Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Last of Lugar?

John J. Miller at National Review:

When Barack Obama was running for president, there was one Republican besides George W. Bush whom he wouldn’t stop talking about. “Politics don’t have to divide us,” he said at his campaign kickoff in 2007. “I’ve worked with Republican senator Dick Lugar . . .” Obama dropped the name of the senior senator from Indiana during his first presidential debate with John McCain, and then again during their third debate: “If I’m interested in figuring out my foreign policy, I associate myself with my running mate, Joe Biden, or with Dick Lugar.” Obama even ran advertisements that showed him with Lugar.

To the surprise of many, the Hoosier State wound up giving its electoral votes to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1964 and for only the second time since the Depression. “I saw those ads,” says Richard Mourdock, Indiana’s Republican treasurer. “My reaction was: You’ve got to be kidding me.” Mourdock assumed that they’d disappear in a day or two. “It was an implied endorsement. I thought Lugar would pick up the phone and ask for the ads to go off the air. That didn’t happen. You can make a case that Obama won our state’s eleven electoral votes because of those ads.”

Democrats may have flourished in Indiana in 2008, but Republicans roared back in 2010. They won every statewide office, picked up two congressional seats, and gained commanding majorities in the state legislature. Mourdock collected more than a million votes as he coasted to reelection. Now he has set his sights on a new office — the one currently held by Lugar. In February, he announced for the Senate.
Mourdock plans to oust the Republican heavyweight by tapping the energy of grassroots conservatives and tea-party activists, repeating last year’s insurgent performances by Mike Lee in Utah, Marco Rubio in Florida, and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. Between now and May 8, 2012, when Indiana primary voters head to the polls, the Lugar–Mourdock race could become one of the most bitter and hard-fought Republican contests in the country.

Richard E. Mourdock, who will turn 60 in October, was born and raised in Ohio, the son of a state trooper. After graduating from Defiance College, he moved to Indiana, where he earned a master’s degree in geology from Ball State and spent the next three decades working for oil and coal companies. He started to take an interest in politics in 1984, when he found himself living in “the Bloody Eighth,” a southern-Indiana congressional district that briefly captured the nation’s attention. A Republican, Rick McIntyre, had narrowly defeated the Democratic incumbent, Frank McCloskey, in a tight race that required a recount. Democrats in Washington refused to seat McIntyre, hired their own auditors, and eventually proclaimed McCloskey the winner by four votes. House Republicans marched out of Congress in protest, but they were powerless to change the outcome. “I was outraged,” says Mourdock. “The election was stolen.”

After McIntyre lost a rematch two years later, Mourdock decided to run for Congress. He came up short in the 1988 GOP primary but captured his party’s nomination in 1990 and 1992, losing the general election both times to McCloskey. “Newt Gingrich asked me to try again in 1994, but I’d had enough,” says Mourdock, who might have discovered that the third time’s a charm in what became one of the best years ever for congressional Republicans. Instead, he won a spot on his county commission and served for eight years. In 2002, he failed to get the GOP nod for secretary of state. Four years later, he won election as state treasurer and he is now in his second term.

Mourdock is a mainstream conservative: pro-life, opposed to gay marriage, and committed never to support a tax hike. As a trained geologist who worked in the energy industry, he speaks with authority on the need for more domestic production, as well as the dangers of global-warming alarmism. He’s a history buff, too. Recent readings include Lincoln’s Sword, a study of Abraham Lincoln’s rhetoric by Douglas L. Wilson. On the day of our meeting at a hotel in Indianapolis, Mourdock wore a yellow tie with blue script on it. “I can’t remember if this is my Emancipation Proclamation tie or my Gettysburg Address tie,” he said. (A close inspection revealed that it was the Emancipation Proclamation tie.)

Lugar sensed his vulnerability to a conservative challenger last year, announcing that he would seek reelection in August, the earliest he has ever declared his intentions. “I wanted to make it well known that I’d be a candidate,” he says. Now in his sixth term, Lugar is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, so he also may have wanted to put down the inevitable speculation that he would retire rather than try to become an octogenarian senator (he’ll turn 80 next year). Lugar is old enough to have briefed President Eisenhower as a young officer in the Navy. He was elected mayor of Indianapolis in 1967 and senator in 1976. When Obama cozied up to Lugar in 2005, he wasn’t just trying to burnish his bipartisan credentials by co-opting a mild-mannered Republican. He was also hoping to offset his relative youth and inexperience by hanging out with an elder statesman.

In most of his Senate races, Lugar has won about two-thirds of the vote, but that’s been against Democratic opposition. In 2006, his last election, the Democrats didn’t even bother to run a candidate against him, even though that was a good year for their party — the year of Nancy Pelosi. Perhaps they knew what they were doing. In 2010, only four Republican senators registered more liberal voting records, according to the American Conservative Union. In a separate analysis, National Journal ranked Lugar as the Senate’s fourth most liberal Republican. He’s a moderate to the core: a pro-lifer who voted to confirm both of Obama’s nominations to the Supreme Court, a hawk on farm subsidies who opposed the ban on earmarks, and a foe of Obamacare who has supported more federal spending on health care. Lugar also has favored stronger gun-control laws, minimum-wage hikes, and the DREAM Act, which would provide an amnesty to illegal aliens who attend college or serve in the military.

Lugar is best known for his interest in foreign policy, especially for his work on nuclear security with Sam Nunn, a former Democratic senator from Georgia. The Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which seeks to dismantle Russian missiles, is commonly known as “Nunn-Lugar.” When Obama joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2005, Lugar took the young Democrat under his wing. They traveled together to Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. “We had some very good observations,” says Lugar. “I appreciated his interest in the Nunn-Lugar program.” The warm relations continued as the two men co-sponsored a minor piece of legislation to expand Nunn-Lugar. Then came the presidential election. On the campaign trail and in those television ads, Obama countered claims that he lacked foreign-policy experience by citing his work with Lugar.

What did Lugar make of all this? “I was startled,” he says. “That raised the attention level considerably.” Yet he didn’t do anything about it. The rock star Tom Petty recently asked Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann to stop playing his song “American Girl” at campaign events, but Lugar didn’t see fit to ask Obama to quit using his image in television ads. “I suppose it’s a free country,” he says. “I had no ability to expunge it.” Democrats were delighted that he didn’t even try. “If Lugar was really upset, he would have asked to have the ad removed,” says Kip Tew, who ran the Obama campaign in Indiana. “The effect of the ad was to give moderate Republicans a permission slip to vote for Obama.” As Democrats gloated, Indiana conservatives fumed.

In the White House, Obama continued to collaborate with Lugar, who pushed for ratification of the New START treaty, an arms-reduction pact with Russia. Last December, as it went before the Senate for approval in a lame-duck session, conservatives tried to postpone its consideration until January, when a new Senate with more Republicans would convene. Lugar worried that delay spelled doom, so he teamed up with Democrats to make sure his future GOP colleagues couldn’t block it. “I just got off the phone with Dick Lugar,” said Obama on December 22, after New START’s ratification. “I told him how much I appreciated the work he had done and that there was a direct line between that trip we took together when I was a first-year senator and the results of the vote today on the floor.” When a Fort Wayne, Ind., television station asked Lugar about tea-party critics who had voiced concerns about the treaty, he launched a terse counterstrike: “Get real.”

“I have great respect for Lugar and I’ve voted for him many times,” says Mourdock. “But he has moved from the mainstream to the left of the party. He’s a big-government Republican. Now is not the time for Lugar’s foreign-policy expertise. Indiana needs someone with business knowledge, someone who believes in limited government.”

Last summer, GOP activists began to approach Mourdock about running against Lugar. He says he didn’t take it seriously at first. “What did I ever do to you?” was his stock response. But the suggestions kept coming. After the election, Mourdock began to consider a race. “When Lugar refused to do away with earmarks in the lame-duck session, I decided to get in,” says Mourdock. “I’ll be the first to admit that in the world of budgets, earmarks are a rounding error. But I thought it was important.”

A handful of other conservatives had expressed interest in taking on Lugar, so Mourdock set about clearing the primary field, knowing that his only chance of success depended on a one-on-one matchup against the incumbent. He accomplished this by February, when he declared his Senate candidacy along with endorsements from 68 of Indiana’s 92 Republican county chairmen. This was an impressive feat given Lugar’s longtime service, as well as an expression of deep dissatisfaction with the senator. Mourdock remains an underdog, but an upset is well within the realm of possibility.

In the near term, Mourdock will have to raise more money. He amassed about $450,000 in the first half of this year — hardly a pittance, but a sum that will need to improve in the months ahead. Lugar, by contrast, has just put together the two most lucrative fundraising quarters of his career, a haul of almost $1.9 million. The senator admits that he feels a sense of urgency. “I’m working hard,” he says. Outside groups may try to even the odds. In July, the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative political action committee, made what it calls a “six-figure ad buy,” running television commercials critical of Lugar. “We haven’t made a final decision about our ultimate role,” says club president Chris Chocola, a former Republican congressman from Indiana. “Lugar is beatable, but Mourdock needs to do a better job of fundraising.”
Even if Mourdock sputters out, he may be able to claim a small victory: Lugar has been acting like a conservative lately. Earlier this year, Lugar refused to co-sponsor the DREAM Act, which he had been eager to do as recently as December. He boasts of his votes against Obamacare, cap and trade, and new financial regulations. He has also become a born-again detractor of Obama’s foreign policy, especially on Libya. “It did not pose a threat to the United States,” he says. “I had an opportunity to say that directly to the president in the situation room at the White House.” He complains that Obama has ignored the provisions of the War Powers Act, which says presidents must receive the consent of Congress before committing the United States to extended military actions.

He’ll probably keep this up for a while. Yet there’s no telling how Lugar will behave in a seventh and presumably final term, when Obama’s favorite Republican senator knows he’ll never again have to explain himself to conservative primary voters.

Disillusioned Democrats for whom?

Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post:

This is one of the most forceful and devastating critiques I’ve seen of a president in over his head:
“We’re almost three years into this administration, and there’s never been a plan. And that’s what everybody feels. And the president didn’t lead. He waited. The quintessential image, sadly, of an administration that I supported and hoped for much better, is the president waiting by the phone to hear what Congress calls to tell him. It doesn’t work in this country that way. It’s not a matter that it’s August. It’s a matter that it’s August 2011. So we’ve been drifting for a very long time. And we’ve been drifting down. And we had a short-term plan that failed. A short-term stimulus that was supposed to get the economy back on track, but it failed. And now we have nothing behind it. And we have no agreements, and we have no leadership. And, frankly, I do think it’s pretty odd the president’s on vacation right now. Normally I wouldn’t care about such things, but the world markets are in deep crisis. It’s no joke. This isn’t just an up-and-down little blip. This is a very serious situation.”
It is all the more devastating because it comes from liberal economist Jeffrey Sachs, no slouch at Harvard and no conservative stalking horse. You can imagine this might show up in a Republican ad in 2012.
It’s actually very similar to what the GOP candidates are saying this week. On a Chicago radio show, Mitt Romney put it this way:
[Y]ou asked the question why was he so misguided for the last, well almost three years? You know, he came into office and job one was to get America working again, but instead of focusing on that, he focused on Obamacare, cap and trade, and Dodd-Frank bill and all these other things he wanted to do and each of those made the economy softer; made it harder for us to recover and, you know, I think the reason he’s taking the time to wait for his next speech on the economy is that he, frankly, doesn’t know what to do. He hasn’t spent his life in the private sector. He doesn’t understand how jobs come and go. And, he’s looking for help. And the right answer is for him to step aside and let somebody help guide the nation that understands how this economy works.”
Romney and Sachs come from different ideological perspectives, but their diagnosis is nearly identical.
Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign had this reaction to Sachs’s comments: “The president had a plan. The trouble is his plan all along was to tax and squeeze job creators. It worked, and maybe that explains his disinterest in doing anything to actually turn the economy around.”
Now, to be clear Sachs has been on President Obama’s case for some time, criticizing him from the left. But it was this observation in Huffington Post that may be his most insightful:
Who runs the White House? David Plouffe, whose job it is to make sure that every word, every action of the president is calculated for electoral gain rather than the country’s needs.
This seems entirely accurate. I find it hard to believe that Austan Goolsbee, Jack Lew or Gene Sperling couldn’t have come up with a credible 2012 budget or an impressive attempt at entitlement reform. They probably did. But the decision to in essence do nothing, and later to blow up the “grand bargain” talks with House Speaker John Boehner, were political decisions. The recent bus tour was undiluted politics. And we can expect that Obama’s speech in September will be more of the same.
The economy is melting down before our eyes, so what will Obama offer? Maybe another trillion-dollar “stimulus,” which as Sachs pointed out, didn’t work the first time and would, frankly, be even more ludicrous this time as the 12-member supercommittee works on cutting spending. He could urge more tax hikes, but even Plouffe might object that horrified investors and a cascading stock market would be a political downer. He could throw in all the scrap he’s been keeping in the cupboard ( e.g. infrastructure bank, patent reform). But his Lilliputian proposals are becoming a sign of his own dwarfed stature.
So what are Sachs and other disillusioned Democrats to do? Normally an ineffective president who has failed to ignite his base faces a primary challenge. That’s not happening here. The alternative would be to sit on their hands and close their wallets in 2012, focusing on trying to elect more liberal members of the House and Senate.
But Republicans should take note. Sachs is far to the left, but many other Democrats or true independents agree with every word he said. How is the GOP going to reach those people? That’s the key to retaking the White House. Well, that and using that really compelling Jeffrey Sachs video.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hard Work and the Real Meaning of Wealth

From Victor Davis Hanson:

A once civil and orderly England was torn apart by rioting and looting last week — at first by mostly minority youths, but eventually by young Brits in general. This summer, a number of American cities have witnessed so-called “flash mobs” — mostly African-American youths who swarm at prearranged times to loot stores or randomly attack those of other races and classes. The mayhem has reignited an old debate in the West: Are such criminally minded young Americans and Britons turning to violence in protest over inequality, poverty, and bleak opportunities? 
The Left often blames cutbacks in the tottering welfare state and high unemployment. In this view, the havoc and mayhem visited upon us are a wake-up call in an age of insolvency: Do not cut entitlements or we will reap the whirlwind. Instead, tax the affluent and redistribute more of their earnings to those who have been unfairly deprived.
The Right counters that the problem is not too few state subsidies, but far too many. The growing — and now unsustainable — dole of the last half-century has eroded self-reliance and personal initiative. The logical result is a dependent underclass that spans generations and becomes ever unhappier and more unsatisfied the more it is given from others. The rioters were not fighting for survival. Today’s looters have plenty to eat. That is why they target sneaker and electronics stores — to enjoy the perks of life they either cannot or will not work for.
We might at least agree on a few facts behind the violence. First, much of the furor is because poverty is now seen as a relative, not an absolute, condition. Per capita GDP is $47,000 in the U.S. and $35,000 in Britain. In contrast, those rioting in impoverished Syria (where per capita GDP is about $5,000) or Egypt(about $6,000) worry about going to bed hungry or being shot for expressing their views — not about wanting a new BlackBerry or a pair of Nikes. Inequality, not Tiny Tim–like poverty, is the new Western looter’s complaint.
So when President Obama lectures us about fat cats with corporate jets, he doesn’t mean that wealthy people’s greed prevents the lower classes from flying on affordable commercial jets — only that a chosen few in luxury aircraft, like himself, reach their destinations a little more quickly and easily. The lament today is not having what someone richer has — instead of lacking elemental shelter, food, or electricity. The problem is not that the bath water in Philadelphia is not as hot as in Martha’s Vineyard, but that the conditions under which it is delivered are, in comparison, far more basic and ordinary.
Second, the wealthy have not set an example of hard work and self-discipline leading to well-deserved success and the good life. Recently, a drunken, affluent young prospect for the U.S. ski team urinated on a sleeping eleven-year-old during a transcontinental flight. And the more the psychodramas of drones like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, or some members of the British royal family, become headline news, the more we see boredom and corruption among the pampered elite. The behavior of John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or Arnold Schwarzenegger does not teach us that good habits on the part of elite public figures follow from well-deserved riches and acclaim — but rather that with today’s wealth and power often comes license and decadence.
Third, Communism may be dead, but Marxist-inspired materialism still measures the good life only by equal access to “things.” We can argue whether those who loot a computer store are spoiled or oppressed. But even a person in faded jeans and a worn T-shirt can find all sorts of spiritual enrichment at no cost in either a museum or a good book. Have we forgotten that in our affluent postmodern society, being poor is often an impoverishment of the mind, and not necessarily the result of a cruel physical world?
Finally, there is far too much emphasis on government as the doting, problem-solving parent. What made Western civilization rich and liberal was not just free-market capitalism and well-founded constitutional government, but the role of family, community, and church in reminding the emancipated individual in an affluent society that he should not always do what he is legally permitted to. Destroy these bridles, ridicule the old shame culture of the past, and we end up with unchecked appetites — as we are now witnessing from smoldering London to the flash mobs of Wisconsin.
Our high-tech angry youths are deprived not just because their elders put at risk their future subsidies, but also because they were not taught what real wealth is — and where and how it is obtained and should be used. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What Happened to Obama? Absolutely Nothing. He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president.

Norman Podorhetz at The Wall Street Journal:

It's open season on President Obama. Which is to say that the usual suspects on the right (among whom I include myself) are increasingly being joined in attacking him by erstwhile worshipers on the left. Even before the S&P downgrade, there were reports of Democrats lamenting that Hillary Clinton had lost to him in 2008. Some were comparing him not, as most of them originally had, to Lincoln and Roosevelt but to the hapless Jimmy Carter. There was even talk of finding a candidate to stage a primary run against him. But since the downgrade, more and more liberal pundits have been deserting what they clearly fear is a sinking ship.
Here, for example, from the Washington Post, is Richard Cohen: "He is the very personification of cognitive dissonance—the gap between what we (especially liberals) expected of the first serious African American presidential candidate and the man he in fact is." More amazingly yet Mr. Cohen goes on to say of Mr. Obama, who not long ago was almost universally hailed as the greatest orator since Pericles, that he lacks even "the rhetorical qualities of the old-time black politicians." And to compound the amazement, Mr. Cohen tells us that he cannot even "recall a soaring passage from a speech."
Overseas it is the same refrain. Everywhere in the world, we read in Germany's Der Spiegel, not only are the hopes ignited by Mr. Obama being dashed, but his "weakness is a problem for the entire global economy."
In short, the spell that Mr. Obama once cast—a spell so powerful that instead of ridiculing him when he boasted that he would cause "the oceans to stop rising and the planet to heal," all of liberaldom fell into a delirious swoon—has now been broken by its traumatic realization that he is neither the "god" Newsweek in all seriousness declared him to be nor even a messianic deliverer.
Hence the question on every lip is—as the title of a much quoted article in the New York Times by Drew Westen of Emory University puts it— "What Happened to Obama?" Attacking from the left, Mr. Westin charges that President Obama has been conciliatory when he should have been aggressively pounding away at all the evildoers on the right.
Of course, unlike Mr. Westen, we villainous conservatives do not see Mr. Obama as conciliatory or as "a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election." On the contrary, we see him as a president who knows all too well what he believes. Furthermore, what Mr. Westen regards as an opportunistic appeal to the center we interpret as a tactic calculated to obfuscate his unshakable strategic objective, which is to turn this country into a European-style social democracy while diminishing the leading role it has played in the world since the end of World War II. The Democrats have persistently denied that these are Mr. Obama's goals, but they have only been able to do so by ignoring or dismissing what Mr. Obama himself, in a rare moment of candor, promised at the tail end of his run for the presidency: "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."
Getty Images
This statement, coming on top of his association with radicals like Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and Rashid Khalidi, definitively revealed to all who were not wilfully blinding themselves that Mr. Obama was a genuine product of the political culture that had its birth among a marginal group of leftists in the early 1960s and that by the end of the decade had spread metastatically to the universities, the mainstream media, the mainline churches, and the entertainment industry. Like their communist ancestors of the 1930s, the leftist radicals of the '60s were convinced that the United States was so rotten that only a revolution could save it.
But whereas the communists had in their delusional vision of the Soviet Union a model of the kind of society that would replace the one they were bent on destroying, the new leftists only knew what they were against: America, or Amerika as they spelled it to suggest its kinship to Nazi Germany. Thanks, however, to the unmasking of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian nightmare, they did not know what they were for. Yet once they had pulled off the incredible feat of taking over the Democratic Party behind the presidential candidacy of George McGovern in 1972, they dropped the vain hope of a revolution, and in the social-democratic system most fully developed in Sweden they found an alternative to American capitalism that had a realistic possibility of being achieved through gradual political reform.
Despite Mr. McGovern's defeat by Richard Nixon in a landslide, the leftists remained a powerful force within the Democratic Party, but for the next three decades the electoral exigencies within which they had chosen to operate prevented them from getting their own man nominated. Thus, not one of the six Democratic presidential candidates who followed Mr. McGovern came out of the party's left wing, and when Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (the only two of the six who won) tried each in his own way to govern in its spirit, their policies were rejected by the American immune system. It was only with the advent of Barack Obama that the leftists at long last succeeded in nominating one of their own.
To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberaldom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass. And in any case, what did such ancient history matter when he was also articulate and elegant and (as he himself had said) "non-threatening," all of which gave him a fighting chance to become the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest?
And so it came about that a faithful scion of the political culture of the '60s left is now sitting in the White House and doing everything in his power to effect the fundamental transformation of America to which that culture was dedicated and to which he has pledged his own personal allegiance.
I disagree with those of my fellow conservatives who maintain that Mr. Obama is indifferent to "the best interests of the United States" (Thomas Sowell) and is "purposely" out to harm America (Rush Limbaugh). In my opinion, he imagines that he is helping America to repent of its many sins and to become a different and better country.
But I emphatically agree with Messrs. Limbaugh and Sowell about this president's attitude toward America as it exists and as the Founding Fathers intended it. That is why my own answer to the question, "What Happened to Obama?" is that nothing happened to him. He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president, and it is this rather than inexperience or incompetence or weakness or stupidity that accounts for the richly deserved failure both at home and abroad of the policies stemming from that reprehensible cast of mind.
Mr. Podhoretz was the editor of Commentary from 1960 to 1995. His most recent book is "Why Are Jews Liberals?" (Doubleday, 2009).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don’t blame the Tea Party

Terence Corcoran at The Financial Post:

If you want to point fingers, start with statism
After two weeks of panic, fear and something called “pure fear,” global stock markets rebounded Tuesday and settled down. Exactly why is anybody’s guess. Maybe investors, whoever and wherever they are, just exhausted their supply of fear and decided to engage in a little exuberance, global debt crises be damned, while they restocked fear for another day.
When markets go down rapidly, investors are caricatured as lunatics driven by dark forces. When markets go up, the same investors are often portrayed as rational responders to allegedly sound policy from some government agency or to some new upbeat if obscure statistic.
The best that can be said for Tuesday’s market rebound in New York (4%) and Toronto (3.8%) is that investors did not find any fresh horror in the latest pronouncements from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The market already knew what the Fed would say: The state of the U.S. economy is much worse than the Fed’s giant forecasting machine had predicted. As a result, the world’s greatest central bank will now hold interest rates at about zero through to the middle of 2013.
Two years is a long time at zero, and by 2013 the Fed’s base rate will have been at near zero for more than six years — an unprecedented relaxation of monetary policy that is so far beyond precedent as to be in another galaxy. At some point economic theorists and historians will be able to explain why this great experiment in interest-rate manipulation failed to deliver on its promises. Nor is there much evidence that quantitative easing — in which the Fed buys U.S. government bonds — has been successful.
This apparent failure of monetary policy to deliver the growth and jobs its proponents firmly predicted, in the United States, is one piece of the financial puzzle now gripping the world economy.
Without that promised growth, the United States will not be able to repay its debts. That’s the reason markets tumbled in recent weeks. Despite attempts by assorted pundits to pin the market collapse on the Tea Party and a haywire ratings downgrade by Standard & Poor’s, the stock markets around the world more likely reflect the fact that there’s a global government debt crisis.
Above is a table that captures the magnitude of the global expansion in government debt. Supporters of fiscal stimulus like to claim that the world economy suffers from a lack of government stimulus. U.S. economist Paul Krugman, now a mentor to self-declared conservative columnist David Frum, wants another trillion from the U.S. government alone.
But the data compiled by the McKinsey Global Institute show that global government borrowing by 2010 had already delivered plenty of trillions — $25-trillion since 2000, and $11-trillion over the last three years alone. During the 1990s boom decade government borrowing held steady at about 43% of global GDP. Last year borrowing soared to almost 70% of GDP, or $41-trillion, most of it racked up since 2007.
The major players to increased in government debt since 2008 are Japan (+15%), the United States (+13.4%) and Western Europe (+10.4%). More debt has been piled on since 2010.
Where will the money come from to repay the debts? Growth is the only answer. McKinsey spelled out the options: “Developed countries may need to undergo years of spending cuts and higher taxes in order to get their fiscal house in order.”
Nowhere is this more true than in the United States, where total government spending jumped to $5-trillion a year in 2010 from $4.2-trillion in 2007. As a percentage of GDP, U.S. government spending has jumped from 30% to 35%.
In denial before all this the progressive left and a collection of liberals and conservatives who appear to believe that this growth in governments spending and debt is not enough. David Frum, writing recently, laced into what he apparently sees as one of the root causes of U.S. economic troubles and “the devastation wrought by this crisis.”
After seeing the recent poor growth data for the United States, he singled out as a possible cause “the drift of so many conservatives away from what used to be the mainstream market-oriented Washington Consensus toward Austrian economics and Ron Paul style hard-money libertarianism.”
In a bizarre comparison, he wonders whether conservatives today are making a mistake with regard to free markets that liberals in the 1950s and 1960s made regarding Communism. Just as liberals failed to recognize the evils of communism, says Frum, so conservatives today apparently failed to recognize the evils of libertarianism. “Imagine, if you will, someone who read only The Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?”
In another commentary, Jonathan Kay in the National Post Tuesday also lit into the apparent radical libertarian takeover of policy in Washington. He pinned the U.S. ratings downgrade on the failure of the U.S. government to raise taxes to meeting the spending explosion, a failure that stems from the rise of the Tea Party and the rise of nutbar roll-back-the-state radicals. “There seems to be no clear end to the crisis, aside from outright bankruptcy, because there is no policy solution that can simultaneously satisfy the dictates of both 21st-century economic reality and 18th-century libertarian dreamscape.”
This is some stretch. For nearly five years we’ve had massive and unprecedented run ups in government spending and debt in the United States and around the world. We’ve had vast expansion of government powers over banks, energy policy, financial markets, health care and other sectors. We’ve had staggering and unprecedented monetary policy interventions across Europe and in the United States. All of which have produced no growth and lousy job numbers, with the likelihood that the debts may not be repaid as a result. And the charge is laid that a small cadre of congenitally ineffectual free market libertarians is the cause of it all.

The Uses and Abuses of the Tea Party

From Jay Cost at The Weekly Standard:

The following facts about the federal budget deficit are, as far as I know, widely accepted:
First. We have a long-term deficit problem that is due to the rising costs of federal entitlements, above all Medicare.
Second. Our current deficit is substantially larger than normal, due to several factors:
- The economic recession, which decreased the amount of tax revenue the federal government collects;
- An increase in government spending, in the form of automatic stabilizers, to mitigate the human toll of the recession;
- An increase in government spending, in the form of Keynesian stimulus, to restart the engine of economic growth;
- The continued weakness of the economy, which has kept tax revenues down and the cost of automatic stabilizers up.
Nowhere on this list do I see anything regarding the Tea Party. So why is this movement now so frequently mentioned as a prime factor in the country’s deficit woes?
To answer this question, we must understand that Democrats are in desperate need of a red herring. If Obama goes down next year, a whole slew of congressional Democrats will go down with him – especially in the Senate, where the Democrats must defend 22 seats, 9 of which are from states that George W. Bush won in 2004.
As a political issue, the Democrats own the deficit, if for no other reason than the party has occupied the White House during its runaway growth. As dangerous as this is as an issue, it is secondary to our terrible, no good, rotten economic recovery, which the Democrats also own.

It was the Democrats who designed the stimulus in early 2009, promising that its enactment would keep the unemployment rate under 8 percent. It was the Democrats who then turned their attention to the various items on the liberal checklist – cap and trade, student loan federalization, and of course health care – even as the unemployment rate passed 10 percent. It was the Democrats who endeavored to implement whole volumes of new federal regulations, which have scared the living daylights out of businesses.
The recession may be the political fault of George W. Bush, but the Democrats must take the blame for the disappointing recovery, for it was they who had total control of the federal government in 2009 and 2010.
And the Democrats are set to pay for it – big time. Goldman Sachs recently revised its 2012 economic forecast; it now sees growth ranging between 2 percent and 2.5 percent next year, and unemployment edging up to 9.25 percent. If this forecast turns out to be accurate, then Barack Obama will lose next year by a large margin, and scores of congressional Democrats will follow him down to defeat. 
So, party leaders are in a full-blown panic, and rightly so. They are desperate to turn the public’s gaze away from their own shortcomings, and no doubt some too-clever-by-half pollster or focus group hack suggested blaming the Tea Party.
Sure, why not!
The interesting thing about the Tea Party is that it does not have a lot in common with any kind of party. A “party” – in the political sense – implies organization, membership, internal rules and practices to govern the behavior of its members, and so on. Even the social sense of the word implies some kind of structure; after all, you can’t go to Johnson’s party down the street while simultaneously playing X-Box in your basement.
While there are Tea Party meet-ups, marches on Washington, and even groups claiming to speak for the Tea Party as a whole (including a congressional caucus), it is nevertheless hard to think of the Tea Party as a literal party. After all, the actual number of people affiliated with any of these activities is a pittance compared to the 25 percent or so of American adults who consider themselves “Tea Partiers.” We’re talking about roughly 58 million people nationwide, more than the number who voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Being a Tea Partier for 95 percent or more of these people suggests not a political or even social group affiliation, but a state of mind, one that evokes the sentiments of the original Boston Tea Party: that the government does not reflect the will of the people, and that it is burdening them to take care of a privileged minority. For the original Boston Tea Partiers, the great government transgression was taxation; for today’s Tea Partiers, it is a mountain of debt that will have to be paid eventually.
The ambiguity of 95 percent of the Tea Party is what makes it an attractive target for the Democratic party and its friends in the mainstream media. There is no leader of the Tea Party. No building where the Tea Party meets. No set of rules and regulations that enumerates the privileges and responsibilities of its members. Thus, the "Tea Party" can be whatever the Democrats need it to be.
Were they a bunch of terrorists? Sure! Were they intransigent? Absolutely! As long as "they" stay relatively obscure, Democrats can ascribe almost any quality they want to them. On the other hand, if they start naming names, they're only going to prompt a retort from the accused, who will surely respond with talk of "Cut, Cap, and Balance," which polls extremely well. So, how does that advance their interests?
As a great example of this, check out this clip from ABC's This Week. At about the 1:30 mark, Christiane Amanpour says that Steve Rattner called Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah an "economic terrorist," to which Rattner hurriedly responds "not the congressman personally..." Of course not! The charge is rhetorically useful only if its object is a vague, unidentifiable group that cannot respond with righteous indignation.
This is similar to Richard Nixon’s “silent majority,” one of the most ingenious rhetorical devices in modern political history. Once Nixon defined this group, he could put whatever words in their mouths he wanted. After all, it’s not like he identified Frank Thompson from down the street as part of the “silent majority,” so it really didn’t matter if Frank disagreed with Nixon or not.
However, there is a problem for Democrats with turning the Tea Party into the bogeyman. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is a fantastic movie because you do not see see the shark until you’re already well into the film, but eventually you see it. If you never did, the movie would have been forgotten long ago.
The Democrats are never going to be able to produce this terrible, villainous Tea Party for the world to behold. It will forever remain in the shadows, secretly making sure that nothing goes Obama’s way between now and Election Day. This makes for a very bad foil. There’s really no third act, no moment when Obama and the forces of light finally confront the Tea Party and its minions of darkness. Worse for the president, he does not get to square off against “the Tea Party” on the ballot. Instead, he will probably face Rick Perry or Mitt Romney, both of whom are living, breathing politicians with actual records, and no history of terrorism.
So yes, the Tea Party has become a red herring for the Democratic party and the liberals who dominate it, meant to distract the public from their own terrible record. Yet, as red herrings go, it is a pretty useless one – and a testimony to just how worried they are about next year

Dumping on the Tea Party

For my "Anonymous" friend in Medinah.....

From Tom Blumer at Pajamas Media:

I apparently don’t understand the superior “logic” of leftists and Democrats.
Let’s set up what transpired during and immediately after the debt-ceiling dramatics of the past few weeks.
There have been six primary players:
1. President Barack Obama.
2. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
3. Unhinged leftists, whose primary goal is headlong expansion of the welfare state and stifling the dissent of anyone who opposes it.
4. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.
5. Tea Party activists, whose primary goals are constitutional adherence, fiscal sanity, and a better world for current and future generations.
6. The ratings agency people at Standard & Poor’s (S&P), who entered the fray after the legislative dust had settled.
President Obama’s role consisted of utterly failing to present a plan, pretending that the unsustainable wreckage he presented in February was still a viable plan (even though the U.S. Senate voted it down by a shocking 97-0), and insisting on a “balanced approach.” Translated into harsh experience, a “balanced approach” is defined as: “I get new taxes now for promised cuts later which never materialize,” or in short form: “Business as usual.”
Harry Reid’s role was to offer up nothing substantive until the final days (even that’s being generous), and to ridicule anything passed or under consideration by Boehner’s Republican House majority.
Unhinged leftists jerked around Obama during his alleged negotiations with Boehner, leaving everyone trying to bargain in good faith completely flummoxed.
Boehner’s role was to resist tax increases at all costs, and to put up with Obama’s noncommittal, goalpost-moving method of “negotiating.” Eventually, he threw up his hands, walked away from Obama, and initially tolerated the passage of “Cut, Cap and Balance” (CC&B). If it had become law, CC&B would have reduced projected spending against the Congressional Budget Office baseline by the $4 trillion S&P said was necessary as a demonstration of both political seriousness and long-term financial viability. “Tolerated” may have seemed like a harsh word two sentences ago, but Boehner was recently quoted as saying that he got 98% of what he wanted in the legislation which passed. This is interesting, because tax increases arising from the so-called “super committee” are still not out of the question, andthe $63 billion in reductions against the CBO baseline supposedly achieved in fiscal 2012 and 2013 are so puny. Am I to believe he’d be completely satisfied if he had gotten $65 billion?
Tea Party activists championed CC&B. For holding out for a better deal than Boehner’s watered-down rewrite, they were demonized by so-called “friends” the Wall Street Journalthe Weekly Standard, and don’t-get-it types like John McCain. Many activists were and still remain seriously displeased that Boehner — admittedly stabbed in the back by microphone hogs in the Gang of Six and by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — so quickly discarded the only coherent plan which had a chance of enabling the country to avoid S&P’s otherwise promised downgrade.
S&P’s role was to review the post-law, post-squabble financial condition of the U.S. and to evaluate its financial viability. Even after “correcting” for an alleged $2 trillion assumption error (which wasn’t), S&P concluded that the nation’s public debt-to-GDP ratio, currently at about 68%, would hit 85% by 2021 using the CBO’s assumptions. The trouble is, those assumptions, which include no substantive interest-rate hikes and economic growth rates of 3% or more in all future years, are wildly optimistic, and S&P knows it — especially given who’s currently running the White House and the Senate. S&P could fairly conclude that if nothing further of a serious nature is done, we’ll be well above the 90% “Maxed Out America” threshold well before 2021. In fact, after it downgraded America’s debt from AAA to AA-plus on Friday, the agency warned that another downgrade might be necessary in the next six months to two years.
Now that I’ve laid out what happened, I’m trying to get my arms around the “logic” that Obama, Democrats, the unhinged left, and their media mouthpieces have unleashed, namely:
• Openly and unprofessionally whining about S&P’s decision.
• In a classic case of obviously orchestrated groupthink featuring David AxelrodHoward DeanJohn, and certainly others, referring to S&P’s decision as “The Tea Party Downgrade.”
If given half a chance, the left may start calling the recent double-digit stock market drop “The Tea Party bear market.” Monday evening, Mike Ivey at’s Cap Times may have previewed a part of this potential meme when he wrote: “Perhaps the only solace in this latest round of global financial meltdown is that Tea Partiers are losing money, too.”
Of course, the downgrade more than likely would not have happened if Tea Party activists had really gotten their way — which, except perhaps for avoiding tax increases, they mostly didn’t. But it could have been much worse. As Rick Santelli said on Monday after the market’s close: “If it wasn’t for the Tea Party, they’d have passed the debt ceiling thumbs-up, (and) we’d have been rated triple-B.”
You would think that such an obvious pack of lies from the left would have no chance of gaining traction. Think again:According to Rasmussen, they already have 29% of Americans believing that Tea Party members are “economic terrorists.”
This cannot stand. We know who started the fire, we know who fed and worsened it with their failed “solutions,” and we know who is utterly out of ideas. Incredibly, fewer Americans are working full-time now than were when the recession technically ended. Democrats and all too many RINO accomplices have had their way for 30 months, and all they can show for it is a frightening trail of misery.
Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said not long ago that her party owns the economy. They still do: lock, stock, and barrel. The Tea Party must focus its attention on limiting the damage during the next 17-1/2 months, educate-educate-educate the public, recruit solid candidates who can chase as many hard-leftists and RINO poseurs out of office as possible, and hope against hope-and-change that we really can survive until January 2013.
Tom Blumer owns a training and development company based in Mason, Ohio, outside of Cincinnati. He presents personal finance-related workshops and speeches at companies, and runs

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rick Santelli: If Not For Tea Party, U.S. Would Be Rated BBB

At RealClearPolitics:

"You know what leadership means? It means that it doesn't really matter what S&P says. We all know deep inside that no country is the same as it was 5 years ago. And the market seems to be okay with it. And as for stocks going down we were already Ralph Cramden (of Honeymooners) on thin ice. Now an infant jumped on our shoulders. It’s just even more weight.

"In the end, in the end we need to address problems we know exist. A Treasury Secretary or a President should be out here not fighting S&P, not grabbing the other coach and slapping him around, taking the umpire behind the barn. He should be getting the team psyched to overcome.

"See I remember I had a professor in college. I wrote a great paper. Could never please this guy. But it made me better. Okay? We’re better than this. Don’t get caught up in the minutia. All this BS. We’re better than this. We need to prove it. We’re off the track. Whether we're better than some other country or not, the real issue is we're on the wrong path.

"Blame the Tea Party? Geez, no wonder Kerry did so well in an election. If it wasn't for the Tea Party, they would have passed the debt ceiling thumbs up, we would have been rated BBB."

(source: The Right Scoop)

Bachmann's political touch turns doubter into fan

Byron York at The Washington Examiner:

ATLANTIC, Iowa --Anyone who doubts Michele Bachmann's talents as a hands-on politician didn't see her performance here Monday. In an otherwise unremarkable town hall meeting, Bachmann turned a potentially embarrassing encounter with a grouchy voter into an opportunity to win the most treasured political commodity in Iowa these days: a vote in Saturday's Republican straw poll.
Arriving at the Cass County Community Center in her big blue bus with speakers blaring Elvis Presley's "Promised Land," Bachmann delivered a high-energy speech focusing mostly on federal spending and rising government debt. The crowd was small -- maybe 75 in all -- and quite friendly. After a few minutes, Bachmann opened the floor to questions.
One man asked about business regulation. (Bachmann told him she would propose "the mother of all repeal bills" to eliminate big chunks of government red tape.) Another asked if she had seen the unflattering photo of herself on the cover of the latest Newsweek. (She said she hadn't.) Then Bachmann announced she would take one last question, and an aide passed the microphone to Don Hoover, a retired technician from Atlantic.
It turned out that Hoover, who had not decided whom to support in the GOP race, had not come to query Bachmann on the issues but to complain that he had received five automated calls from her campaign in the past week. He was on a no-call list, Hoover said, and he wondered whether Bachmann might be violating an Iowa law against junk calls. What was particularly irritating was that each call was the same, urging Hoover to vote for Bachmann at the straw poll, which will take place 115 miles away in Ames.
"I don't know if I have the time, I don't know if I have the money to go there," Hoover said to Bachmann. "Why all the five calls?"
The moment threatened to put a downbeat ending on what had been a decidedly upbeat gathering. Bachmann appeared a little taken aback, assuring Hoover that she obeyed Iowa law. An aide said the campaign would be happy to take his name off the call list.
Then Bachmann seemed to catch herself. She walked over to Hoover, leaned down, locked her eyes onto his, shook his hand and didn't let go for the longest time. "I thank you, and I would ask you to come to Ames on August 13, this Saturday, and I'll tell you why," she began.
"I want you to come, and I want you to give me your vote because we have got to turn the country around," Bachmann said. "You get to choose. There are people all across the United States who wish they were in your shoes. People wish they were an Iowan because you get to make that down payment on Saturday for taking the country back."
Bachmann was still holding Hoover's hand and looking straight into his eyes; at that moment, every ounce of her considerable energy was devoted to making this one particular sale. "I'm 100 percent pro-life, I'm 100 percent pro-marriage, pro-family, I'm 100 percent on the Second Amendment," she told Hoover. "Let's get 'er done right now, let's make a decision right now. What do I need to do to convince you?"
Hoover still wouldn't commit. But a few minutes later, after the rally ended and the blue bus pulled away, he was sold. He would "very likely" go to Ames, he said, and he would vote for Michele Bachmann.
"The things that she told me, personally standing there with her, that she was pro-life, and Second Amendment, and cutting spending -- all of this I believe," Hoover said. "She looked me in the eye, held my hand and told me, 'This is what I believe.' "
If the rally did nothing else, it proved that one man, all by his lonesome, didn't stand a chance when faced with the Full Bachmann.
Just to make sure there were no lingering doubts, a Bachmann aide quickly showed up at Hoover's side to give him tickets to Saturday's events and say the campaign would be in touch to arrange transportation to Ames. The deal was sealed.
Fellow politicians used to say of Bill Clinton that he would not be happy unless he had won over every doubter in a room. Sometimes he would devote an inordinate amount of time to the effort. Bachmann was a little like that in Atlantic on Monday. Most analyses of her success focus on her Tea Party politics and strong views. But there's another reason she's moving up in the polls here. She's good.