American Elephants

It’s About Political Calculation, Not the Good of the Country! by The Elephant's Child

Yesterday, press secretary Tim Carney told the press that “the president and Tim Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury, and others have been very engaged with their European counterparts on this issue, offering advice because we have a certain amount of experience in dealing with this kind of crisis and we urge them to move forward rapidly.”

But Mr. Carney made a mistake:

Let me go in the back. Yes, German press. Yes.

Q    Thank you.  Thank you, Jay.  I was also traveling, just the other direction.  I was a week in Germany, and from there, the default and the financial state of the international health looking different.  So people are really amazed how this country — I know it’s not the government; you have a democracy, but first and foremost, it’s the parliamentary responsibility, not government responsibility — how this country deals with the debt crisis. 

The U.S., as far as I know, has a worse debt-to-GDP ratio than the whole eurozone, and we are talking about the eurozone, not about the United States and that Congress can’t get its act together.  So from the European perspective, it seems that this country is in a bigger mess than Europe.  We are not proud where we are.  We know that it’s slow and not bold, and so on, but at least they are doing something; they are deciding something, they’re trying to pull that through.  And here, nothing is happening — third time this year

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t think it’s helpful to get into which side of the Atlantic handles its problems better or worse.  I think each side needs to — we need to act and the Congress needs to act, this country needs to act.  And obviously, as I just discussed in answer to a question earlier, the Europeans need to move forward with rapid implementation of their plans. …

Q    I have just one question.  Do you have understanding — the feeling in the eurozone, I said, it’s not really a time where the U.S. is in a position to give advice to Europe —

Want to bet that the representative of the German Press isn’t called on too often?

President Obama has, of course, been so involved in working with the SuperCommittee to resolve the nation’s enormous budget crisis that he promptly left the country.  He had to be in Cannes for the Group of 20, and give the Eurocrats a little advice, and then he went to Hawaii to host another group of Asian leaders, then off to Australia, for a visit he’d already postponed twice, and on for a visit to Indonesia.

A president off doing presidential things in the world cannot be blamed for a lack of leadership in what is clearly a Congressional task. So he arrived back in Washington DC just in time to blame the Republicans for their failure to reach a “balanced” result — to give him the tax increase he wants.

Mr. Obama is in full campaign mode, and since he has no accomplishments to run on, it will be the most negative campaign in history. Democrats’ obsession with tax-hikes threatens to stall the economy. Yet no one can explain how raising taxes would help the economy.  James Pethokoukis points out the devolution of the Democratic Party into an unabashed champion of a high-tax welfare state.  The example of Europe should provide a warning:

It’s been an underappreciated fact just how far left Democrats have moved on taxes in recent years. But it should now be blindingly clear. The SuperCommittee Democrats are perfectly happy to let the top tax rate soar to nearly 45 percent in 2013 (including both income taxes and Medicare taxes) on small business, entrepreneurs, and investors. This, even though the exploding eurozone debt crisis threatens to push the U.S. economy from sputter speed to stall. And even if financial contagion doesn’t wash up on our shores, few economists see growth fast enough to substantially reduce unemployment and boost incomes any year soon.

Yet Democrats seem unconcerned or even eager for taxes to rise, thanks in part to the work of liberal economists advocating taxes rates as high as 80 percent. It will also take dramatically higher tax revenue to fund what Democrats argue is an unavoidable surge in government spending due to a) the aging of the population and — as they see it — b) trillions in needed public “investment” catch-up after years of Republican stinginess.

Looks like we’ll have to see, once again, if raising taxes during a recession will prove to be a disaster.  There are always consequences. Keep your fingers crossed.

A No-Confidence Vote For Obama Appointees. by The Elephant's Child

A new survey shows strained relationships between senior career federal managers and executives and the political appointees with whom they work.  The study was conducted in April by Government Executive’s  research division, the Government Business Council.  It involved surveying 148 Senior Executive Service members and GS-15s about their attitudes toward current challenges and Obama administration initiatives.

Career federal executives and managers are skeptical about the ability of current political appointees to improve agency performance.  Their role, said one respondent has increased, but the effectiveness, skill and knowledge have dramatically decreased.

Obama officials don’t have either functional or agency-specific knowledge. Nearly 60 percent of respondents gave Obama appointees a grade of C or lower for their functional expertise. They don’t believe that appointees understand human resources and procurement rules, and they presume that the institution is there as “an obstruction” and attempt to “break the organizations.”

Appointees have “unbelievably poor communication with career employees,” one respondent said.  Almost 40 percent of managers gave appointees Ds or Fs on collaboration and communication with their staffs.  Some “have a divide-and-conquer strategy, and there are way too many industry fingers allowed in decision-making,” a respondent noted.  At another agency, a manager said the result has been “politicization of normal agency functions.”

At the CIA, there is an “undercurrent of dissent and dislike” for the president, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Human Events last week over the White House’s contradictory messages on the War on Terror.  At the FBI, supervisors have had it with rules of the game that favor cronies.  They are unhappy over the president’s decision to extend the term of FBI Director Robert Mueller.

At Immigration and Customs Enforcement, agents wrote a scathing letter in 2010, titled “Vote of No Confidence in ICE Director John Morton and ODPP Director Phyllis Coven” for failing to allow agents to do their jobs, because of the Latino vote.

It seems that short-term political objectives are taking precedence over the work of government.  That was our impression, and events are proving it to be true. These are problems that cannot be solved with White House imperialism. Ordering it so will not fix things. That takes leadership.

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