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April 21, 2012

The States

Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore write that the 50 states offer a "teachable moment" for Obama if he would only pay attention.

In California, a union-backed ballot initiative would raise the state's highest tax rate to 13.3%. Union-funded groups in Illinois aren't satisfied with last year's income tax rate hike to 5% from 3%, so they now want to go as high as 11%. That would put them in the big leagues with California and New York. And in Oregon, lawmakers are considering raising the highest rate to 13% from 9.9%. In all of these states, proponents parrot Mr. Obama, insisting that the rich can afford it.

They can, but they can also afford to save hundreds of thousands or more each year by getting out of Dodge. Every time California, Illinois or New York raises taxes on millionaires, Florida, Texas and Tennessee see an influx of rich people who buy homes, start businesses and shop in the local economy.

Republican governors in Florida, Georgia, Idaho, North Dakota, South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and even Michigan and New Jersey are cutting taxes to lure new businesses and jobs.

Asked why he wants to reduce the cost of doing business in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker replies: "I've never seen a store get more customers by raising its prices, but I've seen customers knock down the doors when they cut prices."

Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma are now racing to become America's 10th state without an income tax. All of them want what Texas has (almost half of all net new jobs in America over the last decade, for one thing).

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April 19, 2012

How Might This Have Been Reported?

Try to imagine what would happen if Congressman Paul Ryan produced his budget proposal only to have House Speaker John Boehner kill it so that Republican members could dodge a difficult vote.  A media feeding frenzy!  That's what would happen!

Well, it all came true, almost.  All except the part about the feeding frenzy.  Oh, and the players were Democrats, not Republicans.  Gee, I wonder if that's why the press had such a poor appetite for the story.  It was Democrat Kent Conrad, Senate Budget Committee chairman, who proposed, and Democrat Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, who shot him down.

Well that is exactly what has happened among Senate Democrats this week. Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad proposed a version of the Bowles-Simpson plan as a draft Democratic budget and said he would bring it up for markup and eventually a vote in his committee—which would be the first time the Senate Democrats have actually bothered to propose a budget in nearly three years. But then Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid stepped in and killed the idea, insisting that no budget was necessary and forcing Conrad into a bizarre farce in yesterday’s committee markup—which involved no votes, and consisted largely of pleading by the chairman directed implicitly against his own leader.

Our liberal press blames the Republicans, naturally.

At 2 p.m., Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, began marking up the Simpson-Bowles plan. "What I am proposing is not partisan," he said in a statement. "I am trying to break from the ‘business as usual’ practice that has gone on for too long." But 'business as usual asserted itself in a hurry.

As the Committee's Republicans pointed out, this was a peculiar kind of mark up: There were no amendments allowed, and no vote scheduled. "I've got to say how deeply disappointed we are that we can't go forward with the kind of mark up that seems justified, that we can't offer amendments, that we can't offer alternatives," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Budget Committee's top Republican.

But Sessions wasn't looking to pass the bill. He hated it.

Oh those intransigent Republicans!  But at least the were there which is more than you can say for the Democrats.  Here's the photographic proof which comes by way of Hot Air where Ed Morrissey writes:

This picture comes from yesterday’s so-called “mark-up session” of the Senate Budget Committee, a meeting which chair Kent Conrad helpfully promoted by declaring that he wouldn’t allow any votes to be taken on budgets.  That turned the meeting into nothing more than a discussion forum, one that Conrad’s colleagues decided to skip. The picture, taken by a Republican staffer at the meeting, shows all 11 Republicans sitting on the far side of the table — and almost no Democrats in their chairs:

Budget Committee

It's not hard to see who's responsible for the gridlock when Senate Democrats have refused to vote on a budget for nearly three years.  No story here, though. 

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April 18, 2012

Obama's Problem

Among the obstacles facing Barack Obama in his quest for re-election, writes Jonah Goldberg, is his dismal record on the economy.  It's an economic record that has Obama trying to pretend he's Ronald Reagan.

And last year, Time magazine featured a cover story, “Why Obama [Hearts] Reagan,” which in Time’s words gave the true story behind “Obama’s Reagan Bromance.”

There were two key elements to Obama’s man-crush. The first was the simple hope that history — or at least the business cycle — would repeat itself.

The White House’s plan was to run for reelection in 2012 with a soaring economy at its back. After an absolutely bruising recession (that was in some ways worse than the one Obama inherited), Reagan got to ride a surging economy to reelection.

Soaring economy?  So much for the first key element of Obama's infatuation with the Gipper.  How about number two?

The other reason the White House admired the Reagan White House? According to Time: “Both relied heavily on the power of oratory.” Then– press secretary Robert Gibbs added, “Our hope is the story ends the same way.”

And there’s the problem for Obama. He’s sticking to his rhetorical guns on the assumption that he’s the great orator his fans have always claimed.

Actually there are two problems.  Number one: Obama is not really a great orator, though he reads a teleprompter pretty well.  Get him off script and he says the dumbest things.  Just ask the Cambridge Police

But there is a bigger problem for Obama.  According to Goldberg, presidential oratory rarely sways the public anyway.

Asking whether Obama is as good a communicator as Reagan is like comparing boxers from different generations; there’s plenty of evidence to form opinions but no way to settle the matter.

But what must be very troubling for Obama is the mounting evidence that presidential persuasion is vastly overrated. Political scientist Brendan Nyhan has noted that Reagan’s rhetoric had little effect on the polls or his media coverage. Liberal Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, surveying the academic literature in a recent issue of the New Yorker, found that there’s little evidence that any president has really moved the country with his rhetoric.

That would seem to argue that a president's apparent powers of persuasion really indicate how closely his ideas match up with public opinion rather than how effectively he reads his teleprompter. 

Ronald Reagan was instinctively in tune with the American people.  He was your middle American guy living the dream.  And because of who he was, he understood what made sense to people and what didn't.  The media, caught completely by surprise, was no match for Reagan as he was able to present his case with a logic that made sense to average Americans, regardless of the media slant.

Thirty-two years later media contrived issues, of the type that Ronald Reagan cut through like a hot knife through butter, are the mainstay of Obama's campaign.  By way of example we have the Catholic Church rejection of Obama's mandate to provide free birth control pills as an insurance benefit.  Obama and his media allies see, not an assault on religious freedom, but a "war on women."  Naturally it's a Republican war on women, since Republicans take constitutional guarantees, like freedom of worship, more seriously than Democrats. 

Middle Americans get it, and no amount of teleprompter oratory is going to convince them they don't.  And especially not now, after three-plus years of Obama.   Americans understand that the American dream is about opportunity.  Barack Obama's American dream is all about the satisfaction of ancient grievances.  This is going to be a big problem for Obama.

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April 12, 2012

Implications Of The Ryan Budget

When Paul Ryan offered up his new budget President Barack Obama went hysterical.  Ryan's budget, he said, was "Social Darwinism."  It would end air traffic control services and it would cause "less accurate" weather forecasting.  He also called the Ryan Budget a "Trojan Horse" which made me wonder if he wasn't really talking about ObamaCare.  But that's another story.

Today, Daniel Henninger wonders if by taking aim at Paul Ryan's budget plan Obama hasn't picked a fight that he can't win

On Tuesday, Mr. Ryan pushed back. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said that in fact the Catholic Church's "social magisterium" had informed his House budget. One goal of that teaching, he said, is to prevent the poor from staying poor. Nor, he added, should individuals become lifelong dependents of their government.
Just as the left thought the regulating reach of the Commerce Clause was beyond serious challenge, it long ago decided that none dare question the moral case for public spending. That social Darwinism speech Barack Obama is giving now in defense of federal programs isn't merely a public-policy statement. It's a Democratic encyclical. Paul Ryan's ideas are worse than wrong. They are heresy.

The timing is intriguing.  As Mitt Romney solidifies has position as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, out comes the Ryan Budget to draw fire from the White House.

This is the debate Barack Obama hopes mockery and rhetorical carpet-bombing can kill before the fall campaign.

Democrats, who haven't bothered to pass a budget in three years, may suddenly decide they want to vote on this one.  Quickly.  To make it go away before fall.  Otherwise there is the worry, how will Obama's hysterical rhetoric play come November?  Pretty well with his left wing extremist base, but alas.  We live in a largely conservative country.

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April 10, 2012

Santorum Suspends His Campaign

In a news conference this afternoon, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum announced that he was suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Mr. Santorum was the last viable challenger to Mr. Romney, and his decision to exit the race marks the unofficial end of the Republicans' months-long, highly combative primary. Mr. Romney has yet to gather the 1,144 convention delegates needed to win the nomination, but it is unlikely that the remaining challengers, Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul, can prevent him from doing so.

Mr. Romney congratulated Mr. Santorum on his campaign, calling him an "able and worthy opponent," according to the Associated Press.

It's my opinion that this is the best time for Rick Santorum to make this announcement.  There was no chance that he was going to win more delegates than Mitt Romney in the remaining primaries, never mind win enough to secure the nomination.   Santorum's only significant impact on the race going forward would have been to draw down Romney's war chest.  That's money Romney needs in the general election campaign against Barack Obama. 

The country does not need to be saved from Mitt Romney, as Santorum seemed to imply.  What we need is to save from Barack Obama and the Democrats.  Unfortunately, Santorum was not likely to succeed in doing it — in my view, anyway.

In spite of all that, Rick Santorum deserves congratulations for running a surprisingly strong campaign, and providing voice for the hopes of a significant block of conservative voters.  Because of his strength in the primaries it's likely he'll play a significant role going forward, whether it is by helping to shape the party platform, or perhaps by taking a position in a new administration.  In any case, now is the time for Republicans to coalesce.

Early on in the Republican debates I had this fantasy about a Republican campaign in which the presidential contenders continued their campaigns on behalf of the eventual Republican nominee.  Newt Gingrich recently said that he was planning to do just that.  Maybe my fantasy will be real.

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April 08, 2012

Of Gas Prices and Unintended Consequences

Though he would like really like us to forget it, Obama's energy plans included a steep rise in the cost of conventional energy — like coal.

"I was the first to call for a 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter," Obama continued. "That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year.

"So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."

But Cap and trade never happened.  By fortunate happenstance, emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit were leaked to the public, creating massive doubt about global warming.  The public was not ready for any extraordinary new taxation schemes based on doubtful theories, no matter how popular they were with the press. 

Though cap and trade fell by the wayside, Obama was not about to be deterred.  He unleashed the EPA.

WASHINGTON — Taking aim at the gases that the vast majority of scientists say are the main contributor to climate change, the Obama administration proposed rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants, a move that could essentially bar new coal-fired electric generation facilities.

Coal is just one example of of how Obama's energy policy was supposed to work.  Other non-green energy sources, like oil,  would be hit just as hard.

Reviewing a host of recent studies, Buckley and Mityakov show that estimates of job losses attributable to cap-and-trade range in the hundreds of thousands. The price for energy paid by the American consumer also will rise. The studies reviewed showed electricity prices jumping 5-15% by 2015, natural gas prices up 12-50% by 2015, and gasoline prices up 9-145% by 2015.

Lately the president has been bragging about an increase in U.S. domestic oil production, but he is responsible for none of it.   Issuance of oil drilling permits have declined under the Obama administration.

When the president says he is opening up millions of acres for drilling exploration in the United States, Cavuto says you might want to thank the previous presidents instead, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the current administration has actually decreased approval of drilling permits by 36 percent.

Let's not forget the Obama administration's drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill.  A federal judge overturned it, but the administration kept it in place, anyway.

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) – - The Obama Administration acted in contempt by continuing its deepwater drilling moratorium after the policy was struck down, a New Orleans judge ruled.

Interior Department regulators acted with “determined disregard” by lifting and reinstituting a series of policy changes that restricted offshore drilling, following the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, U.S. District Judge, Martin Feldman of New Orleans ruled yesterday.

Can anyone be surprised that gas prices are up?  I think it's safe to say, that's what Obama had in mind when he took office, so let's give the man credit for keeping his eye on the big green ball.  It just hasn't all worked out the way he thought it would.  The green economy was supposed to create millions of green jobs.

[I]n an effort to force the pace at which this utopian green vision will become reality, tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money are being shoveled into a wide range of frequently speculative technologies and even individual companies in the form of grants, loan guarantees, tax credits etc.

Precisely because the vision of “millions of green jobs” now equates to billions of dollars in grants and subsidies to support their development, all sorts of organizations with heavily vested interests in encouraging taxpayer support for green job development are conducting “research” on the topic and delivering projections of how many “green” jobs will be created if a certain set of public policies is implemented. Needless to say, the definition of a “green” job has been stretched every which way to suit the particular needs of whatever organization is doing the “research”. This has led to some quite  extraordinary projections and statistics.

Bottom line: The millions of green jobs haven't materialized.  In fact it's hard to see evidence of a recovery after 3-plus years of Obama's energy policies.  Why is that, you may ask.  Maybe it has something to do with the price of a gallon of gas.  Cars run on gas.

Paul Sayler, sales manager at Milbank Ford & Mercury Inc., a car dealership in Milbank, S.D., said he is seeing "tremendous traffic" of customers looking to buy new cars. Two weeks ago, his 11-person firm held a meeting to decide whether to ramp up hiring to meet the demand. But they decided against it.

"I'm a pessimist," the 37-year-old Mr. Sayler said. He worries that rising gasoline prices will eventually snuff out demand for cars the way it did in 2008. "Obviously we're hoping that doesn't happen."

File this one under "Hazards of Getting What You Wished For."

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April 06, 2012

Tepid Job Growth

Hold the celebration.  The recession may be technically over but it's hard to see it.  Democrats in Congress and the administration will have to keep the champagne on ice, as the Wall Street Journal reports unexpectedly tepid job growth last month.

WASHINGTON—U.S. job growth slowed in March, and the labor force shrank, signaling that the economy could be losing momentum.

Jobs outside of agriculture grew by 120,000 last month—half the number that the economy added the prior month—the Labor Department said Friday, marking the first time since November that job growth fell below 200,000.

At the same time the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percent, from 8.3% to 8.2%. Ordinarily this would be good news, but what it truly reveals is the growing number of people giving up on finding a job.

The unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, ticked down a tenth of a percentage point to 8.2%, but the drop resulted in part from fewer Americans seeking work.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 203,000 in payrolls and for the jobless rate to remain at 8.3% for March.

Could the cause of this anemic growth be the spike in gas prices?  That's my bet.  I know we've been told, ad nauseaum, that the president has no control over the price of a gallon of gas.  But he does, really.  He could chart a policy course that ramps up domestic production, which would signal the markets that supply is on the way.  That's what President Bush did, and prices went down.  Pretty quickly, too. 

Don't hold your breath, as I suspect our reluctant president wants to keep the deck stacked in favor of his green energy plans.  We can expect our watch dogs in media will be more than happy to cover for him on that.  Falling gasoline prices would squeeze fledgling solar and wind companies, and we can't have that.  Especially for the ones his campaign bundlers are so heavily invested in.

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Partisan Justices

The argument that was before the Supreme Court last week comes down to this.

If Congress can force the individual into a private contract by authority of the commerce clause, what can it not force the individual to do? Without a limiting principle, the central premise of our constitutional system — a government of enumerated powers — evaporates. What, then, is the limiting principle?

Liberals were quick to blame the administration’s bumbling solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, for blowing the answer. But Clarence Darrow couldn’t have given it. There is none.

Justice Stephen Breyer tried to rescue the hapless Verrilli by suggesting that by virtue of being born, one enters into the “market for health care.” To which plaintiffs’ lawyer Michael Carvin devastatingly replied: If birth means entering the market, Congress is omnipotent, authorized by the commerce clause to regulate “every human activity from cradle to grave.”

When June finally rolls around we get to find out which of the justices is in favor of elevating Congress to omnipotence.  Anyone care to guess who they are

As I sat in the courtroom, and later as I reviewed the transcripts, many justices sounded as if they were laying out their positions. All four liberals mostly used their questions to try to suggest answers or help [Solicitor General] Verrilli...

There's hardly a doubt in anybody's mind about how Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor will vote.  But what about the others, the unpredictable ones who now seem likely to oppose such unbridled power in Congress?  According to lefty pundits, they are the partisans justices.  Funny that it's the "partisan" side that's considered least predictable.

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April 04, 2012

Justice Dowd

Maureen Dowd, the dolt from the New York Times, has issued her ruling:  Conservatives on the Supreme Court are a bunch of hacks in black robes.  Of Antonin Scalia she writes,

If he’s so brilliant, why is he drawing a risible parallel between buying health care and buying broccoli?

Maybe if she paid better attention, she'd get it.

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Will The Court Stand Its Ground?

It's astonishing.  I simply cannot get over President Obama's really partisan attack on the Supreme Court, and it turns out, neither can the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  On Monday Obama announced that overturning ObamaCare would be "an unprecedented, extraordinary step."  On Tuesday he clarified "unprecedented" by saying that Supreme Court hadn’t struck down a law that “was passed by Congress on a economic issue."  This provoked Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit, which was hearing a separate case on the Affordable Care Act, to demand a letter explaining just what Eric Holder and the Justice Department think the authority of the federal judiciary is.

Smith: Does the Department of Justice recognize that federal courts have the authority in appropriate circumstances to strike federal statutes because of one or more constitutional infirmities?

Kaersvang: Yes, your honor. Of course, there would need to be a severability analysis, but yes.

Smith: I’m referring to statements by the president in the past few days to the effect…that it is somehow inappropriate for what he termed “unelected” judges to strike acts of Congress that have enjoyed — he was referring, of course, to Obamacare — what he termed broad consensus in majorities in both houses of Congress.

That has troubled a number of people who have read it as somehow a challenge to the federal courts or to their authority or to the appropriateness of the concept of judicial review. And that’s not a small matter. So I want to be sure that you’re telling us that the attorney general and the Department of Justice do recognize the authority of the federal courts through unelected judges to strike acts of Congress or portions thereof in appropriate cases.

Kaersvang: Marbury v. Madison is the law, your honor, but it would not make sense in this circumstance to strike down this statute, because there’s no –

Smith: I would like to have from you by noon on Thursday…a letter stating what is the position of the attorney general and the Department of Justice, in regard to the recent statements by the president, stating specifically and in detail in reference to those statements what the authority is of the federal courts in this regard in terms of judicial review. That letter needs to be at least three pages single spaced, no less, and it needs to be specific. It needs to make specific reference to the president’s statements and again to the position of the attorney general and the Department of Justice.

Unsurprisingly, lefties immediately climbed all over the Fifth Circuit, calling the above exchange partisan.  Partisan?

This is not how judges behave. This is how politicians behave. If Judge Smith and his co-ideologues cannot refrain from such purely political tantrums, they should resign their seats and run for office as Republicans.

No question that our "constitutional law professor" president launched a partisan attack when he deliberately misrepresented the role of the courts.  For lefties, though, "partisan" means you disagree with them, which is what the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did.

Getting back to Obama's partisan political objective, how's that going to work out?  Will his attack on the court intimidate the justices and get him the decision he wants?  Doubtful.

Still, the decision could go either way.  I imagine that precedents abound on either side, and that the justices will choose among those they conclude are the relevant ones based upon their separate views of the law.  But with Obama's recent attacks, the justices might also feel that it's time for the Court's authority to be emphatically restated.

ObamaCare was a Hail Mary pass in the waning seconds as Democrats saw their House majority about to disappear.  Its completion was meant to lock in progressive power.  With federal control over the health care industry, which adds up to one fifth of the U.S. economy, progressives would be in position to guide its revenues and policies in ways that could guarantee progressive majorities for generations. 

There's a lot at stake, for both the country and the Court.  As the final authority the Supreme Court is uniquely empowered to strike down laws that abuse constitutional limits.  Is there a better time or a better way to demonstrate that point than by striking down ObamaCare in its entirety?

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