American Elephants

They Just May Not Have the Votes for Cap-and-Trade. by The Elephant's Child

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the leading climate skeptic in the Senate, said Thursday that upcoming cap-and-trade legislation can muster no more than 26 votes.  Climate change is far down on Americans’ list of concerns.  Only 33 percent believe that human activity is responsible, and 48 percent say global warming is caused by long-term planetary trends.

Evidence continues to appear indicating that cap-and-trade is ruinous for an economy, accomplishes nothing for climate change, and is aimed only at societal control.  President Obama’s efforts to sorta-kinda-maybe suggest that we might have a bit of support for nuclear power  or offshore  oil-and-gas drilling, were offset by all the areas that he put firmly off-limits, so that can be considered as thrown under the bus.

According to a Pew poll released Sunday night, trust in the federal government to do “the right thing” most of the time has fallen to a near all-time low of 22 percent.

How odd.  When the public is concerned about spending, the federal government pursues a health care bill that the majority of the public oppose.  When the public is concerned about spending and jobs, the federal government pursues climate change alarmism.  When the public is concerned about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, the federal government gets an agreement from Canada to send us their enriched uranium.  Why would we conceivably trust the federal government to do “the right thing.”

The System is Not Broken. This is How It’s Supposed to Work! by The Elephant's Child
February 20, 2010, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Progressivism, The Constitution | Tags: , , ,

Even Democrats recognize that things have gone wrong in this last year.  They have two excuses responses.  The first is that America has become “ungovernable.” Charles Krauthammer responded to that yesterday.

In the latter days of the Carter presidency, it became fashionable to say that the office had become unmanageable and was simply too big for one man. Some suggested a single, six-year presidential term. The president’s own White House counsel suggested abolishing the separation of powers and going to a more parliamentary system of unitary executive control. America had become ungovernable.

Then came Ronald Reagan, and all that chatter disappeared.

The tyranny of entitlements? Reagan collaborated with Tip O’Neill, the legendary Democratic House speaker, to establish the Alan Greenspan commission that kept Social Security solvent for a quarter-century.

A corrupted system of taxation? Reagan worked with liberal Democrat Bill Bradley to craft a legislative miracle: tax reform that eliminated dozens of loopholes and slashed rates across the board — and fueled two decades of economic growth.

Later, a highly skilled Democratic president, Bill Clinton, successfully tackled another supposedly intractable problem: the culture of intergenerational dependency. He collaborated with another House speaker, Newt Gingrich, to produce the single most successful social reform of our time, the abolition of welfare as an entitlement.

It turned out that the country’s problems were not problems of structure but of leadership. Reagan and Clinton had it. Carter didn’t. Under a president with extensive executive experience, good political skills, and an ideological compass in tune with the public’s, the country was indeed governable.

The excuse that this is a communications problem — interesting for a president who has made more speeches in his first year than any other — is denied by Charlie Cook, mild-mannered Democrat pollster:

This is a reality problem. And I think they just made some grave miscalculations and as it became more clear that they had screwed up, they just kept doubling down their bet. And so I think, no, this is one of the biggest miscalculations that we’ve seen in modern political history.

He also says that” it’s hard to come up with a scenario where the Democrats don’t lose the house.”

There remains not the slightest indication that the Democrats have any intention of changing their approach, or even doing a little soul-searching.

The two-party system was designed to promote discussion and dissension so that the problems of policies could be worked out in debate before being enacted into law.

It wasn’t intended that one domineering party should rule by bullying and closing down argument, and meeting behind closed doors to make secret agreements.    Hard to convince those who are determined to get their own way.

Ungovernable? To Govern, One Must Do More Than Just Say “I Won.” by The Elephant's Child
February 9, 2010, 1:56 am
Filed under: Economy, Law, National Security, Taxes | Tags: , , ,

Michelle Obama remarked recently that the Obamas were gaining a newfound respect for their predecessors, as they learned how hard the job of the presidency was.  This is the job he ran for.  Didn’t he have some idea?

Some political analysts have looked at Obama’s failed agenda and suggested that America has become “ungovernable. ” Ezra Klein argued in the Washington Post that  the filibuster was preventing government from functioning.  Tom Friedman  claimed America’s “political instability” was making people abroad nervous.  Newsweek’s Michael Cohen blamed “obstructionist Republicans,” “spineless Democrats,” and an “incoherent public” for the problems.

Gosh.  I thought the public was pretty coherent, and making themselves very clear.  We don’t like the burgeoning deficit and the massive debt. We don’t like the runaway spending.  And we really don’t like the Health-Care Reform plan that solves no problems at all. We don’t like the idea of trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court , and we don’t like giving  Umar Adbulmuttalab  domestic civil rights and Mirandizing him before we can even find out who those 25 others waiting to attack us are.

That’s what the polls show.  That’s what people are writing on their homemade signs at Tea Parties, that’s what they are asking their representatives about, that’s what bloggers are writing about, and those were the issues that Scott Brown won with in Massachusetts.  How very odd that neither political analysts nor Democrats in Congress can hear us or grasp what we are talking about.

Jay Cost, a political analyst who writes at Real Clear Politics, said: (and I’d urge you to read the whole thing)

This country is most certainly divided, but not deeply so.  Consider, for instance, the enormous good will that greeted Mr. Obama upon his inauguration.  It is not tenable to suggest that there was no way to turn that into a broad consensus for policy solutions.

The responsibility for the government’s failure in the last year rests with President Obama.  Two significant blunders stand out.

First, President Obama has installed Nancy Pelosi as de facto Prime Minister — giving her leave to dominate not only the house, but also the entire domestic policy agenda. …

[T]he problem is the House.  It has consistently passed legislation that is too far to the left for the Senate and the country….

The President’s second major failing has been his stubborn insistence on comprehensive reforms.  Perhaps this is due to his inexperience in the federal lawmaking process, or his extraordinary vanity, or both.  Still this has been a grave mistake….

He has been narrow, not broad.  He has been partial, not post-partisan.  He has been ideological, not pragmatic.  No number of “eloquent” speeches can alter these facts.  This is why his major initiatives have failed, by his net job approval has dropped 50 points in 12 months, and why he is substantially weaker now than he was a year ago.

The country, Cost says, is not in the midst of a “liberal moment.” While the President won decisively in 2008, ” his congressional majority in both chambers depends entirely upon members whose constituents voted for John McCain.”

“America is not ungovernable.  Barack Obama has so far failed to govern it.”

With a Big Enough Budget, Everything is Possible, Or Not. by The Elephant's Child
February 4, 2010, 12:56 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Education | Tags: , , ,

Obama’s budget looks for $2 trillion more in spending and deficits than last year.  Apparently the memo about fiscal discipline went astray.  After he once again criticized President Bush for running $3.3 trillion in deficits over eight years, President Obama’s budget would run $7.6 trillion over what would be his eight years in the Oval Office. He would run up more debt over his eight years than all other presidents in American history from George Washington through George W. Bush combined.

Obama apparently believes that an economy in recession can be magically improved simply by spending lots and lots of money through something called “the multiplier effect,” which has never been known to work.

The frustrating thing is that there are studies that suggest that much of this huge budget will be wasted.  For example, there is $9.3 billion to create the federal government’s 70th preschool and child-care program.  Head Start has been studied extensively, and every study has shown that it simply does not benefit students. The latest study shows zero lasting benefits by the end of first grade.

The big increases for student aid comes in the wake of a 99 percent increase over the past decade.  College costs continue to climb at four times the rate of inflation — more than 400 percent since 1982.  Economists have argues that generous subsidies have contributed to the college cost problem.  We need strategies that can lower college costs rather than raise them.  Giving generous aid to students in the form of loans they can’t pay back makes no sense.

One of the most successful programs of all is the Opportunity Scholarship program in Washington D.C. which gives poor children vouchers to attend the school of their choice.  The teachers’ union doesn’t like vouchers, which they find threatening.  Naturally, that program is canceled in the budget; those already in the program are allowed to graduate, but there will be no more opportunity.

ClimateGate, GlacierGate, AmazonGate and all the rest of the extensive fudging of figures and exposure of the whole “global warming fraud has not penetrated to the White House.  The President is still talking about “Overwhelming Scientific Evidence” with no inkling that it’s all over— exposed.

The globe is not warming. Warming is not caused by carbon dioxide.  There is no reason to control or prevent emissions of CO2.  Oil and  natural gas are in plentiful supply.  They are not “dirty” and so-called “clean energy” such as wind (only produces energy in small amounts when the wind actually blows at the right speed) and solar (only produces energy when the sun shines) does not exist at all, without massive government subsidy. Everywhere in the world, when subsidies are removed, solar and wind energy end.

$8 billion in stimulus funds has just gone to plan and build high-speed rail projects in California and Florida, and other routine passenger-rail projects that are pretending to be high-speed rail.  The rationale seems to be that “other countries have bullet trains and we are falling behind.”  Internationally only two segments have ever broken even — Tokyo to Osaka, and Paris to Lyon.

High-Speed Rail is a romantic notion, again of getting people out of their cars — ending congestion, except that congestion occurs in urban regions, high-speed rail happens between urban areas. Then they get off on the pointless tons of CO2 reduced.  One project involves a line connecting Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Wash.  For a projected $600 million they propose to shave about 10 minutes of a three-and-a-half hour trip by raising average speeds from 49 mph to 51 mph. Impressive.

This seems to fit right in with electric cars that will go 7 miles on a charge.  The assumption is that wonderful American inventiveness will bail out goofy ideas financed by taxpayer money in the middle of a recession.  It’s not so good now, but just you wait.  Investing lots of government money will be just the ticket.

There are proven policies to help an economy out of recession.  They involve eliminating uncertainty, cutting taxes on business to encourage investment in new employees and cutting government spending.

But Utopian dreamers aren’t interested in proven policies.  Romantic dreams are more fun.  All is possible with the “investment” of big sums of government money our grandchildren’s money.

Barney Frank (D-MA) Solves the Next Financial Crisis! by The Elephant's Child

The “educated class” and those who aspire to being thought of as “educated” have gathered in Davos, Switzerland for an opportunity to see and be seen the World Economic Forum to, in one panel, debate where the next global crisis will come from.

Unsurprisingly, they were all over the map, but in general they think that long-term government debt is a problem.   A few hours after this meeting, in his State of the Union speech, President Obama would call for a three-year government spending freeze, applying to a teeny-weeny sector of government spending approximately 16% of the federal budget.  Nine percent of the public thought that would be effective.

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), who attended the Davos session as one of the selected “challengers” for the three presenters, called for large cuts in defense spending as well as tax increases — particularly on wealthy Davos types. Frank vowed:

I think almost every American here pays much less in taxes than you ought to.  I’m going to go back and try to raise the taxes of most of the people who attended here.

That’s just what we need, Barney.  Raise everybody’s taxes.  The real problem is s-p-e-n-d-i-n-g!  You are not just spending too much, but most of what you are spending is pure waste.  Rebuilding bridges that nobody uses, money for airports that have no flights, money for imaginary (and temporary) “green” jobs, guaranteeing loans for “clean energy” that will never be cost-effective.  Creating new bureaus, new administrations, new offices, and funding those who supported your campaigns.

Just stop! Please, please, just stop!

Analyzing and clarifying the differences between the right and the left. by The Elephant's Child

In the wake of the Homeland Security Department’s memo identifying the Extreme Rightwing Radicals, a little lesson in how to tell the difference will perhaps help.  At the time of the last election, exit polls determined that only 13 percent of Americans could accurately define the differences between the two major parties.  We want to help

Andrew Klavan on the culture. by The Elephant's Child

Funny money. Funny budget. Public reaction–Not funny! by The Elephant's Child

Is the Obama administration unusually mathematically challenged, as we have seen demonstrated in the remarkable number of nominees who cannot do their taxes? Or do they just think that the public is unusually dumb?

Here we have Representative Paul Ryan questioning Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag about the odd technique of using pretend inflated war costs  and then cutting them back to reality to claim “savings” in the budget.  $1.6 trillion of the “savings” that Obama is expecting are based on the costs of the surge in Iraq continuing for 10 more years, even though Obama has announced that all combat troops will be out of Iraq by 2010, and the Status of Forces Agreement is set for 2011.  Orszag looks like a fool.

Washington standards are unusually low, but this is remarkably dishonest.  I’m sure I remember Barack Obama talking about integrity and transparency.  Words, just words.  We were going to have no more earmarks.  The over $400 billion appropriations bill apparently includes something like 9,500 earmarks.

Interesting change.  Not much hope.  Definitely not transparent.  No integrity.

What’s the matter with Big Government, anyway? by The Elephant's Child
February 23, 2009, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Economy, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , ,

Bu•reauc•ra•cy n. 1. Administration of a government chiefly through bureaus staffed with nonelective officials.  2. Government marked by diffusion of authority among numerous offices and adherence to inflexible rules of operation.  3.  Any administration in which the need to follow complex procedures impedes effective action.

Why do Republicans always talk about “small government” and oppose “big government?” Don’t we need “big government” to fix things, to keep us safe, to build highways and regulate all the things that need regulating?

And isn’t this just hypocrisy?  I haven’t noticed Republicans making the government a lot smaller, nor having the government take on fewer tasks.  True.  It is far, far easier to create a new task force, a new bureau, a new department than to find a way to close one down.

Government and business grow in much the same way.  Workers don’t like working hard all the time, they want more help.  Managers like to have more people to manage, it makes them more important. Senior managers enhance their managerial credibility by reorganizing their department to “increase efficiency”.  CEOs add another layer of management to simplify the number of direct reports. And so it goes.

New Presidents, Governors or Mayors bring in favored associates with their new administration, and create new positions or new departments for those associates.

For example, President Obama is not only struggling to fill all the Cabinet positions, but the positions of  the assistant to the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary, and the Directors of other Bureaus and Departments,and the Deputy Directors,  but he is creating any number of Czars who will overlook something or other and have confused relations with the Cabinet Secretaries who were confirmed by the Senate to be in charge of essentially the same thing.

If anyone can explain the tasks of the various Czars and what the relationship is of the Energy Czar to the Energy Secretary and the Head of the EPA and the Interior Secretary, I would be very interested.

This is how government grows, and how business grows.

In the business world, when things aren’t working or when times turn down, whole layers of management may vanish.  You have heard of massive layoffs, 20,000 here and 30,000 there.  Did you hear of government — any government — laying off people in such numbers?  Eliminating a layer of management? Or eliminating a department?

The car companies are in trouble.  Union agreements have been too generous.  They have too may retirees who receive more retirement benefits than they can afford.  Congress demands ever-increasing mpg from ever less efficient fuel with mandates that the car companies cannot meet.  Car companies cannot build cars for a price that Americans will pay.  Normally this kind of thing is solved by a bankruptcy court.

The White House has announced a Presidential Task Force that will serve in lieu of a bankruptcy judge.  It will contain the following members:

  • Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner
  • National Economic Council Director Larry Summers
  • Secretary of Transportation
  • Secretary of Commerce
  • Secretary of Labor
  • Secretary of Energy
  • Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
  • Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change

– Ron Bloom, Senior Advisor on the Auto Industry, Department of Treasury

Official Designees of the Members of the Presidential Task Force

  • Diana Farrell, Deputy Director, National Economic Council
  • Gene Sperling, Counselor to the Secretary of Treasury
  • Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist to V.P. Biden
  • Edward Montgomery, Senior Advisor, Dept. of Labor
  • Lisa Heinzerling, Senior Climate Policy Counsel to the EPA Administrator
  • Austan Goolsbee, Staff Director and Chief Economist of the Economic Recovery

Advisory Board

  • Dan Utech, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy
  • Heather Zichal, Deputy Director, White House Office of Energy and Climate Change
  • Joan DeBoer, Chief of Staff, Department of Transportation
  • Rick Wade, Senior Advisor, Department of Commerce

Bureaucracy kills innovation, destroys initiative, and generally turns possibility into pudding.  Republicans may not be very good at making government smaller and more efficient, but at least they have that as a goal.

Democrats believe that bigger is better.

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

There is a big difference in the way that Democrats and Republicans approach policy.  Understanding the basic differences are important.  These, of course, are over-simplified generalities, and they don’t apply to every Republican or every Democrat. Over time, though, it’s a pretty good guide.

Democrats are the party of good intentions.  They really do mean well.  They want to help the underdog and the needy.  Because they mean well, they especially resent being criticized.  Questioning the possible consequences of the policy is simply obstruction and downright meanness.  If a policy does not work, it is either because of Republican obstruction, or because not enough money was invested to make it successful. The answer is better funding.

Republicans care about consequences.  And they care about liberty.  They are not impressed with good intentions.  They want to know if it works.  And if it doesn’t work, they want to get rid of it and start over with something that will work.  That doesn’t mean that they always know what will work.  They don’t.  Everybody often has a different idea, and some of the ideas are really dreadful.  But they care about workable policies that do what they are intended to do.  Liberty is not negotiable, but infringements on liberty are sometimes poorly understood.

These differences are especially noticeable in the two parties think-tanks.  Democrat think-tanks are devoted to discovering ways to win policy debates, and raise funds.  They are often very successful at this work.

Conservative think-tanks are devoted to figuring out what works.  They do studies and write summaries and argue with the authors of competing studies.  Then they try to get people to read their long studies and to understand the complications involved in policies.  They write articles and make speeches to conservative groups.

Democrats make up sound bites that are focus group tested.

Feel free to make additions or subtractions or just argue if you choose.

A green dream, or an uncomfortable metaphor? by The Elephant's Child
January 18, 2009, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Energy, Environment, Global Warming, Science/Technology | Tags: , ,

In a previous post, I wrote about California’s required new “green sticker” for cars, enumerating the “clean energy” qualities of each new car.  The star, a perfect 10 points, was the Tesla Roadster.  Pretty sexy, isn’t it?  Only $109,000.

Jeremy Clarkson, the car guy for the London Times, recently got a battery-powered Tesla Roadster to test.

The company claimed it could run, even if driven briskly, for 200 miles, but after just a morning the battery power was down to 20% and we realized that it would not have enough juice for all the shots we needed.

Happily, the company had brought a second car along, so we switched to that.  But after a while its motor began to overheat.  And so, even though the first was not fully charged, we unplugged it — only to find that its brakes weren’t working properly.

The Democrat Congress is pretty excited about electric cars.  The Chevy Volt is purely Utopian — it will go 40 miles when charged — and only costs $4o,ooo.  Congress is prepared to demand that Detroit “go green.” But the American people want a car that is dependable, doesn’t cost too much, and will keep their families safe. Not one that will get a meaningless green sticker.

Hmn.  Do you think this could be a metaphor?

Do you see the pattern yet? by American Elephant

Democrats tell the auto industry how to make cars, taxpayers foot the bill for $25 billion bail-out.

Democrats tell the mortgage industry who to loan money to, lawmakers are crafting a $700 billion bailout at taxpayer expense.

Democrats want to tell the health care industry how to practice health care…

Do you see the pattern yet?


Don’t forget the ethanol that Democrats insisted we put in our gas tanks, that is not cost effective without subsidies, contains less energy than gasoline, and is starving people in the developing world as well as raising the price of food at the grocery store.

And there is the Democrat’s insistence that we can solve all our energy problems with wind and solar, and don’t need “dirty” fossil fuels — except that wind and solar may never produce a significant amount of our energy, let alone even 10 percent, which may leave us freezing to death in the winter.

There is the banning of DDT which has caused millions of deaths from malaria in Africa and the far East which could be prevented by spraying.

Aside from the bailout for the auto industry, their past increase of CAFE standards caused the industry to make lighter cars and caused around 40 million more highway deaths each year.

And there is Nancy Pelosi’s raise in the minimum wage which meant a 20% unemployment rate for young people in some parts of the country this summer.

And there is Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory over-reaching that is making life difficult for business and driving business overseas.

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