fuel efficiency. Fifty two ethanol producers known collectively as “Growth Energy” (Big Corn) want the EPA to boost existing requirements that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol to 15 percent.  That change would mean billions more in government subsidies for companies in the business of growing corn and converting it into ethanol.

For the rest of us, it means significantly higher gasoline prices, higher food prices (you have no idea how many things contain corn), and gasoline that contains less energy and won’t go as far. Ethanol is an inefficient fuel.  It reduces gas mileage by 5.3 percent.  Repair bills will climb because engines are not designed to handle 15 percent ethanol.  Vehicle warranties specifically exclude damage from the use of unapproved fuels, so the costs will fall on drivers.  How much damage, I don’t know.

The policy is distorting the market for food.  “Big Corn” wants the government subsidies, because without the government mandate, who would buy ethanol?  There is no justification  for this intervention. This is not the time for useless “green” games.  The EPA should reject “Big Corn’s” rent seeking, and Congress  should repeal all ethanol subsidies.

Actually, Congress should repeal the EPA.  What a useless organization!

Americans Are Not Willing to Trade their Liberties for Some Kind of Comfortable Dependence on a Corrupt State. by The Elephant's Child

Americans are disheartened at the drive by the Obama administration towards more government, bigger government, and more control by government.   This is such a profound misunderstanding of America and the American people, that we must return again to the great questions.  Where do we come from?  Who are we?  Where are we going?

“We Americans are a bundle of paradoxes,” says David Hackett Fisher.” We are mixed in our origins, and yet we are one people.  Nearly all of us support our republican system, but we argue passionately (sometimes violently) among ourselves about its meaning. “

“We live in an open society which is organized on the principle of voluntary action, but the determinants of that system are exceptionally constraining.  Our society is dynamic, changing profoundly in every period of American history; but it is also remarkably stable.”

For over two centuries “our social system has remained stubbornly democratic in its politics, capitalist in its economy, libertarian in its laws, individualist in its society and pluralistic in its culture.”

The great historian Robert Conquest wrote:

The only reason we are able to examine our own and other history in an open way is that the culture which makes such thinking possible has, so far, survived and prevailed.

People forget what a remarkable thing it is that in our countries we have such rights and liberties.  Civilizations have existed for thousands of years in which there was no trace of the mere idea of criticizing the government, of being secure from arbitrary arrest, of having a fair trial (or even a fairish trial, or even a trial at all), of printing almost anything one likes, of voting for one of a number of candidates for public office.

We are Americans.  We are not Europeans, nor are we British.  We are not citizens who are willing to trade our personal liberties for some kind of comfortable dependence on the state.  We are a people who boarded ships to cross the stormy North Atlantic to an absolutely unknown land.  There we put down roots, built schools and churches, and pulled up the roots and moved on.  Across the Appalachians, across the plains and the Rockies, across a continent.

Even those who have arrived only yesterday come to an unknown country, and it takes courage to come.  We welcome them and ask them to become Americans, to renounce their prior allegiances, learn about their new heritage,  and become free people, free Americans.  Some of our newest citizens are most cognizant of the value of liberty, and prize it more deeply, for they have come from where such freedom was impossible.

I just don’t believe that free Americans will stand for ideological statist policies that are deeply opposed by the majority of the people.  Americans will stand up to be counted, and make it clear that there are limits, there are laws, and ego-driven congressional leaders must follow the rules. We don’t like corruption, we don’t like sneaky backroom deals, we don’t like crony capitalism, and we won’t tolerate thugs in government.

Recommended Reading:
David Hackett Fischer: Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America
Bernard Bailyn: The Peopling of British North America
Robert Conquest: Reflections on a Ravaged Century
Robert G. Athearn: The Mythic West In Twentieth Century America

The Way Things Work. by The Elephant's Child

Andrew Stuttaford excerpted this pertinent bit in the Corner at National Review Online, from a recent longer piece in Reason magazine by Steven Greenhut.   It’s worth repeating and considering.

The United States had 2.3 state and local government employees per 100 citizens in 1946 and has 6.5 state and local government employees per 100 citizens now. In 1947, Hodges writes, 78 percent of the national income went to the private sector, 16 percent to the federal sector, and 6 percent to the state and local government sector. Now 54 percent of the economy is private, 28 percent goes to the feds, and 18 percent goes to state and local governments. The trend lines are ominous.

Bigger government means more government employees. Those employees then become a permanent lobby for continual government growth. The nation may have reached critical mass; the number of government employees at every level may have gotten so high that it is politically impossible to roll back the bureaucracy, rein in the costs, and restore lost freedoms. People who are supposed to serve the public have become a privileged elite that exploits political power for financial gain and special perks. Because of its political power, this interest group has rigged the game so there are few meaningful checks on its demands. Government employees now receive far higher pay, benefits, and pensions than the vast majority of Americans working in the private sector. Even when they are incompetent or abusive, they can be fired only after a long process and only for the most grievous offenses.

It’s a two-tier system in which the rulers are making steady gains at the expense of the ruled. The predictable results: Higher taxes, eroded public services, unsustainable levels of debt, and massive roadblocks to reforming even the poorest performing agencies and school systems. If this system is left to grow unchecked, we will end up with a pale imitation of the free society envisioned by the Founders.

Sometimes a Good Graphic Chart Really Helps to Make Things Clear! by The Elephant's Child

A while back, we posted a chart of the bureaucracy created by the House Democrat’s Health Care bill, which shows the many offices, committees, groups, programs, corps, centers, committees, funds and departments that would insert themselves between you and your doctor and your health care.

It’s pretty horrifying to consider all those bureaucrats with their sticky fingers deciding what you can have and what you shall do. The white parts are the existing bureaus.  The colored parts are what is added by the bill.

Well, if you remember, that bill came in far too expensive, so they went behind closed doors and reworked the whole thing , so they got everyone’s favorite give-aways in and figured out new ways to bring the cost down.  That part was hard, but they figured if you started paying the taxes and penalties right away, but put off any of the costs until 2014, that was a good way to make the costs over the next ten years look much, much better.

But just about everybody in the back rooms had things to add, and some had to be added as bribes for people who didn’t want to vote for the bill.  So here is the new chart of the bureaucracy for PelosiCare.  You will be astounded by how much they have added.  I was.  You will recognize the original chart in the center.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter what they have to promise, or what they exclude to get votes. Their plan  is to get the government firmly in control.  Then they can put back in the things that they took out.  They can tinker and ration, refuse treatments that they think are too expensive, or medicines that are too new.  They are already planning to tax wheelchairs, pacemakers, artificial hips, hearing aids and other medical equipment.

We have the world’s best health-care system.  It has some problems that are pretty easily solved.  But when you refuse to indulge any of the proven ways of saving money, as Democrats have, all that is left is rationing, or paying less for everything.  When you pay less, you don’t get the same goods.

The purpose of the American health care system is saving lives.  The purpose of the Democrats’ health care plan is saving money.

Photoshops I wish I’d done… by American Elephant

Sublime analogy.

Bet the Empire had “free” health care too! Now if I can only slip the plans into this R-2 unit…

Artist unknown


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