Friday Digest

Digest

Jan. 29, 2010

The Foundation

“The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” –Thomas Jefferson

Government & Politics

It’s the Deficit, Stupid

Barack Obama apparently suffers from his own brand of ADD – Addiction-to-Deficit Disorder – as demonstrated by his recently unveiled proposal to freeze one tiny portion of government spending at current levels for three years, which by the way wouldn’t begin until 2011. He highlighted the proposal again Wednesday night in his State of the Union address.

At first blush, the idea sounds like something conservatives would cheer. In fact, other than Democrats, who isn’t for stopping the spending juggernaut? But as a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) quipped, “Given Washington Democrats’ unprecedented spending binge, this is like announcing you’re going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest.”

A closer look at this diet reveals that the freeze would apply to a budget that enjoyed a 20 percent increase in 2009, courtesy of the Democrats’ largesse. Under the guise of “tacking to the center” in the wake of his trip to the woodshed in the Massachusetts election, the president’s proposal would actually lock in a sizable spending increase during those years, as opposed to a real freeze. (No wonder Republicans burst out laughing during the SOTU.)

Furthermore, while the plan claims savings of roughly $250 billion over the next decade, the freeze applies only to non-defense-related discretionary spending, or roughly 17 percent of the total federal budget. Even at that, however, the cap is by no means across the board. Education and job creation initiatives would receive increases, because everyone knows government creates jobs, and education … well, as long as we keep throwing more money at it, it’ll get better, right?

Other items exempted from the proposal are even more revealing. This includes entitlement programs (about two-thirds of the federal budget), virtually all legislation – past or future – with the term “stimulus” in it, including the unspent cash from the latest stimulus legislation, and the yet-another-stimulus-package proposal from The Chosen One’s SOTU. Health care spending would also get a pass.

Naturally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, Lala-land) rushed to offer up defense spending as a sacrificial lamb to further the cause (so much for the “non-defense-related” caveat). Pelosi’s suggestion was immediately lauded by Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il and a host of other despots.

For perspective, we would add that these hypothetical savings pale in comparison to the $1.4 trillion actual deficit in 2009 alone, and that the Congressional Budget Office – a virtual shill for Democrats, no less – forecast just this week that the deficit for 2010 likely will be at least as large. All told, in fact, the government will hit its current $12.4 trillion authorized debt ceiling by the end of February.

So given the president’s call for fiscal “responsibility,” one might assume Democrats would jump on the bandwagon. Not so. Every Senate Democrat – every Democratvoted Thursday to raise the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion. That’s $45,000 of debt for every American man, woman and child. But as Obama so succinctly (and ridiculously) put it in the SOTU, “That’s how budgeting works.”

(On a related note, Democrats needed 60 votes to pass this increase and Sen. Paul Kirk (D-MA) provided one of those votes, despite Senate rules and Massachusetts law saying his term expired last Tuesday. So why did he vote?)

Columnist Charles Krauthammer wryly captured the true significance of the disingenuous spending freeze subterfuge, noting that it’s “a $15 billion reduction in a year, 2011, in which the CBO has just announced we are going to have a deficit of $1.35 trillion – it’s a rounding error. … It’s not a hatchet. It’s not a scalpel. It’s a Q-tip. It’s a fraud.” As is any claim of fiscal responsibility originating near the Potomac.

This Week’s ‘Braying Jenny’ Award

“In [the president’s] budget, which we passed 100 days after his swearing-in, he had a blueprint for how we go into the future, create jobs, stabilize the economy [and] do so as we reduce the deficit – [it’s] very central to everything we do – reduce the deficit.” –House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who contributed to nearly quadrupling the deficit in Obama’s first year

From the ‘Non Compos Mentis’ File

“You know, I was trying to think about who [Barack Obama] was tonight, and it’s interesting: He is post-racial by all appearances. You know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.” –MSNBC host Chris “thrill up my leg” Matthews, with a slobbering sycophantic (and genuinely racist) analysis of the SOTU

Election Preview: Democrats

Democrats have experienced a nearly unprecedented reversal of fortune lately, and the bad news just keeps on coming. Arkansas Representative Marion Berry became the sixth Democrat to announce his retirement, and his district is expected to go Republican in November. He told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he urged the White House not to repeat the mistakes of 1994, when congressional Democrats were defeated resoundingly at the polls. He said Obama fired back, “Well, the big difference here and in ‘94 was, you’ve got me.”

The arrogance necessary to make that kind of comment suggests that Obama has been tapping the keg of his own Kool-Aid. Given the disastrous results of his efforts on behalf of gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey, and on behalf of Ted Kennedy’s senatorial heir apparent in deep-blue Massachusetts, he’s vastly overestimating his marquee value. His much-vaunted health care plan is all but dead, and now House and Senate Democrat leaders will be lucky to keep more members from retiring early. So maybe the “big difference” Obama was referring to is the loss of even more than 54 seats in the House.

Even Vice President Joe Biden’s son Beau has seen the writing on the wall. He announced this week that he would not run for the Senate seat vacated when his father became VP. Beau, who is Delaware’s Attorney General, indicated that he’s just too busy with a controversial child abuse case to focus on a statewide race. Yeah, right. If the Democrats in Massachusetts can’t keep the “Kennedy Senate seat” that they held for half a century, what chance does the vice president’s son have in Delaware? Republican candidate Mike Castle, a popular congressman and former governor, raised almost $2 million in campaign cash and has run virtually unopposed while Biden was still making up his mind about whether to run.

Election Preview: Republicans

The political landscape indeed favors Republicans, which also means tight races at the primary level. The contest for Florida’s Senate seat has turned into a statistical dead heat between Gov. Charlie Crist and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. The moderate Crist’s comfortable lead has faded away in recent weeks, as he continues to take heat for Florida’s economic difficulties. The state has double-digit unemployment and was the hardest hit by the housing collapse. Crist’s popularity is dropping and Rubio, a solid conservative, is now closing the gap in the polls and in the cash department. Both candidates are comfortably ahead of Democrat Kendrick Meek.

In Arizona, erstwhile presidential candidate John McCain is facing a challenge for his Senate seat. Former Congressman J.D. Hayworth announced his candidacy, claiming he was motivated to take on McCain because the latter was an “enabler” of Obama’s fiscal policies. McCain certainly is not as conservative as he or the Leftmedia fancy. To name but a few examples, he co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold campaign finance debacle that the Supreme Court partly struck down last week; the McCain-Edwards-Kennedy Patient’s Bill of Rights imposing a new set of onerous mandates on the insurance industry; the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship cap-and-trade bill; and the McCain-Kennedy Amnesty and Open Borders Act legalizing dozens of millions of illegal aliens. And that’s not to mention his opposition to the Bush tax cuts; his vicious attacks and vendettas against South Carolina Christians in the 2000 presidential primary, as well as the Swift Boat Veterans and Club for Growth; and his vote (one of six Republicans) against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Of course, Hayworth’s voting record in Congress is nothing worth bragging about, either. He voted for the hefty farm and highway spending bills and also had a penchant for earmarks before he was ousted in 2006. Barry Goldwater, call your office.

News From the Swamp: Bernanke Wins Reappointment

Talk about a case of bad timing. The economic outlook is anything but certain and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s term was just about to expire. A growing number of senators were less than thrilled with Bernanke’s handling of the economy over the last two years and threatened to deny him confirmation for another term. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that Bernanke “must be held accountable for many of the decisions that contributed to our financial meltdown.”

Nonetheless, on Thursday, the Senate voted 70-30 to reappoint Bernanke for a second four-year term. The Senate has never rejected a Fed chairman nominee, though Bernanke received a record-low vote total. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said, “To vote against confirmation could unnerve investors and exacerbate economic uncertainty in the marketplace, which is exactly what we do not need at this time.” He was probably correct, though we also think McCain has a point. It was Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who, along with Democrats in Congress, were largely responsible for steering the economy into a ditch. Yet sacking Bernanke likely would have destabilized the market – much like Barack Obama’s populist posturing about bank punishment did last week.

Furthermore, if it’s not Bernanke, then who? There’s little chance Obama would have chosen someone satisfactory to succeed him. The one name that surfaced was former Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. In the end, the Senate simply went with the known quantity.

Also at PatriotPost.US This Week: O'Keefe Arrested

Investigative journalist James O'Keefe, of ACORN video fame, was arrested in Louisiana this week for activities at Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office. Read more here.

National Security

Warfront With Jihadistan: Marines to Leave Iraq

While news from Iraq has been noticeably lacking recently – definitely a good sign of progress and stabilization – the country was back in the media this week. On Monday, triple suicide blasts ripped through Baghdad, killing at least 41 people. An al-Qa'ida front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility. Iraqi authorities have faced increasing criticism over security lapses, and this attack will certainly increase the pressure on the Shiite-led government before Iraq’s March 7 national elections.

In Baghdad, Vice President Joe Biden met with Iraqi leaders to discuss their plans to ban candidates suspected of being a part of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The administration believes that any candidate bans could undermine the credibility of the election results, which the U.S. views as important for continuing the U.S. troop pullout, as well as helping to break Iraqi government stalemates over issues such as the sharing of oil revenue.

Concerning the U.S. troop pullout, on Saturday, the Marine Corps wrapped up almost seven years in Iraq and handed its duties over entirely to the U.S. Army. This marked the start of an accelerated withdrawal of American troops, as the U.S. turns away from a quieter Iraq and toward Afghanistan. The Marines formally handed control of Iraq’s largest province, the Sunni-dominated Anbar region, to the Army during a ceremony in Ramadi, where some of the fiercest battles of the Iraq war were fought.

If everything remains on schedule, these last remaining Marines will be followed out of Iraq by tens of thousands of U.S. Army soldiers over the coming months. President Obama ordered all but 50,000 troops out of Iraq by August of this year, with the largest group scheduled to leave after the March elections. The remaining troops will leave by the end of 2011. After a job well done by U.S. forces, here’s hoping the Iraqi armed forces are ready to fully secure their country and their hard-won security.

Administration Considers Moving KSM Trial

“Facing mounting pressure from New York politicians concerned about costs and security, the Obama administration on Thursday began considering moving the trial of the chief organizer of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks out of Manhattan,” The New York Times reports. Of course, the commander in chief still wants to treat Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) as a criminal rather than an enemy combatant, saying he believes a civilian trial can be conducted “successfully and securely in the United States.” However, Obama left the location up to the Justice Department. The move is in response to growing protests, led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Republicans still promise to block funding for a civilian trial, seeking to force a trial before a military commission either at Guantanamo Bay or a military base.

Profiles of Valor: U.S. Marine Corps MGySgt Peter Proietto

United States Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Proietto was serving in Afghanistan when, on March 12, 2003, his patrol was ambushed by Taliban fighters. As the other Marines in the forward element of the patrol sought cover, Proietto stayed in position – exposed to enemy fire though he was – in order to provide suppressive fire for the protection of his comrades.

As the firefight continued, Proietto bravely stayed at the machine gun atop his unarmored vehicle on an open road. The Team Sergeant advised him to leave that position for cover, but he stayed and fired on the enemy for almost an hour until he ran out of ammunition. When the ammunition was gone, he grabbed his M4 carbine and continued to engage the enemy. Soon, the Taliban were pushed from their positions. For his actions, Proietto received the Bronze Star with combat “V” for valor. His citation says he “displayed himself in a courageous professional manner and his heroic and immediate response to enemy fire and willingness to jeopardize his own safety to provide supporting fire for the rest of the team demonstrated a level of dedication to the mission and his fellow soldiers, which is rarely surpassed.”

For more Profiles of Valor, see our Perspective section each Sunday.

Business & Economy

Income Redistribution: Tax Cut Games

Still reeling from last week’s Democrat loss in Massachusetts, Barack Obama is proposing a series of middle-class tax breaks to “reverse the overall erosion in middle-class security.” Undoubtedly, he also hopes the breaks will reverse growing disenchantment among middle-class voters. Under the proposal, childcare tax credits would nearly double; student federal loan repayments would be limited to 10 percent of income beyond a “basic living allowance”; and employers would be required to let employees enroll in direct deposit IRAs. Additionally, $1.6 billion in new funding would flow to childcare and $102.5 million to family-provided elder care.

These tax cuts will undoubtedly be welcomed by those who receive them, but in reality the proposals are little more than smokescreens and sound bites. “Americans are asking, 'Where are the jobs?’” said House Republican Leader John Boehner. “[N]one of the proposals outlined by the White House … would, in fact, create jobs.”

This latest scheme reiterates that Obama’s philosophy is not one of systemic tax relief, which views wealth as created by the people and belonging to the people, but of wealth redistribution, which selects “worthy” recipients of taxpayer dollars and reallocates those dollars accordingly.

This Week’s ‘Alpha Jackass’ Award

“We also had some good news for the first time in approximately two years. The projection of revenues has stabilized, not decreased. That is a very good sign because it is a sign that people are in fact making money and will be in a position, because they’re making money, to pay a portion of that in revenues to the federal government.” –House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

Hope ‘n’ Change: How Many Jobs?

Barack Obama spent a good deal of time in his State of the Union address telling us how he was going to create jobs, mostly by giving various tax breaks to different constituencies, paid for by other constituencies. Friday, he announced a $33 billion incentive package for small businesses for hiring and wage increases – again, more acts of “benevolence” rather than just getting out of the way.

Meanwhile, it was a game of multiple-choice statistics on Sunday’s talk shows, as three of Obama’s top advisors graced three different networks, spouting three different job numbers. On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Senior Adviser David Axelrod picked Door #1: “[T]he Recovery Act the president passed has created … or saved more than 2 million jobs.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs chose Door #2: “[T]he recovery plan … saved or created 1.5 million jobs.”

Door #3 was left for Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “The Recovery Act saved thousands and thousands of jobs.” Unfortunately, none of the president’s sages had the correct answer: None of the above.

Is this messaging faux pas a sign of trouble in the Obama ranks? Looks that way. Indeed, following Democrats’ recent electoral nosedives, an internal shakeup may be on the horizon. On last week’s McLaughlin Group, five of five panelists think that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s days are numbered. The hard-nosed strategist may soon find his nose in the classifieds. And as Obama re-hires former campaign manager David Plouffe in a post-Massachusetts (and Virginia, and New Jersey) attempt to salvage his agenda, one can only wonder how many other senior advisers will soon add “former” to their titles.

Around the Nation: Oregon Voters Approve Tax Hike

“It’s not often that citizens vote for higher taxes, but 54% of Oregonians have done precisely that,” notes The Wall Street Journal. “In a rolling month-long referendum by mail that ended Tuesday, they approved some $700 million in tax hikes on business and wealthy residents.”

The vote pushes the highest state income tax rate from 9 percent to 11 percent, nearly the highest in the nation. Not only that, but the retroactive (to January 2009) tax is a gross-receipts tax, not a net-profit tax. How, in a time of voter anger over taxes and spending, did this happen?

Both national and local public employee unions spent $6.5 million in support of the hike, which helped build support in the crucial precincts in and around Portland. Naturally, the union label placed the burden on “someone else.” Only Wall Street bankers, out-of-state credit card companies and the rich would pay the tax. But as the WSJ points out, “Two-thirds of those hit with the new 11% tax rate are small and medium-sized business owners.” Besides, tax hikes at the top tend to have that dastardly trickle-down effect.

Public unions succeeded in using tax dollars from dues paid through salaries to lobby and win more tax dollars for even better wages and benefits. The average Oregon state worker receives $83,402 in pay and benefits, which is 30 percent higher than private workers get. Nice work if you can get it. With voters electing to add to their deficit problems rather than solving them, it’s no wonder Phil Knight of Nike (in Oregon) called it the state’s “assisted suicide” for business.

Ford, Sans Bailout Cash, Posts Profit

Ford Motor Company this week announced its first annual profit since 2005 – all without bailout cash from taxpayers. The automaker recorded $2.7 billion profit for 2009 versus a $14.8 billion loss in 2008, and Ford has $25.5 billion in cash reserves, up from $13.4 billion at the beginning of the year. Ford also increased its U.S. market share for the first time since 1995. One of the primary reasons why the company saw success last year was its refusal to take federal bailout money – unlike rivals GM and Chrysler, which are still losing money – and auto buyers are rewarding them for their stand.

The federal government should have avoided meddling in the market as it did. Big government proponents incessantly argue that they “brought the automakers back from the brink,” but if the free market had been allowed to work in the first place, GM and Chrysler would have either failed appropriately or, more likely, avoided the brink in the first place.

Culture & Policy

Climate Change This Week: NASA Measures More ‘Warming’

A new NASA study has declared this past decade to be the warmest since the recording of temperature began in 1880. Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world’s best-known envirofascists, even broke it down by year. According to him, 2009 was a real scorcher, second only to 2005.

The New York Times reports that the scientist has been “attacked” by climate change skeptics, though perhaps a better word is “exposed.” If Hansen is being challenged openly, it’s because scientists who had been silenced for years are now debunking the junk science of climate change. Yet the Times won’t mention that; in fact, it even attempted to gloss over “ClimateGate” by focusing on the fact that the e-mails had been released without permission.

Arguably, the Times has good reason to be testy, for it recently received the not-so-shocking news that China and India will not be signing the Copenhagen Accord after all. India had been on the verge of signing the agreement because it would look good diplomatically and obligate them to do absolutely nothing, but Prime Minister Singh changed his mind after being hounded by the United Nations. He responded by issuing a letter to UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon asking the organization to elaborate on several aspects of the accord.

Singh’s letter – plus the fact that of the nearly 200 countries which attended the conference only Australia, Canada, Papua New Guinea and the Maldives have signed – prompted the UN to postpone indefinitely its Jan. 31 deadline. Another key factor was the election of Republican Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s senate seat. “With the Democrats losing in one of their strongholds,” an anonymous official said, “the chances of the climate bill going through the U.S. Senate have receded dramatically.” Still, the Obama administration formally notified the UN Thursday that it will support the Accord.

Faith and Family: McCains Support NoH8

Much ado is being made of Arizonan Cindy McCain’s participation in the NoH8 campaign to overturn California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage. Mrs. McCain joined her daughter Meghan in the fight for marriage “equality” when she appeared in a commercial with duct tape over her mouth, supposedly symbolizing the silence being forced on homosexuals.

As so often is the case, however, the real problem is not in front of the TV cameras, but lurking below the surface. The issue isn’t just whether the government should allow same-sex marriage, or whether a politician’s spouse should publicly take a different stance on a hot-button issue (such as when Barbara Bush announced that she is pro-choice), but whether all Americans are allowed to speak their minds, even when their views are not popular in Hollywood.

The people of California have rejected same-sex marriage twice. As blogger Michelle Malkin notes, “Prop. 8 supporters and donors have been hounded, threatened, blacklisted, beaten, and forced to resign from their jobs for exercising their political free speech.” In fighting against their own perceived discrimination, perhaps those in favor of same-sex marriage should examine how they are trampling the rights of others.

Also at PatriotPost.US This Week: An Anti-American Ad?

Focus on the Family is featuring Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow in a pro-life Super Bowl ad because, against all odds, his mother chose life. The “pro-choice” crowd is not pleased. Read more here.

To Keep and Bear Arms

Mark and Rodney Bowens were thrown out of a Charlotte, North Carolina, nightclub earlier this month, only to return armed with at least one pistol. They opened fire, and 67-year-old bar owner Roosevelt Hinton responded by grabbing his handgun and returning fire. Mark Bowens was reportedly struck in the head and abdomen, though he survived. He went outside where police later found him on the pavement. Two bar patrons also were injured in the shootout. Rodney Bowens fled the scene. This also wasn’t Mark Bowens’ first encounter with trouble. He had already spent four separate occasions in jail, one of those for a second-degree murder conviction in 1991. Fortunately, Hinton was ready for trouble.

And Last…

Given recent events and the plummeting popularity of Barack Obama, Republicans are salivating at the chance to retake Congress in November and even the White House in 2012. Of course, polling is the new national sport, and a recent Newsmax/Zogby poll poses an interesting problem for Obama. Newly elected Republican Sen. Scott Brown is within the margin of error from the president in a hypothetical match up – Obama leads by only 46.5 to 44.6 percent. Now don’t get us wrong; a year is an eternity in politics (see Obama’s popularity as Exhibit A), let alone three years. And as Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto writes, “C'mon, Scott Brown? His victory last week was undoubtedly impressive, but let’s put things in perspective. Brown is merely a state senator, and by the time of the next presidential election, he will have served less than a full term in the U.S. Senate. What could possibly give anyone the idea that he’s experienced enough to go to the White House?”

It's Right. It's Free.