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November 30, 2012

Let's Play Name That Party!

Not far into this Ruth Marcus column entitled Susan Rice and Double Standards, we come to this:

For perspective on this complex question, it helps to return to 1974 and the nomination of another woman, Alice Rivlin, to head the Congressional Budget Office.

As Rivlin tells the story, the office had just been created, she was selected by a search committee — and the House Budget Committee chairman made clear his adamant, gender-based opposition.

“Over his dead body was a woman going to run this organization,” Rivlin recalled at an Atlantic magazine “Women of Washington” lecture last year.

The omission sticks out like a sore thumb.  Who on earth could that dastardly, chauvinistic, bigoted House Budget Committee chairman have been!!? 

Why, that would have been Albert C. Ullman, Democrat from Oregon.  I wonder why Ms. Marcus didn't think it was worth a mention.  Maybe if it been a Republican — she is writing about Rice's supposed mistreatment at the hands of Republicans, after all.  You might think there was some kind of a double standard.

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Tax Hike Champions

Among the billionaires favoring higher taxes on people earning more than $250,000 per year are Bill Gates, Charles Munger, and Jim Sinegal.  Aside from their billionaire status their stance on raising taxes, what might these three gentlemen have in common?  Well, they're all on the board of directors for Costco.  In fact, Jim Sinegal is a founder and former CEO of Costco. 

There is newsworthiness here.  It came about when the Costco board voted voted itself a $7.00 per share stock dividend in time to beat the Obama tax hikes.  Not only that, they're borrowing $3.5 billion to do it.  The payout to the board amounts to about $29 million, of which $14 million goes to Sinegal.  He will pay taxes on his $14 million at the rate of 15% instead of up to 43.4% if they had waited until the first of the year.  That 's a difference of about $4 million in taxes that Sinegal won't pay.

The Wall Street Journal writes:

We emailed Mr. Sinegal for comment but didn't hear back. Mr. Galanti explained that while looming tax hikes are a factor in the December borrowing and payout, so are current low interest rates. Mr. Galanti adds that the company will still have a strong balance sheet and is increasing its capital expenditures and store openings this year.

As it happens, one of those new stores opened Thursday in Washington, D.C., and no less a political star than Joe Biden stopped by to join Mr. Sinegal and pose for photos as he did some Christmas shopping. It's nice to have friends in high places. We don't know if Mr. Biden is a Costco shareholder, but if he wants to get in on the special dividend there's still time before his confiscatory tax policy hits. The dividend is payable on December 18 to holders of record on December 10.

To sum up: Here we have people at the very top of the top 1% who preach about tax fairness voting to write themselves a huge dividend check to avoid the Obama tax increase they claim it is a public service to impose on middle-class Americans who work for 30 years and finally make $250,000 for a brief window in time.

Whenver those those billionaires favoring higher taxes are asked why they just don't write a check to the treasury if they don't think they're paying high enough taxes, they say no.  They say how we're all in this together so we all should make the sacrifice.  Well... Here's their idea of how the sacrifice should be shared.

Hat tip to reader Marian for pointing out this story.

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November 29, 2012

The Balanced Approach BS

Two things about Obama's famous "balanced approach" to paying down the debt.  First, there's not a soul on the planet who believes there will be any pay-down while Obama is in office.  The national debt is projected to reach $20 billion at the end of his next term — up $4.4 trillion from the end of this one.

Trilion dollar deficits are in store for each of the next four years, and Obama's only solution is "asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more in taxes."  We have to combine cuts with revenue, he used to say.  But now Obama wants to raise taxes this year, then talk about spending cuts next year.

So spending restraint is out.  As is usual with Obama's promises — closing Guantanamo, keeping unemployment below 8%, the list goes on — a promise to address spending cuts next year will have its expiration date. 

That leaves only tax hikes to fill in the budget hole.  So, how's that going to work?  Well, how did it work in England?

In the 2009-10 tax year, more than 16,000 people declared an annual income of more than £1 million to HM Revenue and Customs.

This number fell to just 6,000 after Gordon Brown introduced the new 50p top rate of income tax shortly before the last general election.

The figures have been seized upon by the Conservatives to claim that increasing the highest rate of tax actually led to a loss in revenues for the Government.

It is believed that rich Britons moved abroad or took steps to avoid paying the new levy by reducing their taxable incomes.

Can there be much hope that things will be different here?  Even if we actually get the revenue that Obama's tax hike on the wealthy is calculated to produce, it will only give us enough money to run the government for about week.  Eight and a half days, actually.  The greater likelihood is that raising taxes in the way he proposes won't raise the revenue Democrats say it will, and it may not raise any revenue at all.

Obama's re-election has immunized him from accountability for our dismal economic growth.  His place in history is secure.  Left leaning media and academia will glorify Barack Obama no matter what happens.  He doesn't need the economy to get better.

Obama's insistance on tax hikes, and now his plan to skip the part where we cut spending, are calculated to be unpalatable for House Republicans.  It's part of a political bet.  Since a recession is coming anyway, everything will be aimed at focusing blame for it on the Republicans.

So let's let him have his due.  I'm with Ann Coulter on this one.  Repubicans should give in on taxes.  Let's see how the Obama plan works.

Republicans have got to make Obama own the economy.

They should spend from now until the end of the congressional calendar reading aloud from Thomas Sowell, Richard Epstein, John Lott and Milton Friedman and explaining why Obama's high tax, massive regulation agenda spells doom for the nation.

Then some Republicans can say: We think this is a bad idea, but Obama won the election and the media are poised to blame us for whatever happens next, so let's give his plan a whirl and see how the country likes it.

Republicans need to get absolute, 100 percent intellectual clarity on who bears responsibility for the next big recession. It is more important to win back the Senate in two years than it is to save the Democrats from their own idiotic tax plan. Unless Republicans give them an out, Democrats won't be able to hide from what they've done.

Even Democrats might back away from that deal.

Give Obama his tax hikes.  Then we'll see the true balance in Obama's BS.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 28, 2012

Majority Opposes Federal Health Care Guarantee

According to Gallup, a majority of Americans polled said they oppose a federal healthcare guarantee.

PRINCETON, NJ -- For the first time in Gallup trends since 2000, a majority of Americans say it is not the federal government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage. Prior to 2009, a majority always felt the government should ensure healthcare coverage for all, though Americans' views have become more divided in recent years.

Gallup Healthcare Guarantee

An interesting graph.  A clear majority favored a federal guarantee until ObamaCare was proposed and then passed.  Then it wasn't quite so popular.  Wishing for a better health care system got us ObamaCare instead.  Americans suddenly aren't so happy.  Buyers remorse setting in? 

We thought we were getting the post-racial society and an end to divisive politics, too.  We got Obama instead.

Hat tip Hot Air.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 27, 2012

No One Intended To Mislead?

Well, that's what UN Ambassador Susan Rice would like us all to believe.  But that nonsense is even less believable than the story she peddled on the Sunday talk shows when she explained how the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya was really a protest over a YouTube video.

Under fire from congressional critics, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice stressed in a Tuesday statement that she did not intend to mislead the public about the September 11th attacks on the Benghazi consulate.

"Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved," Rice said.

This exercise with Susan Rice has proven to be quite the useful little distraction for the Obama administration.  It has given Democrats and their allies in the media yet another excuse to spew a lot of fake righteous indignation about Republicans being racist and sexist — they questioned Rice's wild fantasy about rioting over a YouTube video.  Meanwhile, with the exception of Fox News, Democrats and the media ignore the really important questions.

Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command -- who also told the CIA operators twice to "stand down" rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

Who told the CIA to stand down, and why?  And why wasn't there any military presence near enough to make a rescue attempt?  It's not as if the administration didn't know that the consulate could not be defended.

The U.S. Mission in Benghazi convened an “emergency meeting” less than a month before the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, because Al Qaeda had training camps in Benghazi and the consulate could not defend against a “coordinated attack,” according to a classified cable reviewed by Fox News.

Summarizing an Aug. 15 emergency meeting convened by the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Aug. 16 cable marked “SECRET” said that the State Department’s senior security officer, also known as the RSO, did not believe the consulate could be protected.

Security request were denied in spite of the Ambassador's fears.  It seems the administration, the State Department in particular, was hot to "normalize operations and reduce security resources."

Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, told congressional investigators looking into the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, that the State Department was eager for the American diplomatic presence in Libya to reduce its American security footprint and to rely more on locals, sources tell ABC News. A senior State Department official denies the charge.

In an email from Nordstrom from earlier this month obtained by ABC News, the former Regional Security Officer referred to a list of 230 security incidents in Libya that took place between June 2011 and July 2012, writing that “(t)hese incidents paint a clear picture that the environment in Libya was fragile at best and could degrade quickly. Certainly, not an environment where post should be directed to ‘normalize’ operations and reduce security resources in accordance with an artificial time table.”

A policy of normalizing operations would fit right in with Barack Obama's claims that al Qaeda was on the run, that the Muslim world now sees America in a new and attractive light.  On the other hand, admitting what actually happened might damage that perception, and horror of horrors, damage it right before the election. 

And then there's Hillary.  How will it work for her 2016 presidential aspirations when it comes out that she and Obama refused requests for more security in Benghazi just so they can maintain this fairy tale story about how the Muslims really like us now?

Democrats are their liberal media allies are right when they complain that Susan Rice and her silly story aren't the issue.  They keep saying it over and over again in hopes that we'll forget about the real problem.  What we really need to know is by whose order were four Americans left unprotected in Libya, and why. And who made certain they remained unprotected?

Getting back to Susan Rice, by her participation in a diversion from those questions, she has proven herself unfit to be Secretary of State.  Did she and the rest of the administration intend to mislead?  You betcha!

Posted by Tom Bowler at 06:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming

Dr. Walter Starck, a marine biologist who pioneered in the scientific investigation of coral reefs, is not a fan of the CAGW theories.

The climate gravy train can provide a sumptuous ride for those whose work shows promise of producing what the government wants.

...

For third rate academics CAGW has much to offer. One doesn’t need to be particularly capable to speculate about some dire consequence of warming, receive widespread publicity and be treated as an important expert. Unlike in real science, no colleagues will dispute them and the few sceptics willing to question anything will generally be ignored and denigrated by all their peers. The news media will describe them as experts and provide the public attention they know they deserve but somehow had never been recognised by anyone else until they climbed onto the climate bandwagon. Grants then flow and jetting off to attend important conferences in attractive places with all expenses paid provides frequent welcome breaks from the tedium of academia. Perhaps best of all, is a delicious feeling of importance and moral superiority over all of the high achievers striving so hard to discover something of consequence about the real world.  The only personal cost is to one’s own scientific integrity and that’s not worth much if one is just another unrecognised minor league academic no one had ever heard of before they joined into the climate alarm. In any case, saving the planet is the noblest of all causes and absolves any tinge of guilt in such regard.

Via Power Line.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 06:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 26, 2012

BS from the Oracle of Omaha

I've been wondering why nobody thinks to call Warren Buffet on his disingenuous challenge on taxes.

SUPPOSE that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.”

Would your reply possibly be this? “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.” Only in Grover Norquist’s imagination does such a response exist.

Buffet must think we are such stupid people.  No, Warren.  We don't forego buying into investment based on our individual income tax rates.  But we would think twice about sellling an asset depending upon on the capital gains taxes.  The prospect of a future hike in capital gains might encourage us to sell assets sooner, while the prospect of a future drop might make us hold onto an asset a little longer.

Let's say you have a piece of commercial real estate you'd like to unload, not that this is a particularly good time to unload real estate, but work with me here.  There are some weirdos who actually try to figure what they're going to get out of a sale after all the taxes and commissions are paid.  Not only that, they might actually include capital gains taxes in that calculation. 

Now strange as this may sound, some of these folks might actually ask a higher price if the bottom line comes to less than they'd like to get.  Yeah, the greedy bastards.  And that higher price might make the investment a little less attractive.  In fact it might make it so unattractive that a buyer and a seller never reach a deal.  And all because of the capital gains taxes.

So, while capital gains taxes may never discourage investors from making investments, they can discourage or even prevent an investment opportunity.

Warren Buffet knows this.  He also knows Obama's proposal for taxing the rich won't get us to a balanced budget, and he knows that it won't even put an appreciable dent in Obama's projected annual deficits.  Guess whoses taxes have to go up to tackle that problem.

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November 23, 2012

Excuses

Yesterday the Washington Post described a failed meeting of the economic and political minds that occurred last year at the White House.  Barack Obama brought in seven of the world’s top economists to get their advice on how to fix the ailing economy.

“I’m not asking you to consider the political feasibility of things,” he told them in the previously unreported meeting.

Never mind that it was rather late, even a year ago, to start bringing in the big guns to talk about fixing the economy.  It wouldn't have mattered if the president brought them in on day one, the result would have been the same.  They advised him to introduce a big plan to forgive part of the mortgage debt owed by millions of homeowners who are underwater on their properties.  He ignored them.

It had long been thought that when property values declined in value, homeowners would spend less because they would feel less wealthy.

But Mian and Sufi’s research showed something more specific and powerful at work: People who owed huge debts when their home values declined cut back dramatically on buying cars, appliances, furniture and groceries. The more they owed, the less they spent. People with little debt hardly slowed spending at all.

There are lots of reasons to object to mortgage debt forgiveness, not the least of which is how unfair it would be to all of those homeowners who by scrimping and saving and sacrifice didn't go in over their heads and didn't need to be bailed out.  I don't think that would be a persuasive argument to Obama who seems routinely to favor one citizen over another as a matter of course.  It's good politics to have people owe you.

At a more basic level, officials simply did not believe that a big program of debt forgiveness was a smart investment, costing hundreds of billions of dollars — money that it preferred to spend on a massive economic stimulus package that could much more quickly lift the economy. The administration also announced a more modest program designed to avert foreclosures by reducing mortgage payments but not the total debt balance.

How quaint that officials worried about hundreds of billions of dollars in debt forgiveness.  Better to go with a massive Keynesian stimus.  And we can all see how that worked!

In late 2009, the economy started to grow at a pace of 4 percent per year — fast enough that employment would have returned to normal by just about now. But in 2010, growth sputtered to 2 percent. The administration responded with more stimulus. But the pattern repeated itself in 2011 and this year.

I don't recall any 4 percent growth, but if the Washington Post says so, why it must be gospel.  Maybe we got it for about a week and a half in September of 2009, spurred by a massive rally in Washington DC.  Since then the economy as crawled but the stimulus spending has been phenomenal.  Five trillion dollars in deficits in four short years, with $5 trillion more anticipated in the next four.

The administration never saw the mortgage debt overhang as the big drag on the economy, and they still don't.  Why would they, when their alternative theory tells them to spend, spend, spend.  Unlike George Bush whose half a trillion dollar defict was unpatriotic, the Obama administration will happily spend us into bankruptcy in the interests fairness — everybody gets a fair shot at poverty.  It's all very disappointing but the housing debt is not to blame, they say.

Obama’s advisers believe the ultimate pace of recovery is understandable, if disappointing, given the financial crisis and the collapse in housing prices, as well as surprises such as a drought this year, the European debt crisis, rising oil prices and the trade-disrupting Japanese earthquake.

It's the drought, the earthquake, the hurricane, Europe. they've get plenty of excuses.  They also have a crisis which we can be sure won't go to waste.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2012

Petraeus to Testify

Fox News reports that Former CIA Director David Petraeus has agreed to testify before the House and Senate intelligence committees about the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans were murdered, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

While Petraeus prepares to give his side, lawmakers have begun to openly question when Petraeus first knew about the investigation that uncovered his affair -- and whether it impacted his statements to Congress on Sept. 14 about the Libya terror attack. 

Petraeus briefed lawmakers that day that the attack was akin to a flash mob, and some top lawmakers noted to Fox News he seemed "wedded" to the administration's narrative that it was a demonstration spun out of control. The briefing appeared to conflict with one from the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center a day earlier in which officials said the intelligence supported an Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated attack. 

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News he now questions whether Petraeus' statements -- which were in conflict with both the FBI briefing and available raw intelligence -- were in any way impacted by the knowledge the FBI was investigating his affair with Broadwell. 

Charles Krauthammer, for one, thinks Petraeus's testimony was "impacted" and in a deliberate way.

KRAUTHAMMER: Of course it was being held over Petraeus’s head, and the sword was lowered on Election Day. You don’t have to be a cynic to see that as the ultimate in cynicism. As long as they needed him to give the administration line to quote Bill, everybody was silent. And as soon as the election’s over, as soon as he can be dispensed with, the sword drops and he’s destroyed. I mean, can you imagine what it’s like to be on that pressure and to think it didn’t distort or at least in some way unconsciously influence his testimony? That’s hard to believe.

So the White House "outed" Petraeus even though there was no crime.  The FBI had kept their investigation under wraps while it was going on, and presumably they could have continued to do so after it was over.

How does the White House avoid damage from this?  The story Petraeus gave congress back in September was not true.  What's the story now?  Does the White House have anything else to hold over Petraeus's head? 

The affair was over, and the investigation was over.  David Petraeus thought he was going to keep his job, his family, and his reputation.  The job is gone, his reputation has been badly damaged, and it remains to be seen if he can keep his family together.  I can see where payback might be an attractive option at this point.

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November 13, 2012

Conservatives Are Aghast at Bill Kristol!

The headline on Breitbart: "Bill Kristol Caves on Higher Taxes." Oh, the hand wringing...

Giving in on Obama's tax hikes would not win many votes. But it would certainly end the GOP as a viable opposition.

Kristol has embraced a policy that is nothing more than a left-wing, soak-the-rich meme. It would not close the budget deficit; at best, it would reduce the annual $1 trillion-plus deficit by 7 cents on the collar. Raising taxes would, however, hurt investment and punish success. And Republicans have been burned before by agreeing to deals in which Congress hikes taxes and the promised spending cuts never materialize.

Author Joel B. Pollack is laboring under one huge misconception.  He seems to think Democrats care about the economy.  Oh, he's certainly right about civilian Democrats, the ones not in politics.  They'd like the economy to bounce back so that there are jobs and pay raises again.  And he might be right about one or two of the Democrats in Washington. 

As for the rest of them, Obama has demonstrated that they don't need a good economy to get re-elected, and what's more, a bad economy is so much more useful.  Think of it as a crisis that won't go to waste.  When people are suffering, that's the time to devise programs to assist.  Mostly the programs assist Democrats' re-election prospects.

And let's not forget, Obama's goal has always been the transformation of America.  He's been pretty successful so far, but there's more to come.  An economy in crisis is the more fertile ground for achieving it. 

In fact, our economy is in such dire straits right now that neither tax cuts nor tax hikes will make a noticeable difference.  The absolute best we can hope for is continued sluggish growth that merely fails to keep pace with population growth.  It's more likely that we're headed back into recession, or worse we might be in for a catastrophic meltdown. But the only question of interest to Democrats is who gets the blame for it.

Obama spent the past two years warning voters about going back to the policies that got us into this mess to begin with.  The great failure of the Romney campaign was to let Obama keep repeating his nonsensical theory without challenge him on it.  Everybody knew he was blaming "the Bush tax cuts," but no one ever made Obama say it out loud and then have to defend it. 

Repeated endlessly without challenge, Obama's campaign sound-bite became a plausible explanation for enough voters to make a difference.  Bill Clinton even trotted out on the campaign trail to reinforce the message, implying that the economy boomed in his day because the wealthy paid more taxes.

I know.  It's really simple minded, but there it is.  Never mind that the Clinton boom was the result of a lot of Republican policies that Clinton wisely adopted after 1994 when congressional Democrats got booted out of the majority for the first time in 40 years.  The North American Free Trade Agreement, welfare reform, spending restraint, and a dot-com bubble.  All of these things, in combination with a broadened tax base, stunned the world with the first U.S. budget surpluses since the Kennedy administration.  It was shocking.  No one would ever have dreamed it.  

There will be no such boom in the Obama second term.  Tax and regulatory policies will keep the damper on, and for at least the next two years Republicans will be powerless to turn this disastrous economy around.  The best we can hope for is that they block or delay the more permanently damaging policies that Obama intends to put in place.  We just have to hope that the tipping point has not been reached, and that Republicans will be able to return America to a more market oriented economy and get some jobs growth.

In the meantime, a rise in marginal rates from 36% to 39% for high income taxpayers is not the most damaging policy proposal Obama has come up with, but fighting it could be the most damaging thing Republicans do.  When negotiations are under way to avoid the fiscal cliff, Republicans can stick to their principles by announcing that they oppose the tax hikes because of the damage they'll do to the economy, but going over the fiscal cliff would be even more damaging.  Republicans have to announce that Obama's tax and regulatory policies are killing the economy and killing jobs and there is nothing they can do about it, and then remind voters every day that Obama owns the economy.

Obama doesn't own it right now.  He's sticking to the story that he's inherited George W. Bush's mess — again!  He will continue to blame Republicans, and voters will continue buy it, especially if Republicans fight him on tax rates.  The worst case is if we go over the fiscal cliff because Republicans fight a 3% tax increase.  The damage to the Republican brand will be incalculable.  The next worse case is if Republicans win on taxes.  The economy will continue to stagnate but Republicans will be saddled with ownership of it.  It's those Bush tax cuts that are killing us, you know.

Republicans have to wake up and realize that Democrats don't care if the economy goes to hell, in fact they'd prefer it.  Instead of fighting the Obama on taxes, Republicans should go along with him, while at the same time announcing that they strongly disagree, but that it would be worse to go over the cliff.  The point is to make clear that Obama's policies are not going to help the economy.  But he won the election and now the economy belongs to him.  It's a message that they must repeat every day from now until 2016. 

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