American Elephants

Democrats Care About “People Like Me.” by The Elephant's Child

obama photo -op

When people express their political preferences, at least according to the polls, they identify the Democratic Party as the one that “cares about people like me,” or “cares about little people,” or “ordinary people.”

Republicans are apt to react to that with jaw-dropping astonishment. Isn’t it obvious that they couldn’t care less, that all the caring speech is just a pose? Well, no it isn’t, and that is a problem for Republicans. It’s pure politics.

President Obama had an op-ed in the Las Vegas Sun this weekend that really demonstrates the problem. And it may well be an essay that represents his sincere thinking. Democrats are not inclined to investigate the economics of a policy, nor consider carefully the unintended consequences. Politicians like to describe their ideas in prose that will make what they want to do as appealing as possible, so you can’t tell what Obama really believes by reading what he says.

“Honest work should be rewarded with honest wages” — whatever that means—if anything, sounds good, but just what is an “honest wage?” He continues: “That certainly means that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.” And that is true. No one who works full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour qualifies as being “in poverty.” The poverty level for an individual in 2014 is $11,670.

It is meant to be a “starter” wage for a person with no real skills, and that’s why it’s not worth much. The low-skilled need training. The majority get a raise within six months, as they become trained workers who know what they are doing. The federal minimum wage differs from the prevailing minimum wage in some locations, and states too have “minimum wages.”   The minimum wage where I live is $9.25 an hour. Seattle is debating raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The president’s proposal would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 in three annual steps. Republicans argue that this will kill jobs, because if government boosts the cost of labor, employers will buy less of it, and it will do little to reduce poverty. The CBO estimates that the higher minimum wage would reduce jobs by about 500,000. Wage increases would raise the incomes of families in poverty by about $300 annually.

Robert Samuelson says: “An administration serious about job creation has to sacrifice other priorities to achieve it.” The CBO has estimated that the health insurance subsidies in ObamaCare will discourage people from working resulting in a loss of an estimated 2.5 million full-time workers by 2014. There are choices. For the most part the White House has voted against job creation, a fact that it tries to hide. The proposed increase is much larger than most of the increases that have been studied, and the minimum would be indexed to inflation, rising automatically with prices. Also new.

The minimum wage has a great advantage as a political idea. If employers are forced to pay a  “living wage” then no one will live in poverty. Low-information voters and reporters will go for that. Easy.

ObamaCare has been eliminating full-time jobs right and left, and transforming them into part-time jobs. A mandated minimum wage set at a level above what unskilled labor is worth, eliminates jobs. Teenage unemployment is now at 20.7 percent, black teenage unemployment is a horrendous 38 percent. The average family income of minimum wage earners is $48,000 a year. Raising the minimum wage accelerates the trend to automation and robotics.

If you can. go back and read the president’s op-ed and see how appealing it is, and how dishonest. That’s a major problem for Conservatives.

The picture above is Obama’s photo-op comforting Donna Vanzant, whose North Point Marina sustained widespread damage in Hurricane Sandy. Obama promised her “immediate” assistance, help from FEMA, and the photo went viral in the days before the election. Donna Vanzant suffered around $500,000 in damages. After his visit, and promise of help on national television, Donna Vanzant sent an email to President Obama. Many days later, she got a response—a form letter that thanked her for supporting the troops—the only response she ever received.  The exit polls after the election showed the vote for Obama’s second term depended mostly on his compassionate response to Hurricane Sandy.


The President Had a Press Conference by The Elephant's Child

President Obama held his first post-election press conference today. His first press conference in eight months, the president doesn’t like press conferences much, even though the press arm of the Obama campaign never asks really hard questions. Even with a press corps that is warmly complimenting the president on his electoral win, and trembling with the wonder of simply being in his presence, they did manage to ask eight questions.

One of the questions was about “Climate Change,” which is not surprising now that Al Gore is back out blaming Hurricane Sandy on dirty CO2.  Mark Landler, with the New York Times asked the following question:

Mr. President. In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent. Tomorrow you’re going up to New York City, where you’re going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is changing our weather. What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change? And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of a tax on carbon?

The president was direct, saying “I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions.” Consider this as an announcement that he is considering a carbon tax, one of the dumber things some nations have done.

You know, as you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily — there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.

And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.

Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That will have an impact. That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation. And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere.

But we haven’t done as much as we need to. So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers and elected officials to find out what can — what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary, a discussion, the conversation across the country about, you know, what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.

In the meantime, Britain’s Met Office quietly released a report pointing out that the world stopped getting warmer 16 years ago, and included the chart to prove it. From the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there has been no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.  It has been much warmer in the past than it is today, and much cooler as well. There have been much higher quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere, and much lower. We are at a fairly low point at present.

The whole idea that CO2 (what we exhale) is causing massive climate change  and is something to be concerned about exists only in the computer programs that attempt to reconstruct climate, something we don’t know much about. We simply do not know enough about the natural variability of climate, the effect of clouds, long-term ocean temperature cycles and the changes in the output of the sun. The programs that are the source of global warming alarmism are based on guesses and estimates, and are increasingly found to be flawed.

Well, the president believes, and he does not change his mind. He wants more taxpayer money to invest in global warming stuff, like corn for your gas tank, impossible cafe standards that will accomplish nothing, and make cars less safe and more expensive. He will continue to plow taxpayer money and funds borrowed from China into solar arrays and electric batteries, electric cars that no one wants, and other businesses started by his friends and supporters, which will, in their turn, go bankrupt. But he believes, or at least he believes in the money from big environmental organizations, who had lots of money for the Obama campaign, so you never know whether he really believes in global warming, or if it’s just more crony capitalism.


The Sad Story of What Might Have Been. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama got a bit of a boost in the polls, apparently from the perception that he did a better job with this emergency than President Bush did during Hurricane Katrina. Memories are a little faulty. The federal government was not able, by law, to go into Louisiana to provide help to New Orleans and other communities until federal help was requested by the governor. Bush begged for formal permission, but it was not granted until far too late.

Who was the newsman in the boat looking like a hero among the floodwaters until someone walked through the 6″ deep water behind the boat in ordinary boots? That was a telling moment that demonstrated what the media response would be.

So Obama helicoptered over New Jersey with Governor Christie, landed briefly, extolled FEMA, and got a campaign bounce? How about getting bottled water and MREs helicoptered in? Obama could have done something besides appear, and get credit. He got his little pat on the back for paying attention, and then was off to the campaign again. Probably never occurred to him to do more.

Ahhh.  Missed opportunities. What if the presidential response had been: ‘Where’s our nearest military facility with helicopters at hand. Let’s load them up with bottled water and MREs for those people who are hungry and thirsty and get them in there.’ Major bounce.  Way more than a mere appearance. Why didn’t that occur to anyone?  Enough to win an election? Maybe.

As long as we’re playing around with missed opportunities and possible responses: What if upon seeing the military-style attack on the consulate in Libya, someone has said ‘What assets do we have right there? We have two AC-130s? Turn them loose on those terrorists. That’s our embassy and those are our Americans.’ And what if he had asked ‘where’s our closest rapid response team and how fast can you get them there to save our men?’ Well, that missed opportunity would have won the election. But that would have taken a different president with different priorities.

The Marvelous Michael Ramirez Strikes Once Again. by The Elephant's Child

(click to enlarge)

Michael Ramirez is the master of the visual metaphor, there is none better.

This is Not “The New Normal.” Don’t Let Anyone Tell You It Is. by The Elephant's Child

A new phrase has crept into American vocabulary — “the New Normal,”— a national pessimism. Yes, we are in dismal times. New Yorkers, in particular, are hungry, cold, thirsty, and frightened.

Help is coming for New York and New Jersey, and all those in the path of Hurricane Sandy, but it comes too slowly and seems disorganized and incompetent. FEMA’s vaunted “lean forward” strategy that called for advanced staging of emergency supplies — has already run out of drinking water. They are asking for bids from potential suppliers. Governments (Christie and Bloomberg) have made dire threats against anyone price-gouging, yet it is raised prices that would pay for new gas supplies brought in from unaffected states. All that talk about a new power grid never got beyond the talk phase.

Governments are composed of ordinary human beings, just like us. We put them in charge, with little idea of their capabilities, and are surprised when confronted with disaster, they perform like politicians instead of the experts we mistook them for.

Mitt Romney made a commercial about the new normal, explaining that “the private sector is not just fine,” the current unemployment situation can be remedied, and the economy can grow again. This is not just campaign talk. There are causes and there are effects. An ideology that believes in bigger government, more regulation, more control, higher taxes, more rules and more criminalization — when put into practice — has results that are known to history.

The private sector in the form of business organizations like Chambers of Commerce, Small Business Associations, and independent businessmen just speaking out have explained why they can’t hire, why they are laying off people. Organizations of doctors have explained why ObamaCare won’t work. But those caught up in ideology are sure that it didn’t work before because they just didn’t do it right. This time will be different.

I actually heard someone on the radio patiently explain that there just will not be any employment in the offing, ever, for those over 50. No hope. The new normal.

We are all human, and one of the characteristics of being human is that we have no idea whatsoever what tomorrow will bring. Any correct prediction is pure luck, or obvious, but we are simply not endowed with insight into the future.

That said, I concurrently ran into this post from Zero Hedge:

The traditional excuse apologists for America’s collapsing labor force participation rate use every month is that due to “demographics” and retiring baby boomers, increasingly more old workers are no longer counted by the BLS and as a result, are skewing the labor force. That’s where they leave it because digging into details is not really anyone’s forte anymore. This would be great if it was true. It isn’t.

A month ago in “55 And Under? No Job For You” we presented visually and quite simply that of the 3.3 million jobs “created” (updated for October’s data), a gasp-inducing 3.8 million has gone to workers aged 55 and over, or the one cohort that according to conventional wisdom is retiring, and actively leaving the workforce.

President Obama seems to be convinced that the reason people are unemployed is that they do not have the skills needed for a Twenty First Century economy. He wants more people to go to college, although the evidence shows that college graduates learn less and less. He wants more job-training at community colleges. And of course he has a “vision” of a new clean-energy economy where high-tech workers work with rare earths to — do something special. The photos of him at new government-funded, clean energy manufacturing plants always show him with safety-glasses being amazed at some new thing. Apparently what is really needed are more math and financial skills to avoid bankruptcy,

Meanwhile, businessmen, when the facts are dragged out of them, admit that they have a hard time finding people who can correctly answer a telephone, have a work ethic, and some ordinary common-sense skills. And when asked what they need to return to growth, businessmen need certainty from government. They need less needless regulation, fewer regulations and less interference from the EPA. They never know what to expect.

ObamaCare is placing restrictions and regulations on doing business that business can’t meet. They are making more people part-time employees because they can’t afford to pay for their health insurance. Each new regulation is a cost to business — they have to hire someone, or many, to do the paperwork, buy new equipment, revise their way of doing business.

Mitt Romney does understand the burden of needless regulation — that’s one reason why he made a commercial about the new normal. He’s spent 25 years combing over balance sheets and understanding how the acts of government can affect the bottom line of a growing business.  I think when he says he expects to create 12 million new private sector jobs in four years, it is a serious calculation based on our new ranking as the nation with the world’s most plentiful supplies of energy, the opportunity offered to a manufacturing economy by cheap, plentiful energy, and the hope of removing some of the most onerous regulation. A “normal” that just keeps growing better.

Harry Reid has announced that he has no intention of working cooperatively with Mitt Romney under any circumstances. So it is important to elect enough Republican senators to make Mr. Reid Minority Leader. You would think that any government official of either party would be determined to put people back to work, to get the economy growing again, to restore the American dream, but not, I guess, if it interferes with one’s ideology. Ideology trumps all.

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