American Elephants

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.

Secret World Bank Report: Biofuel Caused Food Crisis by American Elephant

Add rising food prices, riots and hunger to the long list of casualties of “environmentalists”:

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% – far more than previously estimated – according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body. [read more]

As we have noted before, in addition to causing high food prices, shortages, hunger, and suffering, they are much worse for the environment and they are driving species to the brink of extinction. If you haven’t already, call your federal representatives and demand that the government stop subsidizing biofuels. And contact your local governments as well: if they are anything like mine, they are using biofuels in government vehicles in an effort to be “green.”

And keep this tragedy in mind when politicians tell you they want to do something to stop global warming.

We want you to speak English… by The Elephant's Child

Yesterday, Obama’s comments to an Hispanic audience about speaking English were widely discussed. The context of Obama’s remarks seemed to be that there is something negative about demanding that immigrants learn English. Here is what Obama said:

You know, I don’t understand when people are going around worrying about “We need to have English — only.”They want to pass a law, “We want English — only.”

Now I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they’ll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.

Obama’s assumption that all immigrants learn English is incorrect. Many do not take advantage of English classes on offer. But that is not the point. English is the language of commerce in this country, and people who cannot speak English correctly are handicapped in the job market, and in their financial dealings.

But there is a far more important point, made particularly by Daniel Boorstin.

No nation ever believed more firmly that its political life was based on a perfect theory. It was given to us by our first settlers and the Founding Fathers, and is continually embodied in the American experience. We celebrate the United States as the Land of the Free. We believe in American Independence, American equality, American liberty and American democracy; in sum, the American Way of Life. And it is embodied in this special land. The American Myth tells the story of ordinary people moving into an extraordinary land, and in overcoming the challenges of the frontier, they were changed, transformed. The ordeal in the wilderness created the American — free-thinking, optimistic, tough, open and self-reliant.

What we ask of new immigrants is that they become Americans, accept our history as theirs, our values and our way of life. We give no special honors to those who have been here longer. The American whose ancestors came with the Winthrop fleet, or across the land bridge from Siberia or through Ellis Island share the very same American way of life as the newest citizen from El Salvador or Ethiopia.

They must stop being citizens of Mexico or Britain or El Salvador and become Americans. Equal Americans. And part of that is speaking the American language. Not for our convenience as Obama suggests in The Audacity of Hope:

And, if I’m honest with myself, I must admit that I’m not entirely immune to such nativist sentiments….When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.

But as a necessary part of becoming an American, they must learn our common language, for we want them to become full participants in American life.

Obama is thinking (again) of foreigners’ impressions of America. How tacky of us not to speak several languages as our European betters do. But Europeans can travel a few miles and be in another country where another language is spoken. Many Americans learn a foreign language in school, yet never have the experience of having to speak it, and it soon fades away.

English is best learned in school by immersion, not by treating English as a “second language”. Liberal ideas of “multiculturalism” are naïvely intended to celebrate all cultures as equal. Helping new immigrants to remain apart, living in their own neighborhood, speaking their old language, observing their old customs may seem kind. The problems that Europeans are having with immigrants who do not assimilate, and who want to impose their old customs and laws on their new country, are a direct result of misguided and meaningless “multiculturalism”.

The United States has done a surprising job of assimilating newcomers. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants. What is astonishing is the intensity of patriotism among new citizens created by this simple fact.

We must understand, when the left pushes “multiculturalism”, that it has nothing to do with cultures, and everything to do with politics. Americans know this instinctively. 83% say getting immigrants to speak English is a higher priority than creating a “bilingual” America.

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