"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." --Thomas Jefferson
Government & Politics
Obama's Speech Job
In case you were busy washing your hair, rewinding your CDs or getting a root canal last night, Barack Obama gave a speech. Yes, another one, and with warmed-over recycled ideas, to boot. He made sure we all knew his speech was about jobs because he used the word "jobs" 44 times. (Given his narcissism, we wonder if that number was intentional.) Indeed, he centered the speech on his "American Jobs Act," which, by the way, aims to create jobs. He hasn't yet sent an actual bill to Congress, though he called for Congress to "pass this bill right away" (or some variant) 17 times, but ... jobs.
In the spirit of bipartisan comity, we'll start by lauding something with which we agreed: "Those of us here tonight can't solve all of our nation's woes," the president said. "Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers." We couldn't have said it better. Government doesn't create jobs; it can only create conditions under which the economy can flourish. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there, because Obama's very next sentence began, "But..."
Obama repeatedly framed his proposals as "nothing controversial" because "everything in here" has already been proposed by "both Democrats and Republicans." We hate to disagree, but nearly everything in the speech was controversial. From tax hikes on job creators in exchange for gimmicky tax credits, to more money dumped into the bottomless pit of education and infrastructure, to the very premise that government must grow in order for the economy to grow -- the ideas presented last night were the wrong ones.
Taxes were a major theme, but instead of proposing permanently lower rates and a broader base -- something that would actually work -- the president called for more temporary complications and supposed sweeteners. Obama said that Congress must extend the temporary payroll tax cut they passed last year, because, he warned, "If we allow that tax cut to expire -- if we refuse to act -- middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time." That's interesting: A tax cut expiration is a tax increase. Funny how that didn't apply to the Bush tax cuts, which were good for 10 years, not just one. And funny how it doesn't apply to increasing the taxes of job creators "at the worst possible time." Indeed, that was his next proposal.
"[T]here are many Republicans who don't believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it," he said, but, "We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their fair share. And I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that, if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order." Of course, "everybody" means the top 2 percent. He then declared with a straight face, "This isn't class warfare." Republicans in the chamber gave him the only appropriate response: laughter.
Estimates are that this stimulus package as proposed would cost about $447 billion. That's about half of the first stimulus, and we saw how well that worked. (Little wonder that Democrats have stricken the word "stimulus" from the lexicon.) How on earth will another few hundred billion dollars suddenly fix anything? "Everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything," Obama insisted, but how?
First of all, through the aforementioned tax increases on a select and punishable few. Primarily, however, Obama wants the debt reduction committee, created in the debt ceiling deal to find $1.5 trillion in savings over 10 years, to come up with even more savings, again over 10 years. In other words, let's spend another $450 billion now and have future presidents and Congresses pay for it later. Also, "a week from Monday," Obama will release "a more ambitious deficit plan." If this all wasn't so preposterous, it would've been another laugh line.
Obama also mocked those who think that government is too big. He trotted out his predictable straw-man arguments about Republicans wanting to cut "most government spending" or eliminating "most government regulations." He certainly intends to fight hard for the new floor of government spending and regulation he has established. He may offer a concession here or there, but by and large the damage has already been done. Even rolling back to the bloated and costly -- but still far smaller and cheaper -- government of 2008 will be impossible while he occupies the White House. Finally, there's a big difference between limited government and no government. It is the former that we must seek.
The Heritage Foundation's policy experts offered their responses to Obama's proposals, from refinancing mortgages to infrastructure spending and tax gimmicks.
The Cato Institute explains in an outstanding video why Keynesian government spending won't actually help.
"What here hasn't already been tried and failed before?" --GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann
On the Campaign Trail: The GOP Debate
Eight of the Republican presidential candidates gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Wednesday night for the first of five fall debates. All eyes were on newly entered candidate Rick Perry. The Texas governor, who spent the week in his state managing wildfire response, is not the slickest debater in the field. That honor would likely go to Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. Yet Perry did well enough to solidify his status as the new frontrunner. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, performed well but continued to fade after Perry's entrance took a huge bite out of her support. Of course, with the media placing Perry and Romney front and center and focusing most of their attention on the two pack-leaders, everyone else on the stage took a backseat. That's what they get for allowing MSNBC to carry the debate.
Some observations about the other candidates: Jon Huntsman continued his disappointing run to the left, apparently under the mistaken impression that independents and Democrats will decide the Republican primary. He will not win the nomination on this course.
Newt Gingrich won't win the nomination, but he won some points in the debate by attacking the moderators for their inane questions. He correctly pointed out that any candidate on the stage would be better than Barack Obama, and that they are in a sense a team working toward winning the White House.
Herman Cain is still struggling to get noticed, and he missed a golden opportunity immediately after Gingrich's answer to attack Obama, instead choosing to attack Romney. He wasn't wrong, but he seemed to have completely missed what Gingrich said and failed to play off of it.
Rick Santorum also won't win the nomination, but wins the award for stupidest question asked of him by the moderators: Where do the poor fit among Republicans? The implication is that Republicans don't care about the poor. Unfortunately, Santorum's answer -- talking in the third person about how much he has done for the poor -- wasn't the best answer.
Ron Paul's contribution is that he leaves no stone unturned, no orthodoxy unchallenged and no candidate unassailed. His questions and points are important for conservatives to consider in fine-tuning positions and policies. All the same, he won't be the nominee. (Yeah, we know -- we might as well be Soviets for saying so.)
In fact, unless something changes drastically, this race is between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.
Quote of the Week
"If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent should be good enough for government." --Herman Cain at the GOP presidential debate Wednesday night
This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award
Whatever happened to civility? Democrats were certainly quick to call for it when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot, along with several others, in Tucson in January. In spite of the facts, the Left blamed the Right for heated political rhetoric. Yet when a union leader spews hatred and calls for "war," Democrats suddenly don't mind so much.
"We gotta keep an eye on the battle that we face: A war on workers. And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party," thundered Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa Jr. at a Labor Day rally. "They got a war, they got a war with us and there's only going to be one winner. It's going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We're gonna win that war." Then he promised, "President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let's take these son of a b-----s [sic] out and give America back to an America where we belong."
Not only was he vulgar, but he also botched the grammar.
Barack Obama took the stage later, saying he was "proud" of Hoffa and other labor leaders. The White House and other Democrat leaders have pointedly refused on multiple occasions to repudiate or even question Hoffa's words. Hoffa himself doubled down, later insisting that he would say it again "because I believe it. They've declared war on us. We didn't declare war on them, they declared war on us. We're fighting back. The question is, who started the war?" Maybe that's why 500 union members in Seattle stormed the Port of Longview with baseball bats and crowbars taking six security guards hostage over hiring objections.
Speaking of a war on "them," the newest rage on Internet is a video game called "Tea Party Zombies Must Die," in which the player kills zombie versions of the Left's favorite conservative bogeymen. "DON'T GET TEA-BAGGED!" reads the description. "The Tea Party zombies are walking the streets of America. Grab your weapons and bash their rotten brains to bits! Destroy zombie Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, the Koch Brothers, and many more!" (National Review's Daniel Foster has screenshots.) We're just glad to see the juveniles on the Left channeling their angst in such productive ways.
Hope 'n' Change: ObamaCare Wins With Stacked Deck
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld ObamaCare Thursday, overturning a lower court's decision in favor of the state of Virginia. The Fourth Circuit ruled that Virginia lacked standing in the case, though at least two judges would have upheld it on the "merits." The Sixth Circuit Court likewise upheld the law earlier this year, though the 11th Circuit Court struck down the individual mandate last month as unconstitutional. Although the Fourth Circuit is roughly evenly divided between Republican and Democrat appointees, this particular three-judge panel consisted of one Clinton appointee and two appointed by Obama. Certainly not a fair hearing. Again, the bottom line is that ObamaCare is headed to the Supreme Court.
New & Notable Legislation
House Republicans are working on legislation that will block a recent proposed ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding unionization. The ruling speeds up the process of union elections, offering little time for employers and workers to debate union organization. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have blasted the ruling as an infringement on workers' rights. Another bill has been drafted to keep the NLRB in check by preventing the board from ordering a company to relocate its employees. Senate Republicans have vowed to block any nominations to the NLRB until these issues are resolved.
From the Left: Politicizing Hurricanes
Congressional Democrats manufactured a scandal out of thin air this week, blaming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for blocking disaster funding in the wake of Hurricane Irene. There haven't been many stories about people being denied aid, however, because it's simply not the case. Yet Democrats are charging that Cantor is doing exactly that. On the contrary, the GOP added $1 billion to FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund in June, and offset the increase by cutting spending on the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program, a liberal pet project to create luxury electric cars. Cantor has noted on separate occasions that the federal government plays too large a role in disaster relief, but, despite Democrats' claims, his efforts to fund FEMA have been more generous than even the White House proposed. The only thing he's guilty of is hobbling Joe Biden's dream project to create electric cars that nobody will buy anyway.
Warfront With Jihadistan: Iraq Withdrawal on Steroids
Seeking to shore up plummeting poll numbers and pander to its anti-military base, the Obama regime is reportedly set to drastically reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq to just 3,000 by year's end, a major reduction in strength in the still highly volatile country. When asked about this report, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta tried to sidestep, saying "no decision has been made" on the number of troops to stay in Iraq, but multiple sources confirm that Obama has already made the decision.
There are currently about 45,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. American commanders recommended a somewhat lower number to remain there by year's end, but the Obama regime, ever thinking of 2012, whined about "the cost and the political optics" of that many troops remaining in Iraq. U.S. commanders then further reduced their recommendation to 10,000, saying that number could work "in extremis," meaning in reality our troops would be hard pressed to continue training Iraqi forces while also maintaining security in large sections of Iraq. Still, even that low troop level was too much for Obama.
U.S. commanders are rightly angry. "We can't secure everybody with only 3,000 on the ground, nor can we do what we need to with the Iraqis," argued one. Another senior military official said that by reducing the number of troops to 3,000, the Obama regime has effectively reduced the U.S. mission in Iraq to training only, at best, while leaving a still-insufficient Iraqi security force to fend for themselves, all of which will endanger the remaining 3,000 U.S. troops -- for nothing more than supposed political gain.
Thankfully, there was some good news for our troops, as August marked the first month since March 2003 that not one U.S. military member died in either combat or non-hostile circumstances while supporting Iraqi operations. Sadly, Obama's latest move seems destined to ensure that August will be the last month we lose no troops in Iraq, at least until he completely surrenders Iraq and brings the handful of remaining troops home.
Tenth Anniversary of 9/11
Sunday we solemnly mark the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, when 2,996 innocents, mostly American citizens, were murdered by Islamic fascists. In keeping with the presidential proclamation designating Sept. 11 of each year as Patriot Day, all flags should be flown at half-staff in memory of those who lost their lives that day.
We invite you to join us as we offer our prayers for the families of those lost and for our Armed Forces now serving on the front lines of the Long War against Jihadistan. As we continue to engage our jihadi foes on battlefronts around the globe, let us never forget why we fight.
Also, don't miss Mark Alexander's essay on the subject: Are We Safer Today? Given the recent intel that al-Qa'ida in Pakistan is planning anniversary attacks in Washington and New York, we would say we're not safe yet.
Department of Military Correctness: DADT Repeal Has Consequences
In yet another setback to military order and disciple, the Air Force and Army Exchange Service approved on-base sales of a magazine marketed for homosexual military members. We won't give any additional publicity to this rag beyond providing our readers with more evidence of the results of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Such "priority" military issues surely don't trump recent news of the failed body armor or the ill-advised troop reductions in Iraq. But we're glad to see the Pentagon is working overtime to set "straight" this horrible deficiency in our troops' reading material.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is also pushing for the Pentagon to extend housing and transportation allowances to same-sex partners of military personnel. Pentagon spokesman George Little said, "Provisions in the Defense of Marriage Act and other laws prohibit the Department of Defense from extending certain benefits, such as housing and transportation allowances, to same-sex partners, but a same-sex partner can be designated a beneficiary, for example, for life insurance. The department continues to examine benefits to determine any that may be changed to allow the service member the discretion to designate persons of their choosing as beneficiaries." Welcome to the slippery slope.
Business & Economy
Income Redistribution: Tax Credits for Illegals?
Often in government we find the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, but in this case both hands are annually costing the public treasury $4.2 billion and counting, with much of it going to those who are charitably called "undocumented workers." The culprit is a tax loophole that allows workers without a Social Security number to file for an Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). At one time, the ACTC was allowed only if a taxpayer had three or more children and owed more in Social Security taxes than earned income credits. Over the years, though, those restrictions have been stripped away and the amount claimed via the ACTC jumped from $924 million in 2005 to $4.2 billion last year. It's yet another financial incentive for illegals to not just have "anchor babies" but to also bring older kids along as well.
One enforcement problem is that the IRS refuses to check the immigration status of those who request an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and use it in lieu of a Social Security number when filing their taxes. While many legitimate citizens use an ITIN for various reasons, those who use the ITIN to claim the ACTC aren't getting the scrutiny requested by the Treasury Department inspector general who compiled the shocking report. Not only is the government not securing the borders, it's now creating ever more ways to encourage illegal immigration. Perhaps preventing illegals from receiving tax credits they don't deserve is yet another job Americans won't do.
Regulatory Commissars: Ozone Regs Off the Table -- for Now
In a surprising move, Barack Obama pulled rank and instructed EPA chief Lisa Jackson to withdraw new ozone regulations that would have meant much of the country was in noncompliance with the new standards -- only portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Maine would have passed muster. That's important because areas deemed out of compliance have their businesses placed under more scrutiny if they wish to expand, while local governments could lose a portion of their federal highway funding.
Had the standard been tightened from the current 84 parts per billion to 60 parts per billion, a study by a manufacturer's group pegged the economic damage at $1.7 trillion annually, with a corresponding overall loss of 7.3 million jobs. Furthermore, while currently available technology can shave a few parts per billion off at relatively little cost, to attain such a stringent standard could force corporations to choose between moving operations offshore or filing for bankruptcy.
Instead, the regulations will be reviewed on their original schedule beginning in 2013, after the next presidential election. Obviously, this doesn't mean companies will be off the hook since these regulations could still be put in place, but the impending election and Obama's chances in it mean American business gets a stay of execution -- for now.
The Post Office's Woes
First the banks, then the auto industry. Soon, the U.S. Postal Service may be begging for a bailout. The agency, which has been operating at a loss for years and this fiscal year alone faces a $9.2 billion deficit, is in such dire straits that it may miss making a $5.5 billion payment for retiree health care due Sept. 30. But that's not all. The USPS is actually at risk of closing shop. In the words of Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, "Our situation is extremely serious. If Congress doesn't act, we will default." In other words, no rain, no snow, no sleet, no hail, no money, no mail. While some may blame the USPS's demise on the rise of email and the concomitant drop in postal mail, significant fault also lies with the Postal Service itself. After all, union labor accounts for 80 percent of the organization's costs, financed in large part by increasing debt, and it's bound by a no-layoff contract. Comparatively, labor costs for private sector UPS and FedEx are 53 percent and 32 percent, respectively. (Care to guess which one of those two companies is unionized?)
To cut $20 billion from USPS's $75 billion in operating costs by 2015, Donahoe hopes to close post offices, cut the number of sorting facilities from 500 to 200, reduce personnel numbers from 653,000 to 433,000, and eliminate Saturday deliveries. Predictably, unions are crying foul. Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are split (not surprisingly) on how to address the problem. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to establish Post Offices. Unfortunately, by thinking like bureaucrats instead of businessmen, Uncle Sam has managed to bankrupt an enterprise that enjoys a virtual monopoly. Only the government could do that.
Investigating a Bankrupt Stimulus Recipient
Solyndra is a manufacturer of solar panels, and the California-based "green energy" firm received $535 million in "stimulus" loan guarantees from the Department of Energy. On Tuesday, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, eliminating 1,000 jobs, and questions remain about the $535 million in taxpayer money. Nothing like stimulating the economy.
On Thursday morning, the FBI raided the facility, executing a search warrant and interviewing laid-off employees. Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is preparing to hold hearings on the government's loan and the possibility of recovering any of the money. "How did this company, without maybe the best economic plan, all of a sudden get to the head of the line?" asked committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). "We want to know who made this decision ... and we're not going to stop until we get those answers."
The answers might not be welcome. According to Peter Lynch, a solar industry analyst, the company's problems should have been quite evident. "Here's the bottom line. It costs them $6 to make a unit. They're selling it for $3. In order to be competitive today, they have to sell it for between $1.50 and $2. That is not a viable business plan." It's remarkable, though, how similar it is to the Democrats' plan for government.
Culture & Policy
Second Amendment: The Gunwalker Chronicles
The growing cesspool of bad actors and actions oozing out of "Operation Fast and Furious" and its progeny -- such as "Project Gunrunner," the unintentionally apt name assigned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to its Southwest Border Initiative to interdict gun smuggling to Mexico -- appears to be growing ever further. Now, in addition to "Gunwalker" -- Gunrunner's derisive pseudonym based on the 2,000 illegal weapons that "walked" out of sight under full supervision of ATF and the Department of Justice (DOJ) U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona -- ATF and DOJ are apparently busy teeing up more vignettes of buffoonery.
First, there's "Grenade-walker" -- that's right, "grenade," as in 500 or so of them. That's how many Mexican authorities estimate could have been made from components in the possession of Jean Baptiste Kingery, whom they just arrested. Oh yeah: ATF also arrested Kingery, but that was more than a year ago and ATF released him without any charges, notwithstanding the fact he confessed to operating an explosives factory and making devices from U.S. supplies for drug cartels. But hey, what are a few hundred grenades among friends?
Then there's "Gunwalker, Part Deux." Incredibly, the same scenario that played out in Gunwalker is reportedly playing out in Indiana via gangs. This leads us to ask how these incidents could possibly be viewed as independent, isolated events. That is, how could either occur singly -- let alone together -- without full Justice Department knowledge and sanction?
Meanwhile, New York City Mayor and leftist shill Michael Bloomberg is not nearly as concerned with government's distribution of illegal guns and grenades onto American and Mexican streets as he is with the lawful possession of firearms within his city limits. Specifically, in the wake of Labor Day weekend violence in the city that resulted in 10 deaths, Bloomberg has asked "both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, both sides of the aisle," to step up to the plate and enact stringent gun control legislation, because "there are just too many guns on the streets and we have to do something about it." Never mind that NYC already has some of the toughest local anti-gun legislation on the books.
According to Mayor Bloomberg, the important thing to remember is that New York's violence is due only to the existence of guns. Responsibility does not attach to the shooters, the ATF, the DOJ or all the other bad actors who do the actual killing, maiming or enabling of the violence. From Bloomberg's viewpoint, inanimate weapons themselves should be held accountable for the crimes in which they are used. In truth, tighter gun control legislation only makes things easier for arms-possessing criminals, not their defenseless victims. In fact, were it not for violent gangs and recidivist offenders upon whom the courts lavish so much compassion, the United States would have a relatively low violent crime rate. In the meantime, small-brained pollyannacrats continue the effort to disarm gun owners through unconstitutional local ordinances and codes.
Faith and Family: A Crackdown on Abortion Protests?
After doing little more than gathering dust much of the time after Ted Kennedy sponsored its 1994 passage, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (or FACE Act) is getting some usage from the Obama administration. FACE was originally passed to muzzle pro-life activists who wished to dissuade pregnant women from having abortions, but it was rarely enforced due to fears of a First Amendment fight -- a tacit admission of its dubious constitutional standing. However, Obama's Justice Department has stepped up the pace of enforcement, despite the decline of violence at abortion clinics.
Violating the FACE Act can be costly, too. One defendant charged with this offense at a Washington-area clinic could be fined $10,000, plus another $5,000 for each of his three "victims." While one charged under the FACE Act had posted the names and addresses of abortion providers on the Internet with an expressed wish that they would be killed, many of the rest sued by the Obama administration were obstructing access to a clinic. In most other situations, this sort of violation would be a minor misdemeanor.
It's worth noting that the law also protects worshipers at a house of religion, but one questions whether the administration will enforce it in any case where harassment of parishioners at a Christian church is involved. We're not holding our breath.
The 21st Century 'Family'
The definition of "family" has become a hotly contested issue in recent years, as evidenced by, among other things, the same-sex marriage debate and the polygamous family featured in the reality show "Sister Wives." Now a New York Times article, "One Sperm Donor, 150 Children," highlights another phenomenon. The title says it all: one man's donation to the local sperm bank resulted in the birth of 150 children. Another man learned that he had fathered 70 children, despite the fact that the sperm bank had promised him a "low number." But the article's real focus is the growing trend of the donor children using the Internet to find and connect with one another as family.
There is currently no legal limit to the number of children that can be fathered by one donor. Thus, for example, as more women have chosen to have babies in this way, the chances have increased that their offspring could unknowingly become romantically involved with a half-sibling. There is also the fear that illnesses could be spread faster through the population. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has recommended only 25 such births per 800,000 people, while other countries, such as France, England and Sweden, have already placed restrictions on the industry.
In the meantime, parents are taking matters into their own hands. Many tell their children to memorize their donor's confidential identification number so they can make sure they're not dating a sibling. In 2000, the Donor Sibling Registry was created so that children of donors can connect with each other, or simply see how many half-siblings they have. "Family," it seems, has an ever-changing definition -- but is that always for the better?
We have long suspected that Europeans must suffer from something beyond their predisposition for enacting bad policies. Surely their massive and bankrupt entitlement systems have resulted from more than just a few poor decisions over the years. Well, Reuters provides a clue: "Europeans are plagued by mental and neurological illnesses, with almost 165 million people or 38 percent of the population suffering each year from a brain disorder such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia, according to a large new study." It gets worse. "With only about a third of cases receiving the therapy or medication needed, mental illnesses cause a huge economic and social burden -- measured in the hundreds of billions of euros -- as sufferers become too unwell to work and personal relationships break down." The study provides an interesting insight into European culture and government. As we try to avoid the same fate here in the U.S., what now must be determined is which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team