American Elephants

The United States Deficit Exceeds $1,000,000,000,000 by The Elephant's Child
July 14, 2009, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , , , ,


Count all those zeroes! That’s not the National Debt, but the Deficit — what we owe on our national credit card. And of course, just like a credit card, the interest charges pile up.  One trillion dollars.  If you need a picture, go here.

The stimulus isn’t working, and stimulus plans have a long history of not working.  Only 17 percent of Americans think the stimulus has been very effective according to the latest IBD/TIPP  Poll.  53 percent believe it has not been effective in getting the economy going in the right direction.

Since the start of the recession, 7.2 million people have lost their jobs. These are scary numbers, and many companies are asking people to reduce their hours.

Barack Obama has created quite a bunch of jobs with hefty salaries in his assortment of Czars, 28 domestic and 6 international.  No one is quite sure what these Czars are supposed to be doing, since most activities which are of proper concern to the government are represented by a department with a Secretary, an Assistant Secretary, a Deputy Secretary, and an Assistant Deputy Secretary or something like that, with dozens to hundreds of other employees, all of whose generous wages are paid by taxpayers.

The normal way of dealing with a recession is to try to alleviate some of the taxes on business, so that business is more able to create jobs.  And for government to reduce spending as much as they can after providing unemployment help for those who have lost their jobs.

This administration, however, has chosen to “not let a crisis go to waste”, and determined to “act swiftly” to get through a bunch of programs that they would never be able to get through Congress if the people were paying attention.

Of course when the President just turns over stimulus creation to Congress with only the stipulation of getting a lot of money into the economy quickly — then congressmen get lots of goodies to take home to their constituents.

Nancy Pelosi, for example, gets a $30 million program for renovating the salt marshes in San Francisco Bay to save the salt marsh harvest mouse.  A  cute little fellow that may be endangered.  There are probably  jobs involved, but they may not be those most needed by unemployed San Franciscans.

The usual rule is to avoid raising taxes during a recession.  Once you have done what can be done with unemployment benefits and food stamps, then you do everything you can to favor the small businesses that are always the source of new jobs.  Instead, this time Democrats plan to raise taxes on small business.  First, Obama has promised to let the Bush tax cuts expire.  That will raise the top personal rate from 35% to 39.6%.  If those taxes expire, so will various tax deductions and exemptions bringing the top marginal rate as high as 41%.

Chairman Rangel wants to impose a “surtax” on individuals with an adjusted gross income of more than $280,000 — “the rich.”  But more than six of every 10 who earn that much are small business owners, sole proprietors or subchapter S corporations who pay the individual rate.  Then phasing out various deductions and exemptions would bring the tax rate up to around 46% — a level that hasn’t been seen since 1986.

If that weren’t enough to discourage businesses from hiring or expanding; government has shown a willingness to take over private business, tell business how much they may earn, change regulations and add new ones, and impose economy-destroying mandates like the Waxman-Markey climate bill which would raise costs throughout the economy.

“Capital,” the late Walter Wriston said, “will go where it is wanted, and stay where it is well treated. It will flee from onerous regulation of its value or use and no government power can restrain it for long.”  Must be true.  Steven Ballmer has threatened to move Microsoft overseas, and businesses are leaving California in droves.

The cartoon is by Michael Ramirez at IBD Editorials

Any and All Democrat Mistakes, Failures, Flubs and Fouls are Bush’s Fault. by The Elephant's Child

Much in the news today is Congressional “shock” that they were not briefed by the CIA on a program that they originally authorized; but which never came close to becoming operational.

This seems at first glance to be an attempt to butter over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the CIA lied to Congress. (CIA Director Panetta briefed both the house and the Senate on the same day, but the Senate Intelligence Committee has had nothing to say).

Director Panetta has said that there was no indication of anything illegal or inappropriate about the effort.  But Democrats on the House committee demanded that Panetta take back his claim that the CIA has never misled Congress.  Now why would that make me think that they were trying to give political cover to Ms. Pelosi?

The program was a plan to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, and never — according to a CIA senior intelligence officer — came close to becoming operational.  Though I’m not sure what the fuss is about.  Wasn’t that what we wanted, to capture or kill al Qaeda?

Panetta said that according to his notes, Vice President Cheney directed the CIA not to tell Congress specifics of the secret program.  Possibly because secret programs have a way of appearing on New York Times front page shortly after intelligence committees are briefed?

Never mind.  It’s just another case of politics as usual.  Dragging out “Bush did it” is the favorite attention deflector in the Obama playbook.

Liz Cheney takes on the “torture” controversy and Norah McDonald as well, and wins. by The Elephant's Child

Liz Cheney, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, is here interviewed on MSNBC, on the interrogation memos and the question of “torture.” Norah McDonald gives a wonderful example of media bias. She can’t quite believe that anyone would have the gall to disagree with President Obama. For an example of disagreeing with a president, see “Afterburner“, a video we posted earlier. Hilarious.

Transparency, truthtelling and torture. by The Elephant's Child
April 25, 2009, 6:03 pm
Filed under: Freedom, Law, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

Today’s tremendous, essential, must-read article is from Noemi Emery in the Weekly Standard.

Some Democrats, from the White House on down, are pushing the idea of a “truth commission,” à la South Africa, to deal with the “harsh measures” used by the Bush administration in interrogating al Qaeda detainees.  Good.  Let’s have lots of truthtelling.  Please bring it on. […]

Also dropped down the memory hole — along with the names of all the Democrats who thought Saddam was a menace who cried out for removal — is what the ambience was like in late 2001 and 2002, when fears of anthrax and suitcase bombs ran rampant, and people on all sides tried to seem tough.  Let’s tell the truth about all the liberals who went on record supporting real torture, not to mention the Democrats in Congress, when it was cool to want to seem tough on our enemies, who couldn’t be too warlike.  Then war and tough measures stopped being cool, and “world opinion” became more important.  Nothing like statements under oath to revive ancient memories! And rewind the tapes.

Let’s get at the truth too about the word “torture,” which to different people, means different things.  Some think “torture” means standing on the 98th floor of a burning skyscraper and realizing you have a choice between jumping and being incinerated.  Some think torture is being crushed when a building implodes around you.  Some think torture is not thinking you might drown for several minutes, but looking at burning buildings on television and knowing that people you love are inside them.  They remember that being crushed, incinerated, or killed in a jump from the 98th story happened to almost 3,000 blameless Americans (as well as a number of foreigners), and that 125 Pentagon employees were killed at their desks, while many survivors suffered terrible burns.  They think the choice between stopping this from happening again by slapping around or scaring the hell out of a cluster of brigands, or leaving the brigands alone and letting it happen again, is a no-brainer.

I remember the members of Congress standing, quaking, on the steps of the Capitol building and spontaneously singing “God Bless America” in quavering voices, a bipartisan moment not seen since.  Nancy Pelosi has conveniently forgotten what she was told about interrogation, and many Democrats also conveniently suffer from selective memory.  Lets have a truthtelling session.  After all, this was supposed to be the most transparent administration in history.

Do read the whole thing. My excerpts don’t begin to capture the whole article.  Noemie Emery is a gem.

It sounds like a bit of a mess, but the EPA is riding to the rescue, really really soon. by The Elephant's Child

The Obama administration giveth with one hand and snatcheth away with the other.  Obama himself has guaranteed auto warranties, so you don’t have to worry.  Greg Pollowitz noted in Planet Gore at National Review:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has opened the door to allowing higher mixes of ethanol in gasoline, a potential boon to farmers and the struggling ethanol industry, but opposed by auto makers whose consumer warranties typically are tied to the current EPA standard.

Well, of course.  Ethanol producers have been going bankrupt left and right. If they go bankrupt, then farmers in the corn states won’t be able to sell their corn to to ethanol producers.  Then there are auto makers, in deep trouble, possibly facing bankruptcy. They must come up with satisfactory plans promptly.

Obama wants them to make smaller, more energy-efficient cars, preferably hybrids or electric cars.  Americans don’t want hybrids or electric cars.  They want SUVs to cart the kids and their friends around safely, get around in the snow, and haul stuff from Home Depot around. Congress has mandated new mpg requirements that car makers cannot meet, and besides, the car makers  are busy going bankrupt.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently reported on a series of test crashes between minicars and midsize models; and the death rate in minis is three times higher than in large cars.  We’ve been hearing a lot about the green promise of high-efficiency cars.  A 2002 National Research Council study found that CAFE standards contributed to about 2.000 deaths per year because of their restrictions on size and weight.

General Motors Volt , Obama’s car advisory group said, is not ready for prime time.  It costs around $40,000 and goes only 40 miles on a charge.  But then, the advisory group has only had 3 weeks to learn how to run a car company.  Obama wants the Volt still on the table, as it is an all electric car.

Americans are not likely to use enough gas next year to accommodate the 13 billion gallons of ethanol that Congress has mandated. Current regulations limit the ethanol content in a gallon of gas to 10%.  The industry wants that quantity lifted to 15% or even 20%.  But only a fraction of cars on the road can run with ethanol blends higher than 10%.  It can damage engines, corrode automotive pipes and impair some safety features.  It can also mess up catalytic converters.  It’s even worse in boats, snowmobiles, lawnmowers and so  on.  And to boot, there is little or no net reduction in CO2 over ordinary gasoline, if you are actually worried about CO2. The EPA has decided it can regulate CO2 as a dangerous pollutant because they are unfamiliar with photosynthesis and breathing.

U.S. oil refiners will be on the hook for liability for any problems arising from ethanol blending, because Congress refused to grant legal immunity for selling a product that complies with the mandates that it ordered. They just don’t like oil companies.

The refiners are also set to pay stiff fines for not fulfilling Congress’s mandates for second-generation cellulosic ethanol.  The makers already admit that they won’t be able to churn out enough of the stuff to meet the targets that Congress decided on two years ago.

This is all aside from the fact that ethanol production has raised the cost of food by about $47 per year, per American.  Plus, ethanol only gets produced with major subsidies from taxpayers. And there isn’t as much energy in a gallon of ethanol as there is in a gallon of gas — no matter what the source of the ethanol.  So it doesn’t go as far.

In March 2008, a report commissioned by the Coalition for Balanced Food and Fuel policy (a coalition of eight meat, dairy and egg producers) estimated that the biofuel mandates passed by Congress will cost the U.S. economy more than $100 billion from 2006 to 2009. It also acts as a regressive tax on the poor to whom Obama is mailing checks called tax cuts, as soon as he get around to it.

There’s more, but you get the idea.  Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are right on top of everything.  We’ll get it all ironed out really, really soon.  Trust us.

Congressman Ted Poe doesn’t like CFL lightbulbs either. by The Elephant's Child
April 16, 2009, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Energy, Freedom, Politics | Tags: , ,

Guess who is “outsourcing?” It couldn’t be Congress where they are always making speeches about the evils of outsourcing. No more American-made incandescent light bulbs. I wonder how many jobs are being lost at GE and Sylvania?  The nasty little fluorescents are all, every single one, made in China.

One dirty little secret is that CFL bulbs cannot be used in an enclosed space.  And how many fixtures do you have that are essentially “enclosed spaces?”  How many of your lighting fixtures take other kinds of bulbs?  Floods, halogen, what about those very expensive chandeliers that take those little tiny light bulbs?  Goodbye night lights, at least enclosed ones. And what about our Christmas lights?

Congressman Poe is absolutely correct.  Congress has no business sticking their noses in our lighting fixtures.  It is the obnoxious tendency of Liberals Progressives to want to decide every detail of how you should live.  And their notions about global warming are unfortunately pure hooey.

Sheesh!  Have you priced lighting fixtures lately?

Andrew Klavan on “The Night of the Living Government” by The Elephant's Child

(h/t: pajamas media)

Where, oh where did the money all go? by The Elephant's Child
April 10, 2009, 1:37 am
Filed under: Economy, Politics, Progressivism, Taxes | Tags: ,

When President Obama turned to Congress to pass his $787 billion stimulus package, he said the important thing was to get the money into the economy as soon as possible, because “spending equals stimulus.” Most of us didn’t take that statement too seriously.  Turns out he meant it.

During the stimulus debate, the bill’s supporters emphasized that the bill contained strong oversight safeguards.  But oversight will be after the fact.  The money is beginning to be spent, but members of Congress have no idea where or how.  Democrats could demand details from the Obama administration, but minority Republicans have no way to demand anything, nor can they compel the administration to do anything.

Representative Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip and GOP Senator John Thune have put together a working group to track the spending as well as they can.  Right now, the best tools Cantor and Thune have are Google and the Lexis-Nexis newspaper database.  “Agencies will give you information in very broad terms without being specific.” Byron York documents a little of what is known so far.

When the money comes in, it is usually reported to local newspapers, and that is the information the Republicans search for.   The Binghamton, New York Press & News-Bulletin reported that the small town of Union, N.Y. would receive $578,661 from the HUD Homeless Prevention Fund, although Union did not request the money and does not have a homeless prevention program.

The Altoona Mirror reported that Altoona PA was going to receive $819,000 from the fund even though officials may not have enough of a homelessness problem to use it.  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania will receive $855,478 from the fund, but doesn’t know what to do with it .

In Wisconsin, the Journal Sentinel reported that the town of Arena will get about $426,000 to replace a little-used bridge that gets an average of 10 cars a day.   A Douglas County bridge that also gets stimulus money also gets about 10 cars a day. The vast majority of the bridges receiving stimulus funding carry fewer than 10,000 vehicles a day, and many carry significantly fewer than that.  The small rural bridges will receive $15.8 million, while high priority larger bridges with daily traffic counts near 60,000 vehicles are ineligible for funding in the first round.  The cash flows on the basis of timing.

The 40-foot River Road bridge serves as the only link over Blue Mounds Creek to a state Department of Natural Resources boat landing on the south bank of the Wisconsin River.  Traffic over the bridge is all for recreational use—fishing, canoeing or to a private campground.  It was pretty low priority, but environmental assessments and Army Corps of Engineer permits were in place, and contracts for the work needed to be ready to go by March 2010.

All that Googling indicates that Congress, which has to make critical decisions on how taxpayers’ money should be spent, should have a better way of knowing where the money is going.  The Obama administration promised that its new website would detail everything  to do with stimulus expenditures, but so far it is not in place.  Transparency and accountability are just not there yet.  $787 billion is an awful lot of money.  It seems important to know where it is going.

Most people just want to know if it is actually going to stimulate.

Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” by The Elephant's Child

Mark Levin’s new book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, went on sale yesterday and is being snapped up quickly enough that stores are already running out.  It is essential reading on the major issues facing the nation today, exploring the difference between conservatism and statism.  The reviews are outstanding.

In a number of brilliant essays Mr. Levin compares the outlook of the conservative to the outlook of the statist toward the major issues of today.  He supports his arguments with insights from the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution, as well as lessons from history.  “”Think of it, said one reviewer, “as an outstanding tutorial in applied political philosophy.” He went on:

If you care passionately about America, and worry for its future — and who doesn’t, given the current national leadership? — then you owe it to yourself to buy and devour this marvelous work.  It is an essential antidote to what ails America at the moment.

My copy is waiting for me at the bookstore.  Can’t wait.

Money, Money, Money. by The Elephant's Child

New forecasts of the president’s budgetary proposals are due from the Congressional Budget Office on Friday, and they are apparently bad news for the White House.  The White House has already admitted that the Obama budget will produce deficits  of over $6.9 trillion, the CBO may add another $1.5 trillion to that.

According to the story coming out, CBO will say that the president’s budget will burden the country with a budget deficit of more than $700 billion in 2014 —  a little higher than the Obama team’s prediction of $570 billion. CBO estimates of economic growth were far less than Blue Chip forecasts, and this should also affect the debate in Congress. Or at least one would think so.  Costs way more, takes in far less.

This should be a dash of cold water on congressional democrats.  But top aides to the president met on Wednesday evening in the Capitol with House Democratic allies to plan expedited budget procedures to advance Obama’s healthcare initiative  past Senate filibuster threats.  Obama has gone out campaigning.  He is, it seems, totally unconcerned about how much this all costs the country.  He wants all his ideas passed now.

In spite of mountains of evidence that show that electronic medical records will not save any significant amount of money, President Obama is pushing EMR as a money-saving plan. Studies show that not only does it not save money, it produces little, if any, improvement in the quality of care.  And even Peter Orszag, Obama’s budget director,  has said that health care will cost far more than is estimated.

Nancy Pelosi is talking (already) about a second stimulus plan.  She would also like to bail out the San Francisco Chronicle, her home town newspaper.  I know that Democrats had a lot of pent-up desires after being out of power for so long, but this is getting ridiculous.  They have no restraint, no ethics, no honor.  They forget why they are there.  They are not there to control us, to destroy our economy in their desperate quest for power, but as our servants.  They serve at our pleasure.

The White House just announced that, since they have so much free time, they will shortly take up reformation of Immigration.  You couldn’t make this up.  Nobody would believe it.

With all this, congressional democrats  are pretending outrage over a problem that they caused. They are  blaming AIG CEO Ed Liddy, who came out of retirement to work for a dollar a year, to try to clean up the AIG mess.  He wasn’t even at AIG when any of the problems occurred.

The $165 million in bonuses that Congress is so “worked up about”, are retention bonuses.  That is, if people will stay on, instead of quitting as most would want to do, they will get a contracted bonus to make staying worthwhile.  The necessity for this, you can imagine, if they had to bring in new people to sort out the problems — who wouldn’t even know where the files were.  Congress has been trying to use the phony outrage to cover their own outrageous actions.   So Speaker Pelosi has led the House to pass a clearly unconstitutional bill, specifically taxing at a 90% rate, those who received, under contract, retention bonuses and did not give them back.

I think they have all gone quite mad.

Are you properly outraged? Obama wants to know. by The Elephant's Child

Populist balderdash!  The whole AIG bonus flap is a complete farce.  The federal government knew about the AIG bonuses way last fall.  Chris Dodd wrote an amendment to the stimulus bill that allowed contractual bonuses to be paid.

President Obama knows that the outcry against bailouts and takeovers is going against him and is only going to get worse.  His poll numbers are dropping.  Time to create a massive outcry against corporate villains.  Useful idiots are supposed to be angry with “Big Business”, not with the administration and not with congress.

AIG is currently owned by the taxpayers.  The CEO is a government appointed head who is working for a dollar a year. Congress is supposed to be keeping an eye on things.   A mysterious amendment called “the Dodd amendment” by the administration provides an “exception for contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11,2009.” Senator Dodd says — nothing to do with him.  Senator Grassley suggested that bonus recipients should apologize and commit hari-kari. There’s a little excess going on here.

Every congressman who could get in front of a microphone was “outraged”,  Geithner is outraged, Obama is outraged.  Of course President Obama signed the bill that clearly made these bonuses legal.

The contractual bonuses paid to hundreds of employees amounted to $165 million.  AIG has benefited from more than $170 billion in a federal rescue, and they reported this month that they lost $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of last year.  In those terms $165 million is almost petty cash.  Economist Larry Kudlow weighs in here, and Hot Air comments here.

And of course the compliant media is telling you constantly how completely outraged you should be.

President Obama spoke to Congress tonight, trying to stir up some optimism. by The Elephant's Child
February 24, 2009, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Economy, Energy, Health Care, Progressivism, Taxes | Tags: , ,

I watched President Obama’s speech to the Congress tonight, and I thought it was surprisingly ineffective.  This was to be the optimistic speech, celebrating America and the way forward. An upbeat speech instead of his usual gloom and doom trying to scare Americans into accepting his policies for the economy.

AP’s Ron Fournier’s pre-written article on Obama’s speech said:

Barack Obama is giving America the audacity to hope again.  After describing the U.S. economy in the grimmest of terms for weeks, a rhetorical device that helped propel his $787 billion stimulus plan through Congress, the president used a joint address to Congress to tap the deep well of American optimism — the never-say-die national spirit that every president tries to capture.  And great presidents embody.  “We will rebuild.  We will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before,” Obama says in an address echoing Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

We are in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, and there is no doubt that we will triumph.  Just as soon as the stimulus and the new lending fund, and the housing plan to help the folks who can’t pay their mortgages kick in, and we bailout the banks, American ingenuity will make all well again, because we cannot saddle our grandchildren with our debts which were all caused by that nasty previous administration anyway.  Or something like that.

I am troubled about the policies on which he is placing so much expectation. He promises to double the energy we get from renewables.  We now get about 3.1% of our energy from all renewables.  If we double that we will get 6.1%, which is not going to make a big dent in the foreign oil we import, nor will it cut down the energy we get from coal.  In Europe even the Greens are turning to nuclear. Russia’s turning off the gas spigots enlightened a few minds.

He promises vast savings from computerizing medical records, but studies show that Veterans Administration computerization is actually endangering patients, and elsewhere medical records are completely open to identity theft. The expected savings have not materialized.

He seems to believe that nationalizing health care will create vast savings in the cost of medicine in spite of the evidence of every other country, many of which are trying to find ways out of nationalized care.  It doesn’t work, in spite of every effort, and the savings come from rationing, cutting out the use of new and innovative (and expensive) drugs and treatments.  I would feel more comfortable about this if Congress did not exclude themselves from whatever plan results.

Obama announced that he plans “soak the rich” class-warfare economics, to loud cheers from the Democrat side of the aisle.  Repeating the same old failed policies of the past are not a road to an economic Utopia.  Been there, done that, and it still doesn’t work.

I would be delighted to be proved wrong, but I find little about which to be optimistic.

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